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Yankees 2014 Roster Report Card: Shawn Kelley

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Shawn Kelley was penciled in as the number one setup man for the Yankees before the season started, but things didn't exactly go as planned.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: C-

2014 Statistics: 51.2 IP, 4.53 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 11.7 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, -0.2 bWAR, 0.9 fWAR

2015 Contract Status: Arbitration Eligible

When Mariano Rivera, our Lord and savior, retired after the 2013 season, it meant that David Robertson would be installed as the new Yankee closer with Shawn Kelley as his primary setup man. In his first season in pinstripes, Kelley established himself as a strikeout artist with enough control to make himself an asset in the bullpen. After a stellar spring there was no reason to believe that was a fluke, so when camp broke the eighth inning was all his. At least that's how it seemed.

Everything went as planned until Robertson found himself on the disabled list just a week into the season, forcing Kelley into the closer role. He handled the ninth inning just fine for a couple weeks and cruised along until a disastrous outing on May 5th against the Angels. In that game he walked the bases loaded before issuing another free pass to the walk-averse Howie Kendrick, which scored the go-ahead run for the Angels. To make matters worse, Kelley was ejected for arguing the ball four call and the next two Yankee pitchers also issued run-scoring walks in what turned out to be an ugly loss. The following night he had another bad outing as he allowed a run-scoring single in the eighth, blowing a one run lead for the Yankees. Luckily, they would go on to win anyway, but two things were about to happen that would derail Kelley's season for good.

First, just a week after his consecutive poor outings, Kelley was placed on the shelf due to a back injury and remained there for about a month. Second, while he was out two young guns in the form of Adam Warren and Dellin Betances proved capable of handling the bridge between the Yankee starters and D-Rob. When Kelley did return to the bullpen he didn't do himself any favors as he surrendered late inning runs in two of his first four outings back. At that point he was firmly cemented as Joe Girardi's third option in the setup role. For the remainder of the season, Kelley nailed down his fair share of opportunities to hold a lead, but was nothing special. He stumbled down the stretch to finish with an unsightly 4.53 ERA and a blown opportunity to rise in the Yankee bullpen ranks.

While his season could be considered a disappointment, there is a silver lining for Shawn Kelley. Over the course of the season he maintained his high strikeout rate and improved upon his walk and home run rates from the year before. That resulted in a 3.02 FIP, meaning that he actually pitched much better than his inflated ERA suggests he did. If he can stay healthy, his ERA should regress downward next year when another golden opportunity might present itself. There's no guarantee that the Yankees will bring David Robertson back, and if they don't Dellin Betances should become the Yankee closer for 2015. In that scenario, Kelley would likely have to compete with only Adam Warren to become the primary setup man once again. With a little bit of luck he could come out on top this time.