If the New York Yankees are going to compete in the postseason, their dominant bullpen will be a big reason why.
The New York Yankees had one of the worst bullpens in the month of June. Over almost a month of play from June 13 to July 8, the Yankees bullpen had a record of 1-9 and a 5.08 ERA. Horrific. However, things have been different over the past couple weeks.
Even with the small struggles from their bullpen last night, the Yankees have seen their bullpen sprout this season. They have been sizzling lately.
Desperate for stability following their starting rotation, Brian Cashman and co. went out and traded for two quality arms out of the Chicago White Sox bullpen — David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. New York also added Todd Frazier for their hot corner.
Robertson spent the first seven years of his major-league career with the Yankees, starring as their set-up man and incumbent closer to Mariano Rivera. He then chose to sign a four-year, $46 million contract with the White Sox to be the team’s closer.
Though the 32-year-old right-hander didn’t post the same numbers as he did in New York, recording 84 saves and a 3.28 ERA across three seasons in Chicago, his veteran presence surely was going to be a big addition to the Yankees bullpen. The last time he pitched at Yankee Stadium was on Derek Jeter’s walk-off in his final home game.
This time around, Robertson has pitched swimmingly in 10 appearances in relief. Across 11 innings of work, he’s managed a 1.64 ERA, along with 13 strikeouts and no walks allowed. The lone two runs to score off of him have been two late-inning solo home runs from Robinson Cano, another former Yankee, and Lucas Duda, who had just been acquired from the New York Mets by the Tampa Bay Rays.
The other reliever acquired from the White Sox is another former Yankee in Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle pitched in the Yankees organization during the 2010-2013 campaigns, as he shined in the Yankees farm system.
However, there wasn’t room for him on the 40-man roster, so he was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the Rule 5 draft. He pitched for them for two seasons before being shipped to Chicago. Kahnle proceeded to get things more under control with the White Sox in 2016, notching a 2.63 ERA in 44 2/3 innings of work across 47 appearances, but he produced a mere 1.25 K/BB ratio with 25 strikeouts and 20 walks.
2017 has been a completely different story for the 28-year-old flamethrower. Before getting dealt back to New York, Kahnle pitched to a 2.50 ERA, while striking out 60 of the 141 batters he faced (42.6 percent) and only walking seven batters, in 36 innings of work over 37 relief outings. He’s only allowed two earned runs across 9 1/3 innings since joining the Yankees a few weeks ago, striking out 34.2 percent of the batters that he has faced in 11 games.
Adam Warren spent his first four seasons unable to find a set role with the Yankees, going back-and-forth between the rotation and the bullpen. His previous best season in pinstripes was in 2014, the only season over that stretch that he did not start a single game. He pitched to a 2.97 ERA in 69 games, including 76 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings.
The next season, he pitched in 43 games, but he made 17 starts, which was the most he has made in a season in his major-league career. Before the 2016 campaign, Warren was shipped to the Chicago Cubs in the Starlin Castro deal. However, Warren never could regain his form from New York in Chicago.
Warren posted a 5.91 ERA in 35 innings with the Cubs, which led the team at one point to actually send him down to the minors, where he made two starts at Triple-A. When the Cubs came knocking at the Yankees door once again for Aroldis Chapman en route to winning the World Series, the Yankees asked for a couple top prospects and Warren. If anyone could help Warren snap out of his funk, it was Larry Rothschild.
He returned to his previous form after being re-acquired, finishing the season with a 3.26 ERA in 30 1/3 innings back in New York. After finishing off the 2016 campaign strong, Warren was just getting started.
The 29-year-old righty started off this season only allowing one earned run over his first 19 innings of work, accumulating a 0.47 ERA and a 19/7 K/BB ratio. Warren went through a dry spell over his next five outings, totaling seven earned runs allowed over a mere 5 1/3 innings, which saw his ERA skyrocket to 2.96.
Since that dry spell, Warren has returned back to his dominant self that he showcased to begin this season. In 21 games since May 27, he has posted a 0.81 ERA, allowing just two earned runs in 23 1/3 innings, while striking out 22 batters to just five walks. On the year, he has recorded a 1.93 ERA in 47 2/3 innings pitched.
The next name has quite possibly been the biggest surprise out of the bullpen. Chad Green started out his career in the Detroit Tigers organization, spending three seasons moving up their ranks from Rookie ball to Double-A. Before the 2016 season, the Yankees shipped left-handed reliever Justin Wilson to Detroit in exchange for Chad Green, along with Luis Cessa.
Green dominated the opposition to start of his Triple-A campaign in 2016, posting a sparkling 1.52 ERA in 16 starts, along with 100 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings pitched. Those numbers forced the Yankees hand and the team promoted him to the big leagues.
Green didn’t fare too well, though. In 45 2/3 innings between the rotation and the bullpen for the Yankees, he recorded a 4.73 ERA across 12 appearances (eight starts), along with 12 home runs allowed.
Severino won the No. 4 spot and has acted like the team’s No. 1 this season. Yes, he’s the team’s ace, but that’s another story. Montgomery won the No. 5 spot and that meant that Green would head to the minors, even making a start at High-A Tampa.
Green didn’t prove anything in his lone time in the minors this season, sporting a 4.40 ERA across six appearances (five starts), along with 38 strikeouts and 11 walks allowed in 30 2/3 innings pitched.
However, the Yankees bullpen fell shorthanded early in May and the Yankees called him back up to the big leagues to work as a reliever. He was absolutely dominant in his first four outings out of the bullpen, working 9 1/3 scoreless innings and allowing just three hits and striking out 11 batters, compared to two walks.
His next five outings, including a spot start, weren’t that enthusing. In 10 2/3 innings pitched, he allowed six runs (all earned) on seven hits, while striking out 13 batters, walking three batters and allowing two home runs. His ERA went from 0.00 to 2.70.
His next 13 outings would be pretty magnificent. Across his next 20 1/3 innings, he would only allow a mere run on six hits, while striking out an astonishing 30 batters (40.5 percent strikeout rate) and walking six batters. The only run scored on a home run. Over that stretch of time (June 18 to July 23), Green held hitters to a .091/.178/.167 slash line. He shrunk his ERA from 2.70 to 1.56 in over a month of action.
In his last three outings, he’s allowed four runs on eight hits, as he’s raised his ERA back up to 2.06. However, he struck out 16 batters in those 7 2/3 innings.
Both Betances and Chapman have had their ups and downs this season. Both had had points in the year where they couldn’t locate their pitches and couldn’t get anyone out, but both look as though they’ve returned to their thrones and are dominant once again.
Dellin Betances started off the 2017 season absolutely unhittable and midway through the month of May, the Yankees had to shift him to closer when Chapman went down with an injury. Over his first 24 appearances of the season, Chapman allowed just one earned run on nine hits while striking out 43 batters (46.7 percent strikeout rate) and walking 14 batters (15.2 percent walk rate) across 22 2/3 innings.
He looked en route to another American League All-Star team with a 0.40 ERA and six saves to start things off. Then he started to really stumble three weeks ahead of the All-Star and he really did stumble.
Betances looked completely lost on the mound from June 22 to July 8, as well as the All-Star Game itself. In seven games not including the summer showdown, he worked 4 2/3 innings that saw him allow a horrific nine runs (all earned) on five hits, while he struck out eight batters and walked an alarming 12 batters (38.7 percent walk rate).
He pitching a shutout eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers right before the All-Star break, which lowered his ERA to 14.29 over that span. However, he faltered once again in the All-Star Game. In the epic 10-inning thriller, Betances pitched the third inning that saw him allow one hit, two walks and two wild pitches, but he struck out two batters and didn’t allow a run that inning, narrowly escaping.
He has looked like the Betances of old since then. In 13 appearances since the All-Star break, he has allowed just one earned run (0.71 ERA) on seven hits, while picking up 22 strikeouts (38.6 percent strikeout rate) and only walking six batters. This performance over 13 2/3 innings of work has lowered his ERA from 3.18 to 2.36. He even threw an immaculate inning last Wednesday against Detroit, striking out three batters on just nine pitches.
Chapman signed a record deal for a closer this offseason, as the Yankees signed him to a five-year, $86 million contract. For a good portion of this season, people can make the case that the left-handed flamethrower has not been worth it.
Chapman started off the season with lights-out stuff. In his first seven appearances, he allowed no runs on three hits, while striking out six batters and walking two batters across 6 1/3 innings, including four saves.
Then a mirky April 26 night in Boston occurred. It didn’t look to be anything to be concerned about at the time, but that’s the night Chapman hurt his shoulder. In one inning of work filled with 33 pitches, he allowed one earned run on one hit while striking out two batters and walking two batters. He still picked up the save.
Over the next four outings (four innings), he looked just fine, allowing no runs on two hits, while striking out seven batters and walking none. He entered a 4-1 game in the bottom of the ninth on May 7 against his former team, the Cubs, and looked awful against them. He only got two outs that inning, as he allowed three runs (all earned) on three hits while striking out two batters, walking two batters and hitting Anthony Rizzo with the bases loaded to tie the game. He exited after just two outs, the bases still loaded and the game tied, as well as his first blown save, which had boosted his 0.79 ERA to 3.00.
After another alarming appearance on May 12 against the Houston Astros, Chapman finally spoke up about his injury and he would miss the next month of play while on the 10-day disabled list. Chapman wasn’t officially “cured” of his mound problems when he returned, though.
In the 10 games following his activation from the bullpen, he posted a 4.50 ERA with 13 strikeouts in eight innings, while pitching up just one save and two blown saves. The second blown save was undoubtedly his worst outing in pinstripes. On July 14, he entered Boston once again with a lead, this time with a 4-3 lead, as he failed to pick up an out en route to a blown save and a walk-off loss. He allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits, while he walked two batters and struck out none.
Over his last 10 outings, he has gotten back into the swing of things, proving doubters wrong and showing that he’s worth the money the Yankees gave him prior to the season. In 10 2/3 innings pitched since July 15, he has allowed just one run (0.84 ERA) on five hits, while striking out 11 batters and walking three batters. He’s gone 2-0 with six saves over that span and dropped his ERA from 3.92 to 2.87.
As mentioned before, the Yankees bullpen has fared quite well this season and especially as of late. They currently haven’t allowed a run over their past 11 1/3 innings, as they’ve allowed seven hits, one walk and struck out six batters.
The team has three guys that have all been closers in the past and could close out games for the team this season. They can mix-and-match with guys, even having guys like Betances and Robertson pitch the sixth inning of games, if needed.
The Yankees also have sported the best bullpen ERA in the majors since the All-Star break, as they’ve allowed 21 runs (20 earned runs) on 66 hits, while striking out 120 batters and walking 28 batters, in 96 2/3 innings pitched, which totals to a 1.86 ERA. They also have had six relievers post an ERA of 2.15 or lower over their last 10 appearances — Betances (0.84), Chapman (0.84, Robertson (1.64), Warren (1.64), Kahnle (2.08) and Green (2.12).
The Yankees have had their relievers striking out batters at a historical rate, as they and the Astros currently hold the top-2 (Yankees coming in second) K/9 rates for a bullpen over a season in major-league history. They’ve also had five relievers post strikeout rates above 30 percent this season with the team — Betances (41 percent in 42 IP), Green (39.3 percent in 48 IP), Kahnle (34.2 percent in 9.1 IP), Chapman (33.3 percent in 31.1 IP) and Robertson (32.5 percent in 10 IP).
The Yankees also won the honor of “Bullpen of the Week” for last week.