Closer Encounters: Holmes Stepping Up for Yankees

Closer Encounters: Holmes Stepping Up for Yankees

This article is part of our Closer Encounters series.

The Yankees bullpen is reeling a bit due to injuries to Aroldis Chapman (Achilles), Jonathan Loaisiga (shoulder) and Chad Green (elbow). All are on the 15-day injured list, but Green has not pitched since May 19 and will soon undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season. Loaisiga is dealing with right shoulder discomfort and hasn't been effective this year with a 7.02 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. He missed three weeks with a similar injury last season. Prior to hitting the IL on Tuesday, Chapman had allowed at least one earned run in five consecutive appearances and has a 15.2 percent walk rate this season. He has yet to post a K/9 lower than 12.3 in his career, but he's only striking out 9.6 batters per nine innings this season, which is well below his career average of 14.8 K/9. Chapman has received treatment on his left Achilles tendon for two weeks and his timetable to return is unknown.

Despite these recent setbacks by three historically elite relievers who had high expectations coming into 2022, the Yankees bullpen is performing quite well overall. In fact, this unit ranks among the league leaders in several categories as of May 25:

Category

NYY Bullpen Stats

MLB Bullpen Rank

ERA

3.09

5th

FIP

3.10

2nd

SIERA

3.20

5th

W

16

T-1st

SV

16

5th

K/9

9.56

9th

BB/9

3.32

12th

gmLI

1.38

2nd

WPA

2.47

2nd

The biggest reason the Yankees pen has been so successful is because Clay Holmes has been dominant. New

The Yankees bullpen is reeling a bit due to injuries to Aroldis Chapman (Achilles), Jonathan Loaisiga (shoulder) and Chad Green (elbow). All are on the 15-day injured list, but Green has not pitched since May 19 and will soon undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season. Loaisiga is dealing with right shoulder discomfort and hasn't been effective this year with a 7.02 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. He missed three weeks with a similar injury last season. Prior to hitting the IL on Tuesday, Chapman had allowed at least one earned run in five consecutive appearances and has a 15.2 percent walk rate this season. He has yet to post a K/9 lower than 12.3 in his career, but he's only striking out 9.6 batters per nine innings this season, which is well below his career average of 14.8 K/9. Chapman has received treatment on his left Achilles tendon for two weeks and his timetable to return is unknown.

Despite these recent setbacks by three historically elite relievers who had high expectations coming into 2022, the Yankees bullpen is performing quite well overall. In fact, this unit ranks among the league leaders in several categories as of May 25:

Category

NYY Bullpen Stats

MLB Bullpen Rank

ERA

3.09

5th

FIP

3.10

2nd

SIERA

3.20

5th

W

16

T-1st

SV

16

5th

K/9

9.56

9th

BB/9

3.32

12th

gmLI

1.38

2nd

WPA

2.47

2nd

The biggest reason the Yankees pen has been so successful is because Clay Holmes has been dominant. New York acquired Holmes via trade from Pittsburgh last July and the 29-year-old has been outstanding since arriving in the Bronx. He's been particularly effective this season:

During Holmes' scoreless streak, he's tallied five saves and seven holds with a 24:2 K:BB and a 0.61 WHIP. The right-hander leverages a 96.4 mph sinker that he throws 79 percent of the time to produce an insane 81.4 percent ground ball rate. That ground ball rate should regress a bit closer to the 64.6 percent he's averaged for his career, but it's still quite impressive for 23.2 innings of work. Holmes occasionally mixes in a mid-80s slider that gets nearly a foot of horizontal movement in the opposite way; a huge increase from last season where the pitch averaged only 2.5 inches of break.

Holmes has been straight up nasty to opposing hitters and it's easy to see why they're struggling against him:

Many fantasy managers were clamoring for Holmes to usurp Chapman as the Yankees closer even before the latter's injury. Would Chapman even entertain a non-closing role when he returns? The last time he was simply 'a reliever' was 11 years ago while he was technically still a rookie with the Reds. If Chapman is stubborn about closing, I wonder if the Yankees would consider trading him later this season? He's in the final year of his contract and a reunion with Joe Girardi in Philadelphia would make a lot of sense as a possible destination.

Meanwhile, Holmes will serve as the Yankees primary closer in Chapman's absence. He's been one of the most valuable relief pitchers to date and could be a top tier closer for the rest of the season if he maintains the job when Chapman returns from the IL. Clarke Schmidt and Michael King will continue their bulk relief roles ahead of Holmes. King has struggled lately, giving up eight earned runs over his last six appearances, but Schmidt has been outstanding with three wins and a 0.69 ERA through 13 innings. Veterans Miguel Castro and Wandy Peralta should step into setup roles that Loaisiga and Green previously occupied.

Taking Things in Stride(r)

Spencer Strider, RP, Braves - Strider's role has been inconsistent this season, which has made it frustrating for fantasy managers to time him correctly in their starting lineups. In April and early May, it appeared he was building up to eventually enter Atlanta's starting rotation, pitching every sixth day or so. He even topped out at a season-high 71 pitches on April 11, but ultimately averaged a shade over 46 pitches per appearance through his first six outings.

Date

Inn. Entered

Pitches

IP

H

ER

BB

K

Apr 7

7th

24

2.0

0

0

0

5

Apr 11

4th

71

3.1

3

1

3

3

Apr 17

5th

61

3.2

0

0

3

3

Apr 23

7th

19

0.0

2

3

2

0

Apr 30

5th

33

3.2

0

0

1

5

May 6

2nd

69

4.0

4

0

0

8

Strider spent the bulk of 2021 as a starter in the minors, and it's possible he enters the Braves starting rotation at some point this season, but the emergence of Kyle Wright has afforded Atlanta flexibility with Strider's usage. Since mid-May, Strider has pitched in shorter stints while entering later in games, with the Braves leading by a few runs. While the majority of the rookie's 2022 appearances have been during games with Atlanta trailing, Strider recently logged the first two holds and second big league win in the span of his last three outings.

Date

Inn. Entered

Pitches

IP

H

ER

BB

K

May 13

8th

25

1.0

2

2

0

2

May 16

7th

26

2.0

1

0

0

3

May 18

7th

11

1.0

0

0

0

3

May 20

7th

20

1.0

2

0

0

0

May 25

5th

46

2.2

0

0

2

5

With an 11.6 percent walk rate for the season, note the hurler's command and strike percentage is slightly better when he pitches two innings or less:

Context

IP

K

BB

BB%

P

Str

Str %

Total K:BB <- 2.0 IP

7.0

13

2

6.9%

125

87

69.6%

Total K:BB >- 2.0 IP

17.1

24

9

13.6%

280

184

65.7%

Totals    

405

271

66.9%

Strider ranks second among relievers during May with a 42.2 percent K-BB rate and has flourished this month overall with a 1.54 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 21:2 K:BB in 11.2 innings. While he's unlikely to take over Atlanta's closer role from Kenley Jansen, he's emerged as a viable relief weapon that is worth starting as your ninth pitcher in 12-team formats or higher for his ratios and especially strikeouts.

Other Closer Notes Around the League

Josh Hader, RP, Brewers - Hader was placed on the family medical emergency list Monday and will miss 3-7 days for Milwaukee as it opens a four-game series at St. Louis on Thursday. In his absence, Devin Williams has pitched in three consecutive games, tallying his fourth save of the season on Wednesday. Williams was shaky in April with a 4.32 ERA and eight walks in 8.1 innings, but he's been much better in May with a 2.79 ERA and only three walks in 9.2 innings. In fact, he hasn't allowed a walk since May 10, a span of seven scoreless outings. With Williams working three straight games, look for Brad Boxberger or Brent Suter to get the call if a save chance arises Thursday. Don't forget our Closer Grid displays the last seven days of bullpen usage by team, which can you help identify relievers to stream if you play in leagues with daily lineups.

Liam Hendriks, RP, White Sox - As I tweeted this week, Hendriks has already issued seven walks through 20.2 innings this season at a rate of 7.8 percent. He allowed seven walks in 71 innings (2.6 percent) all of last season. Don't get me wrong, Hendriks is still one of the most reliable closers in the game. He leads all relievers with 10 saves this month to bring his total to 14 for the season (T-3rd in the league). Hendriks isn't losing his role anytime soon, but his walk and home run rates are worth monitoring heading into June. I ranked Hendriks as my No. 1 closer heading into the season due to his volume — he tallied 85 and 71 innings in his last two full seasons, respectively — but my ranking looks like a mistake with Josh Hader dominating opposing hitters. I still expect Hendriks to be among the league leaders in saves, but perhaps his ratios won't be as sharp as they have been in recent years.

Dany Jimenez, RP, Athletics - Jimenez seemingly came out of nowhere to become one of the best waiver pickups of the year through late May. 

I follow bullpens closely and also wasn't aware that Jimenez pitched for Toronto's Triple-A affiliate last season. Regardless, Jimenez has been lights out in 2022 and has recorded 10 of Oakland's 13 saves. The rookie right-hander finally allowed his first earned run of the season May 15 and has a 0.49 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with no homers through 18.1 innings. Hitters are batting just .028 against his slider, while 14 of his 19 strikeouts have come via the pitch. As crazy as it sounds, Jimenez is  in the conversation with Julio Rodriguez, Jeremy Pena and Joe Ryan as an American League Rookie of the Year candidate.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Rufe
Ryan manages the MLB Closer Grid and authors 'Closer Encounters'. He also contributes to the MLB draft kit and has been helping RotoWire subscribers through our 'Ask An Expert' feature since 2014. He's an NFBC enthusiast.
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