In his interviews, Adam Warren seems like a pretty unassuming guy. Make no mistake though: his mind is always working. If there is a way to squeeze every last drop of production out of his innate ability, he will find it.
When watching Adam Warren, you won't find that one spectacular offering that blows hitters away. He doesn't have Masahiro Tanaka's splitter or Dellin Betances's knuckle curve, and he definitely doesn't have Mariano Rivera's cutter. What he does have is five pitches he can throw in any situation, and all five of them get the job done. According to Brooks Baseball, he throws a fastball, sinker, slider, changeup, and curve, not using any of them more than 34% of the time.
Take yesterday's outing against the White Sox as an example. In the fifth inning, he backed himself into a corner by walking the bases loaded for Jose Abreu. After getting ahead to a 1-2 count, Abreu was almost certainly ready looking for a breaking ball in the dirt. Instead, Warren tangled Abreu up with this two-seam fastball that ran in on his hands:
Moments like these make watching Warren's performances so enjoyable. When his stuff is working, he shows the often-untapped value of great pitch sequencing. Watching somebody like Jose Fernandez carve opposing lineups up with his filthy curveball is fun, but seeing someone like Warren outwit his opponents and do just enough to get the job done is entertaining as well.
It is no secret that everyone loves an underdog story. In 2008, Adam Warren pitched to a 4.23 ERA for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and was drafted in the 36th round of the amateur draft by the Cleveland Indians. Rather than settle for a late pick, he went back to school for his senior year and struck out more than one batter per inning en route to a fourth round selection from the Yankees.
But Warren's rise to success in the big leagues isn't what makes him so fascinating to watch. Pitches like the two-seamer to Abreu force us to appreciate the mental aspect of the game. When Adam Warren pitches, it is much more than a guy aiming and firing towards home plate. It is years of trial and error, countless hours of crafting repeatable and deceptive mechanics, and even more time spent developing strategies to get the best hitters on the planet out.
Of the 30 players selected in the 36th round of the 2008 draft, only one other player other than Warren reached the big leagues. That player was lefty reliever Chris Dwyer, who pitched a grand total of three innings in 2013 for the Kansas City Royals. Every one of Adam Warren's outings show the journey of a player whose ceiling was thought to be mere organizational depth in 2008 to a middle of the rotation starter for the New York Yankees. Next time Adam Warren takes the hill for the Yankees, we should all take the time to appreciate just how much more he has done to reach his current position. That way, we can all appreciate how much better he is for it.