Having one or two great pitches doesn't always make you a great pitcher, but it certainly doesn't hurt. The Yankees pitching staff is filled with guys who possess some absolutely nasty stuff. From the starting rotation to the bullpen, the Yankees have pitchers than can blow a fastball by you, make you look foolish chasing a splitter, or fool you with a dirty breaking ball. How good the Yankee pitchers will be this season is up for debate, but it's tough to deny that they throw some nasty pitches. Here are the best pitches thrown by the Yankees staff, in no particular order.
Masahiro Tanaka's splitter
Tanaka throws perhaps the best splitter in baseball. It is the pitch that put him on the map and it's downright unhittable at times. As shown above, the ball starts off looking like a fastball before the bottom falls out at the end. If hitters can lay off it, it would often be a ball, but Tanaka's ability to fool hitters into thinking it's a straight fastball is what makes it so effective.
He throws it more so than any other pitch, about 26% of the time. FanGraphs gives it a PITCHf/x value (wFS) of 19.8 over the past two seasons. He has thrown it 1172 times in the majors, and it has been hit just 4 times for a home run, the BAA on it is just .180, and the whiff/swing rate is 39.2% Tanaka is susceptible to giving up home runs and sometimes can leave the ball up too often, but he goes to the splitter a lot with two strikes (almost 40% of the time), and it's rare for a hitter to find success against it.
Nathan Eovaldi's splitter
Eovaldi's splitter isn't quite as good as Tanaka's yet, but it could be on its way, as the movement does seem comparable. He only started throwing it in 2015, but by the end of the season it had become his best pitch and one of the best on the Yankees' staff. After getting shelled by the Marlins in June, Eovaldi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild adjusted the grip on his splitter, and it paid huge dividends.
Eovaldi always had heat in the mid-high 90s, but he was still very hittable, largely due to the lack of a legitimate secondary pitch. The splitter changed all that, though. He threw it 16.8% of the time last season for a 9.4 wFS. The pitch had just a .213 BAA, and he impressively didn't allow a home run on it over the 546 times he threw it.
This will be Eovaldi's first full season throwing the splitter with his adjusted grip. If the second half of last season was any indiction then it's going to be a dominant pitch for the right-hander.
Dellin Betances' knuckle-curve
That is the definition of filthy. Call it a knuckle-curve, a slurve, or just a curveball, but it is nasty no matter what. The speed, rotation, and break on it all combine to make it one of the best breaking balls in baseball. It averages 84 MPH on the radar gun, which is unusually fast given its movement.
Betances will go to it about half the time (51.5% last season), and it is for good reason. Betances will sometimes struggle controlling it, it is a ball about 40% of the time, but when hitters swing they whiff A LOT. The whiff/swing rate was 50.2%, meaning that if a hitter swung, he was more likely to miss than make any contact, which is insane. His wKC over the past two seasons is 30.9. Throughout his career, the BAA against his knuckle-curve is a minuscule .093, and it has been hit for a home run just three times out of the 1416 times he's thrown it.
Pick any stat you want, or watch it with your eyes, and it's hard to deny just how great this pitch is. It's one of the main reasons Betances has become one of the best relievers in baseball.
Aroldis Chapman's fastball
That is literally straight fire. 103 MPH is nothing new for Chapman, he has also been clocked at 105, so this is like soft toss for him. The tall Cuban regularly hits triple digits on the radar gun. In fact, in 2012 his average fastball was clocked at 100.2 MPH by PITCHf/x data. Over his career, Brooks Baseball has it at an average of 99.6 MPH.
So throwing hard is great and all, but it takes more than that to be successful. Chapman relies on his fastball a lot, 75-80% of the time, sometimes throwing a slider or a rare changeup to mix things up. His fastball is so good, though, that it doesn't even matter. He can move it both vertically and horizontally, and while he doesn't have impeccable control, it is pretty good for a guy who is throwing such heat. Overall, hitters whiff on it 36.2% of the time they swing, and have just a .172 average against it. Those stats are impressive enough in themselves, but when you consider that it is a fastball, usually the most hittable pitch, they become even more special.
Fans won't see Chapman's heat until May when he finishes serving his suspension, but it will be worth the wait.
Andrew Miller's slider
It's no surprise that each member of the Yankees' three-headed bullpen monster has a dominant pitch. For Miller, it's this filthy slider that tails in on righties. Overall, he throws it around 28% of the time at an average velocity of 82 MPH. The whiff/swing rate on it is a superb 44.7%, and over the past two seasons, it has been 28 runs above average.
What makes it so special for Miller is how dominant the pitch is against right-handers. It's rare for a lefty to be more successful against righties, but his slider gives him that distinction. Righties hit just .141 against it, and of the 1527 times he's thrown it to to righties over his career, it's been hit for a home run just once. That is almost unfathomably good.
It's going to be fun to watch his slider, Chapman's fastball, and Betances' knuckle curve in action at the end of games this season.
If the Yankees could have one pitcher that throws all five of these pitches, they'd have the best pitcher in baseball. Unfortunately, that isn't a possibility, so the Yankees and their fans will just have to enjoy these pitches coming from different arms.
Statistics provided by Brooks Baseball and FanGraphs