The story of Ian Hamilton is one of the Yankees’ biggest improvement this year


New York Yankees relief pitcher Ian Hamilton (71) throws a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning at Tropicana Field.

In the top of the seventh inning on Monday, with the tying run on the plate, Yankees manager Aaron Boone He makes a move that symbolizes why his shy team treads water: Reliever Ian Hamiltonand all the organizational work sought and assisted, entered into the game.

The Yanks went 5-2, and the Oakland A’s were running first and second without a win. Hamilton opened a two-seam fastball, a pitch not seen in the major leagues before this year. He caused a player to be picked off the field, just as he was supposed to.

The second Hamilton came in with a 97-mile-per-hour sprint, and shot three goals. He then came out of the inning by making a swinging hit on the slider/change-up, the pitch that makes it special.

This is all from a 27-year-old former draft pick who plays for his sixth organization.

“I’m excited for us,” Boone said with a smile. After the Yankees won, 7-2.

when gm Brian Cashman The Yankees are called a “championship operation” despite their mediocre record, and that’s part of what it means. The team’s professional scouts and analysts are used to finding discarded players, minor leaguers, and under-performers from elsewhere.

These players from Luke Voight to Geo Orchila to Mike Tauchman to Clay Holmes to Lucas Lutge to Jose Trevino And more than that, he helped the Yankees survive when their superstars were injured. Sometimes, these players become All-Stars.

Hamilton may be the most promising discovery in a year that also includes overseas players Jake Powers And Willie Calhoun. It is also evidence of a shooting process that players say has tightened up this season.

The Yankees’ process for acquiring and assisting pitchers works like this: Scouts and/or analysts identify potential acquisitions that are underperforming and would benefit from modifications to their arsenal. The coaching staff, who handed these players, gives advice on which pitches to throw more and which pitches to throw less.

The first significant success story in the field came back in 2014 when Yankees scouts and analysts saw untapped potential in Arizona Diamondbacks jar Brandon McCarthy. The team traded for McCarthy, advised him to throw more cutters, and watched him succeed through the end of the season.

Even after this proof of concept, it took analysts, coaches, and players years to hone their communication. Yankee pitchers sometimes benefited from the data and information provided to them regarding pitch utilization and game planning—and at times, they fretted, believing the analytics lacked sense. The Yankees fell behind their rivals, W.J Houston AstrosIn this regard.

April 16, 2023;  Bronx, New York, USA;  The New York Yankees, started by pitcher Gerrit Cole (45), celebrated with catcher Jose Trevino (39) after pulling a complete game shutout to defeat the Minnesota Twins 2-0 at Yankee Stadium.
April 16, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) Celebrates with catcher Jose Trevino (39) after pitching a complete game to beat the Minnesota Twins 2-0 at Yankee Stadium. / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When installing the trainer Matt Blake Arriving in 2020 with no prior MLB experience on the job, he helped bridge that gap with a mild approach and approachable personality. Pitchers say that over the past three seasons, data on pitch utilization has slowly become more reflective of their strengths and weaknesses.

This year brought a strong feeling in the club that analyst Blake Zak Veroh and Trevino have taken the process to new heights. when i spoke to Gerrit Cole For a recent story on his improvements this yearHe began his answer by checking the name of this trio. Other shooters have expressed the same sentiment: Shooting is noticeably sharper in 2023.

In finding Hamilton, Yankees scouts and analysts saw qualities in his pitches, such as spinning, that undervalued him. (Cashman played it coy in a text exchange, saying, “He had characteristics that we loved.” Thanks for the deep dive, Brian.)

Hamilton’s career was slowed by a car accident that injured his shoulder and a streak that left him with severe facial injuries in 2019. Prior to this season, he had appeared in only 15 league games and posted a 4.91 ERA. This year he has a 1.35 ERA and 0.85 WHIP for the Yankees. The quality of his products indicates 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 humiliate, they have a good sense of the situation.”

This year the Yankees helped Cole think about where to locate his pitches in the strike zone. Blake, Trevino, and analysts do the same thing on his three pitches, Hamilton says: the fastball four-seam up, dunk down, and slider wide to right.

“Metric, it’s kind of a side triangle,” said Hamilton. “It looks great on paper, so if we can get to those places we can play with it.”

That’s the kind of talk that’s coming out of this club these days. For everything else the Yankees are struggling with, scouting, data, and coaching work in tandem to get the most out of the pitching staff—which, like the rest of the roster, is depleted.

A discovery like Hamilton certainly helps.


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