The New York Yankees are entering their quest for a 28th World Series title with the same blueprint the defending champions used a year ago.
The Kansas City Royals fueled a championship team with a superb bullpen as their strongest attribute. Wade Davis, Ryan Madson, and Greg Holland were lights out in the back of the ‘pen and not only closed games out, but kept them in games long enough for the team to come back 41 times in the 2015 regular season.
Here in 2016, the New York Yankees‘ front office realized the most effective formula for a winning team is to shorten games, and dominate with an overwhelming bullpen.
Although general manager Brian Cashman did not sign a major league free agent for the first time since 1975, he filled a hole in second base by acquiring Starlin Castro, and created a three headed monster by bringing in Aroldis Chapman.
The hype is a little redundant, but their bullpen has the chance to be historically epic. Last season, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances were dominant in the back of the pen and when combined with Chapman, the trio managed a 1.70 ERA with 347 strikeouts in 212 2/3 innings, according to Baseball Reference.
Since the comparison is with the 2015 Royals, their trio combined for an ERA of a 1.93 with 200 strikeouts in 200 1/3 innings pitched. By the numbers, the Yankees bullpen is better than the strength of the World Champion Royals.
On paper the bullpen should have fans salivating over their chances, but that’s unfortunately concerns over the rotation’s health has shadowed the bright light of the bullpen. But how good does the rotation have to be?
According to ESPN, the Royals starting rotation on 2015 had a 4.34 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 6.49 K/9, and 5.6 innings per start. The Yankees rotation had a 4.25 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.51 K/9 innings pitched, and 5.7 innings per start.
According to the projection system of PECOTA, the rotation might actually be better than it was a season ago, even with the questions.
They project the Yankee starters to post an ERA of a 4.05 and they also expect an increase in innings pitched from 927 innings pitched last season to 946.7 innings pitched in 2016.
Yankees’ starters produced a much better stat line then the World Champions. With a better much bullpen, there’s every reason to believe the team can go deep into the postseason as long as the talented rotation could stay healthy.
The best way to improve the team was to take a play out of the two time defending AL Champs’ playbook and close the gap between the monstrous bullpen and starting rotation.
Hypothetically speaking, manager Joe Girardi starters could have a lead entering the FOURTH inning and there’d be a good chance the game would end with a Yankees win. Of course, I would expect this in a must-win playoff game, but all three (Miller, Betances, Chapman) could go more than one inning.
Chapman was suspended for 30-games for his involvement in a domestic violence incident in October, but Miller should have no issue given he was 8 for 8 in save opportunities with a 0.00 ERA in April last season (via baseball reference).
The ‘pen improved enough to be better than Kansas City’s, and their rotation is was better in 2015, and expected to only improve as the Yankees get closer to opening day.
World Championship team? Only time will tell. But there’s no denying that Cashman has done the job build a championship bullpen.