The Yankees have always prided themselves on having a stacked bullpen, going all-out on relief arms since acquiring Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller to pair with Dellin Betances. Since then, they’ve reacquired Chapman, traded for Tommy Kahnle, traded for and signed Zack Britton, and signed Adam Ottavino.
Has our MLB The Show simulation reflected the type of consistent success that the Yanks’ bullpen has flashed in recent years? Let’s check in on the relief arms of the first-place Yankees.
First, we’ll start with the back end of the bullpen, where Chapman already has 23 saves through the first two-plus months of the season. He did recently blow a save, and is walking more than a batter every two innings, but he’s still been solid, pitching to a 2.55 ERA over 24.2 innings, while striking out 30 batters. It’s certainly not peak Chapman, which is understandable as his fastball velocity continues to decline with age, but his 4.74 walks per nine needs to come down to avoid those heart attack inducing innings that have led to three blown saves.
Here’s an interesting trend for the Yanks in relief: the most used bullpen arm so far this season is...Jonathan Holder. It’s been a massive rebound season for Holder, who pitched to an ERA over six last year and looked like a shell of his 2018 self. Now, he’s been even better than 2018, pitching 29.1 innings and currently holding a 1.84 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. He’s walked just nine batters and struck out 28, while allowing just two home runs. It’s gotta be nice for Aaron Boone to have another solid arm to go to out of the bullpen.
It’s likely especially helpful for Boone given the fact that two of his normally trusted arms haven’t been pitching to their normal level in Chad Green and Ottavino. Green has been used a lot, throwing 29 innings so far, but his ERA sits at 4.34 despite fantastic strikeout numbers (he’s fanned 40 batters so far this season). Green has allowed 26 hits, the most by a relief pitcher on the team, and has been burned by six home runs, also the most out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, Ottavino has carried over some of his struggles that he faced down the stretch of 2019, pitching to a 4.32 ERA and a shaky 1.64 WHIP, which is inflated thanks to his 19 walks over 25 innings.
Britton has been relatively solid, pitching to a 3.47 ERA through 23.1 innings of work, though the control problems we saw at times in 2019 have carried over into our simulation, as he’s walked 20 batters so far this season. But as we know, Britton feasts off of groundballs, and double plays have helped him avoid some big innings and inflated numbers.
Let’s wrap up with the curious case of Kahnle, who has easily been the best reliever on the team, but used the least. Kahnle hasn’t been injured at all this season so far, but has only seen 13.2 innings of work despite striking out 18 and allowing just two runs. Nobody has taken Kahnle deep yet this season, and his 0.88 WHIP is the best out of any reliever on the team. It might be time to give Green a quick breather and get Kahnle more work if the Yankees want to extend their 1.5-game lead atop the division.
It should also be noted that while the Yankees are normally known for their bullpen, it’s been the rotation leading the way in this simulation. The team leads the league in ERA thanks to Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton, who all have ERA figures of 3.05 or below.