The barrage of home runs is coming to the Bronx. With the New York Yankees pulling off the trade of the century for Giancarlo Stanton, the lineup is officially Murderer’s Row 2.0 and the idea of the 2018 season has fans leaping for joy.
The media has milked this threatening lineup for all it’s worth so far this offseason, crafting stories about ridiculous expectations for the upcoming season, just by the addition of one player. Is it cool? Absolutely! However, what will play the biggest role in the Yankees’ 2018 season isn’t the amount of home runs they hit. It’s the guys who will hold the leads in the late innings.
The Yankees’ bullpen gets credit but not enough for what they’ve accomplished last year alone. While all eyes were on the rise of rookie Aaron Judge, the bullpen was steadily holding down leads in dominating fashion.
The Yankees are unique in the fact that they have all the same guys returning to their bullpen come spring training. No relievers were lost to free agency. Because they’ve played together and developed a comradery in the ‘pen, their chemistry will only improve this season.
Not all of the guys in the bullpen are throwing 105-MPH heat quite like Aroldis Chapman. But the quality of pitchers in the ‘pen, willing to enter the game at a moment’s notice, is a rarity in today’s game.
Every single role in that bullpen is filled by the perfect person. Even more important is just how versatile these pitchers are. While teams will depend on their starters to toss seven or eight scoreless innings, the Yankees have solace in knowing that regardless of how long their starter is in the game, their bullpen can handle the task of coming in early.
We’ve already mentioned Chapman, the key player in the bullpen as the closer. Chapman may have struggled through May and August this past season, but when the Yankees needed him most, he gave them their money’s worth. Chapman went through September and October with six saves and holding batters to a .077 batting average, all while not allowing a single home run.
Need a bridge to the closer? That’s where Houdini comes into play. Since being traded back to the Yankees in July of this past season, David Robertson compiled a 5-0 record out of the ‘pen to go along with his stunning 1.03 ERA.
How about a guy who can crank out three innings in middle relief without surrendering a run? That would be Chad Green, the former starter who found his groove in the bullpen. Last season alone, Green was the bona fide ace of the late innings, appearing in 40 games with a 1.83 ERA. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that he held opponents to a .147 batting average.
But the bullpen dominance doesn’t end there. As you continue to go down the line, there are even more pitchers that can not only get the job done but do it consistently well. Adam Warren comes to mind, who put together a solid year in his second stint the Yankees. Dellin Betances, the four-time All-Star, is still showing flashes of brilliance. Tommy Kahnle is a hidden gem, recording 36 strikeouts in 26.2 innings of work in pinstripes.
With a lineup this stacked, it’s so hard to pay close attention to what else is going on with the team. But I guarantee you, when the slumps start and when the offense stalls, this bullpen will be holding the team together.
They won’t just be dominant but they’ll strike fear in the hearts of opponents, which is something the bullpen hasn’t been able to do much of since Mariano Rivera retired.
We saw some awesome performances from the bullpen last season and since everyone is returning, that will continue in 2018. Forget all the home runs. The most successful part of this team will be that stellar bullpen.