When the New York Yankees acquired Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ they knew what they were getting, but it seems they have a lot more to offer.
Brian Cashman was what you’d call a “busy bee” at this year’s MLB non-waiver trade deadline.
He delivered calls to countless general managers when it came time to acquire a starting pitcher. Cashman did his due diligence and homework and came up with two additions that have seemed to be reborn since entering pinstripes.
Meet J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn.
Just about three weeks ago to this date, Lynn was respectively struggling in a Minnesota uniform and J.A. Happ’s name was being tossed around multiple trading rumors circles. Today, they both sit in New York with one common goal.
Lance Lynn’s beginning to the season was one of an abomination in comparison to the overall success he had when he was with St. Louis. While with the Twins in 2018, under his new contract, Lynn didn’t fulfill the aspirations Minnesota was hoping for when they inked him. While with them, he was 7-8 with a 5.10 ERA in 102 innings pitched and not to mention, a 9.2 H/9, the most he had ever accumulated in his career.
Let’s also not forget he was brought over to the Yankees initially to be a long-relief arm in place of losing Adam Warren to the Seattle Mariners.
Safe to say he hated the cold, northern weather because in his first seven starts, he pitched to a 7.47 ERA. What has changed since he’s come over to the Bronx?
Not much. The “working off the fastball” mentality he possesses doesn’t seem as a perfect fit for the Yankees but he has maintained his knack for aggression in the strike zone.
What you’ll notice in his first start for the Yankees, pictured above, is his ability to locate the four-seam fastball wherever he seems necessary. It’s what you call a quiet confidence in his number one pitch and a mantra of “this my best, so come and hit it”.
In his second start against Texas, it was more of the same. Over five innings he gave up just one run while striking out eight.
Contrary to the organization’s beliefs is the way Lynn pitches overall. The Yankees notoriously, along with the Tigers (25.1%) throw the highest percentage of sliders in the major leagues. New York, who throws sliders 23.3% of the time is second in all of baseball (courtesy of FanGraphs). Lynn is throwing his slider just about 12% of the time and releasing his fastball 76.4% of the time on the mound.
To put in context, the Yankees are dead last in terms of fastball usage in all the MLB at 45.5% clip. The difference between what Lynn is doing with his fastball is in terms of accuracy and location. As a pitcher, when you have a 93-95mph fastball that you can pinpoint wherever you want, it makes the usage of your off-speed repertoire that much filthier. Lynn is virtually going rogue on the organizational pitching theories and having hitters fooled in the sense that they don’t see a pitcher like this in pinstripes unless his name is Luis Severino.
And not to mention, Sevy and his 96-100mph fastball haven’t been nearly as effective as Lynn has been in their past couple starts.
So as far as Lynn is concerned, ignore what the Yankees’ pitching staff is known for doing and keep up what is working best for Lance himself. Adding a head-strong pitcher such as Lynn adds a little tenacity to this starting five that sometimes looks bleak — if CC Sabathia isn’t seen getting pumped up or if Severino isn’t acting like the young lion he can be.
His physique makes for an intimidating factor when he’s on the bump as well.
Lynn is the first part of this Yankees’ rotation taking a step to the next level. His longevity, experience, and attitude all go well with a New York team in a pennant race.
Thus, leads to the man who found himself most likely on either the D, B, or 4 trains last week; J.A. Happ.
JA Happ is a man of the people. pic.twitter.com/yMFTpDip0H
— Brian Brennan (@bbri1991) August 10, 2018
Mr. Happ has not skipped a beat since he’s been in the Bronx. In his first three starts with New York, he has been arguably the best pitcher on the staff (not to mention, the most reliable). 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in Pinstripes? Where’s the sign-up sheet?
In just 19 total innings with the club, he has found himself with a 0.73 WHIP. Yes, many will now hammer the notion of who the opponents were. However, counting aside the Royals, who have been abysmal this season, the Rangers, when Happ faced them, were white hot and turning their lineup over the most they had all season. The Rays is another exception just because of the pure fits they have caused the Yankees this season. To be honest, when watching the Bombers play the Rays, it seems like it’s always a dogfight to get the win. Hence, him throwing a seven inning-shutout against Tampa on Tuesday, while surrendering just one hit is a major deal when you notice the Yankees are 7-7 against them this year.
So to be undefeated in your first few starts, in a town that bears no patience, is a significant step in the right direction.
But, another reason this rotation is now being transformed between Lynn and Happ himself, is the veteran leadership each possesses.
Happ, as you may or may not be familiar with is a past playoff and World Series starter. In his postseason career, he owns a 3.72 ERA in just 19 innings pitched. His 8.8 K/9 is a major factor considering how fastball-oriented he also is in correlation to Lance Lynn.
Happ has been notorious with the way he attacks with his fastball. While with both teams this season (Blue Jays / Yankees), according to FanGraphs, Happ has similarily thrown his fastball 74.1% of the time which is just 2% shy of Lance Lynn’s total.
His slider and change-up are his “out” pitches. He throws each of them roughly, 10-12% of the time on the mound.
The Yankees have gone against their norm and out on a limb in regards to these starters. As aforementioned was the Yanks and their ability to spin off the sliders, curveballs, and change-ups. It was a mentality they’ve had for the past couple seasons and one that has factored in too much of the success they’ve seen come to light.
In a way, the Bombers are relying on delivering the unexpected. They have rocked teams to sleep and sometimes their fans with the off-speed pitches they constantly throw. The best example being Masahiro Tanaka, who barely uses the fastball and is really comprised of a slider and splitter that need to be “on” in order for him to be effective.
What Lynn and Happ have shown is their ability to attack the strike zone. When you think of Severino’s struggles and CC on the DL, it’s something that has been missing from this staff. Pounding the small invisible box is what puts the pressure on the opposing hitters. In addition, by attacking the zone, it limits their pitch usage which in turn only benefits the pitcher’s endurance and stamina itself.
If Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ can continue to keep up the pace they have set since coming to the Yankees then they will have no trouble fitting in a city where patience is limited.
They have set a standard in their first few starts and have evidently begun to transform this anemic Yankees’ staff.
So once again, kudos to Mr. Cashman for pulling the right trigger at the trade deadline.