Following the loss of Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees were forced to rely on Domingo German to make a start. Despite his clear talent, it was hard to determine how the right-hander would do over several innings of work. In his May 6 start against the Cleveland Indians, German managed to throw six no-hit innings with nine strikeouts before ultimately being pulled with just 84 pitches thrown. The Yankees will need to rely on him again, but can he repeat his performance? Here are three ways German can remain effective in the rotation.
Keep the Ball on the Ground
Domingo German wants to be a ground ball pitcher. He throws a sinker, but it’s also not the most effective pitch. He uses it just 15.6% of the time, making it his least used pitch behind his fastball, curveball, and changeup. Still, his ground ball rates have hovered in the 40-50% range through his minor league career. In just 14.1 innings pitched last season, he maintained a beautiful 54.5% ground ball rate. If he were to repeat that over a full year, he would be one of the best ground ball pitchers in the game, rivaling the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Jake Arrieta, Garrett Richards, and Lance McCullers.
Unfortunately, German has not been as lucky this year. His ground ball rate is at an all-time low 34% on the season, while he allows more solid contact and fly balls. During his start, though, he managed to reverse that trend and get back to his most effective pitching methods. German produced a 55.6% ground ball rate during his game against Cleveland, which allowed him to prevent anyone from doing any kind of real damage. He did this by relying on his fastball less, and throwing his breaking pitches more often. If he can repeat this, he can keep the Athletics, and everyone who comes next, off balance.
Continue Missing Bats
While he may be something of a ground ball pitcher, German is also in the unique position where he can miss bats at an elite level. He does this by throwing strikes at an effective rate that is right for him. When it comes to the total percentage of pitches in the zone, there is no right or wrong answer. German’s 38.1% thrown in the zone works for him because he can get batters to swing at his pitches outside of the zone more than most in the league. If he qualified among starters, his 36.7% O-Swing rate would be among the top five in baseball.
The reason he has an 11.95 K/9 is because he’s throwing a first-pitch strike 55% of the time, which is pretty good to see. It also helps that he has a 16.7% swinging strike rate, meaning he’s blowing his pitches past his opponent and keeping them off balance. While pitchers typically lose velocity on their fastball when they transition from the bullpen to the rotation, German’s fastball velocity still averaged 94 mph, just one mph off from his number in the bullpen. He is truly using every weapon he has to be an effective pitcher.
Just Dominate Right-Handed Pitching
A huge part of his success has been his ability to dominate right-handed pitching so far this year. He’s striking them out at a high clip this season, with a 16 K/9, and he has a 2.27 FIP against them as well. It’s not the biggest sample size, but it’s a trend that carries over from last year and is something to watch going forward. This isn’t to say he’s bad against lefties either, but he’s certainly not been as dominant against them.
Perhaps the biggest reason he is so successful against right-handed batters is his effective mix of fastball/sinker with a dropping offspeed pitch that gets them to chase. He likes to target low and away in order to get them to expand the zone and get themselves out. This is something to watch out for when he takes the mound again, and it will hopefully keep him untouchable in the future.