Journeyman Ian Hamilton transitions to Yankees go-to closer

Ian Hamilton is during Yankees (3) vs. Rays (2) at Tropicana Field on May 6, 2023.

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Twenty-eight-year-old Ian Hamilton, who was once considered a prime example of MLB journeyman, has now established himself as the Yankees’ go-to closer. His performance in 2023 was a turning point, with a career-high 58 innings pitched and an impressive 2.64 ERA, proving his worth as a top-tier reliever.

While Ian Hamilton has room for improvement in his walk rate, he stands out in his ability to prevent home runs and induce weak contact from batters. His pitching skills are further enhanced by his above-average performance in various pitching metrics. Notably, his ranking in the 94th percentile for average exit velocity and whiff rate makes his repertoire even more formidable.

Ian Hamilton slambio turned him Yankees bullpen hero

Ian Hamilton’s unique advantage comes in the form of a pitch known as the slambio,” which is a hybrid between a slider and a changeup. This pitch has proven highly effective, confounding hitters with a mere .156 batting average and a .234 slugging rate. It plays a crucial role in Ian Hamilton’s pitching repertoire, working in tandem with his sinker and four-seam fastball. Together, they create a deceptive and multifaceted approach that keeps batters guessing giving the Yankees a key advantage.

Yankees pitcher Ian Hamilton opens vs. the White Sox on August 09, 2023, in Chicago.

What makes the “slambio” pitch unique is its limited side-to-side movement combined with a pronounced up-and-down drop. It typically travels at an average speed of 88.1 mph, and when used alongside his four-seam fastball, this pairing keeps batters uncertain and improves the effectiveness of both pitches. 

Ian Hamilton’s ability to generate ground balls is particularly noteworthy, which is crucial for minimizing risks in high-pressure late-inning situations. His statistics further highlight his proficiency, with a soft-hit percentage of 19.1% and an impressively low hard-hit percentage of 27.7%, indicating his talent in forcing batters into making less threatening contact.

Ian Hamilton and Clay Holmes: A matchup

Although 2023 presented its share of obstacles, the Yankees’ bullpen stood out as a symbol of dependability. Alongside the emergence of Ian Hamilton, Clay Holmes showcased himself as a reliable closer for the team in the years to come.

Ian Hamilton of New York Yankees

Clay Holmes, who posted a 2.86 ERA in 2023, is a strong candidate for the role of the main closer. However, the Yankees’ advantage of having Ian Hamilton under contract until 2029 offers them long-term stability. Holmes, who is approaching free agency after the 2024 season, had a decent year but had his share of ups and downs.

The Yankees’ bullpen strategy, focusing on smart and cost-effective acquisitions, has put together one of the most powerful units in baseball.

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