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Time is running out for Dellin Betances

With only a handful of games left until the playoffs, Dellin Betances needs to be better.

MLB: New York Yankees at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What a year it’s been for Dellin Betances. Maybe he didn’t have anything to prove, after all he had been one of the top relievers in baseball for the past three years. Just maybe though, he did. After all, Randy Levine just publicly trashed him over the winter for reasons that are still unknown. Betances said he was planning on putting everything behind him until Levine spoke. He was clearly hurt.

He may not have had to prove anything to anyone, but 2017 was going to be an important year for Betances. He came into the season with a chip on his shoulder. He may not have had to prove anything, but I bet he wanted to prove something. Prove the naysayers wrong and prove that he was worth what he believed he was worth. The season started and Betances came out firing.

In March and April, Betances had a 1.13 ERA with 14 strikeouts and hitters were slashing just .148/.281/.148 against him. In May, Betances got even better. A 0.00 ERA combined with 18 strikeouts and a .125/.222/.125 opposing batting line. What’s even better? He posted those May numbers and racked up five saves as the Yankees closer while Aroldis Chapman was on the disabled list.

Betances followed that up with a completely opposite June and July. He struggled mightily with his command and started walking everybody. His BB/9 jumped from 3.86 in May to 10.13 in June even though he was still striking people out. August came around and so did Betances. His BB/9 dropped from 9.24 in July to 4.50 in August. Betances’ struggles were over and he was again given an opportunity to close with Chapman struggling.

Which brings us to September. It reared its ugly head and June and July’s version of Betances came out to play. In 7.2 innings pitched, he has allowed six runs and given up six walks. At least the strikeouts are still there as he has 14. Opponents are slashing .179/.371/.444 against Betances this month. They’re not hitting a lot, but thanks to his walks they’re getting on base well enough. When they do get hits, they aren’t cheap.

The Yankees are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. If they can make it past the Wild Card game, they’re a team that no one will want to face. They’re likely not better than Cleveland’s baseball team, but they could hold their own against them and match up well against the Astros and the Red Sox. They have as good a shot as any this year. The Yankees have a powerful offense and a strong rotation, but their greatest strength remains their bullpen.

Chapman looks like he’s rounded into form; David Robertson has been David Robertson; Chad Green is probably having the best season of all the Yankee relievers; Tommy Kahnle looks to have turned things around; and Adam Warren is coming back. That just leaves Betances to get in shape so the Yankees can take down anyone.

They can ill afford a shaky Betances in the playoffs and especially a one game do-or-die situation like the Wild Card. Joe Girardi admitted as much when he said that getting Betances right is a top priority.

“This guy has been as dominant as any reliever in the last three or four years,’’ Girardi said. “So we’re trying to get him back on track and then you see (how to deploy him in postseason).’’

There’s only one problem with this though. The Yankees are running out of real estate. They only have five games left before the Wild Card showdown. That’s not a lot of time to figure it out. These games aren’t meaningless either. They have quite a hill to climb, but the Yankees are still only three games behind the Red Sox for the division. It’s not probable, but it is possible. They really need Betances to step up and they need it now.

If he can’t get it together, he’ll likely drop in the bullpen pecking order. Girardi can’t take any chances with Betances, right now or in the playoffs, especially the Wild Card game. Robertson and Green will take those spots.

Betances needs to find his form from May and August. If he does, the scary Yankees team just got scarier. When Betances is on, there are few better relievers in baseball. He just needs to find it and find it quick.

*Season statistics provided courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference