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Tommy Kahnle is back and better than ever

In 2017 Tommy Kahnle was a big piece of the Yankees dominant bullpen. After a rocky 2018 he’s returned to form and has been better than ever

MLB: Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Yankees acquired Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox shortly before the trade deadline along with Todd Frazier and David Robertson in July 2017, the initial reaction from the trade was circled around Frazier. The Toms River product, avid Yankees fan who so famously took a picture with Derek Jeter in 1998 garnered much of the attention. Kahnle was the third-biggest name in the deal, behind Frazier and Robertson, another bullpen arm that the Yankees could team with Chad Green, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman.

Although Frazier was serviceable in his time with the Bombers, as was Robertson in his second go-round in New York, Kahnle was quietly dominant, and it was inclusion that made the deal look like a steal. In 2017, in 32 games with the Yankees, he posted a 2.70 ERA in 26.2 pitched to go along with 30 strikeouts. In the postseason, Kahnle didn't miss a beat, pitching 11.1 innings with 10 strikeouts, 6 hits, and only one home run.

Unfortunately, in 2018, reality quickly set in. Injury issues caused his velocity to take a dive and led to multiple stints in the minors. When Kahnle was with the big league club, he posted a 6.56 ERA in 24 games. Finally, in 2019, the team is on the brink of their first American League East title since 2012, and it’s safe to say Kahnle’s resurgence has played a role in the team’s current MLB-best record.

In July, Kahnle was awarded named the reliever of the month for the American League. He was totally lights out, rrunning a 0.77 ERA in 12 games, striking out 17 batters with just two walks while not surrendering a home run. He has essentially stepped into the hard-throwing right-handed reliever role vacated by Dellin Betances for the entire season thus far. He’s regained his velocity, with his four-seam fastball sitting at 96.4 mph on the season, a year after it fell to just above 95 mph.

It’s arguable that despite how great he was in 2017, he's been even better in 2019. With a heavier workload and more reliance being put on him due to the absence of Betances he has been nothing short of spectacular. He’s kept a 2.82 ERA in 51.1 innings pitched; essentially, he’s prevented runs at the same rate he did when he first donned pinstripes, but this time in an even harsher run environment. He’s set to have a career high in innings pitched, strikeouts, strikeouts per 9 innings, while allowing fewer runs and walks.

The thing that stands out about the Latham, NY native is that he’s equally effective against righties as he is against lefties, as he’s allowed a .584 OPS against righties and a .587 OPS against lefties, and that he’s been fantastic at home and on the road. He's been practically unhittable in Yankee Stadium, only allowing two home runs and yielding a .529 OPS, while surrendering just a .637 OPS on the road.

No matter how you slice it, Kahnle has been outstanding this season, coming off what was a disastrous campaign. If a deep postseason run is in the cards for the Bronx Bombers, please believe Kahnle will have his hand in it. His turnaround couldn't have happened at a better time.