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The Yankees bullpen’ depth is now of utmost importance

With their high-leverage relievers either hurt or struggling, the Yankees’ next bullpen arms are imperative to their success.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees
Ron Marinaccio
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

In the last two days, the Yankees have placed both Scott Effross and Albert Abreu on the 15-day injured list. Both right-handers have been solid in their time out of the bullpen with New York this year (Effross much moreso than Abreu in August, of course), and stand as fairly significant losses for this scuffling squad. Despite the recent ups and downs, the Yankees’ pen has been above-average on the season. They are tied with the Astros for the best bullpen ERA in baseball, and have the fifth-best FIP as well.

However, we have already seen just how important depth out of the pen can be; that is now even more obvious. Most of New York’s high leverage-relievers are either struggling or hurt at the moment, so that depth, and the performance of it, is imperative to the Yankees success and hopeful turnaround. There are positive and negatives to consider with the Yankees bullpen, and the good just has to overpower the bad in order for things to work out. The bad, however, is concerning no matter how you look at it.

Aroldis Chapman, New York’s incumbent closer coming into this season, has been inconsistent and untrustworthy to say the least. The hard thrower is sporting a 4.70/4.79 ERA and FIP, is striking out less hitters than ever, and is walking more than he has in over a decade. Jonathan Loáisiga has been a similar story. On the heels of a 2021 season where he was among the most valuable relievers in baseball, the righty has an ERA over six and is headed the wrong direction as far as walks and strikeouts go.

Both Chapman and Loáisiga have missed time with injuries as well, and that brings us to the current members of New York’s walking wounded. Clay Holmes had been unbelievable for the first three months of the season in earning his first career All-Star berth, but he ran into real trouble shortly thereafter and is now on the injured list. Miguel Castro is on the 60-day IL with a shoulder strain, and both Zack Britton and Stephen Ridings have yet to appear for the Yankees in 2022 (Britton’s post-Tommy John absence was expected; Ridings’ was not). And as previously noted, both Effross and Abreu are on the IL now.

With all of these missing or struggling arms in the bullpen, the depth the Yankees have out there — which has already been of great value — stands as one of this team’s key factors going forward. It’s not only a matter of health, but also the maintained success of the Yankees’ secondary relievers.

Two of New York’s lefties, Wandy Peralta and Lucas Luetge, have been done commendable work this season. Peralta has a 2.45 ERA in 47.2 innings, and has a groundball rate over 50 percent. Luetge has done much of the same in 42.2 innings, albeit with less regularity than Peralta.

Ron Marinaccio has occasionally hopped on the Scranton Shuttle between New York and Triple-A, but that’s through no fault of his own. The rookie has simply been outstanding, particularly since returning to the majors in mid-May; he’s allowed just a single run in 26 innings since then. In 30 overall, he has a 1.80 ERA and is striking out 30.8 percent of batters. Marinaccio will likely find himself in more challenging opportunities with the list of pitchers missing from the bullpen. (Sure enough, Boone called on him last night.)

Despite a couple shaky outings, Lou Trivino has generally been good since arriving in the Bronx, and even gave the Yankees 2.1 innings to clinch Sunday’s win against the Blue Jays. It was his longest outing since April 2021, but it was needed. Recent call-ups Luke Bard and Clarke Schmidt will need to continue the success they’ve had in limited action in the majors this season (down in Tampa in Bard’s case).

Many, if not all, of the weapons that the Yankees likely counted on coming into the 2022 campaign have not been themselves recently or are currently sidelined. Their bullpen has collectively done the job despite all that, thanks in large part to the success of these secondary arms. Continuing to meet that bar is crucial as the Yankees look to come out of their extended slump. At this point, Chapman and Loáisiga feel like total wild cards (last night notwithstanding from Loáisiga). Pitchers like Marinaccio and Peralta stand to see more high-leverage spots than they have in the past, and if they can keep up what they’ve done, then there are worse situations to be in.

Holmes seems to be on track to return next week in Anaheim, and Effross should hopefully miss only a few weeks. Regardless, at the present moment, the responsibility will likely fall on a lot of the aforementioned players. If they can maintain what they’ve been able to do in their new roles, it should work in the meantime.

All cited statistics were active as of the beginning of play on Monday, August 22nd.