It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of striking everyone out, it was the age of walking everyone, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Good Dellin, it was the season of Bad Dellin — in short, 2017 was a Tale of Two Dellins.
Dellin Betances came into the 2017 season with somewhat of a chip on his shoulder. For reasons unbeknownst to mankind, Randy Levine was given a platform to speak publicly after the arbitration hearing between Betances and the Yankees. Levine, in a not-at-all-shocking turn of events, used that opportunity to gloat and berate Dellin Betances.
The story was simple: after an extremely successful 2016 season, Betances was seeking a raise in salary to $5 million, while the Yankees offered him $3 million. Betances eventually lost in arbitration, primarily because he didn’t have enough saves and $5 million was deemed a “closer’s salary.” Whether Betances should have gotten the raise or not was moot and the matter should have ended right there.
So Levine spoke and publicly humiliated Betances, this coming after the Yankees used the arbitration hearing to “trash” him “for about an hour and a half.” It makes sense that Betances had a chip on his shoulder. He may not have had anything to prove after three consecutive dominant seasons with All-Star nods, but he was clearly under-appreciated.
Betances came out firing to start the year and every strikeout he racked up felt like a giant “bunt you” to Randy Levine. Betances’ ERA in March and April was a measly 1.13 and he followed that with a 0.00 ERA in May. Then came June, July, and the beginning of Betances’ troubles.
After allowing only nine walks total from March through May, Betances walked nine batters in June alone and followed that up with 13 walks in July. While he was still striking people out, the walks were killing him. His BB/9 shot up from a 3.86 in May to a 10.13 in June. The disparity right there is basically enough to understand the struggles Betances had this season.
In August, “Good Dellin” came back to play as his ERA went back down from the mid-4 range in June and July to a 1.50 in August. The difference? He stopped walking everyone. He brought his BB/9 back down to a manageable 4.50, a huge drop from July when it was 9.24. Then came September.
While September was great for the Yankees as a whole and specifically young studs like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Gary Sanchez, it reared its ugly head in the form of “Bad Dellin.” The walks were back and Betances just couldn’t get out of his own way. So much so that come playoff time, Betances had (rightfully) lost his place in Joe Girardi’s Circle of Trust.
Even in the playoffs, there was a battle between Good Dellin and Bad Dellin. During his first two appearances in ALDS Games One and Two, he was Good Dellin. Bad Dellin came out to play in ALDS Game Four and ALCS Game Three, but then Good Dellin was the final version of Betances we saw in 2017 as he pitched a scoreless inning in Game Six of the ALCS.
He had his moments when he showed why he deserved the raise he asked for and then moments when he couldn’t find the strike zone if it was 10 feet wide. Fortunately, Brian Cashman was able to work some trades and bring in bullpen help in the form of David Robertson (yay!) and Tommy Kahnle, so the Yankees were able to get by in spite of Betances’ struggles.
Thanks to that bullpen depth, some have been calling for Betances to be traded this offseason, which doesn’t make sense. Due to his struggles this year, he’s not going to fetch the type of return that would make it worthwhile and the team would be foolish to toss talent like his away for nothing, even if 2017 was the worst season of his career. He has too much potential.
When Betances is on, he’s one of the most unhittable pitchers in baseball. It’s actually amazing that his ERA is ever over 0.00 because I simply don’t know how hitters hit him. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this year.
The story in 2017 was simply that Dellin Betances “was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. - Forrest Gump” - Kunj Shah. Although, Tanya Bondurant probably said it better when she said, “Dellin is like a box of chocolates…except some of them are chocolates and some of them are arsenic.”
Prior to this season, Betances had a problem with September fatigue (looking at you, 2016 Betances), but now it’s a different issue. If he can find his command consistently, he can go back to being Good Dellin and put the story of 2017 behind him.
*Season statistics provided courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.