The Ian Hamilton Story Is The Story Of The Yankees’ Big Improvement This Year

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In the top of the seventh inning on Monday, with the tying run at the plate, the Yankees manager Aaron Boone Made a move that epitomized why his flamboyant team is treading water: Reliever Ian HamiltonAnd the organizational work it took to find and help him came into play.

The Yanks led 5–2 and the Oakland A's had no outs on first and second. Hamilton started off with a two-seam fastball, a pitch he had never thrown in the major leagues before this year. This induced a fielder's choice groundout, as it should have.

Hamilton's second out came on a 97 mph fastball, looking to strike three. Then he rounds out the inning by inducing a swinging strike on his slider/change-up, the pitch that makes him special.

All this from a 27-year-old former 11th-round draft pick playing for his sixth organization.

“I'm cheering for us,” Boone said with a smile. after a 7-2 Yankees victory,

when the gm Brian Cashman When calling the Yankees a “championship-caliber operation” despite their mediocre record, this is part of what they mean. The team's pro scouts and analysts have made a habit of finding released players, minor leaguers, and underachievers from elsewhere.

these players, from Luke Voight To live urshela To mike tauchman To Clay Homes To Lucas Luetge To jose trevino Plus, help the Yankees survive when their stars are injured. Sometimes, those players become All-Stars.

Hamilton could be the most promising find in a year that includes outfielders jake bowers And Willie Calhoun, He's also evidence of a pitching operation that players say has tightened up this season.

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The Yankees' process for acquiring and helping pitchers works like this: Scouts and/or analysts identify potential acquisitions that are underperforming and would benefit from tweaks to their arsenal. The coaching staff, assigned to those players, advises on which pitches to throw higher and which to throw lower.

The first significant success story in this area came back in 2014 when Yankees scouts and analysts saw untapped potential in pitcher. Brandon McCarthy, The team traded for McCarthy, mentored him to throw more cutters, and saw him succeed for the rest of the season.

Even after that proof-of-concept, it took years for analysts, coaches, and players to hone their communication. Yankee pitchers have sometimes benefited from data and information regarding pitch usage and game-planning — and sometimes, they have balked at it, admitting that the analytics feel lacking. The Yankees lagged behind their rivals, the Houston Astros, in this regard.

April 16, 2023;  Bronx, New York, USA;  New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) celebrates with catcher Jose Trevino (39) after throwing a complete game shutout to defeat the Minnesota Twins 2-0 at Yankee Stadium.
April 16, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) celebrates with catcher Jose Trevino (39) after throwing a complete game shutout to defeat the Minnesota Twins 2-0 at Yankee Stadium. / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

while pitching to the coach Matt Blake Arriving in 2020 with no prior MLB experience in the job, he helped bridge that gap with an eclectic attitude and approachable personality. Over the past three seasons, pitchers say, pitch usage statistics gradually became more reflective of their strengths and weaknesses.

This year has brought a strong feeling in the clubhouse that Blake, analyst zack firoh And Trevino has taken the process to new heights. when i talked gerrit cole For a recent story on its reforms this year, he began his answer by name-checking the trio. Other pitchers have expressed the same sentiment: The pitching operation is noticeably faster in 2023.

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In finding Hamilton, Yankees scouts and analysts looked for qualities in his pitches, such as spin, that underestimated him. (Cashman played it down in a text exchange, saying, “She had features that we loved.” for the deep dive, Brian.)

Hamilton's career was slowed in 2019 by a car accident that left him with a shoulder and a serious facial injury caused by a line drive. Prior to this season he had appeared in only 15 big league games and posted a 4.91 ERA. He has a 1.35 ERA and 0.85 WHIP for the Yankees this year. The quality of their stuff suggests that the results are close to sustainable.

Like many of his teammates, Hamilton appreciates working with Blake, Trevino and the analysts.

“It's a mix between the three of us,” said Hamilton. “Whatever they're putting in, they have a good feel for the position.”

The Yankees have helped Cole this year by thinking about where to keep his pitches in the strike zone. Hamilton says Blake, Trevino and analysts are doing the same for his three pitches: the four-seam fastball up, the sinker down and the slider away to right.

Hamilton said, “Metrically speaking, it's kind of an obtuse triangle.” “It looks good on paper, so if we can hit those spots then we can play with that.”

These days such things are happening from this club house. For everything ailing the Yankees, scouting, data and coaching are working together to squeeze the most out of the pitching staff — which, like the rest of the roster, is depleted.

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A search like Hamilton definitely helps.