The Importance of Clay Holmes for the Yankees’ Championship Pursuit

The Importance of Clay Holmes for the Yankees’ Championship Pursuit

The 2022 Yankees were expected to be one of the greatest baseball teams ever, on pace to match or break the major league record of 116 victories and win their first World Series title since 2009.

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However, they failed to win 100 games and were swept by the Astros in the ALCS.

One player that embodied the strange narrative arc of the season was Clay Holmes.

He made the All-Star team in his first full season with the Yankees and looked nothing like the pitcher with the 5.57 ERA that the Pirates had traded away before the break.

Like Mariano Rivera’s cutter, Holmes’ sinker was a terrifying weapon … until it wasn’t.

The first sign of trouble came on July 12, after he had converted on 16 of 18 save opportunities.

He imploded in the ninth inning while turning a 3-0 lead over the Reds into a 4-3 defeat, inflating his 0.46 ERA to a more human 1.37.

In August, Holmes landed on the injured list with lower back spasms after he blew three saves and allowed seven runs in five appearances.

A bullpen that had already lost Chad Green and Michael King for the season was suddenly in a state of disrepair.

Holmes later overcame a shoulder strain to become a reliable playoff option, though not reliable enough for Boone to summon him amid a Game 3 disaster in the ALDS against Cleveland that put everything on the brink.

That’s OK, however, because Holmes helped beat the Guardians in Games 4 and 5 and didn’t surrender an earned run in six postseason innings.

If the Yankees want to give themselves their best chance to finally unseat the Astros by securing home-field advantage for the inevitable October clash to come, Holmes will be vital to that pursuit.

Holmes called the knee injury Edwin Diaz suffered during a World Baseball Classic celebration “a punch in the gut,” but he couldn’t sustain his 2022 brilliance over the entire season.

If the Yankees want to give themselves their best chance to finally unseat the Astros by securing home-field advantage for the inevitable October clash to come, Holmes will be vital to that pursuit.

General manager Brian Cashman called Holmes “a really big, strong, intimidating presence on the mound,” but he cited a number of relievers capable of taking the ball in save situations, including the likes of Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta, and King.

Rather than a traditional approach to the closer’s role, the Yankees will likely go more by committee — with Holmes as committee chairman.

Pitching coach Matt Blake said that although Clay will get a lot of opportunities, there are many other guys who probably could close some games for them.

During the seven championship seasons of the George Steinbrenner Era, the Yankees had singular forces in the role of closer.

Sparky Lyle won the Cy Young Award in 1977. Goose Gossage led the AL in saves in 1978 and became a Hall of Famer.

John Wetteland led the league in saves and was named World Series MVP in 1996.

Mariano Rivera became the bullpen GOAT and the first unanimous Hall of Famer while closing games for the 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009 title teams.

Boone believes Holmes is capable of being a dominant reliever, and the Yankees could use that dominance for six months this season instead of three.


»The Importance of Clay Holmes for the Yankees’ Championship Pursuit«

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