The New York Yankees sit 5-6 following Sunday’s victory over the Seattle Mariners, an even .500 since an Opening Day loss to the Houston Astros where the back of the Yankees’ bullpen was last discovered to show human tendencies. Dellin Betances struggled that day, turning a 2-2 tie into a loss and keeping fellow dominant reliever, Andrew Miller, in the bullpen once the score became a 5-2 deficit. Eventually, Betances was charged with three unearned runs and the Yankees lost 5-3 queuing concerns about suspended closer Aroldis Chapman missing April and the Yankees’ bullpen perhaps being overrated.
Fast forward two weeks and nobody could have expected this.
Yes, it’s true the Yankees aren’t lighting the world on fire. Entering Sunday’s game and before his first inning home run, Alex Rodriguez was hitting an even .100 on the year and Masahiro Tanaka hadn’t yet delivered New York it’s first seven inning start. In fact, until Sunday, the Yankees had just two quality starts as a team through its first 10 games and had already lost back to back series to the Blue Jays and Mariners.
So this isn’t an indictment of the team’s success but simply a recognition of an incredible back of the bullpen still missing its crown jewel and arguably the best reliever in the game.
Dellin Betances hasn’t just been stingy since Opening Day, he’s been virtually untouchable. Miller hasn’t just found his way out of the bullpen, he’s been incredible, proving you only need one unbroken hand to pitch. Newcomer, Johnny Barbato, hasn’t just tried to fill in for Adam Warren and Justin Wilson, he’s become a third arm of what could be a four-headed-monster. And if that’s what Brian Cashman drew up this winter when he spent a combined $0.00 on major league contracts and knew his rotation had durability issues, well, he may just be the smartest man in the room come October.
Betances and Miller combined to strike out all six batters they faced on Sunday. This would be amazing if they hadn’t struck out all six batters they retired the day before against the same Mariner’s team.
Betances’ last four outings have featured four innings of striking out the side. Miller, to his discredit, has only struck out eight of the last nine batters he’s retired. Barbato has been no slouch either, retiring half his batters on the season via the slow walk back to the dugout.
So here’s the full stats for Betances and Miller in their last six outings: 6.1 IP, 1H, 0ER, 17K. Yes, they struck out all but two of the batters they retired against the Blue Jays and Mariners.
How about the two outings before that? Add up their last eight outings and it looks like this: 8.1 IP, 2H, 0ER, 21K.
At least there was contact?
If you add Barbato into the mix the trio have combined to do this so far in 2016:
17IP, 7H, 4BB, 0ER, 36K.
That means Major league hitters are 7/58 with a .189 OBP and 36 strike outs. Or in other words, if you face the Yankees around the 6th inning and you trail, you have an 80% chance of failing to reach base and around a 66% chance of failing to make contact.
All of this and Chapman hasn’t even entered the state.
New York is going to have an inconsistent offense with age in all of the wrong places. Maybe close to half of the time, they won’t get into the sixth or seventh inning with a lead.
But love them or hate them, if the Yankees have a lead come mid May when the starter leaves the mound it should be must see television because right now the bullpen is historically good without its best player.
Whether it will be enough is something we’ll have a better indication of towards the end of the summer.