The Forgotten Reliever

A-Rod continues rehab with simulated game
Sunday Night Open Thread
Jeter, Teixeira...... Wade, Nunez. (copyright Amanda Rykoff)

There are lots of cool things about Yankees pitching, AJ Burnett’s terrible hair notwithstanding. Mariano Rivera. Bartolo Colon. CC Sabathia. But you know what? These are all pretty big names in the scale of baseball, and especially when talking about general Yankee successes. When you consider the good fortune that Yankees pitching has had so far, there also needs to be some consideration given to some slightly smaller pitching names as well. I’m not even talking about strikeout/leverage machine (and 2011 All-Star) David Robertson or never-a-top-100 prospect (but 10-game winner) Ivan Nova.

How about Cory Wade? On the scale of successful ballplayers on the Yankees that no one talks about, he’s gotta be up at the top or near it. Wade was drafted in the 10th round by the Dodgers in 2004 and pitched a full reliever’s season in 2008 in the bigs, posting a pretty 2.27 ERA in 71 IP. However, after a slightly less impressive 2009, he spent the year bouncing between the Dodgers (where he posted a 5.53 ERA in 27.2 IP) and AAA Albuquerque. He was granted free agency after that and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in November of last year, then was assigned to AAA Durham. There, he worked in relief, posting a sparkling 1.23 ERA and a pretty nice 3.34 FIP, to go alone with a K/BB ratio over 5. He did all of this in about 40 innings, and then used a clause in his contract to opt out on July 11th. This is where it gets good.

Let me set the scene for you. Rafael Soriano has just gone on the DL with elbow soreness and is not expected back until the All-Star Break. Joba Chamberlain has just gone on the DL two days before, with a strained flexor. Currently taking their places are the ever famous Jeff Marquez (minor league ERA: 3.97, FIP: 4.37) who has just been claimed off waivers from the White Sox, and Amauri Sanit (ERA: 5.21, FIP: 4.73) from AAA. Meanwhile, you are Brian Cashman, and your arch-enemies, the Rays, have just released a really good reliever from their system. That’s exactly what you need! Excellent! The Yankees signed Wade two days later, had him pitch 1.2 innings in SWB and then called him up to the big leagues.

Since then, Wade’s been nothing short of awesome. He’s a perfectly solid middle-reliever and has handled both high-leverage situations and garbage time equally well. In fact, out of his 21 appearances, he’s only posted a negative WPA in 4 of them, and has gone 2-0. His other numbers are similarly impressive, albeit the small sample of only 23.1 IP is worth nothing: 2.31 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 3.32 xFIP, 6 ER, 18 Ks. His 1.5 BB/9 and 6.9 K/9 are good for a healthy 4.5 K/BB ratio. His 79.2 LOB% is a bit high, but certainly within reason, and his .254 BABIP is the highest he’s ever had. 40.6% groundballs contributes.

Part of it is mental: as a Yankees fan, I feel comfortable watching Cory Wade pitch the sixth or the seventh in a one-run game. I feel like he is a safe guy to give the ball to despite the fact that I’ve never heard his name before this. But part of it is in the numbers: those are legitimately strong stats. He’s racked up about half a win in fWAR, which is nice to have in only 23 innings. He’s given up only six earned runs in that span. Plus, he’s not yet valuable enough to where Girardi is considering him a one-inning guy only: he’s had three outings where he threw two innings, and one more outing when he threw three. He also isn’t constrained to a particular role, such as an eight-inning guy or a closer. In a way, his namelessness contributes even more to his success.

As has been mentioned before, the Yankees have been extremely successful and extremely lucky when it comes to pitching this year, and this makes for endless words for us bloggers looking for something to talk about. As the season winds down, we’ll see more and more of how these players shape up come September and eventual October/playoff baseball. Cool thing is, your name doesn’t have any correlation to have could you can be. Throw strikes, get batters out, win. It all works the same no matter who you are: Mariano, Sabathia, or a castoff from the Rays.

(Yankees Baseball Daily helped me think this up. Check it out.)

A-Rod continues rehab with simulated game
Sunday Night Open Thread
  • Squishy Jello Person

    Wade’s been an amazing pick up this season.

  • Jesse

    He’s part of that CoLoSoRoMo formula that will help get number 28.

    • steve


  • CMP

    Nice article.

    Wade really has flown under the radar and has been rock solid so far despite rather pedestrian stuff.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Pedestrian stuff plays well when you can throw changeups and curves for strikes in 3-1 counts with the bases loaded. Wade is all about confidence and command in his off-speed repertoire. A younger relief version of Freddy G. He gets lefties out with change of speeds and can drop down to sidearm against righties which helps too. Seems to have good mental makeup out there as well.

    Off-topic-Sox down 5-3 going to the 9th!

    • CMP

      Let’s not get carried away though. Middle relievers are like field goal kickers. He’s on fire right now but in a month, he may not be able to get anyone out. Ride the hot hand and understand it might be gone tomorrow.

  • Jorge

    I don’t know how “under the radar” he is, but he’s been fantastic from the first pitch.

  • A-Rod’s Wingman

    Not a bad article but I was expecting a piece on the real forgotten Yankee: Hector Noesi.

    • nsalem

      I bought a quart of milk this morning and Hector was on the back of the carton. I really hope they can find him.

    • Jerome S.

      This, so much.

  • Tyrone Sharpton

    Wade and AJ for Heath Bell. O and sign Albert Belle as well (I can rap)

  • dc1874

    …Ramiro Mendoza…Gangster Aceves..and now CORY WADE!!!!

  • Paul

    Whether or not Wade turns out to be a flash in the pan, he has contributed a lot and has gone under the radar so far. I appreciated, and enjoyed, the article

  • Rob in CT

    I figured this was gonna be about Luis Ayala, but Wade works too.