What Adam Ottavino brings to the Yankees bullpen

It was announced on Thursday that reliever Adam Ottavino had agreed to a three-year deal with the Yankees worth $27 million. Ottavino had a breakout year in 2018, his eighth season in the big leagues. He posted a 2.43 ERA over 77.2 innings pitched after posting a 5.06 ERA over 53.1 innings pitched in 2017.

Ottavino vs. Robertson

In essence, the Yankees swapped Ottavino for Robertson. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of their 2018 campaigns.

Pitcher

Age

AAV

ERA

WHIP

BABIP

K %

BB %

WAR

Ottavino

33

$9M

2.43

0.99

.240

36.2

11.7

2.0

Robertson

33

$12.5M

3.23

1.03

.245

32.2

9.2

1.5

The slider

Ottavino is known for his slider. It had ridiculous break last season, moving an average of 17 inches away from right-handed batters. That is compared to the league average of six inches! It also dropped 41 inches (league average was 37) and averaged roughly 21.5 revolutions from his hand to the plate. Hitters whiffed 37.2 percent of the time he threw his slider, which he threw 46.8 percent of the time. Perhaps it really could have struck out Babe Ruth.

Slider movement (mustard color)

By adding Ottavino and his slider, the Yankees’ bullpen cohort now boasts some of the top relief arms in the game with some nasty pitches. Chapman’s fastball, Betances’ curve, Britton sinker – the list goes on.

Statcast

For Ottavino the pitch that yielded the lowest expected weighted on-base average (XWOBA), which accounts strikeouts, walks, and the expected outcome of a batted ball, XWOBA is actually his sinker. The league average XWOBA was .311, and against his sinker it was .193 (it was .258 against his slider.

Looking deeper into Ottavino’s numbers last season, he was also towards the top of the league in many Statcast categories.

 

Barrel %

Exit Velocity (MPH)

XBA XSLG WOBA XWOBA XWOBACON

K%

3.9

84.9

.151

.237

.231

.231

.287

36.2

Place in League

Top 8%

Top 5%

Top 1%

Top 1%

Top 2%

Top 2%

Top 2%

Top 3%

If there is one knock on Ottavino, it is that he sometimes can be erratic. His 11.7 percent walk rate ranked in the bottom eight percent of the league. However, this was an improvement from 2017, where his rate was at 16 percent. He threw 44 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, slightly above the MLB average of 43 percent.

All in all, the Yankees bullpen as currently constructed in downright imposing. When Jonathan Holder is your sixth best option, you have a deep group. Ottavino will join that group and bring along his nasty repertoire.

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