As surprising as it is, the New York Yankees have gotten significant improvement from their bullpen unit throughout the second half.
Remember when the New York Yankees bullpen was automatic?
You know, when Joe Girardi would only need to squeeze six innings, at most, out of his starters and then go to “No-Runs DMC” to slam the door shut.
Sure, the trade of Chapman and Miller ended up making the Yankees’ farm system one of, if not the best, in baseball but it also left New York with a decrepit unit with an elite closer.
Which, if you think about it, is like building a paper bridge and trying to get a two-ton truck across to the gold on the other side. It was ugly.
However, general manager Brian Cashman made sure he, at least, left his manager with a slim opportunity to manage ballgames with a formidable bullpen by acquiring two former Yankees, Adam Warran and Tyler Clippard.
Them two along with names like Luis Severino, Tommy Layne, Blake Parker, Chasen Shreve, Ben Heller, and more have helped brace the blow taken by the trade that sent two heads of “The Three-Headed Monster” away.
Brace the blow? What if the numbers were to prove that the unit that excludes the dynamic triad is actually superior to the one that featured them at the end of games?
First off, by no means are any of the relievers that make up the current bullpen better than the one that had Miller and Chapman, but the output doesn’t lie here.
During the first half of the season, New York’s ‘pen maintained a 3.78 earned run average across 233 total appearances while owning a 78% save percentage, a 1.26 home run per nine inning ratio, a left on base percentage of 73.9%, and an opponents batting average of .221.
None, repeat: none of those numbers are subpar, by any means. However, the next set of statistics will throw you off your chair when you embrace the fact that they came from a unit that dismissed two of the best relievers in baseball.
Since the break, the seemingly “worse” bullpen owns a 2.94 ERA across 178 total appearances including a save percentage of 79%, an HR/9 rate of 0.90, a LOB% of 81.7%, and an opponents batting average of .210.
How? Well, there are a few reasons.
Sure, Severino and Clippard’s combined 0.26 ERA and 3.51 plate appearances per strikeout have a ton to do with it, but don’t let the improvement in production deceive you into thinking the personnel is superior.
Miller’s slider makes hitters rethink their lives and Chapman’s missile of a fastball is downright horrifying. No one on the current Yankees’ roster — with the exception of Betances — can compare to how nasty that duo is.
This unit does one thing that “No-Runs DMC” could not. Let Girardi do what he’s best at: manage the bullpen in terms of matchups.
Take Friday night for just one of many examples.
In the top of the fifth and the Yankees firmly grasping on to a 7-2 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays, Girardi walked gingerly out to the mound to remove his starter, Michael Pineda who had just 77 pitches.
Despite having two outs in the inning, the Yankees’ manager decided it was best to remove him after 4.2 innings with runners on first and third.
Big Mike wouldn’t even look at him, but that didn’t matter. Girardi called for the lefty Shreve, who struck out Brad Miller to end the frame in an eventual 7-5 win.
He has also pulled Betances at times and continuously uses his bad-rep binder to manage his ‘pen flawlessly. Plus, the Yankees are 24-9 in one-run games which is nothing more than a manifestation of a well-managed bullpen.
Throw in flexibility (as no one is truly dedicated to a designated inning of relief), the surplus of arms thanks to the September call-ups, and Girardi’s incredible management, the bullpen performance — as a whole — has progressed amazingly.
As the Yankees, who are merely two games out of a postseason spot, progress in their improbable push, that started when they dealt their greatest weapons, this unit very well may continue their dominance if the intelligent managing continues.
After all, no contender is valid without a stellar bullpen.
Christian Kouroupakis covers the New York Yankees for ESNY. Interact with him and view his daily work by “liking” his facebook page and follow him on Twitter. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Don’t hesitate to shoot him an email with any questions, criticisms, or concerns.