The Runner Sports

A Dominant Bullpen For Yankees With A Glaring Statistical Worry

Since the Kansas City Royals went to back-to-back World Series on the strength of a dominant bullpen, Brian Cashman has been consistently piecing together commanding bullpens. Before this, the New York Yankees would always have strong duos in the bullpen, but normally it was a young reliever finding his spot behind the prevailing Mariano Rivera. In recent times, Cashman has focused on bolstering the bullpen to the point of making it a priority. Signings of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman (plus the trade for Chapman) demonstrate this focus on the bullpen. This season has been no different. Before the MLB trade deadline, Cashman traded for David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox. Paired with Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, and a flourishing Chad Green, it has created one of the best and perhaps deepest bullpens in the MLB.

Other than struggles from Chapman and Betances, the Yankees’ bullpen has lived up to lofty expectations. Five Yankee relievers (Betances, Chapman, Green, Kahnle, and Robertson) all rank in the top fifteen of the MLB in K/9. Robertson sits at fifteenth with a K/9 of 12.60 and Betances sits second with 15.78. Chapman has the highest ERA of the Yankee relievers with an ERA that sits at 3.71, which is a direct result of the struggles that saw him lose his closer job. With every other one of the prominent relievers in the bullpen having¬†an ERA below 3.09 (Betances’s ERA), that is a bullpen that could do damage in the postseason.

Postseason Style of Games

On Wednesday, Jaime Garcia was pulled in the middle of the fifth inning of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Though he is only 31, Garcia is a veteran who would like to see himself pitch deeper into games. Clearly, Garcia was not happy about being pulled. Part of the reason why Cashman acquired Garcia from the Minnesota Twins was to add a pitcher who can pitch deeper into games. However, Garcia is averaging less than five innings in his six starts in pinstripes. His longest outing was only 5.2 innings.

Manager Joe Girardi is known for a quick hook, especially with a dominant bullpen. Sometimes that can be a burden for the team, especially the relievers. In an earlier piece I wrote, I pointed out how this infatuation with the bullpen could lead to trouble. Girardi has been treating the regular season as the postseason. This does make sense since the Yankees are in the middle of the Wild Card race. However, it might be causing some bullpen fatigue. A fatigued bullpen can explain some worrying statistics.

Blown Saves Pile Up

For a team that has had some form of a dominant bullpen all season, the Yankees have had major problems with holding leads this season. The Yankees have blown 23 saves this season, which ranks third in the MLB. Out of the top five teams in the MLB in this category, only the Yankees are above .500. The Seattle Mariners (who lead the MLB in blown saves) are at .500.

Some of these blown saves came during the wretched stretch the Yankees went on during June. Former Yankee Tyler Clippard was at the head of the problem during the eight-game losing streak the Yankees went on earlier this season. However, Clippard cannot be the main person to blame for all of these blown saves. Out of the 23, Chapman, Betances, and Warren have 10 between them. Chapman leads that trio with 4. The acquired Tommy Kahnle has also added 2 blown saves to the plus relievers pile. Now, five were at the hands of Clippard and another four came from non-plus relievers.

A team that seems like they will be playing in the ALDS cannot have a bullpen that blows leads. Even if it is not the ninth inning, a blown save is a killer for a team. Especially one with young pitchers in the rotation.

More Than Blown Saves for the Bullpen

Blown saves can be killers. However, a blown save can happen early enough in the game where the offense can rebound. Also, blown saves do not equal losses. Normally, blown saves do lead to losses, such as the last one the Yankees had against the Baltimore Orioles. However, sometimes a blown save can lead to a snaked win by the reliever. But, there is more than the blown save statistic that is worrying for both the bullpen and the Yankees’ team.

One Run Games Have Been Killer

Most postseason bound teams perform well in close games. Sometimes, the difference between a winning record and a losing one is how well teams play in close games. One-run games in baseball can go either way. A two-run home run gives one team the lead over the other. If a team is poor in one-run games, it could turn a playoff team into one sitting on their couch during the postseason.

To call the Yankees a bad team in one-run games would be a massive understatement. This season, the Yankees have been in 41 games that were decided by one run. Out of those 41 games, they have won 16 of them. A .390 winning percentage in those games should be a backbreaker. While not all of the blame goes to the bullpen (for example, Tuesday night’s loss 2-1 against the Rays), part of it does turn to the bullpen. The Yankees’ bullpen tallies 23 losses, which means that they are either blowing leads or allowing the winning runs. For how good the bullpen is, this should be lower than what it is right now.

As the records currently indicate, it looks like the Wild Card Game winner of the AL will face the scorching hot Cleveland Indians. A team who has a great offense, bullpen, and rotation will likely be embroiled in close games against other good teams. Will the Yankees be able to step up in one-run games? The blowout record (games decided by five runs or more) of 30-12 is nice, but that will most likely be unhelpful when it comes to the postseason.

Griffin Fuller
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Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
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Griffin Fuller
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