So far this season, the Yankees' bullpen has gone from question mark to somewhat of a strength. Even at the beginning of the year, we knew that David Robertson would fill in nicely as the closer, but it was the few innings before that that were an unknown. Since then, roles have been defined and the bullpen has taken into nice shape. Most notably, Dellin Betances and Adam Warren have shined brightly in the Yankees' 'pen so far, but they will need more if they don't want those two to run out of gas down the stretch.
Through 62 games, the Yankees' bullpen has a 4.20 ERA and 3.66 FIP, good for 24th and 17th best in all of Major League Baseball, respectively. While those numbers don't sound impressive, they are also a bit inflated from the Alfredo Aceves', Cesar Cabrals, and Chris Lerouxs, all of which are now non-factors in the current Yankees' bullpen. Instead, it is Betances and Warren, who have pitched to 1.50 and 2.38 ERA's and 0.88 and 2.75 FIP's, respectively.
The two have also pitched a lot of innings: Betances at 36 innings pitched, fourth-most in MLB; Warren at 34 innings pitched, seventh-most in MLB. Betances is on pace for 94 innings pitched, while Warren is on target for ~89 innings. As of 2013, Betances' potential 94 relief innings pitched would be the second-most in MLB, while Warren's 89 innings pitched would be third. Could these two survive high innings totals? Maybe. Both have had pasts as starters in the minor leagues, but we don't know for sure if they can both hold up through the summer. Remember, these aren't just easy innings, either; they're high-stressed innings pitched in close and late situations of ballgames.
Here's where Shawn Kelley comes in. Before his back acted up, Kelley was a solid piece in the Yankees' bullpen, pitching to a 3.52 ERA and 2.36 FIP. He had his share of hiccups, but by and large he did a good job pitching late in games, including his four-outing trial as closer when Robertson was on the DL. He has since appeared in a couple of minor league rehab games and should soon join the team on the west coast.
It remains to be seen where exactly Kelley will fit in the bullpen, but, honestly, I don't really care. Sixth inning, 7th inning, 8th inning, just as long as he's back is what matters. Jose Ramirez has since been called up and has upside, yes, but it'll probably take him a while to gain Joe Girardi's trust. Preston Claiborne has fairly decent numbers, but I'm probably not the only one who doesn't trust him in tight spots. Matt Daley should be nothing more than a mop-up man and Matt Thornton should never face a right-handed batter for the rest of this career. The Yankees need someone other than Betances and Warren to pitch in close spots before the ninth inning and hopefully Kelley will help.