The short 2020 MLB season has the potential to produce statistical anomalies due to the extremely small sample sizes. Spanning just over two months on the calendar, it will be a sprint for players accustom to a six-month marathon. A key piece to the Yankees’ success will be their bullpen, and its individual members who have shown they can excel for a two-month stretch.
For the most part, Yankees fans look fondly at the Aroldis Chapman trade to the Cubs in 2016. It is generally considered one of the better win-win trades in recent memory. Chapman helped the Cubs to a World Series victory by launching into one of the best stretches of his career over the last two months of the season, while the Yankees landed star shortstop Gleyber Torres in return.
From July 31st until September 28th, Chapman pitched in 24 games with a 0.78 ERA. He recorded 15 saves in 16 chances, helping the Cubs clinch their playoff berth. He did not allow a baserunner in nine of his appearances, and he struck out 39 batters in 23 innings. Opponents produced just a .357 OPS against the left-hander in this span.
As Chapman was on the move during the summer of 2016, Zack Britton was producing a legendary season where he pitched 43-straight games without giving up an earned run for the Baltimore Orioles. It is hard to pick out the best two-month stretch for Britton during that season, but he really turned it on from June 22nd through August 23rd.
During this stretch, he pitched in 25 games, recording 17 saves in 17 chances. One can debate the best outing of this period, but on July 31st against Toronto, he went two innings with two strikeouts and four groundballs in his best form.
A big part of the Yankees’ surprise success in 2017 was Chad Green’s emergence as an elite reliever. As the young Yankees proved they were for real late into the summer, Green hit the best stretch of his career from July 9th until September 7th.
During that time Green pitch 17 times covering 29.2 innings with a 1.82 ERA. He struck out an astounding 54 batters as opponents hit just .122 against him. HIs best performance was a 2.2 IP, 1 H, 7 K game against Cleveland on July 22nd. Also of note was that Green only pitched on back-to-back days only one time.
Originally drafted by the Yankees out of high school, Tommy Kahnle left the organization by way of the Rule 5 Draft before making the majors. In early 2017, as a member of the Chicago White Sox, Kahnle put together a run that was one of his best stretches and resulted in his return to the Yankees.
On April 19th, Kahnle struck out the side against the Yankees in a perfect inning. From there he was off and running through June 17th, pitching 23.2 innings with just a 1.14 ERA. Kahnle struck out 39 batters as opponents hit only .130 off him.
Early the next season, Adam Ottavino used the results of his offseason home-made pitching lab to put up some eye-popping numbers. Right out of the gate, Ottavino struck out 45 batters in his first 28.1 innings pitched. He struck out the side five time in 27 games and had a 0.95 ERA on May 27th.
Ottavino actually had a lower 0.77 ERA during an early two month stretch with the Yankees in 2019. His opponents, however, had a higher OPS and struck out less against him in this time frame.
If Yankees are looking for their best option to get on a hot streak for two months, the choice is obviously Jonathan Holder. After earning a demotion to the minors with a 20.25 ERA three outings into the season, Holder returned on fire.
From April 24th through June 24th opponents slashed just .110/.149/.159 off Holder in 24.2 innings. He did not allow an earned run, even while pitching at least two innings four times. In three of those two plus inning outing he did not allow a baserunner.
The Yankees once again should have one of the best bullpens in the league. They have a strong group of arms that can dominate the competition, especially over the course of two months. The Yankees’ best arms have done it in the past over the course of a longer season and have the potential to do it again.