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Tommy Kahnle has a home run problem

Kahnle is just one home run away from tying a career-high.

MLB: New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle has been a rock out of the bullpen in 2019. He’s appeared in 35 games, and for the most part, he has been reliable. There is one red flag, however, when you look at his stat line: the amount of home runs he’s given up.

In his rookie year, Kahnle hurled 68.2 innings and yielded seven homers—the most he’s given up in a season. In 2019, he’s surrendered six long balls in 30.1 innings. This has resulted in a career-high 1.78 HR/9. So what’s the problem? Why is he giving up so many homers?

Kahnle essentially just has a fastball and a changeup in his arsenal. He throws these two for a combined 95.2% of the time, but does miss a lot of bats with these two pitches. This usage, however, gives batters virtually a 50-50 chance of guessing what pitch is coming their way.

His fastball has been tagged for an average exit velocity of almost 90 mph, and his changeup has an exit velocity of 86 mph. With that, batters have struck Kahnle for a total average exit velocity of 87.5 mph and a hard hit percentage of 32.9%. Both are trending towards the highest of his career.

Zone-by-zone look of opponents’ exit velocity against Tommy Kahnle in 2019.

While he gets over 50% of opposing hitters to hit the ball on the ground, Kahnle’s HR/FB ratio is at a career-high mark of 26.1%. Batters are also slugging way above the league average against Kahnle, and those numbers have only gone up since earlier in the season.

Tommy Kahnle’s rolling slugging percentage in 2019.
Baseball Savant

Kahnle has had most of his troubles in June. In 7.1 innings pitched, he owns an 7.36 ERA on nine hits and three homers. The next ball that leaves the park will tie his most in a single-season. Back in early June against the Cleveland Indians, Kahnle had one of his worst outings of the season. Aaron Boone called him in to pitch the sixth inning in which the Yankees were up 5-0. He would not do his job all that well as he faced seven batters, allowing two homers and four runs.

Though, ever since that appearance, he’s come up against 20 batters, surrendering just two runs and one long ball. It seems as the 29-year-old has worked on limiting dingers. He proved that things are now going according to plan in his appearance against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday. Tommy threw a scoreless seventh inning, while striking out one.

With Jonathan Holder being optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Chad Green being used as an opener every fifth day, Kahnle will be pressed into high-leverage spots. Let’s hope the home runs are out of his system. Fortunately for him, the month is drawing to a close and the All-Star break is approaching. He can use that time to focus on keeping the ball in the yard.