After acquiring Andrew Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals directly following a loss to the New York Mets, GM Brian Cashman still had plenty of work to do. With an injury to Michael King sidelining him for the season, the New York Yankees desperately needed replacement arms in the bullpen. They got one in Scott Effross (and later, Lou Trivino, who Peter will discuss later).
Effross, to put it simply, is a unicorn. My colleague Esteban Rivera wrote about how much he diversifies the Yankees bullpen here, so instead of focusing on that, I’m more interested in how much the newest Yankee reliever reminds me of the injured King because it is almost uncanny.
First, look at Baseball Savant’s numbers and see how they stack up. Here are the Statcast numbers for Effross:
And here’s what’s on King’s page:
There are plenty of similarities between the two pitchers, from their xERA to K%. Both have high chase rates as well, although Effross takes the lead in that department.
As far as pitch mix goes, the slider and sinker are the primary weapons of choice for the two right-handed relievers, while both utilize a changeup and four-seam fastball as backup options. Effross’ slider is the pitch he uses most at 40 percent, while King’s is his sinker at 37.2 percent. The most significant percentage difference between the two is their use of the fastball. King uses it 22.7 percent of the time, while Effross only uses it 9.5 percent of the time — the lowest of any pitch he throws.
The difference in fastball spin is also evident, with Effross ending up in the 42nd percentile and King sitting in the 87th per Baseball Savant. And even though the spin isn’t plentiful for Effross’ fastball, it still has tons of horizontal movement because of the way he delivers his pitches. So as much as the fastball isn’t as reminiscent of King’s in terms of spin, it’s still something hitters need to look out for with its absurd 17 inches of horizontal break, 4.8 inches vs. average, with the Statcast definition of “average” being:
“Since gravity requires time, and slower pitches aren’t “better” just because they have more time to move, the movement of a pitch is compared to “average” movement, by comparing it to other MLB pitch types within +/- 2 MPH and from within +/- 0.5 feet of extension and release.”
But if we talk about Effross, it’s because of his slider and sinker. They are, in a word, gross. First, let’s look at a comparison between his sinker and King’s.
Michael King, 96mph Sinker with 22 inches of Run pic.twitter.com/sv8bKw3Mdx— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 3, 2022
Both have some incredible movement, and fans will enjoy Effross tying up hitters just as much as they have enjoyed King doing the same. The most significant difference here is the velocity. In 2022, the average MPH of King’s sinker is 95.5 while Effross’ is 90.2. But in terms of movement in total inches, Effross sits at 19.3 while King is at 18.7, so they’re pretty comparable.
Effross’s sinker is his most effective putaway pitch, with a percentage of 38.2. However, there are some issues to be taken up with the whiff and hard0hit percentages on that pitch, as they’re the worst among pitches in his toolbox. So, while he has been putting hitters away the most with that pitch, it’s a problem when batters make contact because they’re hitting it hard almost 50 percent of the time.
Now for the sliders:
Michael King, Cartoon 84mph Breaking Ball.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 8, 2022
22 inches of Break. pic.twitter.com/omQ8i6uIRd
King and Effross’s sliders have almost the same inches of drop, but their break makes the real difference. King’s breaks more, according to Statcast, with 18.6 inches (8.9 vs. Avg) compared to Effross’ 12.7 (0.1 vs. Avg). So because Effross’ slider averages out at 79.6 MPH and King’s sits at 82.3 MPH, that’s a contributor to the “vs. Avg” numbers looking different.
But the essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to pitches that are meant to strike hitters out is their effectiveness. Effross’ slider has a whiff rate of 30.1 percent, while King’s sits at an absurd 42.3. And even though Effross’ sinker is the one that puts people away the most, his slider is the one that’s striking hitters out.
The most important thing to remember about Effross compared to King is that he won’t wow you with velocity as King does. No one will see a 96-MPH sinker fly out of his right hand. But the Yankees are getting a player that uses an absurd release to make his pitch mix even more lethal in terms of movement. The frisbee action on his slider and almost inverse of that on his sinker will be instrumental coming out of the bullpen.
There should be plenty of whiffs to come, and considering Effross is 28 years old with five more years of team control, that is so much time for Matt Blake and other members of the staff to work with him on his stuff.
King and Effross may have their differences, but if Cashman was looking to recreate King down the stretch in the aggregate, to use Moneyball terms, they got their guy. He will be fun to watch in August and September, and is undoubtedly my favorite acquisition of the deadline so far.