Heading into the season, the Yankees’ best weapon wasn’t their offense. It wasn’t their ace starter. It was their bullpen. Even after Sunday night’s gut-wrenching blown save, it’s still this team’s best weapon.
With the addition of Zach Britton at the trade deadline, it became even better. The Yankees essentially have three closers dominating at the backend of their bullpen in Britton, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman, and that’s not even considering other strong pieces like David Robertson and Chad Green.
But the Yankees haven’t been able to take advantage of their best weapon enough lately. More often than not the Yankees aren’t in a close lead late in games. Blame the starters, blame the offense, or blame both, but the Yankees aren’t getting enough use out of their best asset. Perhaps the Yankees aren’t using their best assets in the best way.
We’ve seen what happens when these guys don’t pitch for several days, especially Chapman. On Sunday, Chapman was pitching on four days rest and the results were terrible. On July 1, Chapman had five days rest and gave up a run. On July 21, he had six days rest when he gave up a hit and walked three without recording an out. Chapman doesn’t perform well on extended rest.
Both Betances and Chapman didn’t pitch between July 31 and Aug. 5. The Yankees lost all four games in between. There’s a chicken and the egg argument to be had there but would the Yankees really have given up 30 runs over that four-game stretch had they utilized their best assets more?
And the Yankees have pitched less this season than last from July 1 through Aug. 5. 2017 was eerily similar to 2018 with a large stretch of mediocre baseball in the middle of the season so the opportunities were arguably about the same.
In 2017 Betances pitched in 16 games during that period, while he’s pitched in 12 games this year. Chapman has pitched in 11 games this year during that span, but he pitched 15 games last year. Briton is obviously a small sample size but even he has pitched one less game this year compared to last since being traded. Briton has only pitched in four games as a Yankee thus far.
Now I get it. There’s a case for keeping these guys rested. You typically shouldn’t play these guys unless you have a close lead or are tied. But they’re your best asset. What’s the point of having a shiny car if you never drive it? The starting pitching has been poor at best over the last month. Utilize these arms more, whether it’s in protecting a lead earlier than their designated inning or even in close games where they’re losing.
Should the Yankees consider trying a bullpen game? Perhaps. The Yankees have faced the Rays with that strategy to agonizing results again and again. It might be worth trying in an effort to break this slump. The AL Wildcard game last year was essentially a bullpen game (though not by choice) and was perhaps the most exciting game of the season. However the Yankees decide to utilize these assets, they make sure to do just that – utilize them.
The Yankees aren’t going anywhere if they don’t take capitalize on their best advantage.