Ron Marinaccio, the changeup-slinging right-hander from New Jersey, has maintained a ground ball rate around 40 percent and an xBA of .181 in his young career, precocious numbers for a player who just wrapped up his first 80 big-league innings. On the whole, he’s been nails, and invaluable to the makeup of the Yankee ‘pen, one of the best in baseball this year. Lately, though, he’s struggled, and a look at the progression in each of his first two major league seasons brings up a troubling and recurring trend.
The Yankees have used Marinaccio so heavily because he’s been effective with his uncommon weapon against lefties. Versatility in a reliever is paramount especially in the age of the three-batter minimum rule. In an increasingly specialized game, a reliever who has tools to get hitters out from both sides of the plate is a weapon in both the traditional and strategic sense of the words. Part of the reason the Yankees have been able to carry a bullpen with only one-two LHP is that Marinaccio can do the heavy lifting of throwing to power-hitting lefty bats. Aaron Boone doesn’t have to keep handedness in mind so much for Marinaccio, providing more flexibility for the other relievers and expanding Marinaccio’s deployment range.
Michael King looks to have his groove back, but it doesn’t solve the lefty problem. Wandy Peralta has accomplished varying degrees of success this season, but asking him to consistently handle late-inning duties against Rafael Devers-types is a tall order. Nick Ramirez, the other lefty in Boone’s bullpen, is better against righties, leaving Peralta and Marinaccio as the only credible late-inning matchups for other teams’ lefty sluggers. Both have had their ups and downs lately.
The numbers in Marinaccio’s five July appearances are rough: 4.2 innings, seven hits, four earned runs, and most concerning, six walks. Here, we’ll look at the eerie similarity between the tail end of his first 40 innings of his last two seasons. Marinaccio got up to 44 IP In 2022 before an injury knocked him out for the playoffs. He’s at 40 IP so far this year, thrown in a timeframe shorter than the one he threw the 44 innings in. He went on the IL October 2nd of 2022 with a stress reaction in his shin no doubt caused at least in part by his workload.
In September of that year as his innings tally climbed up and over the 40 mark, he lost his sharpness due to fatigue and the shin injury. Across a nine inning span he allowed nine hits, four earned runs, and walked nine. He’s at the exact same point in his workload this year and his performance is trending the same way, down to the inflated walk numbers.
This is a concerning development and one that could destabilize the Yankees bullpen immensely. The bullpen has at times this year dragged this team to respectability when the offense and rotation were badly depleted. A dodgy ‘pen late in the season is poison for any team’s playoff aspirations, especially one that has looked lifeless on offense for weeks at a time.
In 2021, Marinaccio threw 66 excellent innings split between Double-A and Triple-A — he’s done it before, just not at this level. He threw 204 innings across three years at Delaware, perhaps not entirely irrelevant to this equation. His arm had more mileage than most upon being drafted and this makes his consecutive years of fatigue particularly concerning.
The All-Star break brings a much-needed respite for Marinaccio, who will remain one of Boone’s top choices in the late innings. We’ll see whether he can buck the trend of fizzling out at the 40 inning mark. If so, should the Yankees make the playoffs, he’ll finally make his postseason debut in October.