Who is Ian Hamilton, the Yankees ‘slambio’ pitcher and survivor of the worst adversity?

Ian-Hamilton is seen picthing for the Yankees in the Grapefruit League and aginst the Phillies at Yankee Stadium.

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In the Yankees’ fourth game of the 2023 season and their first game against the Phillies, right-hander Ian Hamilton took over from Cortes to start the sixth. The team put him into the roster just a few hours ago after designating Jhony Britto, who had a dream debut just a day before. After Ian Hamilton pitched a scoreless inning, the Yankees are hoping to have have another reliable reliever in their bullpen.

The Yankees cruised to an 8-1 victory, and Hamilton’s “slambio” pitch quickly became the talk of the baseball world. In 1 2/3 innings of relief for fan-favorite Nestor Cortes, he shut out the Phillies on zero runs and three hits while striking out two.

“He really got our attention,” Aaron Boone said. “He’s got that change-slider . . . It’s a good pitch and that, with the fastball velocity and command he was showing all spring, put him in a position to earn this opportunity.”

Ian Hamilton’s journey wasn’t easy

The story of Hamilton’s arrival in the Bronx is one of the worst kinds of adversity imaginable. After a promising start to his White Sox career, the right-hander had several teeth knocked out in an accident and was forced to undergo eight surgeries after being hit in the face by a foul ball in the Triple-A Charlotte dugout four years ago.

“I’ve been through a lot,” Ian Hamilton told at the spring camp. “It’s like I went through a rebirth, a cleansing. I’m happy to be here with the Yankees. I’m here trying to prove that I can pitch. That’s about it.”

Hamilton, who will turn 28 in June, has made 15 MLB appearances so far in the last four seasons. Although he made an appearance with the Twins last year, he spent most of the season in Triple-A, where he combined for a 3.61 ERA over 47 1/3 innings while striking out 30.6% of batters faced and walking 9.7%.

Ian Hamilton’s early career

A native of Dover, New Hampshire, Ian Hamilton played college baseball for the Washington State Cougars while attending Skyview High School in Vancouver, Washington. He spent his first two years at Washington State as the team’s closer before switching to starting pitcher. In 2015, he was the most valuable player of the West division in the Cape Cod Baseball League all-star game after spending the summer playing for the Wareham Gatemen.

Ian Hamilton with Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox picked Ian Hamilton in the eleventh round of the 2016 draft. After starting his professional career with the Arizona League White Sox, Ian Hamilton was promoted to the Kannapolis Intimidators after just one game. He finished the year with a 1-1 record and a 3.69 ERA in 31 2/3 relief innings. In 2017, he made 44 relief appearances at the Winston-Salem Dash and the Birmingham Barons notching up 4-6 with a 2.64 ERA. He began 2018 with Birmingham, but was promoted to the Charlotte Knights.

After being called up to the big leagues on August 31, 2018, Hamilton spent the first few games of the 2019 season on the injured list due to right shoulder inflammation following a minor car accident. After coming back, he was offered a position in Charlotte. Ian Hamilton was hit in the face by a batted ball on June 4 while he was sitting in the dugout. He lost three teeth and fractured several bones in his face, requiring extensive medical attention. As a result, Ian Hamilton was out for the remainder of the 2019 season.

The White Sox designated Ian Hamilton for assignment on September 18, 2020. A week later, the Seattle Mariners claimed him. The he went with Philadelphia Phillies on December 7 but designated on assignment 50 days later.

Minnesota Twins signed Ian Hamilton

The Minnesota Twins picked up Ian Hamilton off waivers on February 5, 2021. However, he was sent to the minor league a week later. On June 3rd, the Triple-A St. Paul Saints picked up his contract.

Ian Hamilton joined Cleveland

Hamilton was sent to the Cleveland Guardians from the Minnesota Twins on August 2, 2022 in exchange for Sandy Leon. He made 15 appearances for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers and finished the year with a record of 0-4 and an earned run average of 6.27. He struck out 24 batters in 18 2/3 innings of work. On November 10, 2022, Hamilton turned a free agent in the minor leagues.

Ian Hamilton becomes a Yankee

Ian Hamilton is playing fir the New York Yankees.

Ian Hamilton inked a minor league deal with the New York Yankees on the 3rd of February, 2023. He didn’t make the cut in spring training and was sent down to Triple-A RailRiders. But he agreed to extend his contract until April 5 and play for them. On April 3, the Yankees picked up Ian Hamilton’s option.

In eight spring training games, Ian Hamilton allowed no earned runs over nine innings. With six punch outs, his WHIP was 0.89. He shut out the opposition for nine innings, allowing only three hits and three walks. Last week, it was reported that he had an opt-out clause in his contract, but he agreed to delay exercising it until April 5. The Yankees apparently didn’t want to let him get away and signed him to their team.

Ian Hamilton: The “slambio” king

For an 11th-round pick out of Washington State who has dealt with multiple injuries, it is like a fairy tale journey for Ian Hamilton to earn a number in pinstreipes. However, it became possible because of his not-so-secret weapon, a pitch that the Yankees lovingly call the slambio.

“Slambio,” Boone said on Monday with a grin. “It’s a combination between a slider and a change, or a cambio. Slambio!”

The Yankees have given Ian Hamilton’s unhittable pitch the nickname “slambio” (slide + cambio; cambio is the Spanish word for “change”) because of his nasty slider-changeup combination. It’s like a slider that moves faster than a changeup. Ian Hamilton has quickly become one of the most talked-about young pitchers in baseball thanks to his devastating pitch that has left batters struggling to control their swing at the plate.

Ian Hamilton’s nine scoreless innings in the Grapefruit League were aided by that pitch, which went relatively unnoticed this spring.

“It’s a really funky pitch,” Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka told on Monday. “It’s a changeup, but sometimes it just takes off to the glove side like a slider. It’s really unpredictable. I faced him once in a live BP [this spring]. I think the pitch I struck out on was this slambio and I knew it was coming, it was just so funky.”

While still in the minor leagues, Ian Hamilton first started working on the slambio. He was practicing his slider, but he couldn’t seem to achieve the desired break. He began to play around with his grip and arm angle until he found one that allowed him to throw a pitch with less speed and more side to it.

The slambio is a tricky pitch that few pitchers have the command and feel for to execute effectively. However, Hamilton has honed this pitch to the point where it is now one of his most effective strategies. The slambio is a pitch that looks like it’s going straight to the plate as the pitcher releases it, but then suddenly breaks away from the batter.

Ian Hamilton’s success is the result of many facets of his game, not just the slambio.

“He does a really good job with controlling the running game, the velocity was really good, he was really efficient in most of his outing from a strike throwing standpoint,” according to Aarone Boone. “That with his fastball velocity and the command he was showing all spring put him in position to earn this opportunity.”

If the 28-year-old Ian Hamilton continues his March form, he has a shot at remaining in the Yankees bullpen while both Lou Trivino and Tommy Kahnle are sidelined.

2023: In Pinstripes

In the 2023 season, Ian Hamilton established himself as a key component of the New York Yankees’ bullpen, leveraging his distinctive “slambio” alongside his fastball and sinker to navigate hitters. Despite the mid-season groin injury that sidelined him temporarily, Hamilton’s return to the mound was marked by strategic adjustments to maintain his competitiveness. His end-of-season statistics—featuring a 2.64 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 3.26 xFIP, and striking out 10.71 batters per nine innings—underscore his efficacy in high-leverage situations. Notably, the adaptability of hitters to Hamilton’s pitch mix, evidenced by changing swing rates pre- and post-injury, underscores the evolving nature of pitcher-hitter dynamics in modern baseball. Hamilton’s tactical response, potentially increasing the usage of his slambio, which comprised 54.2% of his pitches in 2023, highlights the importance of pitch selection and sequencing in achieving pitching dominance.

Furthermore, Hamilton’s role in the Yankees’ bullpen is poised for expansion in 2024. With five more years of team control and at the age of 28, his ongoing development and health will be crucial for sustaining performance levels. The potential decrease in velocity, a common challenge for pitchers as they age, could necessitate a heavier reliance on the movement and deception of the slambio. This adjustment strategy not only speaks to Hamilton’s resilience but also to the broader trend in baseball towards pitchers diversifying their arsenals to remain effective. As Hamilton continues to refine his approach and adapt to hitters’ adjustments, his trajectory with the Yankees underscores the intricate balance between maintaining core strengths and evolving in response to the dynamic challenges of Major League Baseball.

Standard Pitching

4 Yrs440.53.1543900272.25828255341784033031423.551.2667.
162 Game Avg.550.53.164411002876933306411935043611423.551.2667.
Baseball Reference

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