Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Yankees go to the well one too many times

It’s been coming. One just had to look at the big picture where it concerned the New York Yankees’ bullpen. The Yankees have been playing (and winning) a lot of close games, requiring a good deal of effort from the bullpen. Finally, the relief crew couldn’t get it done and Dellin Betances was handed his first blown save of the season despite not allowing an earned run in Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Chase Whitley (right) deserved better.
Photo credit: Keith Allison
It is unfortunate because Yankees' starter Chase Whitley hung tight with Jays’ knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey, leaving the game with a 1-0 lead after seven innings of work. Whitley was at 90 pitches on the night and didn’t seem to be tiring. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi felt that was Whitley’s limit.

“Yeah, he’s started before,” Girardi said according to Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees Blog. “But he’s not a guy that’s used to going 95, 100 pitches. That’s not who he is. I just thought it was time for a change.”

My question to Girardi is when will he allow Whitley to go to 95, 100+ pitches? He has to do it sometime. Getting through seven innings with 90 pitches is very economical and it is not going to fall out that way all the time. When it happens, Girardi needs to be ready to take advantage of it.

Girardi stated he did not want to let Toronto get a fourth look at Whitley, but his starter had done just fine handling the Blue Jays’ top two men in the lineup (1-for-6). Allowing Whitley to try to navigate the first two outs of the eighth (Girardi suggested to reporters that’s all he wanted before handing the game to Betances) is really no different from bringing in Chris Martin who is being overused and is not a lockdown reliever.

To that point, where is David Carpenter? This is the guy the Yankees traded for in the offseason who has late-inning experience. He’s been performing admirably (2.79 ERA, .161 BAA). But, Girardi has fallen in love with Martin, who has a good back story, but reality is he was a scrap-heap selection.

Further, if Girardi is so concerned about the relievers’ workload, he needs to get more length out of the rotation when they are offering it. Whitley was doing that Monday night. There is nothing in the rule book that says if the team has a one-run lead in the seventh or eighth inning the manager has to use the bullpen. I understand the bullpen has been fantastic, but Girardi needs to start trusting the starters a bit more when they are reaching their limits.

If he doesn’t allow his starters to go to their limit when the team is winning a game, they’ll never have the opportunity, and that perpetuates the excuse that the pitcher "hasn't done it before." Starters are no longer overworked in today’s game so occasionally asking them to break the 100-pitch mark shouldn't wear them down.

But a bullpen can certainly get run down with overuse in a short time period. The Yankees are on the brink of that now, and Monday night’s loss showed they will not be able to save every ballgame.

No one should imagine every lead in the late innings will be secured by the relief crew, but we can expect Girardi to expand the game with his rotation thus relieving some of the burden from his bullpen. He has to do it when the opportunity presents itself or else the relievers will be cooked by summer.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for He is also 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 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.