It’s fair to say that the 2022 season hasn’t gone the way Jonathan Loáisiga or the Yankees would have wanted, at least in general. He has, before Wednesday’s game, an elevated 5.29 ERA in 32.1 frames filled with inconsistency, control issues, and a problematic shoulder injury that sidelined him for around two months.
This is a far cry of the 2.17-ERA pitcher he was in 2021 across 70.2 innings, if we judge him by the raw numbers. That hurler finished with a 2.4-fWAR season last year, and looked like one of the best and most consistent relievers in the American League. However, every pitcher has highs and lows over the course of a full season — that’s why it’s always useful to analyze Loáisiga’s performance before the injured list stint and after returning.
Upon returning to the active roster on July 14th, Loáisiga immediately allowed three runs. After that, he has pitched 18 games and 15 innings, giving up just three earned runs for a 1.80 ERA. He has conceded just 10 hits and five walks, with 11 punchouts.
Things are looking up for him as we get closer to the postseason: during his last seven games, he has a 1.35 ERA with a 0.60 WHIP and seven strikeouts in 6.2 innings. In his last 15 games, the right-hander has posted a 1.50 ERA in 12 frames, with a 0.92 WHIP and nine punchouts.
He is sporting a 53.6 percent groundball rate (GB%) in the month of August, and while the strikeouts are still not all the way back yet, they are starting to return (again, check his numbers in his last seven appearances). At long last, he is showing signs that he is rounding into form at the most opportunistic time.
Back in May, our own Esteban Rivera analyzed what was going on with Loáisiga, and he made two noteworthy conclusions: his command was gone, and his sinker was getting hit a lot. He was having issues finding a consistent release point (especially with his sinker), and that significantly affected him results-wise. You could say that the two primary weapons that fueled his 2021 breakout weren’t there.
Since returning from his stint on the shelf, however, he has made considerable strides in that area. Here are his release points in a game on April 17th against the Baltimore Orioles, in which he was battered:
You could see his sinker’s release point is all over the place. Now, let’s take a look at Lo’s game against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday:
It looks better, and the results seem to suggest that.
For a pitcher like Loáisiga, the sinker is the key that will open all doors. He throws it over 60 percent of the time, so it’s important that the pitch has the right velocity, horizontal, and vertical movement. Extension, however, is also crucial.
After returning from the IL, he has been throwing the sinker more in the zone. It also has more horizontal and vertical movement, but the horizontal and vertical release point and release extension all appear to be back at similar levels than last year. In April and May, the pitch was breaking at the wrong time as a result of his difficulties and inconsistencies, but that no longer seems to be the case.
Here is his average release extension by month, illustrating his improvement in the area (it is back to last year’s levels after being significantly down in April and May).
Fixing his release point has helped him get that deadly late break with his pitches, especially his sinker:
In addition to improving (and finding consistency with) his sinker, command, and release point — all are tied together — he also added more lateral sweep to his slider to create a different movement profile compared to his sinker, as Peter Brody wrote.
All things considered, Loáisiga’s sinker and slider look a lot better, his command has improved, and he has been more consistent. With each passing day, he is looking more and more like the pitcher that took the league by storm in 2021, and that’s excellent news for the Yankees and bad news for the rest of the league.