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An update on Domingo German’s curveball

The curveball has been a large part of German’s success this year. Is it still effective?

MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Domingo German, as well all know, has had a pretty tremendous breakout year for the Yankees. For most of the season, he has been the staple of their pitching staff and has really been a consistent bright spot in what is otherwise a below-average starting rotation. About a month ago I spoke about how much of German’s success has come from his curveball. This season, we’ve seen the batting average against, slugging, and wOBA all decrease for batters that have faced the curveball.

There was talk at the beginning of the season about the Yankees putting an innings limit on German, who has never been a full-time starter at the big league level. So far this year he has already thrown more innings than ever before in his young career yet he is not showing any signs of slowing down, and neither has his curveball.

Throughout German’s first few years with the Yankees in which he bounced up and down from Triple-A, the spin rate on his curve never exceeded the high 2400’s or 2500’s. This year, his arm has been stretched out and month by month his spin rate has increased. Over July and part of August the spin rate has not only risen above 2600 but it has skyrocketed past that point. The spin rate on German’s curveball in August this season is average 2640 revolutions per minute, higher than ever in his career. Here’s a curve that spun at 2720 revolutions per minute in his last performance against the Blue Jays.

He made one of the hottest hitters in baseball nearly fall out of his shoes. That’s the type of damage the curve has this year for German.

In his start last night against the Orioles, the curve was once again the go-to pitch for German and it was again the most effective. German threw it 37 times, the most of all his pitches, and accumulated 14 swings and misses (once again the most of any pitch). Four of those swings and misses resulted in a strike three, and another was a foul tip into the catcher’s glove. In total five of German’s seven strikeouts came from the curveball.

It’s unclear what is in store for German, as it has not yet been determined when or if his innings limit will be implemented. With a rather weak pitching staff to begin with, the Yankees are going to have to find a way to get German and his curveball in the game come the postseason, whether as a starter or a reliever.