The bullpen has been a strength for the Yankees in 2022, but it has been due to surprising additions rather than known quantities. Lou Trivino came over to the team from the Oakland A’s after underperforming with them, and has been a steady presence in the bullpen ever since. In 39 games and 32.0 innings with the A’s, he had a terrible 6.47 ERA with five home runs allowed in that limited time.
However, since coming over, he has a minuscule 0.64 ERA in 16 games and 14.0 innings pitched. Of course, this still is a relatively small sample size, but it has lowered his ERA for 2022 to 4.70. This is much more respectable. What, then, is his role in the bullpen going forward as the Yankees head toward the postseason (hopefully)?
Esteban wrote a little while back about some of the changes that Trivino has made since coming to Yankees. He concluded that increased usage of his slider and cutter have allowed him to not use his less well developed pitches.
Since Esteban wrote about the changes in pitch usage, these trends seems to have continued. While Trivino has not totally shelved his sinker, he has reduced its usage below his cutter and slider.
There is good reason for him to use the cutter and slider as his main weapons for getting batters out. These two pitches have the lowest expected batting average and expected slugging percentage among his repertoire.
Of the two pitches, the slider seems to be his best offering. The type of contact allowed with this pitch has resulted in an expected batting average of only .116 and an expected slugging percentage of just .199. His cutter has a slightly more pedestrian profile, but still good enough. This pitch has an expected batting average of just .236 and an expected slugging of just .311.
In addition to the change in pitch usage, the Yankees have changed how they use Trivino as a reliever. In some ways, the Yankees have been using him as a righty specialist. Since coming to the team, he has pitched 10.0 innings against right handed batters while only 3.2 innings against left handed batters.
Some of this comes down to the fact that left handed batters make up a minority of players, but when he was with Oakland, he still faced left handed batters a third of the time. Unfortunately, when he faced left handed batters with Oakland, he had an atrocious 9.58 ERA. While Trivino has not allowed an earned run against lefties with the Yankees, under four innings is a very limited sample size.
Even when he was struggling with the A’s, he still managed to mostly get righties out with a much smaller 4.98 ERA compared to his total 6.47 ERA with Oakland. With these kind of splits, it makes sense to use Trivino to his advantages rather than to his disadvantages. The Yankees should keep limiting his exposure to left handed batters while using him to get out difficult righties.
As the Yankees hopefully head toward the postseason, it’s important to consider how the team will configure its bullpen to maximize the chances of winning. Trivino offers the ability to use his cutter and slider to neutralize difficult right handed batters. He can help make up for someone like Lucas Luetge, who has a small weakness against righties, by coming in after (or before depending on sequencing) him. This is not like the halcyon days of a million different relief pitchers (read 2019), but creative use of the bullpen can limit exposure to difficult matchups.
Combining the usage of Lucas Luetge and Lou Trivino should allow the Yankees to bridge the gap between their starters and their truly elite bullpen arms. Trivino is an imperfect pitcher, but the Yankees can make the most of him by limiting his exposure to left handed batters. If they do so, then they can make it more likely to limit the other teams.
All cited statistics are as of the end of play on Saturday, September 10th.