The Yankees’ season will be defined in their final three series. With the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and the Bombers all separated by just three games, the final stretch will be a race for the ages: three teams for two spots, unless the Seattle Mariners or the Oakland Athletics make things even more interesting.
The Yankees have suffered crucial injuries throughout the season, but it appears that they are getting healthy at the right time. One of the units receiving the most reinforcements is the bullpen, which is an excellent development since Darren O’Day and Zack Britton were lost for the season and Jonathan Loáisiga remains sidelined.
Luis Severino and Domingo Germán returned from long stays on the injured list this week, and Loáisiga could be reinserted in the bullpen next week. Those three arms combined with the already-existing resources will form a strong, revamped unit to face the three most important series of the season.
Severino and Germán aren’t built up to be in the rotation at the moment, so the organization will use each in a role in which both of them can thrive: multi-inning relievers. Sevy already fired two scoreless frames on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers, allowing only a couple of hits while striking out two hitters.
But that’s not all — the Yankees have a third multi-inning weapon in up-and-comer Michael King:
Michael King, 96mph Sinker and 84mph Slider, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/wAg9HInZPk— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 18, 2021
The right-hander has fired 33 innings as a reliever, and has a 1.64 ERA, a 10/37 BB/K ratio and has held opponents to a .176/.258/.252 line. Since his return from the IL on September 10th, King has been outstanding, striking out 10 batters while allowing just a single earned run on two hits and a walk in 9.1 innings of work.
These are the Yankees bullpen options for the final three series:
Closer: Aroldis Chapman (Left-hander)
Set-up: Chad Green
Middle reliever: Clay Holmes
Middle reliever: Albert Abreu
Middle reliever: Lucas Luetge (Left-hander)
Middle reliever: Wandy Peralta (Left-hander)
Middle reliever: Joely Rodríguez (Left-hander)
Multi-inning reliever: Luis Severino
Multi-inning reliever: Michael King
Multi-inning reliever: Domingo Germán
Long reliever/mop-up duty: Andrew Heaney (Left-hander)
That’s not bad at all. Aside from the beleaguered Heaney, all the left-handers are actually good, reliable options at the moment. Peralta has a 1.35 ERA in his last seven games despite a bit of a control problem, Rodríguez boasts a 2.30 ERA with the Yankees in 15.2 innings since coming over from Texas, and Luetge has already thrown 69 frames this season and has an excellent ERA of 2.74.
Chapman seems to have finally turned a corner on his midseason struggles as well. Here’s how he’s fared since July 6th: a 1.90 ERA in 23.2 frames, 13 hits allowed, 16 walks, 42 strikeouts, and 12 saves with no blown chances. Over his last seven games, his ERA is 1.42 and he has a 3/12 BB/K ratio in 6.1 innings.
Green has been overused this season, but after a rough patch around the middle of the month, manager Aaron Boone gave him five days of rest and he has responded with a couple of scoreless appearances this week. With a 3.35 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP and 90 punchouts in 78 episodes, he remains a key cog in the Yankees’ bullpen. Abreu, meanwhile, is an emergency option and while he’s had two bad blowups, they’ve been rare missteps; he’s been decent-to-good in his other 25 outings, he has been decent.
There are no words to describe how good and reliable Holmes has been for the Yankees. What a find he was! With the Bombers, he has a 2.01 ERA in 22.1 innings, with a 1/27 BB/K ratio (!) after hurling 42 mediocre frames with the Pittsburgh Pirates, in which he had a 25/44 BB/K ratio. To be brutally honest, I had to double check the plate discipline numbers with New York: they’re real.
If the Yankees can get their best reliever, Loáisiga, healthy and in form within the next week, their bullpen would be much, much better. The righty has a 2.25 ERA and 2.59 FIP in 68 innings in 2021. There are no guarantees just yet beyond the recent news of him throwing from flat ground, but the team has to be hoping for good news from one of the league’s top relievers.
With this unit, the Yankees will go to war against the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays’ potent offenses. These pitchers will need to be at the top of their games, but they are talented enough to come out on top in most matchups if Boone plays his cards right.