Bullpen: The New York Yankees
Two years ago, the Yankees, despite bidding farewell to an all-time great closer in Mariano Rivera, were in capable hands, relying on the likes of David Robertson and a young Dellin Betances at the back end of the bullpen.
This past offseason, Robertson departed in free agency for the Chicago White Sox, paving way for the acquisition of reliever Andrew Miller, who starred with the Baltimore Orioles, leading them to the ALCS before they bowed out to the Kansas City Royals. Today, Betances setting up Andrew Miller is reminiscent of the Rivera/John Wetteland tandem from the Yankees’ improbable World Series run in 1996. Miller, with 23 saves and a 1.75 ERA, has allowed only 14 hits in 36 innings pitched this season, striking out 54 batters in those 36 innings, putting together a minuscule WHIP of 0.72. Betances, who spelled Miller while he recovered from a forearm tightness ailment that sidelined him for a month, accumulated 7 saves of his own, with a 1.31 ERA and 0.84 WHIP who, over 55 innings pitched, has struck out an ungodly 88 batters, good for a 14.4 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate. His ERA+ (an ERA figure that accounts for ballparks) is a blistering 299. While the Yankees have seen a resurgence from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, Betances has managed a WAR of 2.5, the best of any Yankee pitcher, starter or reliever. Bentances’ WAR rate, in fact, is ninth best in the American League. For what it is worth, Betances is the only reliever amongst those nine.
Prior to Betances and Miller, the Yankees rely on Chasen Shreve (2.13 ERA, 45 Ks in 42 1/3 IP), acquired for one-time hot prospect Manny Banuelos in January, and Justin Wilson (2.61 ERA, 37 Ks in 38 IP), both of whom have mustered an ERA below 2.61.
While general manager Brian Cashman was burned for not bringing in a starting pitcher in light of Michael Pineda’s recent trip to the disabled list (Pineda is likely out until September, although New York now finds hope in recently promoted prospect Luis Severino), the Yankees were a Jorge Mateo throw-in away at the trade deadline from landing Padres’ closer Craig Kimbrel, who has the most saves (217) of any pitcher in his first six seasons, who has also finished in the top-ten in Cy Young voting the past four years, and could very well acquire Cincinnati fireballer Aroldis Chapman, who has struck out 514 batters over 299 1/3 innings in his career, regularly hitting 100 MPH or more on the radar gun, at the waiver deadline.
Even without these potential acquisitions, the Yankees boast baseball’s best bullpen, and could even rely on a solid option in Adam Warren as a long reliever when the team’s staff is at full strength.