2014 Statistics: 90 IP, 1.40 ERA, 1.64 FIP, 13.50 K/9, 2.40 BB/9, 3.2 WAR
2015 Contract Status: Pre-Arbitration
Boy, were we ever wrong about Dellin Betances. The six-foot-eight reliever came into camp this season just looking to make the team. It wasn't even guaranteed that he'd get a chance in the majors this season, and after seeing his value fade as far as it did, this seemed like his last chance to make it. He showed some promise in spring training and the team decided to take a chance on his arm, and thankfully, everything worked out perfectly.
Betances got his chance and rose well above the occasion. Not only was he the team's best reliever, but he was possibly the top relief pitcher in baseball, ranking first in WAR, first in Win Probability Added, and ranking within the top 10 in ERA, FIP, and innings pitched as well. There really wasn't a time where he struggled for very long and no one expected that, not even a program designed to project player statistics. Dan Szymborski, creator of the ZiPS projection system, ranked Betances as one of the biggest misses of the season. ZiPS projected a 6.24 ERA for the right-hander, and it couldn't have been more wrong.
Given how quickly Betances demonstrated his improvement, I was already telling people to ignore the projection by May, which is not something I typically do.
Szymborski went on to say that his initial projection might be the single worst projection over the 11-year history of ZiPS. The system uses minor league statistics and injury history to develop an accurate idea of how a player might perform over a season. ZiPS has proven to be very accurate over the years and only the astonishing have been seen to miss greatly. This should indicate just how off the radar Betances really was and how far he's come in the span of a year.
What the system did not anticipate was Betances' ability to both stay healthy and keep his control issues in check. The pitcher has credited his exercise program as the reason he was able to avoid injury this year and his control issues seem to have been solved by the everyday repetition that comes as a relief pitcher. By throwing more than once a week, like he did as a starter, he was able to repeat his mechanics and become more consistent on the mound.
Dellin established himself early on, striking out 51 batters in 30.2 innings over the first two months of the season. He was such an effective force as the fireman of the bullpen, coming into the fifth, sixth, or seventh inning to take care of trouble, that Joe Girardi eventually made him the primary setup man for David Robertson. Basically, he was so good that it actually ended up hurting his overall value because he was no longer allowed to come in when he was most needed. Regardless of where he was used, Betances was near-unstoppable for much of the season and even got his name up there with the great Mariano Rivera when he broke the former closer's single-season strikeout record for a Yankees reliever, finishing with 135 Ks in 17.2 less innings. Mo's 1996 season is often considered to be one of the greatest seasons by a relief pitcher in baseball history and to put his name next to something like that shows just how truly elite his year was.
While it's clear that Betances could make for a great closer in 2015, the Yankees would be smart to bring Robertson back and allow their best reliever to do more for the team than just collect saves. In a season filled with disappointment after disappointment, Dellin Betances was one of the few bright spots for not only the 2014 squad, but looking to the future as well. If anyone on this team deserves the highest marks, it's him.