The following is a guest post from Andrew Calagna, who goes by The Original Drew in the comments. You can follow him on Twitter at @_swarlesbarkley. He previous wrote a guest post about the 2016 trade deadline.
Adam Warren is having a typical season by his standards. He is pitching to a 1.56 ERA (3.10 FIP) with 27.0% strikeout rate in only 17.1 innings due to missing 39 games to a back injury suffered in late April. Aside from an elevated walk rate (12.2%), what has stood out about Warren this year are the game situations he has pitched in.
In 16 appearances this season, Warren has only pitched in a total of 4 games which would be considered a high leverage situation. Of those 4 games, only 1 has been since coming off the DL on June 4th. Looking at Baseball Reference’s Average Leverage Index (aLI) [where anything above a 1.0 is considered a high leverage situation] his last 5 appearances are as follows:
- June 15th: Pitched 9th Inning – Yankees up 5-0 (aLI 0.08)
- Jun 17th: Pitched 8th Inning – Yankees down 3-1 (aLI 0.32)
- June 22nd: Pitched 6th Inning – Yankees down 2-0 (aLI 1.06)
- June 24th: Pitched 4th-5th Innings – Yankees down 6-3 (aLI 0.78)
- June 26th: Pitched 8th Inning – Yankees up 6-0 (aLI 0.08)
A whole lot of meaningless innings there. For the 2018 season, Warren has an aLI of 0.63 and since coming off the DL (Including the conclusion of the May 15th suspended game vs Washington) he has an aLI of 0.49.
You can also look at FanGraphs and see the following:
A total of 3.2 medium/high leverage innings is a waste considering the caliber of pitcher that Warren is. Warren is being used as the last man out of the bullpen despite the results.
There are a few reasons why this is happening.
1. The Yankees have a ton of great relievers (duh). On his best day, Warren is probably considered to be the 5th best reliever in the bullpen. There are only so many high leverage innings to go around and his extended absence has lead Aaron Boone to give to opportunity to others such as Jonathan Holder (aLI 0.95).
That being said, Chapman, Betances, and Robertson, are all on pace to appear in 70+ games each, along with Chad Green on pace to appear in 63 games (career high of 40 at the MLB level) this season. Adding another reliever into the mix to take the load off of the other high leverage relievers is a must. Tommy Kahnle is another option, but as long as he continues to be pitching with diminished velocity he might be better off pitching in lower leverage spots whenever he does make his comeback to the big league roster.
2. Warren’s versatility and other injuries to the pitching staff. Warren’s history of being stretched out as a starter has given the Yankees in the past and present the ability to use him as a Swiss Army Knife reliever. He can go multiple innings, and has proven that he is comfortable pitching at any time. This is a great weapon to have when a starter does a 5 and fly, or gets knocked out early.
That being said, there are other pitchers that the Yankees currently have that can fill in that role. Luis Cessa and A.J. Cole are two names that come to mind. Given the slew of injuries to Yankees pitching staff this season, the Yankees are currently using Warren in this role out of necessity. This won’t and shouldn’t be the case going forward as guys get healthy.
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This all comes with the caveat that we are talking about an extremely small sample size of 17.1 IP, so there is still plenty of time to get Warren back into Boone’s Circle of Trust™. This isn’t the first time that Warren has been marginalized in his Yankee career, and he has proven time and time again that he has the talent to be put in those high leverage situations and be successful. He just needs to be given the opportunity.
As the trading deadline approaches, many (including RAB) have suggested that the Yankees should go after another high end reliever, and while there is never such a thing as too much pitching, the reliever the Yankees could be seeking is already on the roster.