Yankees: How is Jonathan Loaisiga so good?

Jonathan Loaisiga has emerged as the Yankees’ most consistent reliever this season. He’s put it all together in his fourth major league season, posting a 2.23 ERA in 51 appearances entering play Sunday.

How has Loaisiga been so successful this season? For starters, fans have seen the heat the young right-hander displays on the mound. He averages 98.2 miles-per-hour on his sinker, which is tied with Gregory Soto for the second-fastest such pitch in the majors this season.

Highest Average Sinker Velocity (MPH)2021 Season

Jose Alvarado – 99.3

Jonathan Loaisiga – 98.2*

Gregory Soto – 98.2

Miguel Castro – 98.1

Sandy Alcantara – 97.5

*at least 400 sinkers thrown

And despite throwing so hard, Loaisiga generates weak contact. Opposing batters have an 83.5 MPH average exit velocity against him. Translated into basic English, this means hitters cannot square up his pitches on the fat part of the bat.

Lowest Average Exit Velocity Against (MPH)

2021 Season—with average pitch velocity on contact

 Opp. Exit Velo Pitchers AVG Velo on contact.

Adam Ottavino – 83.3 – 86.9

Steve Cishek – 83.3 – 85.9

Ryan Yarbrough – 83.4 – 79.6

Jonathan Loaisiga – 83.5 – 95.1

Zack Wheeler  – 84.1 – 94.3

*at least 900 pitches thrown

**AVG Velo on contact: The average pitch velocity when contact with the bat is made

Do you know how hard it is for a person to throw so hard, but generate such weak contact as a result? Look at the three pitchers ahead of Loaisiga! They all throw under 87 MPH on average, so it stands to reason why batters aren’t hitting their pitches with much force.

For context, there’s only one pitcher in baseball this season (with a minimum of 900 pitches), who throws harder than Loaisiga on contact. It’s two-time Cy Young award winner, Jacob deGrom. The (likely) future Hall of Famer tied for the 77th-best average exit velocity in the majors at 87.7 MPH. He averages 96.3 MPH on those pitches.

In fact, take a look at the top five hardest throwing pitchers when contact is made. Outside of Loaisiga, the exit velocity ranking is much worse compared to that of soft throwers.

Highest Average Pitch Velocity on Contact

With AVG Exit Velocity Rankings—2021

 Pitch Velo Exit Velo MLB Rankings

Jacob deGrom 96.3 87.7 (T-77th)

Jonathan Loaisiga – 95.1 – 83.5 (4th)

Liam Hendriks – 95.0 – 89.3 (T-160th)

Ryne Stanek – 94.7 – 91.0 (T-205th)

Sandy Alcantara – 94.6 – 86.7 (T-37th)

To make a long story short, Loaisiga is doing something no other pitcher in baseball is this season—throwing at high velocities while generating weak contact.

One other point I want to make on the Yankees’ right-hander is his consistency. 12 of his 16 earned runs allowed have come in three appearances this season. He and fellow Yankees’ righty, Clay Holmes, are the only pitchers in the majors in 2021 to have three games of four+ runs allowed in less than an inning.

If you took those three games and got rid of them, Loaisiga has an ERA of 0.57 in 48 appearances this season. That’s just four earned runs in 63.2 innings pitched! There is no way New York is anywhere near a wild card spot this season without Loaisiga—especially with the injuries and struggles of Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton.

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