Sweepers have significant splits. Fact, period, etc. From the opposite-handed side, the pitch floats right into the meat of the barrel when it crosses home plate. Because of that, pitchers need to adjust the way to pitch to right-handed compared to left-handed batters. Teams all learn this information at different times, but the Yankees have been onto this since at least last year. If you watched Yankees relievers, you know that almost all of them face both handed batters. There are hardly any specialists on this team because it’s been coached to pitch to different hitters according to their swing planes.
The first three pitchers who come to mind are Michael King, Greg Weissert, and Ron Marinaccio. Each of these pitchers features a sweeper as an essential part of their arsenal. However, they’ve used the pitch differently depending on who is at the plate. Below is a table of all pitches from the 2022 season through Thursday, April 20th.
Pitch Mix Splits 2022-2023
|Pitcher||Pitch Type||% v. Right||% v. Left|
|Pitcher||Pitch Type||% v. Right||% v. Left|
Let’s start with King, the most versatile of the group. King features three plus pitches: sinker, sweeper, and changeup. However, the splits of those two pitches drastically change from left- to right-handed batters. Most notably, his devastating sinker and sweeper (both unicorn pitches) become far less frequent options against lefties. From King’s three-quarter release that slings across his body, the sweeper is much easier to recognize if it is coming towards you.
Similarly, the sinker needs to be precisely located. One of King’s most impressive skills is his knack to run his sinker over the back door to righties and get called strikes. It’s something he uses against lefties as well; however, it’s significantly riskier. If the pitch runs back over the middle of the plate against a lefty, it ends up directly in his barrel. Against a righty, the pitch is still extremely difficult to make a swing decision on, even if it does run closer to the middle of the zone.
Moving on to Weissert, you’ll notice that he still uses the sweeper nearly a quarter of the time against lefty, a higher mark than his bullpen mate. For King, the pitch is typically located on the corner or out of the zone, but Weissert uses it in a variety of ways. He can front-door it to righties or get them to chase off the outside corner for weak contact. Against lefties, the pitch mainly becomes an arm side only pitch. That is due to Weissert’s nasty changeup, which plays perfectly with his fastballs against lefties. The sweeper is still used frequently, but it’s more of a complementary pitch to catch lefties off guard. The changeup is the biggest weapon against lefties. In fact, its effectiveness has made me consider it could be useful for Weissert to flash it against righties as well. If he can command it under the zone, then it could only benefit his other pitches.
Lastly, there is Marinaccio. Everything about his arsenal centers around getting to his changeup. That’s easy against lefties. He can use it as an offering that runs across the plate for a whiff, soft contact, or even a ball. In general, he throws it in the zone to lefties between 30-35 percent of the time. The movement on the pitch makes it easy for him to get chases against these hitters. But against righties, it’s in the zone a quarter more of the time (47.4 percent in 2023). He cuts the usage of the pitch in half going from left to right and replaces that usage with his baby sweeper. It’s not quite the moving pitch that Weissert or King have, but it’s a perfect pair with his changeup against righties. In 2022, hitters batted .208 against the pitch. Clearly, he knows exactly what he is doing.
One pitcher who I didn’t mention in this piece is Clarke Schmidt. For one, I’m not comfortable with settling on his pitch mix splits given that he is a work in progress against lefties, as Peter Brody explored earlier this week. However, as the season progresses, he is somebody we will need to pay attention to. His sweeper could continue to be an effective pitch, but I think he is still tweaking when and where to use it. Perhaps Schmidt can take some influence from these three pitchers or carve out new tendencies of his own.
All I know is that the Yankees have been effective in pitch mix decision splits for these three relievers, and doing so has made their bullpen more flexible for Aaron Boone.