Remember when everyone thought making the trade for Brandon McCarthy from the Arizona Diamondbacks wouldn't help the team? Especially with a 3-10 record and a 5.01 ERA.
Fast forward to almost two months since that trade went down, eight starts later, and McCarthy has practically been the Yankees best pitcher since being acquired on July 6, pitching to a 5-2 record with a 1.90 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 52 innings. On Thursday afternoon, McCarthy prevented the Yankees from getting swept against the lowly Houston Astros by tossing a complete-game shutout in a 3-0 victory.
So what's worked for McCarthy since being acquired from Arizona? For one, not being too sinker happy, which fellow catcher Brian McCann helped enforce.
"There are places that have philosophies and they like to try and and get guys to do certain things," McCarthy said. While he was never directly told to stop throwing his cutter and your-seamer, McCarthy said, it became clear they wanted him to stick with his sinker. McCarthy gave up three runs in his first inning as a Yankee in a start against Cleveland July 9. After the frame, McCann approached McCarthy, telling him to stop relying so heavily on his sinker. "And that's him being able to see and adjust and he just has that experience to tell me where to throw it," McCarthy said. "Then it became a reins-off thing." Meaning: McCarthy was now free to mix his pitches.
By mixing his pitches, it allowed him to use his cutter more often, a pitch that helped previous stars like Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte in the past and now, it would help McCarthy as well, which would explain a great deal about his huge turnaround.
"It was exciting when I got here and they said, 'We want you to start throwing the cutter more,'" McCarthy said. "It wasn't a discussion of why we aren't throwing it. It was just, 'Hey, we want this. And this is what we traded for.' And there was a confidence in that regard where I've got something new to get guys out with. Now I just have more options," McCarthy said. "The key to screwing up hitters is different movement, different timing. If all I'm looking at is one similar movement, it's difficult to throw in a count where the hitter is in the lead. (For example,) a 2-1 count, a 3-1 count. I would look to one thing. Now I can change directions and move it and it gives me more options. I can still throw sinkers in those counts, but it's not so much automatic."
Of the deals the Yankees made this summer, McCarthy might end up being the best deal the Yankees made, as without him, the team would have been long gone of the playoff chase, but with McCarthy, he's continued to give them a fighting chance in every single start.
One other thing that McCarthy is doing is making the Yankees strongly consider re-signing him after 2014, as the Yankees will need options for their pitching staff and plugging McCarthy back in for 2015 would look like a smart decision to make.
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