In the previous offseason, the Yankees traded RHP Adam Warren and IF Brendan Ryan to the Chicago Cubs for 2B Starlin Castro. The versatile Warren had pitched well for the Yankees as a starter, and in relief, over the previous three seasons and was seen as a good fit for the Cubs, a team expected to contend for a championship. Only eight months later, the Yankees sent the hard throwing Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for Warren and three prospects, including SS Gleyber Torres, who instantly became the Yankees top prospect. Even though Warren struggled with the Cubs, his peripherals suggest that he might bounce back and be a valuable pitcher again for the Yankees this years and in future seasons.
Between 2013-2015, Warren threw 287 innings with a 3.59 FIP for the Yankees. Pitching as both a starter and a reliever, Warren gave the Yankees quality innings whenever the team needed him. This season, he hasn’t produced the same results. In 35 innings for the Cubs, he had an ugly 5.82 FIP, giving up 23 earned runs. Thirty-five innings is a pretty small sample size though, so we should take a look at how he is actually throwing the ball to see if anything has changed.
Warren is throwing his fastball this season at an average of 92.8 MPH which is identical to its velocity in 2015. His changeup velocity this season is 84.5 MPH, slightly above last season’s 84.2 MPH. The same goes for his slider which is slightly up this season (87.3 MPH) compared to last season (87.1 MPH).
Unlike his velocity, Warren’s pitch selection has changed somewhat since last season. He is throwing his fastball 34.4% of the time compared to 27.6% in 2015. The other increase is in his changeup, which he is throwing 22.1% of the time compared to 15% in 2015. Basically, he is favoring his fastball and changeup over his slider and curve ball. This seems like a good choice because his changeup and slider are considered to be his most valuable pitches by FanGraphs. None of these numbers, however, suggest that he is choosing pitches significantly different than in previous seasons.
Although his poor performance doesn’t seem to be due to a drop in velocity or a major change in pitch selection, there is one stat that sticks out this season. When batters make contact with his pitches, they are turning into fly balls at a much higher rate (40.2%) than his career average (33%). Fly balls tend to turn into home runs and it shows with Warren who owns a career-high 16.3 HR/9 this season. Warren has always been around league average at giving up home runs (around ten HR/9), so it’s possible that he has just been unlucky this year.
Warren has two more years of arbitration left, making him a bargain if he can match his production from 2013-2015 moving forward. Given the small sample size of his time with the Cubs, it’s a good gamble by Brian Cashman that Warren should be able to turn back into the pitcher that the Yankees had since 2012. If his fly ball rate returns to normal, his home run rate will go down and he’ll start to look like the Warren that the Yankees remember. As we approach the deadline, if the Yankees believe that Warren will return to normal, they might feel better about trading away a starter. Here’s to hoping that Warren can turn his season around soon.