While the sinker wasn’t a huge strikeout pitch for Ottavino, it helped him set-up for his slider and was able to generate a ton of groundballs. With an xBA of .157, it was clearly helped Ottavino become as elite as he was.
Ottavino has been throwing the cutter more often the past two seasons. However, in 2019 it fell victim to the home run. Batters were more selective with this pitch but also got more contact on each swing. Most notably his swinging strike rate dropped 10 percentage points from 2018 on this pitch.
Ottavino’s bread and butter pitch, his slider was one the best sliders last year in terms of horizontal movement and for the 2nd year in a row had over 10 pVAL. Willing to throw it in all counts, when put in play it was a flyball over half the time but was rarely hit hard (.237 xSLG).
This was a wonderful pitch that helped net Ottavino a three-year, $27 million contract with the Yankees. He showed notable improvements across the board with his slider compared to 2017, including a stellar 50.3% zone rate (43.4% in 2017), 31.4% chase rate (28.5% in 2017) and a 14.4% swinging-strike rate (12.8% in 2017). It also held hitters to a .257 wOBA and .148 batting average. Overall, the slider tallied a great pVal of 10.6.
Finally, a sinker worth getting excited over. A big change for Ottavino in 2018 was drastically increasing his sinker usage to 41.9% (17.5% in 2017)—at the expense of his four-seamer, which he pretty much ditched. Previously, he had thrown the four-seamer at just about 33% of the time, and the results in 2017 were bad as it was charged with an ugly wOBA of .411. Back to the sinker. Its velocity was roughly the same in 2018 at 93.8 mph (94.2 mph in 2017). But what did change was the swinging-strike rate from 4.7% in 2017 to 8.6% in 2018. That’s a huge increase, especially considering how much more he used it this past year. It positively flummoxed hitters by allowing just a .155 batting average and .191 wOBA. Overall, it was good for a 9.3 pVal.
Ottavino upped his cutter usage notably in 2018 to 9.8% (2.9% in 2017). He threw it mostly to right-handers (104/124). It had an excellent swinging-strike rate of 20.2% (48.1% whiff rate). Overall it was an effective pitch that limited opposing batters to four hits (three singles and one double).