Yankees middle relief, where art thou?

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(Photo: Creative Commons License)

In last night’s monster offensive showing against the Indians there was a nugget of worrisome with the New York Yankees bullpen. While the back end containing Mariano Rivera and David Robertson seems in line with how the rest of their year should pan out, it’s the middle relief showing signs of inconsistency. Luckily it’s only the second week of the season, but it doesn’t bode well if this is a problem going forward.

Main Culprit

Shawn Kelley so far this season is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He’s either striking hitters out (15.19 K/9 or 34.6% K%) or giving up runs (6 runs in 5.1 innings pitched). He was acquired from the Mariners via trade during the offseason and was kept on the club in lieu of David Aardsma because he could throw multiple innings. In Kelley’s last two appearances he’s gone at least 1.1 innings and both times he’s given up three runs, but he’s also collected seven strikeouts during that stretch. However, in 3.1 innings pitched, he’s given up a total of six runs, two walks, and three home runs (!). That’s the definition of not getting it done.

The Accomplices


Photo: Creative Commons License

Boone Logan came into this year with question marks. He has served the Yankees very well in his tenure in pinstripes, but there comes a sense that he’ll take a step back after pitching in 80 games last year (55.1 innings), which is about 15 more innings than he pitched the previous two years. He was a valuable piece to the Yankees last year and graduated from the LOOGY role to begin pitching (and having some success) against righties. However, in a whopping 2.2 innings pitched, Logan has been anything but effective. He has faced 14 batters (nine lefties) and has recorded a 3.38 ERA, which might seem nice on the surface, but it’s his 4.89 xFIP that jumps out. He just doesn’t look like himself yet, but again there’s still plenty of time to turn it around. The only problem is, he’s the team’s only lefty in the ‘pen, so he has that added pressure.

Finally, in a contract year in which he said that he wanted to become a starter again (that won’t be with the Yankees), Joba Chamberlain isn’t helping his cause much. His 13.50 ERA (7.34 xFIP) is simply atrocious in his 2.2 innings of work. He’s given up four runs during his three appearances. It’s not only the runs being scored with him on the mound, it’s his propensity to get himself into trouble with walks. In each appearance, he has given up two walks. It’s no secret, you’re playing with fire if you’re giving teams free passes on the bases and it’s coming back to bite him right now. Not only that but looking at his batted ball profile, in three of the seven balls hit in play against him were line drives. As we should know, line drives are a pitcher’s worst enemy as they present batters with the best chance for getting a hit.

Again, I can’t stress this enough, it’s early and they will most likely right the ship, but as it stands right now, they all stink. None of these statistics I’ve thrown at you should draw conclusions on how the rest of their respective seasons should play out. However, it’s the fact that the bullpen was supposed to be a strength of the Yankees, and their stumbling out of the gate is a tad worrisome. There’s plenty of time for a turnaround, besides all great bullpens have a little stretch of ineffectiveness, maybe this is the Yankees’.

Stats courtesy of FanGraphs

Follow Jimmy Kraft on Twitter @jkra0512

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About Jimmy Kraft
  • Princess_Fiona

    Every time I see Joba go the mound I shake my head. George would not have kept him and I hope that Cashmman and company remembers that. Like Burkett maybe he will do well pitching for someone else.

    • Jimmy Kraft

      I think Joba has plenty of value left. He wasn’t that bad of a starter, and they’ve given some pitchers much more time to develop than they gave him (Ivan Nova comes to mind). I don’t think Joba will be in a Yankees uniform next year, but that only because the club might have younger and less expensive options (Mark Montgomery) who graduate to the show.

      I’m assuming you mean AJ Burnett in your last sentence, but much of AJs troubles come from where he was pitching. He was in the AL East, in hitter friendly ballparks. Now he’s in Pittsburgh, pitching to lineups that feature a pitcher and in ballparks that are friendlier to aging pitchers.

      As always, thank you for reading!

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