Perhaps magic is a poor word choice and I am already regretting using it. “Stuff” is closer to what I am looking for and why Wade has been so successful. Part of the answer is fairly simple: Control. During Wade’s Triple-A career, he walked only 1.8 batters per nine innings. That pattern has definitely been evident in his time with the Yankees as he finished with a 1.8 walks per nine innings last year and is only sitting at 1.1 per nine this season. As Rivera proved, the
less fewer base runners you put on with freebies, the easier it was to get the other team out. But what is more perplexing is the strikeouts.
Cory Wade was never a big strikeout guy in the minors. His career Triple-A strikeout rate was 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings. While that isn’t overly dominant, combined with his walk rate, the rate gave him a really nice strikeout to walk ratio. Suddenly, in 2012, Wade has become a bit of a strikeout machine as he has struck out 20 batters in just 17 innings pitched. His 10.0 strikeout to walk ratio is downright nasty and as such, his ERA may be a terrific 1.59, but his FIP is unreal at 1.13. And then you watch him pitch and a bunch of head scratching occurs.
Cory Wade is averaging less than 89 MPH on his fastball. He can’t keep up with Robertson’s 94, Logan’s 95, Soriano’s 94 and others. And yet, he has been the Yankees most effective reliever and with the injuries, perhaps now the most important. But where are the strikeouts coming from? His swinging strike percentage is actually half of last seasons. Batters are not swinging at his pitches out of the strike zone as much. You would think those two facts would lead to
less fewer strikeouts instead of more. But more it is. His BABIP is higher this year than last year and his strand rate is lower. And yet all his peripherals are better than last year. Perhaps magic was the right word after all.
Wade has come at batters with a lot of different pitches. He throws a four and two-seam fastball. The two-seam or sinker is a pitch he is throwing more often this season. Wade also throws a cutter, a slider, a curve and a change up. He mixes in all of his pitches which does not allow the batter to sit on one. Wade also throws every one of them for strikes more often than balls. His strikeout pitches have been his slider and change up.
All of this kind of makes Cory Wade the Greg Maddux of Yankee relievers. Wade doesn’t overpower you. He simply outfoxes you. That said, the lack of power stuff leads one to keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Will baseball catch up to the relative soft tosses of Cory Wade or can he bob and weave and continue to stay ahead of the batters who as of now cannot seem to be able to get the barrel of the bat to the Wade pitches? That is becoming more of an important question as injuries keep pushing Wade up the flowchart that is the Yankees’ bullpen.
Cory Wade seems a bit of a high wire act. But that act has been a big help to the Yankees to this point.