Among the Yankees pitching staff, there are definitely a handful of pitches that stand out. Masahiro Tanaka's splitter is well known among fans for its extremely late movement. Andrew Miller's slider helped him go from first round bust to elite closer. Dellin Betances's knuckle curve has led him to two straight All Star appearances. Of course, Aroldis Chapman's fastball is the reason behind his nickname: the Cuban Missile. Today, we acknowledge some of the more under the radar pitches thrown by Yankees hurlers.
Masahiro Tanaka - Slider
Tanaka's slider clocks in at an average 84 mph. In 2015, his slider was actually more effective than his famed splitter, holding hitters to a .140 batting average and a .280 slugging percentage, while generating a Whiff/Swing ratio of 34%. Despite lacking the extreme movement of someone like Angels pitcher Garrett Richards, the effectiveness of Tanaka's slider is augmented by his superb command. Against righties, he can throw the slider for strikes and bury it down and away with the best of them:
Against lefties, he will occasionally try to sneak one over the outer half of the strike zone, catching them off guard if they expect to see only fastballs and splitters:
Tanaka's fastball and sinker are routinely demolished by opposing hitters, a tendency that does not bode well for a major league starter. Fortunately, his ability to locate his secondary pitches helps him survive some of the world's scariest lineups.
Ivan Nova - Curveball
In a career full of ups and downs, Ivan Nova's curveball has been a beacon of consistency. In 2015, he threw his breaking ball 30% of the time, holding hitters to a .165 average and a .275 slugging percentage. At an average 80 mph, it is possible that he is using a knuckle-curve grip, as traditional 12-6 curves will usually sit in the low to mid 70's. Whatever grip he uses, Nova's curve generated a Whiff/Swing ratio of 37%.
Chasen Shreve - Splitter
Chasen Shreve followed up a dominant first half with a disastrous second half, leading some to believe he was tipping his pitches towards the end of the season. Even during his freefall, his off speed pitch was a solid offering. For the season, Shreve's splitter had a Whiff/Swing ratio of 45.7% and held hitters to a .134 batting average. It is probably more of a testament to how well hitters fared against his slider, but Shreve actually had slight reverse platoon splits in 2015. If Shreve can figure out what led his ERA to skyrocket later in the season, he could slide back into a late-inning role in coming years.
Those are just three examples of underrated pitches thrown by a very diverse pitching staff. If you feel like I missed any honorable mentions, feel free to comment below.
Data is courtesy of Brooks Baseball. Heatmaps are courtesy of Baseball Savant.