Yankees Bullpen Emerges As Secret Weapon

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The (relatively) young 2014 season has been an up-and-down one, filled with new talent, surprising performances, and more injuries. The Yankees are three games above .500 entering a lengthy mid-west road trip, but are atop the AL East – which looks to have serious mediocrity parity across the five teams. Considering the high-profile players the Yankees currently have on the DL (Sabathia, Beltran, Nova, and Pineda) and the others who have missed time already (Teixeira and Robertson), a 23-20 record does not seem all that bad. On the surface though, the numbers don’t look great for the Yanks. They have a run-differential of -8 (in fact, only the Blue Jays have a plus-differential in the AL East), yet the Yankees somehow find themselves above .500. How?

Among all the injuries, poor performances, slumps, and bad starts, the bullpen has actually emerged as the Yankees’ secret weapon, allowing them to win close games and not blow leads. The back-end of the pen has been lights out: Robertson, Warren, Betances, (and even Kelley, who is currently injured) have combined to pitch 76.1 innings and allowed just 17 runs (2.00 ERA) while striking out 97 batters. As a group the pen has the best K/9 ratio in the league (10.57) – meaning they don’t allow a lot of contact. This may be simplistic, but when you limit contact good things usually happen, especially in October.

Dellin Betances has wowed management and fans this season, striking out 42 batters in 24.1 innings pitched.

Dellin Betances has wowed management and fans this season, striking out 42 batters in 24.1 innings pitched.

Out of everyone though, Betances has really been the x-factor. The 26 year old righty continues to dazzle hitters and get cutch outs. Girardi has used him for multiple innings in 10 of his 17 appearances, and his last three have all been for at least two innings. His K/9 rate is tremendous (15.5) and his WHIP is even better (0.945). There have been comparisons made to Mariano Rivera in 1996, who often pitched multiple innings for Torre and was counted on to get high-leverage outs before Wetteland closed the game. Wetteland was the closer in ’96 but he was not the best arm in the pen, that honor went to Mariano, and I think we’re seeing a similar situation this year with Betances and Robertson (although DRob is no schlub).

Betances’ hot start has raised some questions about his role moving forward. During last night’s #YankeesChat the question was posed: What should Betances’ role be going forward? Should Girardi use him as the dedicated 8th inning guy or continue to use him for 4+ outs? The responses were pretty mixed:

 


A common theme in the discussion was that Betances is clearly a weapon, and should be used to get important outs in ballgames. If his last three appearances are any indication for the future, Joe will continue to use him to get critical outs in-between the starting pitcher leaving the game and DRob closing it out, which is the perfect role for Betances right now.

I still expect this team to score more runs as the summer heats up and their rotation should improve as they get healthier (hopefully). So if the bullpen can keep it up, good things are in store for the Yankees this year.

 

Follow me on Twitter @Yankees_talk

 

Andrew is a fellow diehard Yankees fan who lives in—wait for it—Boston. Growing up in New England Andrew has had to deal with loud and obnoxious Red Sox fans his entire life; but thanks in part to his father, he knew where to devote his loyalty at a young age. Andrew graduated from The University of Vermont in 2010 and has been living in Boston ever since. In his spare time he enjoys playing golf, skiing, writing, calling local sports radio to piss off Boston fans, and of course, the Yankees. Follow Andrew on Twitter (@Yankees_talk) where you discuss the latest play during each game.
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  • Ziggy Barone

    Hopefully the Yanks get more innings out of our starters as they build-up (Phelps; Nuvo & Whitely). The Yanks don’t need bullpen burn-out. Finally, Thorton has been shakey…do the Yanks have a better option on the farm?

    • Andrew

      They have always struggled to find a good lefty out of the pen. I think if there was a better option, he would be up by now. Nuno being forced into the rotation doesnt help either…although he’s more of a long guy

  • Gollywobbles

    Yes, the starters have flopped one way or another. Hopefully they can scfdore a few runs for Tanaka. Aceves had a good outing when he came to NY, but seems he gives up run s almost every time since!

    They could have baseball’s best starters & relievers of all time — their powderpuff hitting is THE major problem. 6-1 loss to the Cubs ( !!! ), then that near disasterous overtime win (no EBH again), then yesterday’s barrage — 3 hits, and no EBH. They can hit all week and not scuff up a ball! The hitting coach needs to depart!

    Ellsbury at .265 ??? One really good season in 7, and now the NYY are stuck with his weak bat for 7 years! Trade him to the Dodgers! Roberts and Beltran might have been good acquisitions — in 2004 or 2005 !!! Soriano had his time late in 2013 — now he is fumbling about again. Jeter should not be No. 2 hitter. Like Roberts, his snail’s pace of accumulating HR/RBIs is terrible — perhaps 2-3 HR and 29-30 RBIs by season’s end? DH should be filled with hitter(s) who can ring up 25-30 HR and 100 RBI — it is not a convalescent home. Players can “rest” in the dugout!

    Barely over .500 W-L is not acceptable, or should not be for the NYY.

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