Lou Trivino may have been the most obvious reclamation project for the Yankees of all the struggling “good stuff” relievers in Major League Baseball. He had a promising strikeout percentage, chase rate, and groundball rate. On top of the standard underlying metrics, his pitch movement was off the charts both this year, and in prior seasons. He has a funky, unique release, and has already flashed dominance at points in his career.
The question was always what the Yankees would change about Trivino. He had the stuff already, so whatever changes that were going to be made were likely to be in pitch mix, or slight changes to grips and release points. Despite a ludicrous level of horizontal movement, Trivino only threw his super sweeper 17 percent of the time while in Oakland this season. The pitch is borderline unhittable. The batting average against is near .150 and has an xwWOBA of .183. Why not throw your best pitch more often?
Pitching coach Matt Blake and his staff deploy a pretty simple concept. For Trivino, the buy-in was as easy as it usually is because it’s not hard to listen to a coaching staff that is constantly making pitchers better. So far in the Bronx, Trivino is throwing his super sweeper more than any other pitch in his repertoire. Shocker! He has essentially doubled the usage and made it his primary offering.
I take this location 10/10 times. You may initially think that this is too erratic, but when a pitch moves so much, it doesn’t always matter.
Even against one of the league’s best at avoiding strikeouts in Nolan Arenado, Trivino got a chase and whiff on a sweeper in the perfect location. This pitch may look familiar because it is very similar to what fans grew accustomed to seeing from Michael King: a pitch from a unique release point with loads of sweep that induces chases and called strikes.
Trivino is also throwing his cutter more often than he did this year in Oakland (14.8 percent to 19.8 percent). I’m not sure how much I’m willing to make of that difference in a small sample, which is why it’s more important to zoom in on the specs.
Last 3 Cutters for Trivino yesterday:— Chris Langin (@LanginTots13) August 8, 2022
Velocity: 89.3 (6 mph off Fastball)
HB: (-) 3.5"
Velocity: 92.3 (5 mph off Fastball)
HB: (-) 2"
Probably need a few more samples before concluding it's "fixed"... but shocker. https://t.co/zWIf7EyCP9 pic.twitter.com/paS9nZyv5G
Chris Langin beat me to it. Trivino’s movement profile has changed in slight but important ways. His formerly nasty cutter has regressed since being a great pitch in 2020. Luckily for him, Blake is something of a cutter savant.
Even a grip shift like this can lead to different seam orientation (1S vs. 4S etc.) at release.— Chris Langin (@LanginTots13) August 3, 2022
While the grip doesn't seem to have changed much - orientation at release will.
Hence why edger is so useful... and some teams can quantify his cutter seam orientation on the season. pic.twitter.com/hqmOtXQcpB
If I’m going to source this much information from anybody, Langin is a good choice. These are the subtle differences in grip and seam orientation that can lead to changes in movement and feel. By feel, I mean a pitcher’s ability to command to a zone or spot. Proprioception is the key to making pitching and hitting adjustments. Whatever you can do to increase that feel is crucial to your success. In the case of many pitchers, a grip or change in seam orientation does exactly that.
By increasing the usage of Trivino’s cutter and sweeper, the Yankees are maximizing his repertoire. While he is more than capable of throwing four-to-five well moving pitches, it may make the most sense for him to home in on two to three and become dominant with them. In his rough outing against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, we saw what can happen to Trivino when he loses it. His wonky mechanics make him erratic. Because of this, I find it even more important he focuses on a smaller pitch mix. He had little to no feel for his changeup and it put him in a hole. His sinker was hit the hardest, but at least it yielded a ground ball. I think it may be best for him to focus on the sinker, cutter, sweeper mix and only use the other pitches sparsely.
With the depth that the Yankees’ bullpen has, Trivino will not go more than two innings at any time. He will face hitters once, with the exception of a playoff series. Go at them with your best stuff and let the chips fall where they may. There is good reason to believe this will work out favorably for both him and the staff as a whole.