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The Yankees can learn something from the Mets as they reinvent the sinker

The Mets are reinventing the sinker, and Yankees pitchers should follow suit

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After losing the World Series to the Kansas City Royals, the New York Mets are trying to show that they are legitimate contenders once again. Entering yesterday's game, they were tied for the division lead, even with Matt Harvey struggling out of the gate. Last season, they became known for their signature 90-mph sliders, as pointed out by Eno Sarris at FanGraphs. This year, they are doing something similar, with a few of their starters throwing the same kind of sinker.

Usually, two-seam fastballs will rely on movement to generate groundballs. That movement will come in the form of both horizontal tailing action, and vertical drop. According to Pitch F/X, Mets starters Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have all but forgotten about the vertical movement part:

Name Avg. Vertical Movement (4 Seam) Avg. VMov (2 Seam) Avg. VMov (Sinker) Difference
MLB Average 9.4" 6.4" 5.2" 3.0-4.2"
Jacob deGrom 9.0" 7.2" N/A 1.8"
Steven Matz 6.5" N/A 6.9" -0.4"
Noah Syndergaard 10.7" N/A 9.4" 1.3"

While deGrom has cut back on his sinker usage this year, Matz and Syndergaard are riding the pitch to stardom. According to pitch value metrics at FanGraphs, Matz and Syndergaard have had the second and third most valuable sinkers of 2016, behind Jake Arrieta. Pitch F/X websites say that Steven Matz has thrown two four-seam fastballs on the season, which may be the result of an error in the pitch-categorizing algorithm. While the typical two-seamer will drop three or four inches relative to a four-seam fastball, deGrom, Matz, and Syndergaard are throwing two-seamers that barely have any dropping action.

Statcast data can also put these pitches into context. deGrom, Matz, and Syndergaard all have long strides towards the plate and/or forward release points, as shown by Statcast's extension metric:

Name Extension
MLB Average 6.15 ft.
Jacob deGrom 6.90 ft.
Steven Matz 6.49 ft.
Noah Syndergaard 6.89 ft.

As if their arms weren't already strong enough, their pitches appear to be faster than they are because they are released closer to the plate. Syndergaard's average sinker looks like 99 mph, while Matz's two-seamer will look like 94. Matz also has the advantage of overpowering lefties being more rare than right-handed flamethrowers, so his 94 mph sinker is probably that much more difficult to hit.

The significance of Matz and Syndergaard dominating with their sinkers is that they are really just sticking to the basics. Both plus velocity and plus movement are tough enough for hitters to pick up on their own. The Mets are simply throwing sinkers with velocity and good horizontal movement and daring hitters to do something about it. Even without significant sinking action, their release points are enough to keep hitters guessing.

For the Yankees, someone like Luis Severino figures to be a perfect candidate to try the Mets' sinker out. He has average extension on his four-seam fastball, and spin rate that is slightly below average, according to Statcast. Despite tremendous velocity, hitters have a 1.038 OPS against Severino's fastball. If he is too good for the minors, but is hitting a wall in the big leagues, he might as well try mixing in a sinker to diversify his arsenal.

Last year, the New York Mets became known for keeping it simple with their sliders. Instead of trying to get Andrew Miller-esque movement, they threw their sliders at around 90 mph, using a combination of velocity and just enough movement to overpower hitters. This season, it looks like they are doing the same thing with the two-seam fastball. Once again, the Mets are showing that less is sometimes more for pitchers.

Pitch F/X data is courtesy of FanGraphs, Statcast data is from MLB.com.