Ryan Yarbrough has been a very useful pitcher for the Rays through this 2018 season. Expectations were low, and many saw him as an interchangeable part of the puzzle. Yet here we are nearly 3 months into the season, and Yarbrough has provided the Rays with relief that many didn’t see coming beyond rides on the Durham shuttle.
Through 64.2 IP, Ryan has given the Rays a 3.90 ERA that is backed up by the peripherals (3.95 FIP, 4.21 xIP). Mind you, most of this production has come as the Rays swingman.
Notably, Yarbrough has had plenty of success the first two times through the order as reliever. His first time through the order he’s held hitter to a .211/.302/.316 line, and a .177/.227/.290 line through the second time. He’s gotten better as he continues to mow through lineups.
I wrote about Yarbrough early April, and I mentioned that the big test for him in the big leagues would (understandably) involve attacking right handers. While he isn’t striking out righties at a very high clip (that might never be his game), he’s kept them at bay with a .289 wOBA.
Read More — Utilizing Ryan Yarbrough is a tall order
Yarbrough has exclusively attacked RHB with his fastball/cutter and change-up. He’s been living down in the zone and away to righties. Consistent with expectations, he’s not overpowering. He’s been getting creative, though, and it shows.
The obvious spots are the ones that are red, but besides that, Yarbrough is finding a way to sap RHB of their power. He’s not afraid to work his way around the zone, and he knows exactly where to sit.
The other interesting element is that his changeup has progressed as the season has gone on.
May gave us 34 IP, and the bulk of his IP in 2018. April provided us a smaller sampler at 15 IP, and June is still in progress, so we are not dealing with a robust sample, but the improving action on his changeup seems to have carried over into the summer months.
Does this have to do with repetition and time, or is Yarbrough simply finding his confidence in a Major League uniform? We’ll have to wait and see.
As the season carries on and we continue to get a good glimpse of Yarbrough, it’ll be easier to truly settle on a correct idea of what he can be.
Will Ryan Yarbrough be able to maintain the success he’s had vs. RHB? This rests entirely on his ability to continue throwing the change-up with success. He can certainly get lefties out, and if you set aside a skewed HR rate, he’s been very good. If he proves that his early work isn’t an aberration, the Rays might’ve found themselves exactly what they envisioned in Yarbrough when he was acquired.
There’s always the possibility that the league will adjust back to him, or maybe that’s already happened. What we do know is that he has the capability to be more than someone relegated to short relief.