Despite the utter monstrosity that was “No-Runs DMC,” the 2017 New York Yankees ‘pen may contain more value thanks to their depth.
How fierce was the trio at the end of the New York Yankees‘ bullpen a year ago?
Prior to seeing Miller and Chapman being shipped over to the American League and National League pennant winners, they were on pace to make the Yankees the first team in baseball history to own three relief pitchers to rack up 100 strikeouts in a single season.
Unfortunately for the Bombers, the trio was ineffective as the group was unable to keep the Yankees over .500 or out of fourth place in the AL East divisional race.
On July 25, 2016, Chapman was sent to the Chicago Cubs for Rashad Crawford, Billy McKinney, Gleyber Torres and Adam Warren while Miller packed his bags for Cleveland almost a week later for J.P. Feyereisen, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Ben Heller.
When these two were sent away, many figured the bullpen would struggle to close games out — despite still having Betances and the addition of Warren and Tyler Clippard.
Throughout the second half of 2016, the bullpen’s ERA was actually 22 points lower than it was with “No-Runs DMC,” while the home run rate and batting average on balls in play against the Yankees’ bullpen decreased.
This unbelievable improvement without the two of the best relievers the game has to offer wasn’t because of their absenteeism but induced by the repaired middle relief unit.
The starting rotation’s average distance traveled in a game was 5.6 innings per start meaning there an average of over an inning per game dedicated to a middle reliever to attempt to bridge the game to Betances in the seventh.
Problem was that — throughout the first half — guys like Kirby Yates (5.72 ERA), Chasen Shreve (4.64 ERA), Nick Goody (4.91 ERA) Johnny Barbato (5.54 ERA) and Anthony Swarzak (5.68 ERA) led the team in middle relief appearances.
These five relievers, who’s foremost purpose was to transfer the lead from the starters into the firm grasp of the three-headed monster, combined for a 5.28 ERA while surrendering 21 home runs in 97.1 innings of work resulting in just 39 holds.
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That, not Miller or Chapman, was the basis of why they were helpless in influencing the win column in a positive direction for the Yankees.
One thing that changed after the fire sale was the acquisition of a middle relief pieces that were evidently more capable of getting the ball from the starters to the back-end of the bullpen.
These five combined for a 2.76 ERA while surrendering just 11 home runs in 117.2 innings and 41 holds of work ahead of their latest closer, Dellin Betances.
This arrangement of middle relievers was undoubtedly more efficient in nailing down the middle innings, which proved (in the win column) to truly be more marketable than the trio of Betances, Miller and Chapman were for the months they were collectively.
It’s admittedly is fun to have a lights-out closer, a setup man with a nightmare-inducing slider and a nasty seventh inning guy, but they weren’t beneficial when other relievers — along with the unreliable rotation and inconsistent offense — can’t get the job done.
Momentarily, with the rotation making no additions nor improvements, the bullpen has added Chapman back into the mix while the same squad of middle relievers will likely find their way back into that role for 2017.
This is no sleazy shot at Miller. Because if he were to be in the mix, you could probably go into next season without a rotation (insert sarcasm).
But manager Joe Girardi must shrink each and every game with the state of his current rotation. The back-end is dirty, but regressing to the previous point, it does nothing unless they get the ball to their hands with the lead.
A full year of the production we saw in the second half from Clippard, Warren, Layne, Bleier, the possible long relief from the odd mad out in the rotation battle and Betances/Chapman in the eighth and ninth will do wonders.