Analysis

What Role Can Tommy Kahnle Play Down The Stretch In 2018?

Tommy Kahnle played a crucial role down the stretch in 2017 and in the postseason, posting a 2.38 ERA in 11.1 playoff innings. However, 2018 has been a massive letdown for the right-hander, pitching in just 15 big league games to the tune of a 6.00 ERA. 

In the top of the 6th inning of the 2017 AL Wild Card Game, Joe Mauer stepped up to the plate, representing the tying run for the Twins. The Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle, who then retired Mauer on a fly ball to left, tossing 2 more hitless innings before handing the ball over to Aroldis Chapman.

Kahnle finished the 2017 season as an integral part to a dominant Yankee bullpen. However, velocity problems plagued Kahnle at the start of the 2018 season,  resulting in a demotion to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. With the emergence of Jonathan Holder as a reliable bullpen arm and the acquisition of LHP Zach Britton, Kahnle has suddenly become more expendable for the Yankees.

Since rejoining the MLB roster August 4, Kahnle has given up six hits in six innings, allowing 3 ER and an opponent batting average of .261. On a positive note, Kahnle has recorded 8 strikeouts, his fastball velocity is hovering in the mid 90’s, and he is looking much sharper than he was in April and May.

Nonetheless, with the looming promotion of top prospect Justus Sheffield, Kahnle may be getting even fewer opportunities down the stretch in 2018. If the Yankees do indeed play in the Wild Card Game, it’s pretty unlikely that Kahnle will be toeing the rubber.

In the scenario Kahnle is able to excel this final month of the season and make the 25-man roster in October, he could be best used as a multi-inning reliever in low-leverage situations, saving valuable bullpen arms from being used.

With uncertainty surrounding the health of Aroldis Chapman, Kahnle has an opportunity to ease the workload on the likes of Betances, Green, and Robertson. This may not be the role Kahnle was hoping to play in 2018, but it could ultimately very valuable to the Yankees.

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