2021 Yankees Bulletin: Clay Holmes

On July 26, the Yankees traded their hopes Diego Castillo and Hoy Jun Park for the Pittsburgh Pirates for Clay Holmes, a relatively unknown reliever with dismal career stats but surprisingly intriguing peripherals. To be completely transparent, I had never even heard the name Clay Holmes before word of the trade broke, so I just figured this was a little throwaway deal that would end up making very little sense in the long run.

© Photo by Mike Stobe / Getty Images

Boy, have I ever been wrong. Fast forward three months, and suddenly Holmes found himself throwing in huge places for a playoff contender as his downright dominant performances took firm root in manager Aaron Boone’s circle of trust. The addition of Holmes remains one of the brightest tales of a season full of disappointing stories.

Class: A +

Statistics 2021 (with NY): 25 games, 28 IP, 1.61 ERA, 2.10 FIP, 2.18 xFIP, 10.9 K / 9, 1.3 BB / 9, 1.3 bWAR

Contract status 2022: Arbitration 1, controllable until 2025

In 119.2 innings pitched in 91 games for the Pirates, Holmes posted a 5.57 ERA, 4.72 FIP, 9.2 K / 9 and a hideous 6.3 BB / 9. This production, or the lack of it, was good for negative WAR.

Despite the lack of production, however, Holmes’ powerful high-speed ballast made him an intriguing arm in the eyes of the Yankees, and that bet on the trade deadline paid off. In just half a season with New York, Holmes became one of the team’s most trusted pen arms, leading to a career resurgence that seemed to come out of nowhere. If it weren’t for the wild season that Nestor Cortes Jr. just produced, Holmes’ story would have my vote for the biggest (positive) surprise of the year.

Now, if you’re curious about how Clay Holmes has managed to transform his season – and potentially his career – a quick glance at his Baseball Savant page will show you everything you need to know:

© Baseball Savant

In short, Holmes induces a tonne soft touch. Digging deeper than that quick snapshot, however, paints an even better picture. The vertical movement of his lead, curve and slider are all considered elite compared to league averages. As a result, batters struggled to kick the ball up against him. This is reflected in his whopping 68.5% ground rate, up from his previous career rating of 59.3%. Strictly for comparison purposes, Jonathan Loáisiga’s ground ball rate was 61.5 percent.

Most impressive, however, is the leap Holmes made in zone percentage after joining the Yankees. In Pittsburgh, Holmes struggled to consistently find the area with his throws resulting in his brutal walk rate and rough stat line at the time of the trade. After arriving in New York City, Holmes began pounding the area with his powerful sinker and the results followed.

© Baseball Savant

Coupled with his odd ability to produce soft contact and keep the ball on the ground, Holmes’ new ability to hammer the strike zone and generate more called-up strikes has led to one of the prettiest rolling xwOBA graphics you have ever had. will ever see. At the time of the trade, Holmes’ xwOBA stood at 0.318, hovering around the league average. By the end of the season, that rate stabilized at 0.262, an elite mark in the league.

In the future, there is, of course, the question of whether Holmes will be able to maintain this level of production. Although 25 games are not exactly one small sample size for relievers, 91 bad baseball innings definitely gives you a break. In my (admittedly amateur) eyes, however, his Statcast data, as well as his peripherals, his newly discovered approach to pitching, and the fact that Matt Blake is still the team’s pitch coach, makes me feel like this. was no accident.

In the end, for the relatively low cost it took to get it and the ridiculous level of production the team got from him, it’s safe to say this trade was a resounding victory for Cashman & Co. All of a sudden Clay Holmes went from being a stranger to being one of my most intriguing players to watch in 2022.

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