Cory Wade, Secret Weapon

The new designated hitter platoon
So much for that: Yankees release J.C. Romero
(Elsa/Getty Images)

It’s the same story every year. The Yankees start the season with a collection of seven relievers, and inevitably some guys are ineffective and/or get hurt. By the end of the season the bullpen corps looks a lot different than it did in April. Joba Chamberlain threw just 28.2 IP before Tommy John surgery ended his season, and Rafael Soriano threw just 15 IP before landing on the DL with a less severe elbow injury. Luis Ayala spent some time on the DL, and Bartolo Colon went from long-man to number two starter.

Through the first 113 games of the season, the Yankees have cycled through miscellaneous relievers like Buddy Carlyle, Amaury Sanit, Steve Garrison, Kevin Whelan, Jeff Marquez, Sergio Mitre, and Lance Pendleton, but only one has really impressed: Cory Wade. Signed to a minor league deal back in June, Wade surfaced with the big league team soon thereafter and gained Joe Girardi‘s trust in short order. He retired the first eleven men he faced as a Yankee, including six as part of two perfect innings in his second appearance, in extra innings against the Rangers.

Wade’s effectiveness has kept him around longer than the Carlyles and Sanits and Whelans of the world, and he’s turned into a bit of a secret weapon out of the bullpen during the second half. Consider that …

… he’s the new fireman.

In four of his last six appearances (including the last three), Wade has entered the game with at least one man in scoring position and often multiple runners on base. He’s allowed just one of the eight runners he’s inherited in that time to score, and on the season he’s stranded ten of the 11 runs he’s inherited. Wade’s a good fit for that role because he gets ahead of hitters (66.2% first pitch strikes, better than the 59.2% league average) and misses bats (9.6% swings and misses), plus he has a small (reverse) platoon split both this year and for his career. He’s not just a matchup guy. Injuries and hyper-effectiveness have moved David Robertson into a more prominent late-inning role, but Wade has quietly stepped in as Joe Girardi’s get-out-of-jams specialist.

… he’s the relief version of Freddy Garcia.

Like last night’s starter, Wade will lull hitters to sleep with his offspeed stuff because he has a below-average fastball. He’s thrown his heater (which has averaged 88.7 mph this year) just 44.6% of the time this season, instead relying on his low-80’s changeup and high-70’s curveball to do most of the work. We’ve also seen him drop his arm slot to throw a slider. It’s not the greatest arsenal in the world, but it works because Wade doesn’t have to go through the lineup multiple times. Unpredictability is a great thing, especially in short bursts.

… he’s flexible.

The Yankees have the ability to keep Wade around for a while should he continue to perform. The Dodgers non-tendered him after last season because he was having some injury problems, but Wade won’t be eligible for arbitration until after next season. That means he’s under team control for dirt cheap through 2015. As far as I can tell, he also has a minor league option remaining. That last part is unofficial though, so don’t hold me to it. Either way, Wade also gives the Yankees some roster flexibility for the bullpen.

* * *

Middle relievers tend to have very short shelf lives, even good ones. Wade has done a bang-up job for the Yankees so far, but it is only 20 IP and he’s a long way from establishing himself as a bullpen stalwart. For now, the Yankees will enjoy his unexpected production, using him to bridge the gap between the starters and Robertson/Soriano in the late innings.

The new designated hitter platoon
So much for that: Yankees release J.C. Romero
  • 28 this year

    al showing why $$ does not equal a great bullpen. Cashman has learned from his mistakes and knows exactly how to build a bullpen. Soriano was unnecessary but at this point, i’ll take him. The playoffs are going to be fun. If Colon and Garcia pitch the 4-5 innings like they did against the Red Sox, thats all the Yankees need. Wade, Soriano, Robertson, and Mo all capable of pitching two innings gives the Yankees a real lockdown on the late innings. If Joba was around, holy crap. Had Joba been around, I would even give thought to not having a 4th starter but rather a bullpen game, perhaps. Probably not a good idea but it would at least warrant discussion.

    • 28 this year

      that last part of the bullpen game referring to the playoffs btw.

    • Cris Pengiuci

      Having Joba would have made for an incredible bull pen. With Wade and perhaps Noesi, you could have used them every other day. Wade, Robertson, Mo to close out one day, then Doesi, Joba, MFIKY the next. Doesn’t leave you much of an option for a long man if you need one, but I’m sure they could work something out.

  • Teej

    I’m beginning to trust him like I used to trust Aceves before that spot start in Minnesota.

  • Jorge

    Wade showed poise from day one, which was extremely refreshing at a point where guys like Pants and Whelan were being billed as having good control in the minors, but wound up walking everyone and their grandmother once they took a major league mound. Love his changeup. He reminds me of Edwar Ramirez with actual complimentary pitches. Wade also looks about ten years older without his hat on.

    • Mike Axisa

      Uh, Kevin Whelan was never billed as having good control. Ever, anywhere.

      • CP

        You mean that his career 5.1 BB/9 in the minors isn’t just a SSS issue?

  • Bronx Byte

    The bullpen has been good most of the year. Run produection / timely hitting has been the biggest problem. When they score they do it in bunches. When they need insurance runs late in games they can’t produce.

    • Jerome S.

      2nd best record in AL and 3rd in RISP just ain’t good enough for ya, is it?

  • Cy Pettitte

    I’d love to be on a fly on the wall in Tampa’s internal meetings to see why he never got a shot with them. Cory’s offspeed stuff is just filthy.

    • vin

      Probably because he didn’t give the extra 2%.

  • Jesse

    speaking of bullpen arms, what about the Yankees picking up Arthur Rhodes? His numbers against lefties are very good this season, thus perfect LOOGY material. The Yankees also have J.C Romero in the minors, but have yet to bring him up. Would Rhodes make sense?

    • Mike Axisa

      I’ve seen Arthur Rhodes melt down enough in big games to say no. That David Justice homerun still hasn’t landed.

      • Jesse

        oh c’mon that was a decade ago. Besides lefties are hitting .216 against him in 37 AB’s this season. And don’t tell me you’d rather have Luis Ayala who can’t get a big out to save his life.

        • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

          Arthur Rhodes is a left handed Luis Ayala

          • Jesse

            except Rhodes is left handed, which makes him more valuable than Ayala.

            • CP

              I’d rather have Boone Logan.

              As long as the fielders make routine plays and the ump calls pitches in the strike zone a strike, then he’s better than Rhodes.

              • Xstar7

                Yeah seriously. If he’s not a major improvement over Logan (which he’s not) then there’s no point in wasting another roster spot on him.

                • Jesse

                  he’s another lefty, that’s what makes him valuable. Besides, lefties are hitting .216 against him.

                  • Xstar7

                    The last thing the Yankees need right now is another middle reliever.

              • Jesse

                and as long as he doesn’t hit the first guy he faces and give up homers to lefties, then yeah.

                • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

                  If you focus only on the negative, there will never be a positive. Boone has been really good since ARod’s pep talk.

              • Jesse

                Boone Logan vs Lefties this year: .257 BAA, 3 homers allowed, .785 OPS

                Arthur Rhodes vs Lefties this year: .216 BAA, 2 homers allowed, .715 OPS

                Arthur Rhodes is a LOOGY, so his numbers against lefies mean a ton.

  • Artie DeVanzo

    Who’s Lance Pendleton?

    • Pants Lendelton

      1)A mop up relief pitcher used in blow out games in the Majors.
      2) A swingman/spot starter in AAA

      Org value over 9000!!


    • Joseph Cecala

      He is Pants Lendleton

  • Gonzo

    Good for Cory Wade. I hope he can keep it up and get some nice $ in his career.

    He actually makes me feel better going into the playoffs. Last night went a long way for me.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Freddy and Cory are proof that if you can throw offspeed pitches in any count for strikes-especially on the corners-you can succeed. Wade will throw his change on 3-1 counts with the bases loaded as he did last night. Impressive and adaptive when your fb tops out at 88-90 mph.

  • Jerome S.

    JC Romero released? What?

    • FIPster Doofus

      Hello, Arthur Rhodes?

      • Jesse

        See I’m not the only one.

  • vin

    “but Wade won’t be eligible for arbitration until after next season. ”

    I was actually researching this very issue an hour before this post. The Yankees can have his prime years for dirt cheap… especially if has an option left.

    Hopefully he doesn’t go all middle reliever on us and implode.

    • Jerome S.

      I’d pin it at 90% that he does. Relievers just suck, in general. Remember how awesome Boone Logan was last year?

      • Jesse

        I’ll take an effective Cory Wade the rest of the year. We’ll cross that bridge next year when we get there.