The Yankees Hired a New Director of Pitching. What Does it Mean?

Interesting news out of Yankeeland yesterday. Sam Briend of Driveline Baseball announced on Twitter that he’s been hired as the new Director of Pitching for the Yanks:

As for what this means, I’m not entirely sure–the title sure seems significant, but who knows what Sam’s day-to-day duties will be like? Titles can often be misleading, though it’s certainly reasonable to assume that he’ll play an active role with pitchers in the Yankees organization. You can listen to Sam on the latest edition of the Driveline podcast, accessible here.

For those of us concerned with the minutae of the Yankees baseball operations, this would be notable regardless of any other context, but I think it’s especially notable given Briend’s connection to Driveline Baseball.

Driveline, for those that may not be aware, is a data-driven pitcher development camp, for lack of a better word. They specialize in helping pitchers add velocity and are famous for using cameras to track a pitcher’s every movement to analyze delivery to maximize velocity and for emphasizing recovery work to steal healthy.

It’s been at the forefront of MLB pitching development for the past several years. Here is a sample of MLB pitchers they’ve worked with:

  • Trevor Bauer
  • Dan Straily
  • Tony Cingriani
  • Brandon McCarthy
  • Matt Boyd
  • Ryan Buchter

Obviously, the quality of pitchers varies there, but a New York Times article on Driveline from 2017 noted that officials from 10 teams had toured the Driveline facilities. A recent Washington Post story noted that a “half-dozen” teams “contract with the company as consultants”, highlighting the Phillies and White Sox. Many of Driveline’s techniques, which include using weighted balls, have become commonplace around the game, and they’re a big reason behind the recent velocity increases around the league.

The Yankees have been known to love spin-rate data, clearly have an inclination to go after high-velocity pitchers, and have a robust analytical department (subs req’d). It certainly makes sense that they’d be interested in an instructor from a place with a reputation for adding velocity.

This is an interesting hire by the Yanks, and I think it’s something worth following in the coming months/years. It’s yet another sign of the Yankees’ forward-thinking approach, and I certainly hope to read more about it and gain more insight into how this will play out for New York’s pitchers. It seems safe to assume, though, that more flame-throwers will emerging out of the Yankee system, and I for one think that’s a good thing.

Further Reading on Driveline:

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5 Comments

  1. The Original Drew

    If you want to learn more you should read Ben Lindberg and Travis Sawchik’s new book ‘The MVP Machine’. It goes into how places like driveline are on the cutting edge of how teams are evaluating and making better baseball players. The guys over at driveline have been getting scooped up by MLB teams. I couldn’t recommend it enough. And hey I even helped a small part of it!

  2. SM

    They have not been good at developing starting pitching under Cashman and the recent trades for starting pitching haven’t been good either. So this hire seems like a positive.

    • CountryClub

      During his full tenure, that’s correct. But they’ve recently developed Sevy, German and Montgomery. All are legit ML starters. And Sevy is obviously a top 20 pitcher when healthy. So, things have turned a bit.

      • SM

        That may be correct, but I think we need a bigger sample size to know for sure given second half Sevy, the short sample of German being an ace, and the uncertainty of any pitcher, like Montgomery, having a serious surgery. And since I am strongly against trading Frazier, I hope Cashman and his bosses will wait for those guys to return rather than making a costly trade.

  3. CountryClub

    Like you, I’m very interested to know what his exact role will be. Hey, good idea for your first major interview. Get on it!

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