Dellin Betances is a big part of the New York Yankees bullpen and his usage now will play a huge role in his performance later this season.
It happens, ladies and gentlemen. Even the best pitchers go through rough patches and Betances is no exception. The Yankees used him far too much in the regular season, burning him out come crunch time.
Now, the Yankees have been a little more careful in their usage of Betances and hoping for the best. If last year was any indication, with fewer appearances and innings on his arm, the better he’ll look come September and October.
This season, Betances has made 18 appearances, totaling 15.2 innings pitched. At this point last season, he made 20 appearances for a total of 19.1 innings pitched. In more comparisons, Betances has thrown 266 pitches in 2017, where at the same point last year, he was up to 336 pitches.
The Yankees were relying on him last season enough that he was laboring through innings that he is cruising through now. He has allowed eight hits this season while allowing 14 through 44 games last season.
He’s definitely pitching fewer innings but he’s also being more effective with his time on the mound. Maybe that comes with maturity or maybe his pitches have become more dominant.
In the past, the Yankees have had to rely on Betances in every situation. Struggling in the seventh inning? Bring in Betances to labor through four or five outs until Mariano Rivera or Andrew Miller can enter in the ninth. Does a reliever let a runner on base? Bring in Betances early to get out of it.
For the past few seasons, Betances was called upon earlier and earlier because they Yankees didn’t have those dominant middle relievers. There was essentially a black hole between the starting pitching and the back end of the bullpen.
But this year, Joe Girardi can afford to rest Betances a little more. He has the luxury of having a glutton of reliable middle relief pitchers, such as Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren and Jonathan Holder. Starting pitching struggling? Call on these guys and use Betances when things start getting dicey.
Betances started off last season strong but ended on a horrific note. Thrust into the closer role after the trades of Chapman and Miller, Betances struggled. He had the stuff to get the job done but he was just beyond tired.
He logged a total of 73 innings of work last season. While some relievers pitched more, the flame-throwing right-hander also worked counts, striking out 126 batters. He was dominant in the beginning of the season and ended up crumbling when the Yankees started making their late-season run.
Betances allowed 10 earned runs in the month of September, the highest total of his young career. He simply did not look like himself, overthrowing his pitches and blowing leads and saves across the board.
It got to the point where fans were cringing each time Betances threw a crucial pitch in the ninth inning. He couldn’t close out games primarily because of his exhaustion.
After Hanley Ramirez’s walk-off home run in Boston last season, our suspicions were confirmed: Betances was not the same pitcher we knew and loved. By the time September rolled around, his arm was ready to fall off.
It seems that Girardi may be finally taking more of an interest in keeping his bullpen healthy. Even in the past week when the bullpen was incredibly overworked, he still utilized other pitchers before officially calling on Betances for the ninth inning.
They’re not bringing him in for four or five out saves. Girardi finally has a bullpen he can trust to get the job done without pressing the panic button and turning to Betances for longer stints.
He’s doing the right thing by limiting Betances early. Last season ended poorly for him and the Yankees might actually be contenders come September. Keeping Betances fresh may seem silly now but come August, the Yankees will be expecting a lot of him.
And he’ll be able to come through for them this time.
Dellin Betances might not be seeing as many innings this season but that’s actually a positive instead of a negative. Take it easy with Betances so that the monster will be ready and willing to fight come playoff time.
*All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com