Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Time for Yankees’ rotation to help bullpen

The New York Yankees are 20 games into the season and find themselves in first place in the American League East for the first time since May 2014. With a 12-8 record, the Yankees have put aside a 1-4 start and a big reason for their success is an extremely talented bullpen.

Dellin Betances
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
Yes, the Yankees have received some nice starts from their rotation, and sure they have been better on offense than some expected. But, it is the bullpen that has shined from the outset and carried the rotation. It is time for a shift in balance.

Yankees' catcher Brian McCann summed up the bullpen’s performance.

“I’ll put our guys up against anybody,” McCann said according to Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees Blog. “The stuff that’s coming out of the bullpen is incredible.”

The relief crew is led by a two-headed monster that measures up with any other one-two punch a team can provide at the end of ballgames. Andrew Miller has eight saves in as many chances and while he has not been dubbed the closer by manager Joe Girardi, he knows his role right now includes finishing games. In a few weeks Miller might be asked to nail down some outs in the eighth inning when a slew of left-handed hitters come to the plate. And that’s totally fine with Miller.

Miller’s partner Dellin Betances has flat-out dominated the last several games and said he found his curveball in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago which started his transformation back to what we saw in 2014. Betances has retired 21 straight batters without allowing a hit, striking out 12 hitters and walking just one in that span.

The setup men (Justin Wilson and David Carpenter) have done a very good job of getting big outs and bridging the gap to Betances. Middle relievers, Chris Martin and Chasen Shreve, have shown to be quite reliable in their roles. Esmil Rogers has provided quality innings when needed.

Despite the success of the relief crew (71 IP, 1.71 ERA, .167 BAA, 0.97 WHIP, 9.9 K/9), now is the time the rotation needs to step up their game and create a bit more balance between the number of innings between starters and relievers. The relievers have tossed an average of 3.73 innings per game, which is second in the majors. The Yankees cannot expect such positive results with that kind of workload for an entire season.

It begins with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Both starters have shown the ability to be economical with their pitches and Tanaka regularly pitched into and beyond the seventh inning last season. Right now Tanaka and Pineda are averaging 5.6 and 6.4 innings per start respectively. Tanaka has been better his last two starts after throwing nine total innings in his first two appearances. Pineda lasted seven and two-thirds in his last start.

CC Sabathia (6.4 IP per start), Nathan Eovaldi (5.4 IP per start) and Adam Warren (5.2 IP per start) need to do their part as well. While Tanaka and Pineda have shown the ability to last through the seventh inning, these guys are more likely to be able to provide six innings-plus which would be better than what they are producing now.

Basically, if the rotation could push another inning on average to their side of the ledger it would permit Girardi to truly utilize his relief crew to his advantage. Intermittent rest would allow for stretches when a consecutive handful of games require the best relievers to supply innings. At this time, it is almost a certainty that a few relievers will be used in each game, regardless of the score.

Each starter is fully stretched out at this point, so now it is up to the rotation members to dig deeper and provide some length or by the dog days of summer the relief crew will be dragging their arms.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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