Adam Ottavino Has Been Lucky, Very Lucky...

Last night’s game is very concerning from the standpoint of Adam Ottavino, a reliever that the Yankees paid big bucks for last off-season ($9 million a year for 3 years).  Last night, in one inning, he allowed one hit, struck out one player, but also walked two others. The walks are what troubles me.

(A quick side-note: As some of you know, Brian Cashman signed Ottavino, DJ Lemahieu, and Zach Britton instead of either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. As such, Ottavino is one of the three players in my (patent pending) Cash-o-Meter, which is a tongue in cheek measure of the quality of this decision.)

At first glance, Ottavino has been incredible.  His ERA is 1.77 over 20 ⅓ innings. And he’s striking out 11.51 batters per nine innings.  The problem is that he is also walking 6.64 batters per 9 innings. His FIP (a metric designed to back out luck and defensive performance) is a mediocre 4.20.  And his xFIP (a measure that also normalizes the number of fly balls that turn into home runs) is even worse at 4.66.

Ottavino was never a master of control.  He walked 4.17 per 9 innings last year. The increase to 6.64 this year is very troubling especially given that he was at 6.58 in 2017.  Having a high walk-rate is part of Ottavino’s career profile. The Yankees had hoped that this number was trending down - not up. This is the big concern.

The fact that Ottavino has performed so well to date, I feel, might not be a true indication of how he will pitch going forward. When one looks at his poor control, it seems that he is getting very, very lucky. The problem, of course, is that luck tends to also run the other way. Teams don’t win with luck. They win with quality play. In Ottavino’s case, he’ll win, and the Yankees will win, if he throws strikes.

If Ottavino can’t even regain the somewhat lousy control he had last year, these walk-a-thons are eventually going to catch up with him and he is going to blow some important games for the Yanks.  

Here’s hoping Ottavino’s poor control issues get addressed quickly so the Yankees can feel confident bringing him into close games all season long.