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Clay Holmes’ All-Star Sinker Throw
By: Peter Xiao
On July 9, 2022, baseball writer Tyler Kepner wrote an article for the New York Times’ baseball section about Clay Holmes’ signature sinker pitch.
Holmes’ journey started when he was just seven. He threw his first sinker the very first time he played catch. The two-seam grip he felt comfortable with would eventually turn him into the player he is now.
At first, he started rough. He struggled in the majors after taking seven years to reach them after the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him from high school in Alabama in 2011. He persisted though, knowing that his throw was what was going to set him apart.
Holmes talked about the development of his sinker pitch, saying, “I had a lot of people saying to go with a short-arm action, to make so many big mechanical changes. Ultimately I went against it, because I knew there was maybe a risk of losing my sinker. That’s when I really was like: ‘The sinker is going to be my ticket. I need to really figure out how to make it as good as it can be.’”
Michael King, a relief pitcher, talked about what makes a sinker pitch so special, saying, “you never see the bottom of the ball from him, because out of his hand it’s just coming straight down. You can only see the top of the ball, and if you make contact, it’s going to be a ground ball. That’s why you get so many ugly swings from elite hitters.”
Eventually, his resilience paid off as last July, the Yankees saw his potential with his sinker and traded infielders Diego Castillo and Hoy Park for him. General Manager Brian Cashman talked about the decision, saying, “We love anybody who has exceptional characteristics on a specific pitch. That’s one way the industry has changed, is the recognition that, instead of trying to get all these different parts of your repertoire working and judging people that way — singularly, do they do anything exceptionally well with one pitch? And if they do, gravitate to that.”
His journey has led to Major League Baseball naming him to his first All-Star team on July 10th with a .46 earned run average, 16 saves in 18 chances, and 0 allowed home runs from the 148 batters he’s faced.