Lucas Luetge has proven he belongs

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No one seriously thought Lucas Luetge, a random non-roster invitee, would make a significant impact on the Yankees in 2021. I noted nothing other than the “ex-big leaguer” qualifier to describe him when the Yankees announced its NRIs in February. And yet, it didn’t take long to take notice of Luetge’s Grapefruit League dominance, which has carried over to a strong regular season start.

Last night’s clean outing was the southpaw’s sixth consecutive scoreless appearance. It dropped his ERA and FIP to 3.78 and 3.95, respectively, in 16.2 innings. While those run prevention numbers don’t jump out, keep in mind that Luetge got off to a slow start. He surrendered a run in each of his first five outings, though not all of them were bad performances. Initially, it looked like Luetge would settle in to a low leverage relief role, which isn’t a bad outcome considering how long he’d been out of the majors (2015!). But yesterday, Aaron Boone threw him right into the fire.

Last night, Luetge was the first man out of the bullpen in a tie game and was given the unenviable task of facing Houston’s 2-3-4 hitters: Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Álvarez.

Three grounders, and though Bregman’s snuck through for a hit, what more could you ask for? This came against one of the most potent sections of an elite opposing lineup.

You don’t need leverage index to tell you that last night was a big spot for Luetge. But for what it’s worth, yesterday (1.34) was the third time Luetge has entered a game with an above average leverage index (1 = average). All three of those have come in his last six games, which happens to coincide with his scoreless streak. And while last night’s outing was good, this was my favorite big spot performance from Luetge:

My goodness, that was a filthy curveball to ring up Franmil Reyes. Luetge inherited runners on the corners from Jordan Montgomery against Cleveland’s best non-José Ramírez hitter and got the job done with aplomb. The leverage index for that moment was 2.43, which is exceptionally high, and Luetge delivered.

Luetge’s basically doing all of the same things we saw back in March. But even he dominated spring training, there had to be some doubt in everyone’s mind about what the 34 year-old could contribute in the regular season. I’m pretty sure Luetge has erased anyone’s doubts at this point. Just look at this:

via Baseball Savant.

That’ll do. Just like we saw in March, Luetge’s three-pitch high spin arsenal has made it difficult to square him up. And now, given his recent usage, it’s clear that Boone trusts him in big spots. Frankly, Luetge deserves it.

Luetge isn’t going to surpass the depth chart’s bridges to Aroldis Chapman in Chad Green, Zack Britton, or Jonathan Loaisiga. But he’s clearly made himself a top option in the middle innings, which is a role I think the Yankees were hoping Justin Wilson and Darren O’Day would handle. Wilson has been ineffective of late and O’Day is now on the injured list.

Unearthing Luetge is just another case of the rich getting richer. The bullpen was already great without Luetge, and now, it seems the team has yet another stellar relief arm. Kudos to the Yankees for keeping their eyes on Luetge all these years, only to finally pick him up in 2021. And kudos to Luetge for continuing to pursue a return to the majors. Pretty amazing that we’re all pretty confident in a reliever most of us had never heard of prior to spring training.


Game 29: Taking out the trash


Game 30: G hits the cr@p out the Trash


  1. Mike P

    Don’t look now but Luis Cessa is putting up quite a performance so far as well. Would love to see a deep dive on his peripherals so far.

    • Gerreddardit Cole

      I’d love to see that and Hicks DFA’d. The guy can’t even track a fly ball anymore. Call up Florial and see what he can do.

  2. Gerreddardit Cole

    Yes he has, Derek. We haven’t had a LOOGY this good since Boone Logan. Peralta looks good too. This is the best bullpen we’ve ever had and O’day is hurt and Britton isn’t even back yet. We’re going to ride this pen all the way to the World Series as long as we never see that awful Nick Nelson ever again.

  3. JG (Brendan Ryan)

    Credit to Luetge and Yankees scouting

  4. Nick

    Lucas has looked very good, especially of late. Can Justin Wilson still be effective? I know he is injured, but I feel he seemed off when he was pitching.

  5. Bob

    Nice story. Kudos to the Yankees front office & scouts for identifying Luetge and then signing him after tracking him for a couple of years. Luetge had a rough start to the season, thanks largely to some shoddy defense, but has made the most of his opportunities recently. After years as a minor league nomad, its nice to see someone like him succeed.

  6. Cary

    I thought that about 3/4 of the way through camp, Leutge had forced the Yankees to admit internally that they were probably going to keep him. It was a clear, no- brainer as far as a baseball decision. As usual, the guys over at Pinstripe Alley were last in recognizing that Leutge was going to make the team.

    Leutge’s stuff clearly causes opponents some difficulty when you contrast what he can do versus some of the harder throwing bullpen pieces that the Yankees have, it’s clear that he’s here to stay. The Yankees would be wise to keep him around.

    All the charts, spin rates and eye tests aside, if Boone is starting to trust Leutge, then this opportunity that he’s capitalizing on is one he deserves. He’s earned his roster spot.

  7. Paul

    Who goes when Brittan returns? It will be a shame if it’s King

    • Derek

      King and Peralta both have options. Will be one of those two.

  8. Brian M

    Pretty crazy how much depth there is in the bullpen. Assuming everyone was healthy we’d have 10 guys worthy of a roster spot:


    Also Nelson and Abreu in the minors who could have some impact if they can harness their command a bit. At least Peralta and King have options, otherwise we’d have to cut someone once (if) everyone is healthy.

    Then again it’s only May, anyone of these guys could start sucking out of nowhere like Green did a couple of years ago.

    • JG (Brendan Ryan)

      Wow, that is a stacked pen. No weak spots really.

      Hopefully Britton is at his A form when he returns. Adding him back in makes bullpen so much deeper and more secure for big spots/late game since I still don’t quite trust Loaisiga.

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