The 2022 season has been extremely kind to the New York Yankees through the first couple of months of the season. While the franchise has been historically known as the Bronx Bombers, it is the Yankees bullpen that has really allowed the Yankees to reach new heights. While many factors have worked to turn the Yankees bullpen into a dominant force, the main credit for the unit’s success belongs to pitching coach Matt Blake.
Matt Blake’s Hiring
Going into the 2020 offseason, changes were coming to the Bronx. Manager Aaron Boone‘s staff had underwhelmed and Larry Rothschild, the team’s long tenured pitching coach, took the fall. Looking to move their pitching rotation in a more analytical direction, the Yankees settled on the then-Cleveland Indians’ Matt Blake.
During his time in Cleveland, Matt Blake rose through the ranks and was eventually promoted to director of pitching development, and served on a staff that saw dominant pitching performance from Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber. Due to the success he had in Cleveland, the Yankees decided that Matt Blake would be the perfect fit to be the next Yankees pitching coach.
2022 Yankees Bullpen
The Yankees entered the 2022 season with stalwarts Aroldis Chapman and and Chad Green leading the rotation. Joining them was the talented Jonathan Loaisiga, lefties Wandy Peralta and Lucas Luetge, former Pirates’ castaway Clay Holmes and youngsters Michael King and Clarke Schmidt. While the bullpen had some talented arms, it was impossible to predict just how successful it would preform. What the Yankees pitching coach has been able to accomplish with staff is nothing short of amazing.
At some point, every team will lose talented players to the injured list, and the Yankees bullpen was no exception. Chapman made his way to the IL was an Achilles injury while Green underwent Tommy John surgery. While losing these two arms could have spelt disaster, Matt Blake and the Yankees simply keep on rolling.
The Two at the Top
One of the main reasons the Yankees bullpen has been so dominant are the two men that have become two of the best pitchers in all of baseball. The first, Clay Holmes, was acquired from the Pirates for a fan favorite prospect, Hoy Park. Holmes had struggled mightily in Pittsburgh, and Yankee fans were bewildered and angry by the move.
Many questioned if the new analytical mindset of the Yankees pitching coach would actually work.
Since working with his new pitching coach, Holmes has been incredible. Last season for the Yankees, he went 5-2 out of the pen with a 1.61 ERA while allowing 22 batters to reach base and striking out 34 in 28 innings. Incredibly, his hot end last year looks borderline bad in comparison to his 2022 season. This year, he allowed a run to score in his first appearance, and hasn’t allowed one since. His ERA is .33, he has allowed 18 hitters to reach base and struck out 29 in just under 28 innings pitched.
Holmes has found his success by improving on his already league leading ground ball rate, a core principle for Matt Blake. When batters are able to put the ball in play, almost 83% of the time it is a ground ball. Since taking over as pitching coach, it is not a coincidence that the Yankees have targeted high ground ball pitchers.
With the injury to Chapman, Holmes has stepped into the closer role, a role that he might not relinquish.
Meanwhile, Michael King is also making his name known in the Yankees bullpen. Outside of a three-game slump at the end of May, King has been one of the most reliable arms for Matt Blake. With Holmes, King is one of the most incredible projects for thee Yankees pitching coach. King was originally a 12th round pick and a relatively unknown prospect coming into last season. Now, his ERA stands at 2.81, he has allowed 31 batters to reach base and struck out 44 in only 32 innings.
The success of both pitchers is a clear indication that the strategy the Bombers envisioned for Matt Blake when took over as pitching coach is working.
The Best of the Rest
Outside of the top two, Matt Blake and manager Aaron Boone have been able to rely on multiple other names in the Yankees bullpen. Wandy Peralta, acquired for Mike Tauchman a few seasons ago, has been great pitching to a 1.74 ERA. Meanwhile, Miguel Castro has at times looked electric since coming over in a trade with the Mets. However, at other times his lack of control is concerning.
Where the impact on the Yankees bullpen by Matt Blake can be seen the most was last nights’ 10-7 win over the Minnesota Twins. After Gerrit Cole was shelled and lifted early, the Yankees would need the relievers to pick up the remaining 6.2 innings.
The Yankees sent out Luetge, Castro, Peralta, King and Holmes. Combined they faced 22 batters. They allowed 2 walks, 1 hit, 0 runs and struck out 5. Meanwhile, the Yankees bats let the team come back from a 7-3 deficit to win the game.
Statistically speaking, the Yankees probably wont finish the season with a .719 winning streak and anything can happen as the season continues. However, the Yankees bullpen has become one of the best pitching units in baseball and that is thanks to pitching coach Matt Blake.
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