Atlanta Braves: Huascar Ynoa Has Been Lucky and Good so Far
With an Atlanta Braves starting rotation torn up by injuries, Huascar Ynoa has done a great job of filling in and giving the team exactly what they need.
There is no question this Atlanta Braves team would be a lot worse off in 2021 if not for the efforts of Huascar Ynoa on the mound.
He’s gone at least 5 innings in all but one of his five starts this year giving up 2 earned runs or less in all but that one start he only went 4 innings.
And to think, he probably came into Spring Training behind Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright for the fifth spot in the rotation. Now he looks like one of our best pitchers.
But should we really believe the breakout he’s having so far in 2021?
Braves: Why Ynoa has been a bit lucky
If you look at his page on Baseball Savant it’s a very weird set of percentile rankings for Ynoa considering how good he’s been.
He ranks very poorly in average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, xERA, xBA, and barrel percentage. Normally those low percentages lead to really bad performances.
That’s why Baseball Savant has his xERA (expected ERA) at 4.61 — almost two points higher than his actual ERA of 2.96.
His barrel percentage of 15.2 percent and hard-hit percentage of 51.5 percent both rank in the bottom 8 percent of the league.
Even in Wednesday’s outing, seven of the 11 balls put in play against him had an exit velocity of 94 MPH or higher — and four of them were 100 MPH or higher. The Cubs were 2-for-7 on those hard-hit balls.
Fun side note — the single Ynoa hit in the second inning was hit harder than any ball hit against him. And he hit two balls in this game with an exit velo of 104 MPH or harder.
Obviously, hard contact isn’t everything, you have to consider the launch angle. Only one of the other hard-hit balls he surrendered that weren’t hits had an xBA over .200 — and that was Tony Wolters’ groundout in the sixth.
But it’s fair to say Ynoa has been a little lucky to start this season, however, that’s not to say he hasn’t been really good as well.
Braves: Reasons to believe Ynoa is good
While I mentioned above all the percentile numbers Ynoa ranks low in, he also ranks very high in K percentage, BB percentage, Whiff percentage, chase rate, and fastball velocity.
His K percentage of 32.1 percent is the best among Braves starters — by a good amount.
But I want to dive into what he’s doing differently with his pitches.
Back in 2019 when he was primarily used as a reliever he threw the fastball 60 percent of the time — granted that was a very small sample size.
Last year he started to feature the slider more often but was primarily a two-pitch pitcher with the slider and four-seam fastball.
Teams were still just sitting on his fastball and crushing it to the tune of a .342 average in 2020.
He’s still primarily a two-pitch pitcher throwing the slider 44.2 percent of the time and the fastball 42 percent of the time. But he’s started to mix in a sinker, a pitch he only threw once last year and has already thrown 33 times this season.
Throwing that sinker at the same speed as his four-seam is helping create some weak contact and not allowing teams to just sit on the four-seam, which doesn’t have very good spin rates and is very flat.
His slider is, and always will be, his money pitch with a Whiff percentage of 41.7 and a batting average against of just .163.
But incorporating that sinker and showing it to hitters has done wonders for his other pitchers and why he’s having so much more success this season.
And it’s a pitch he’s still developing and will only get better with — and he’ll need to if he’s going to continue to have the type of success he’s experiencing in 2021.