Yankees: Rating the Bullpen in the First Month
During the first month of the 2014 season, the Yankee bullpen has operated largely out of a trial and error system. It has already been left shorthanded due to both injury (David Robertson missed a couple of weeks with a groin strain) and suspension (Michael Pineda’s 10-day ban for use of pine tar forced David Phelps to slot into the rotation). Injuries to the starting rotation—first Ivan Nova and now Pineda—have caused Joe Girardi to use Phelps and Vidal Nuno, two pitchers he anticipated would be valuable commodities in the bullpen, as starters.
In terms of ERA, their 4.02 is smack dab in the middle of the pack, ranked 18th in the majors. Impressive is their strikeout total (109) in 94 innings pitched, fourth highest in the majors. Not so hot are the nine homers surrendered.
Suffice it to say, the bullpen has seen its share of turmoil already, but what’s a Yankee season lately without injury drama? Generally speaking, Girardi’s relievers have done a pretty good job so far; at times they’ve been way more reliable than the starters.
Here is the Yankee bullpen report card for the first month of the season:
David Robertson B
Robertson’s injury brought him down a grade simply because he hasn’t seen as much pitching time as we would have hoped. In just seven appearances, he’s given up only one run and four hits. He’s a perfect 4/4 in saves, although he did allow a go-ahead run on May 2 when he came in with the game tied against Tampa. The self-proclaimed “Houdini” always seems to make things interesting. He obviously needs his offense to step up and give him opportunities to pitch; since returning from the DL on April 22 he has made only four appearances.
Shawn Kelley B+
Kelley did a nice job filling in for Robertson during the closer’s DL stint. He has four saves as well in as many opportunities. The right-hander racked up 15 strikeouts in 14 games, and really had only one bad outing on April 9 against Baltimore. Since Robertson’s return, Kelley has shared seventh and eighth inning duties with Dellin Betances and Adam Warren.
Dellin Betances A-
Once the “Killer B” duo dream died, Betances seemed destined to be a career minor-leaguer. That is, until this year. Betances was impressive during spring training and earned a spot in the bullpen, and has been one of the most reliable relievers all season. The hard-throwing righty uses his enormous stature (6’8”, 260 pounds) to generate intense speed, and seems to have gotten early command issues under control; in his last five appearances, he has walked only one. Betances is slowly becoming the pitcher that enables Yankee fans to breathe a sigh of relief when he is announced coming in from the bullpen, reminiscent of—dare I say it?—Mariano Rivera.
Perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch, but he has done a superb job nonetheless.
David Phelps C
Let’s just get it out there before we delve into the nitty gritty—the Yankees are lucky to have David Phelps. He’s like that coworker in your office you can dump extra work on and you know it’ll get done. Over the past three seasons, he’s had just about every pitching role imaginable—starter, set-up man, long man, mop-up duty. That being said, he hasn’t always been the most reliable, but he is improving. His ERA has been steadily decreasing since the beginning of the season and is now hovering at just below 4. Yankee fans will see more of Phelps now that both Nova and Pineda are on the DL, and he’s been slated into the starting rotation until the latter returns.
Vidal Nuno F as a reliever, C+ as a starter
The story of Nuno truly has been a tale of two pitchers. He has made three respectable starts, posting a 4.50 ERA in 14 innings pitched. But as a relief pitcher, his ERA is a full ten points higher. Opposing batters were 9-for-20 off him in three relief appearances. If Nova hadn’t gotten hurt, Nuno probably wouldn’t have seen much more time in the big leagues, but if nothing else this experience has proven that starter is his niche. He still has a lot to prove now that he is the fifth starter until further notice, and the pressure is on him each time he goes out to get through at least five innings so as not to put too much of a strain on an already shorthanded bullpen.
Adam Warren A-
Although Warren put up an impressive fight for the fifth spot in the rotation during spring training, he wasn’t even really considered as a possibility for Nova’s replacement since he had already fallen into a groove as the go-to seventh inning man. Warren has been a steady presence out of the bullpen, posting a 1.53 ERA in 17.2 innings pitched. Lefty batters are hitting a miniscule .115 off him, not too shabby for a right-handed pitcher.
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