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Kirby Yates’ sudden location improvement

The last guy in the Braves’ bullpen hasn’t walked anyone in two weeks

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Yates has largely been the last guy in the bullpen for much of the year. For the month of May, Yates pitched in only one non-losing game or blowout in eleven appearances. So, when he appeared in Monday’s Twins game in a save opportunity, it brought to mind three things.

  1. After clawing their way through the Reds’ series, the Braves really didn’t have a choice.
  2. The scene when Forrest Gump was introduced to ping-pong. “See, anybody can pitch the ninth, Snit”.
  3. Yates has been much better of late.
Kirby Yates in 2023 before and after June 14
before June 14th 23 3.52 5.36 5.17 17 29
June 14th afterward 8.1 1.08 1.23 1.39 0 15

The numbers come with a significant “LOL it’s small sample size” caveat, which is always going to be true when talking about “of late” for a reliever. This will be a bite-size post just like the sample size. But the numbers have suggested a sharp turn. Other peripherals such as the expected offensive numbers seem to back it up as well.

Kirby Yates in 2023 before and after June 14
before June 14th .208 .340 .458 .357
June 14th afterward .151 .151 .234 .165

The walks have completely vanished in the last two weeks. Kirby throws a split-finger pitch and a four-seam. Let’s see his approach with the four-seam before and after.

The fastballs out of the zone, much like the walks, have disappeared. He only threw strikes on 49.3 percent of the fastballs before. After June 14, that number is 71.4 percent. He is attacking the zone while mostly avoiding the power cross (as much as is reasonable). The scattergun approach is gone. I tried to see if there was a difference between how he attacked lefties versus righties. The only difference was that he tried to avoid hitting the batter. But now, he’s hitting the corners. There is the exception of the Gameday 1 Zone (in and down in the zone to righthanders). He has other plans for that location.

The scattergun approach is gone here as well. The splitters have packed up and migrated away from in the middle of the zone to that same 1 Zone. Let’s ask Donovan Solano when Yates came in to relieve Kolby Allard.

Everything’s coming up Braves right now. They have won 20 of 25. The offense is killing the ball. The bullpen has been top 5 in ERA, FIP, and xFIP in June. Even the last guy in the pen is getting in on the act. Hopefully, he can keep the momentum going and keep contributing to winning close games.

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