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The Yankees’ incredible pitching run benefits everyone

The Yankees are getting remarkable length and performances out of their starters, and the benefits stretch well beyond just the staff.

Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Through the last turn around the rotation, the Yankees’ starting staff has been virtually spotless, putting up some of their best performances of the year in succession, and going deep into games. Over the last five contests (prior to Sunday), the quickest any of the Bombers’ starters have been yanked was after seven full innings, and the most runs given up by any of them, has been a whopping total of one.

Sprinkle in a few perfect-game bids, and you’ve got yourself a truly spectacular run. There is, as you might suspect, great value in starters going deep into games, especially when they’re carving up opposing lineups. But on top of the obvious, there are benefits that extend to the rest of the team and its success, particularly the bullpen.

In 2022, on top of having the lowest ERA/FIP of any starting rotation in baseball, the Yankees have the second-most innings pitched per start, averaging around 5.2 frames each time one of the starters takes the bump. Since the calendar turned to May, New York is first in that department. There is inherent value in starters eating innings; the entire goal is to record 27 outs as efficiently as possible, and if it’s done reasonably effectively, the longer a pitcher can go, the better.

Not only is there this direct value of, well, good pitchers, the success of the starters feeds directly into the success of the entire pitching staff. When a pitcher can go deep into a game, and when a staff can do it regularly, it saves the bullpen from unnecessary stress. It keeps relievers’ arms fresh, and limits the number of high-stress pitches each of them throws. It also allows more opportunity for the most effective guys to be on the hill. It’s not like the Yankees don’t have good depth in the bullpen, but when there’s more opportunities to go from a starter to your Clay Holmes’s of the world, rather than going to less dependable arms, that’s a good thing.

These particular effects can be seen too. Since May 1, again, a period in which Yankee starters have recorded more innings than anyone, their bullpen has been among the best in the sport. In that stretch, Yankee relievers have the second lowest amount of innings pitched in the majors, but have been in the top three bullpens as far as fWAR goes. Pitching WAR can be weird sometimes, especially for relievers, but it gets the point across. They have been extremely effective when they eventually do come into games.

As this continues, the Yankees are also bucking the trends of recent years. Not only the trend of shorter and shorter starts around the sport, but also the reliance upon the bullpen that recent Yankee teams have had.

Part of the reason for this, of course, is that their bullpen units have been quite good in recent years. But, in a logical sense it would seem that the heavier the workload gets, the less likely they might be to succeed.

Here is the Yankees’ overall relief FIP by month in the last three full seasons:

There are stand outs here and there, as always, but the number tends to be worse at the end than it is at the beginning of a season. Generally, this idea passes the “eye test” too, you can often tell when a reliever or the entire bullpen has been overworked.

If Yankee starters can continue to go deep into games, it can take a lot of weight off their friends in the bullpen and would set them up much more favorably as the team enters the grueling summer months, and eventually, a postseason run.

This recent run of phenomenal Yankee starting pitching, if nothing else, has been a marvel to watch. And as it (likely) won’t continue quite at this pace, the apparent willingness and ability to pitch deep into games not only bodes well for their personal success, but the success of the entire team over the course of the entire season.