The New York Yankees started the season with the best bullpen in baseball. When they gave up expecting to make the playoffs at the trading deadline, they gave up much of what gave them that quality. They stripped the bullpen bare and further weakened a starting rotation which hadn’t look good when the season started. Surprisingly, despite all of this, they didn’t do too badly over the last weeks of the season. On the other hand, they didn’t do too good.
|New York Yankees – Pitching – Month – September & October|
The Yankees used 7 starters in September and the first two days of October – two of whom finished the season carrying injuries and unavailable. C.C. Sabathia had the best ERA of this period and Luis Cessa had the best WHIP. Both of these leaders were a little surprising. Sabathia’s season has been very up-and-down. His ERA in August had been well above 5. His 2.27 was, to say the least, much improved. He faces surgery, as the season ends, to clean out his knee. It is anyone’s guess what Sabathia will produce in 2017.
Cessa’s 1.13 WHIP belied the fact that he went 0-4 on these last games. Prior to that he had been allowing more opponents to get on base but he had won four and lost none.
The least effective starter was also the most effective reliever and is therefore the Yankees’ biggest conundrum for 2017. Luis Severino is simply awful as a starter and not far from untouchable as a reliever – but the Yankees still want to make a starter of him. Now that is bizarre and my bet is that it will be a fruitless pursuit.
There was not much to choose between Michael Pineda and Bryan Mitchell‘s statistics but their circumstances could not be much more different. Pineda has been in the starting rotation all season and his struggles go on and on. He looks confident in getting the first two outs in any innings you might want to choose. But he struggles unbearably to get the crucial third out. It seems like a mental block. Mitchell, on the other hand, injured himself after winning a spot on the opening day roster and hadn’t made an appearance prior to this handle full of games. He has none of Pineda’s over-bearing strengths but none of his psychological struggles. He is steady but not overpowering. Will the Yankees persist with Pineda? Will Mitchell up his game in Spring Training once more? Only time will tell.
The two injuries fell upon Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees ace and Chad Green, who was looking a good new face to have around. Both were showing signs that not all was well before the Yankees shut them down for the season. Green had a miserable outing in his final game in the 8-0 defeat versus the Orioles. He was diagnosed with a sprained right ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon. No announcement has been made of how the Yankees will proceed with him but the first step seems an extended rest. Tanaka needs rest too. The Yankees were convinced that he had overcome past health difficulties well and had allowed to exceed previous numbers of season total innings pitched. They then found themselves having to bench him anyway.
The best part of the Yankees’ season seldom comes after the rosters are expanded. Joe Girardi has a tendency to lose sight of who his best options are and this is particularly seen as he deals with an over-staffed bullpen.
This was the case again in 2016, not least because some of his best options had gone elsewhere. I still don’t understand why they let Andrew Miller go.
The departures left Dellin Betances, who had done well in the 8th innings last season and the 7th innings this season, suddenly moved to the closer’s role — and it didn’t work. Whether he was uncomfortable in that role or over-tired from exertions earlier in the season remains to be seen but his 9.64 ERA during this period shows that all was not well.
Former and current Yankee, Tyler Clippard has been an effective closer in the past – during his stints with Oakland and Washington – and if the Yankees want an in-house solution to the closer question, he might be the one. Otherwise it is further attempts with Betances or trying to bring someone in to fill a hole that wasn’t there for most of the last few seasons. David Robertson, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller – all seemed more than up to the job, all are gone.
Clippard had a reasonably good last few weeks so did Richard Bleier, Adam Warren and the aforementioned Luis Severino (when used in relief). Bleier was surprising. Previous problems with his form had seen his role uncertain. But his last 7.2 innings saw him almost unhittable. It is always good to have a left hander like that in the ‘pen and he is now well ahead of James Pazos in the mix. Warren has the possibility of a World Series ring should the Cubs win it all but, looking to the future, he will be hoping that he has done enough for the Yankees to show more long-term confidence in him this time around.
Another left-hander is Chasen Shreve but he is a model of inconsistency and I believe that it is time for the Yankees to give up on this supposed work in progress.
Finally amongst the lefties is Tommy Layne who has played well since he was signed after his release from the Red Sox. He lost his way a little towards the end of the season but overall he has done okay.
Anthony Swarzak wasn’t used much in these final weeks but did well when he was. He was the senior citizen amongst the righties but younger guys like Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder were given opportunities as well. There was little in their performances to guarantee them a slot on next year’s roster but rest assured the Yankees will be looking hard at them – especially at young Holder.
Blake Parker and Nick Goody were two who did little to recommend themselves for the future.
So the Yankees keep building a strong bullpen and then decimating it. This year they didn’t wait until the off-season to do that but achieved it by trade deadline day. Where next? Who knows.