If you have followed the Yankees in the last couple of years, you know by now that they have prioritized building an uber-bullpen capable of shortening the game for rival teams and take the pressure of starting pitchers.
Pitchers like Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, David Robertson, Luis Cessa, David Hale and others have been part of one of the top units in baseball.
However, the Yankees’ relief corps haven’t been elite in 2020. Chapman missed much of the season while recovering from COVID-19, just like Cessa. Hale was recently traded, Britton and Kahnle are injured and Robertson is long, long gone.
First, the positives. Britton was very good (2.00 ERA, 2.49 FIP, nine saves) before going down with a hamstring injury. Jonathan Loaisiga (2.77 ERA, 4.46 FIP in six appearances before Friday’s outing) has been a solution so far, not a problem. But everything goes downhill after that.
Green had been lights out to start the 2020 shortened season, with a 0.71 ERA in his first ten games and 12.2 frames. However, the last week has been horrific for the righty, as he allowed the home run with which the Atlanta Braves took the victory on Wednesday; and conceded three more bombs to blow the game in epic fashion versus the Mets on Friday. His ERA ballooned all the way up to 3.68.
Simply put, there aren’t many elite performers in the Yankees’ bullpen. Ottavino is currently sporting a 4.00 ERA (3.27 FIP) with a 15.4 walk rate. Holder’s BB% is 11.6%, also elevated, even though he has a 2.89 ERA (before Friday action.)
Chapman has only pitched one inning this season, and most of the kids, namely Brooks Kriske, Nick Nelson, Mike King and Albert Abreu, have struggled.
The numbers don’t lie
If we go to the always reliable FanGraphs and look for team stats when it comes to relievers, the Yankees don’t appear in the top five in many categories.
Before Friday’s fiasco against the Mets, the Bombers’ relievers were 12th in fWAR with 1.1, far from the 2.8 that the Oakland A’s currently sport. Consider that the unit was second in fWAR last season with 7.6, only 0.1 worse than the 7.7 of the Tampa Bay Rays.
In 2020, the Yankees bullpen is 11th in ERA with 3.96 and eighth in FIP with 3.83. Again, that was before Green’s meltdown.
Perhaps the Yankees could use one of Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt as multi-inning relievers, which could be a weapon come October. The former seems best suited for the role, while the latter seems to have more of a chance to contribute as a starter this year.
Now, the Yankees would be wise to look at the trade market to improve their bullpen. There could be several arms available as some teams will look to sell in exchange of a prospect or two.
The unit can also improve as Chapman gains consistency and Britton returns from injury. But as things stand right now, it could use an outside (or inside?) improvement for the rest of the season and the playoffs.