The Yankees are known to have a couple of very powerful arms, perhaps most notably Aroldis Chapman. The six foot four closer has an average fastball velocity of 99.9 miles per hour in his career, reaching as high as 105.1. But as analytics have crept into the game over the past few years, the Yankees are one of the teams that have shied away from the fastball. In fact, they have thrown the smallest percentage of fastballs in the majors this season at 42 percent. We can look at this further by splitting it between starters and relievers.
Yankees’ starters this season are actually throwing fastballs at a measly 34.3 percent clip. This is not overly surprising, as the rotation features pitchers such CC Sabathia, who has reinvented himself as more of a finesse and location-reliant pitcher, and Masahiro Tanaka, who’s go-to pitches are his splitter and slider. Luis Severino, on the other hand, has the hardest fastball on average in the majors, sitting at 97.6 miles per hour, but still has only thrown the pitch 48.4 percent of the time. Additionally, it has been shown that Sonny Gray threw more fastballs when he was with the Athletics, where he had all of his success. Getting him back towards that strategy could help him move towards reaching the expectations that he brought with him when he was acquired at the trade deadline last season.
In regards to the bullpen, they hold the highest average fastball velocity at 95.1 miles per hour, yet they are still towards the bottom of the league (23rd) utilizing it 53.0 percent of their total pitches. It is interesting given the fact that they have some high-octane arms out there to go along with Chapman, including Dellin Betances, Chad Green, and Tommy Kahnle, who recently returned from the DL.
On the flip side, most of them feature devastating breaking pitches, most notably Betances and David Robertson. Betances’ career runs above average for his fastball is 12.6, whereas that of his breaking ball is 57.4. Similarly, Robertson’s career fastball runs above average is 48.7 and his career curveball runs above average is a close 44.8. Thus, it makes sense that while many of these pitchers can throw hard, they also feature very good secondary pitches that they can utilize more often than not.
It actually seems to be working for the most part. As a staff, the Yankees’ batting average against is .221, good for fourth best in the majors. Their cumulative ERA (3.78) is also in the top half at twelfth. But while these metrics are decent for the time being, it is evident that they will have to acquire a quality starter (or two) if they want to have true aspirations at winning the World Series, as their starters have only averaged 5.5 innings per start, right at the league average. It remains to be seen if whoever comes to the Bronx will have to adapt to the fact that fastballs are seldom coming out of Yankees’ pitchers’ hands.