The three-headed monster of the New York Yankees has been the subject of storylines since its formation, but it may be time for a slight alteration in an effective formula.
Evident is the fact that the New York Yankees have three closer-caliber arms in their bullpen. If split apart, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman would all have jobs closing games somewhere in the MLB.
With that said, the way they are lined up is based on sheer track record.
Betances has been the best relief pitcher in the American League since May of 2014 but has never been put in a position to be the primary closer in New York.
Miller, on the other hand, did get that opportunity last year, saving 36 out of 38 games en route to AL Reliever of the Year honors. Despite being one of the premier hammers in all of baseball, he only got that privilege for a month in 2016.
Chapman has the role because of the baggage he brings with him. He is the “cuban missile”, has the infamous 106 MPH fastball to his name, and was a dominant closer for the Cincinnati Reds. However, he was by no means the best closer in baseball a year ago and was no better than Miller.
If Joe Girardi was asked why the stars – Betances-Miller-Chapman – are aligned in this fashion, a direct answer would simply not be given. While a reporter would walk away empty handed, the same answer would be present in their minds.
Chapman is the biggest name of the bunch. While he is a freak of nature, he is not the most talented. He defines today’s day and age of relief pitchers.
Fortunately for Joe Girardi and the Yankees, there has only been one true blip with their flamethrower closing games. His near catastrophe yesterday was salvaged as he picked up the save, making his only true hiccup a blown save two weeks ago in Baltimore.
However, Chapman’s 3.18 ERA is far too high for an elite closer. In addition, the two homers he surrendered in the ninth inning of yesterday’s victory were extremely alarming.
A general conception is that opposing batters can be consistently blown away by an 101-103 MPH fastball. The ninth inning in Minnesota portrayed that very notion to be incorrect.
If the Yankees do not want to be disappointed by a supposedly historic bullpen down the stretch of a potential playoff run, they had better take note of this.
The two dingers turned some heads, but Kurt Suzuki’s blast in particular caused doubt.
Five consecutive two strike fastballs were hurled Suzuki’s way. All of them had 100+ MPH buzz. Four of them were fouled off handily, and the fifth was turned around 402 feet into the second deck in left field.
The shot was hit just one mile per hour slower than the pitch that came in. It was a prime example of the baseball phrase, “the harder in, the farther out”.
Chapman has shown an inefficient sense of falling in love with the dead red. If that trend continues, opposing teams are going to become awfully comfortable with a pitch that contains absolutely no movement.
102 MPH can play significantly slower when put on a tee.
With the negative attributes that Chapman can put on display late in games, let us not forget the clear contrast in numbers with the Yankees’ next best option.
Prior to the ultimate return of the Cuban Missile from his domestic violence oriented suspension, Andrew Miller had not allowed a single run on the season nor had he blown a save.
Even as the season has progressed and taken shape, Miller has remained nearly invincible. He has pitched to an exceptional 1.21 ERA, a sensational 0.67 WHIP, and has struck out an unbelievable 55 batters in 29 2/3 innings pitched.
Opponents hit a mere .163 off the lefty slinger and, get this, he has only handed out three free passes in 29 appearances this season.
Conversely, Chapman has walked three in 11 fewer appearances and his strikeouts come at a disappointing rate given the amount of pitches he wastes.
Miller is efficient, cool, calm, and composed in blowing away the opposition. He also possesses a far better sweeping slider than the Yankees’ current closer. Simply put, the man is a machine.
From the start, snubbing him of closing duties was the wrong move. The Florida native handled it like a professional and still gets the outs he is asked to get.
Chapman and his ego may take a hit from a demotion to eighth inning duties, but he has been out-pitched. It does not take a brilliant baseball mind to observe that.
If the Yankees do not plan to trade their troubled closer, they can utilize him any way they want until his contract expires at season’s end. His value means very little to the front office unless they want to ship him.
Joe Girardi and management simply needs to pick an alignment that they feel will win them the most games when it is all said and done.
Currently, that means the guy who is getting it done time and time again with ease.
The next time you are at Yankee Stadium, listen in if the Yankees are leading heading into the ninth inning. If Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” is blaring throughout the venue, you will know that the correct decision was made.