The Yankees have suffered quite a number of blows to their once vaunted bullpen, with multiple players getting injured. Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Loáisiga, and Chad Green (Tommy John) have all gone down for significant amounts of time. The question is, should the Yankees take a chance and sign Dallas Keuchel if he clears waivers? Clearing waivers would mean that the Yankees would only have to pay a pro-rated portion of the league minimum for his services. He wouldn’t make much sense in this rotation, but a relief role is always a possibility.
Unfortunately, the traditional counting stats have not been particularly kind to Keuchel. In fact, he has been one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball. Keuchel has pitched 32 innings across eight games to the tune of a 7.88 ERA. Not good! Keuchel has even been walking batters too often, with 20 walks in those few innings. Keuchel is in the bottom 15 percent of the league in walks and bottom four percent in strikeouts. In addition, he has given up 49 hits, which in combination with the walks, has resulted in a 2.16 WHIP. Those numbers look like roadkill after a few days in the hot sun.
Well, if the counting stats do not look great, how about some of the advanced metrics?
Baseball Savant shows each baseball in relation to the rest of the sport, and there are a few too many blue indicators to be good — Keuchel is in the lower third of the league in a lot of areas. However, it should be noted that the veteran appears to have an artificially high BABIP, at .364. As a consequence, his xERA sits much lower than his actual ERA at 4.50. That number seems much more palatable, but with the advent of pitching domination, that number still sits in the bottom third of the league.
There are some bright spots though. Keuchel has an exit velocity number in the 58th percentile and a hard hit percentage number in the 73rd percentile, with a good chase rate in the 63rd percentile. All these numbers seem to indicate that batters are making fairly consistent contact with Keuchel’s pitches, but that the contact has not been perfect. Hitters have barreled Keuchel’s pitches 6.7 percent of the time, good for the bottom third of the league. However, his hard hit percentage would indicate that he generates a lot of weak contact as well. Keuchel is a bit of contradiction, creating a lot of very hard hits as well as inducing a lot of soft contact.
Is there anything worth salvaging? The answer to that question might be a resounding “maybe.” Most of Keuchel's pitches have average or above average movement, except the slider and the cutter. The cutter features fairly average vertical movement, but below average horizontal movement. Meanwhile, the slider is merely below average in both vertical and horizontal movement.
This might explain why the cutter has been absolutely smashed to the tune of .419 batting average. Though the xBA is somewhat better at .300 with an xwOBA of .403, this pitch does not seem to be very useful moving forward. However, his slider could be weirdly effective without a lot of movement. The slider has resulted in a .467 batting average, but a fairly good xBA of .270 and xwOBA of .316. Keuchel’s changeup has been his most effective pitch with a .261 BA, and the xBA backs this up at .258 and an xwOBA of .285. His sinker has not been great in reality with a .333 BA, but with an xBA of .291 and an xwOBA of .381. It is possible that Keuchel could find success as a middle relief pitcher with a three pitch mix featuring mostly the slider and changeup, with some sinkers thrown in.
Should the Yankees take a flier on Keuchel? It could be a good deal for the Yankees provided they have room on the roster and Keuchel clears waivers. This is a classic low-risk, high reward type move. Keuchel would be a cheap addition that could eat up innings in the bullpen and potentially provide more with a leaner pitch mix that focuses on his strengths.