With all signs pointing to a significantly shorter season for the New York Yankees and MLB, it could be both good and bad for the bullpens.
Three things in life are guaranteed: death, taxes and New York Yankees baseball.
Right now, that third option is uncertain, the possibility of an Opening Day still lingering in the air. With the season indefinitely postponed due to COVID-19, the world now has more time to file their taxes while waiting for the ceremonial first singing of the National Anthem.
A delayed season will likely lead to a shorter season of baseball and there are many aspects of the game that will suffer from this unfortunate circumstance. Untimely injuries could cause major players to miss an entire season as opposed to just a half. Batters can let a slump define the entirety of a shortened season. Teams are unable to get decent looks at their upcoming prospects before shipping them back down in favor of others. A shortened season changes the way the game of baseball is played.
One of the biggest areas that changes has to be the bullpen, in both a positive and negative light. The bullpen is considered to be one of the biggest strengths for the Yankees, even after losing Dellin Betances.
Even with a season consisting of far fewer games, that strength might not be utilized to its full potential. Some of the bullpen guys might not get the work they are used to getting and because of that, their performances could suffer.
And we’re not just talking about the regular season. If pitchers don’t get enough work in the regular season, they might not be as prepared come postseason time. Some players could also miss out on the postseason roster if their numbers are inflated due to one poor performance.
The New York Yankees are notorious for their bullpen flaming out come the playoffs due to overuse during the season. In this aspect, the Bombers could benefit if they only played half a season. But at the same time, this could be a recipe for the Yankees to overuse their bullpen anyway.
The game will be played differently. If the season were 80 games, there is no room for error. The best of the best would come out of the bullpen every game as each game is far more important to win. While others might not get the opportunity, the big guns like Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottavino might be used far too often and change the playoff landscape.
It’s easy to look at a shortened season as a benefit, where players don’t have to put as much wear and tear on their bodies before the month of October—or possibly November in 2020—rolls around. But for bullpen pitchers, they need to be tested. They need to pitch enough where they are at their full strength for the postseason but not too much.
It’s a delicate balance for managers to make sure their pitchers are getting the outings they need to prepare for October baseball while maintaining a level of comfort to be certain they aren’t overworked. The bullpen might be the trickiest part to manage with the shortened season inevitable.
And injuries? Don’t even get us started. Any injury to a bullpen pitcher will likely keep them out significant time, cutting down on their appearances and strength.
Getting baseball back is a wish that many have proposed at 11:11 and right now, that doesn’t seem likely. The season will be shorter but the love for baseball will be even greater. Now it’s just a matter of managing the bullpen to perfection that can be the difference between a parade and watching from the couch.