New York Yankees need a closer, or do they?

Do the Yankees need a closer

Ten different pitchers had saves for the New York Yankees in 2023, but none as often and as successfully as Clay Holmes. Early in 2023, Hall of Fame closer for the New York Yankees, Mariano Rivera, praised Holmes’ consistency despite some early struggles. Brendan Kuty of The Athletic wrote:

”His 1.5 fWAR was the best on the Yankees and the 13th best among MLB relievers. His 2.65 FIP was the 10th best among relievers with at least 50 innings.” “Yankees Closer Clay Holmes proves Mariano Rivera right with strong follow-up to breakout season,” The Athletic, Oct. 18, 2023.

Yet, fans are reluctant to trust Holmes with the closer role and instead are clamoring for the Yankees to acquire Josh Hader from the San Diego Padres, as it appears the Padres are willing to part with their high-dollar, big-name talent this offseason.

Holmes and fans agree that his 2023 season showed improved fastball command, resulting in a 4-4 record with saves in 24 out of 27 opportunities and a .218 OBA.

Manuel Gomez of NJ.com wrote, “Hader would certainly be an upgrade over Holmes,” “Are Yankees done with Clay Holmes as Closer? Ex-GM says maybe,” NJ.com, November 1, 2023. Since 2018, Hader’s 2.56 ERA has been 1.28, lower than Holmes’s. Hader strikes out 15.3 batters per nine innings-that ranks second among MLB relievers since 2018. However, Holmes’ 0.5 home runs allowed per nine innings is much better than Hader’s 1.1.

Holmes attributed his solid season to improved command and better utilization of the two sliders he throws. According to Gomez, his signature pitch is a 96 mph sinker that helped him achieve a 65.5 percent ground ball rate this season, which was third best in the majors.

Holmes is a ground ball machine; if the numbers are anything to go by, he may just be getting started. 2024 may be a year when Holmes puts it all together, as he has shown growth and improvement since coming over from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021.

He credits his work with Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, assistant pitching coach Desi Druschel, and bullpen coach Mike Harkey for his continued growth and improvement since coming to the Yankees. All are returning for the 2024 season.

Holmes is not Josh Hader, but he is a solid, consistent closer with obvious potential for continued improvement and success. It is no fluke that Holmes, Aaron Judge, and Gerrit Cole were nominated for the All-MLB team, which will be announced on December 16th.

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