The bullpen used to be the strongest aspect of the New York Yankees’ game. However, so far this season, it has become their biggest weakness. Why?
Entering 2018, there were various questions surrounding the starting rotation. However, those were all the concerns facing the New York Yankees after their dominating 2017 season.
After only nine games, the concerns are mounting—but not about the rotation. In fact, in nine games, Yankees starters have yet to give up more than three runs.
Aside from a slew of injuries, it’s the bullpen that’s been most worrisome.
That’s right. The bullpen that was lauded as one of the American League’s best has turned into a shaky unit that has Yankees fans shuddering each time the sixth and seventh innings roll around.
A group that was so gifted at keeping the lead and finishing the game last season has wilted. Chad Green is getting shelled. Aroldis Chapman is joining the Dellin Betances club, firing fastballs straight to the backstop. David Robertson has given up four runs in 5.2 innings pitched this year.
The only bullpen piece that has yet to surrender a run is Chasen Shreve, although he’s only appeared in two games.
But what is ailing the bullpen? The 180-degree-turn the group has taken is shocking, but there is no specific answer as to what is happening. But we can take some clues from the first nine games.
First, it seems that the majority of the pitchers in the ‘pen are trying too hard. Maybe it’s because they are trying so desperately to replicate the success that brought them endless media attention last year.
And you can tell they are trying to hard. In the case of Chapman and Betances, they are simply yanking fastballs constantly. They are known as the pitchers who can “bring the heat” (shoutout to the Yankees On Demand commercial) and reach triple digits easily. So naturally, they want to hang on to that title. But instead of throwing their heat for strikes, they’re simply throwing it away.
For the Yankees in general, it’s becoming clearer that besides trying too hard in the bullpen, they are just not focusing on the skills that made them so great last year. Specifically, the skill of locating pitches.
Green hasn’t been able to come close to looking like the dominant force he was last year. His biggest issue right now is leaving pitches up in the zone. Same goes for David Robertson, although he slightly improved in Saturday afternoon’s stint against the Orioles.
But overall, the bullpen has been leaving their pitches up instead of painting the corners like they used to.
Perhaps this is just a hiccup, nerves with the new season just beginning. Hopefully, that is the case, seeing as how the Yankees have had so much success with this same bullpen unit in the past.
While it’s concerning, it’s way too early to panic. The season is young.
Yes, the bullpen is struggling but they will turn it around. We know the potential they have, they just need to forget the noise surrounding last season. They have to stop trying so hard and do what they have always done: just throw the ball.
Once they do, this team will be firing on all cylinders once again.