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What is going on with Tommy Kahnle?

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Kahnle arrived to the Yankees with high expectations. Why has he struggled since coming to New York?

MLB: New York Yankees at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

David Robertson may have been the centerpiece of the Yankees’ deal with the White Sox back in July, but Tommy Kahnle was considered to be a major acquisition for a Yankee bullpen that was considered one of the best in baseball after the trade was finalized. Kahnle, a former draft pick of the Yanks, came to the Bronx with a 2.50 ERA and was striking out 42.6% of batters he faced. He has not been able to replicate that success in pinstripes.

Since joining the Yankees, Kahnle has only struck out 28% of batters, and seems to find himself in a jam every time out. He also hasn’t been getting the job done when he inherits a jam in the middle of an inning. Kahnle has inherited 19 runners since joining the Yankees and have allowed nine to score, or 42% of inherited runners. That’s an alarming increase from his career average of 28%. Kahnle was brought over for high leverage situations in the sixth and seven innings, but hasn’t consistently delivered.

A major factor in Kanhle’s inflated numbers recently was an awful stretch in August against the Red Sox in which he allowed four earned runs in less than an inning of work. The month of August wasn’t kind to Kahnle overall, as he finished the month with a 5.23 ERA and hitters slugged .500 against him during that span. September has been kinder to Kahnle so far as he has yet to allow a run in 4 23 innings, but it hasn’t come easy.

Kahnle has struggled with control recently, and walks are always a great way to dial up the tension for a reliever in the later innings. Kanhle’s K-BB percentage was at 37.3% through the first half of the season. His percentage in the second half is 21.2%, and his walks per nine are up dramatically as well. Kahnle needs to stop giving free passes in order to put himself in more manageable situations.

If Kahnle is to cut down on the baserunners, he needs to reestablish his fastball and set up his off-speed pitches. His fastball has not been as effective since joining the Yanks, and whiff percentages on his fastball show a concerning trend.

There’s been a steady decline in swings and misses off the fastball since June of this season. The velocity is there, so the increase in walks likely shows that he needs to work on control to return to form. Kahnle has shown a bend-don’t-break style in his last few outings which is better than his August performance, but it will continue to be difficult to escape trouble if he keeps creating it for himself.

With the possibility of a playoff appearance approaching, the Yankees will need their bullpen at full strength to protect a lead in the later innings. They have failed to come through in important games so far this season, and an improved Kahnle will help change that narrative. If Kahnle can locate his fastball and cut down on the walks, he will be a formidable weapon down the stretch.