In previous conversations about the Yankees’ primary 8th inning reliever, we have consistently highlighted two things:

1) Shawn Kelley is a fairly under-the-radar strikeout machine

2) Shawn Kelley was once kicked in the face by his own teammate

While small sample size abounds to date, Kelley has delivered as both a setup man and an emergency closer in Robertson’s absence and in 11 innings has pitched to a 1.76 FIP, 9.5 K/9 and a 76.9 LOB percentage leading to a 0.4 WAR (Kelley was worth 0.5 WAR in all of 2013). Kelley has been a two-pitch reliever throughout his career, relying on a fastball / slider combo to keep hitters at bay. The latter pitch has been particularly nasty in 2014 and the righty has been using it with devastating results this year.

Hitters continue to swing at the pitch when it is thrown in the zone at a rate that is consistent with Kelley’s career average (60% of the time); however, they are chasing the pitch at a higher rate than ever before outside the zone (49% vs a career average of 39%).

This has led to a lower overall contact rate on the slider (57% in 2014 vs. 65% career) and a significantly improved swinging strike rate (22% in 2014 vs. 14% career)

This high level of effectiveness has led to Kelley throwing the slider at a higher rate than his fastball to date in 2014 and it is clear that the pitch is a go-to knockout punch. If these results continue throughout the year, the reliever could be on his way to a career season on the back of this nasty secondary pitch.