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The postseason success of Tommy Kahnle could be key to Yankees advancing

Tommy Kahnle is good at being a reliever again

Divisional Round - Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Yankees acquired a healthy supply of reinforcements at the trade deadline when they brought in Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle. All of them have proven to be important pieces within the team’s playoff run, but out of these three, Kahnle is probably the most surprising. Yes, I know that Kahnle being good isn’t exactly new, but his ability to handle runners on base this postseason is a big change for him. He made a statement by putting the Cleveland Indians to bed last night.

When the Yankees traded for Kahnle, the right-hander had a 2.50 ERA and only managed to allow 11% of the runners he inherited to score. This is exactly what you want from your reliever. When Kahnle came to the Yankees, he remained productive with a 2.70 ERA, but things got ugly for him when the team needed him most. He allowed a whopping 42% of inherited runners to score.

This rate actually ranks him among the worst in the league at keeping runners on base from scoring. It’s a tough part of the game to measure because inherited runners are counted toward the previous pitcher’s ERA. So if Kahnle comes in with two runners on, and they both come around to score, those runs aren’t given to him and his sparkly ERA is kept intact. For the year, this rate was higher than most on the team—only being eclipsed by guys like Jonathan Holder, Bryan Mitchell, Ben Heller, and Giovanny Gallegos.

It’s for this reason that I found the idea of Tommy Kahnle coming in to pitch late in the game with runners on in the playoffs to be an absolute nightmare waiting to happen. There’s no doubt Kahnle is a talented pitcher, but for whatever reason he was not very successful with men on base when he came to the Bronx. Thankfully, he has proven me wrong this October (I think that’s becoming a theme).

So far this postseason, Kahnle has pitched five innings and struck out six batters without allowing any hits or walks. On top of this, he’s also managed to do it all in high leverage situations with men on base, like he’s supposed to. During the Wild Card Game against the Twins, Kahnle came in with two on and two out before getting out of the inning without giving up a run.

Now he managed to do it again last night when he entered Game 4 in the eighth inning. Dellin Betances had just relieved Luis Severino of his duties, but the right-hander immediately walked two without collecting an out. In came Kahnle, and knowing what I knew, I was frightened. He proved me wrong, however, and struck out two in the inning to get out of it unscathed. It’s an extremely small sample size, but then again, this is how the playoffs work.

Now the Yankees head into a do-or-die game against the Indians on Wednesday, and Kahnle’s recent hot streak is a boon for his team. The Yankees will be starting CC Sabathia that night, but you should also expect it to be all hands on deck. That means Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka could be used too. It also means that no one is too tired to pitch.

With Dellin’s control now questionable and the arms of David Robertson and Chad Green possibly still taxed, relying more on Kahnle could help get the Yankees through the ALDS. He can go more than one inning, and now he can keep runners from scoring.