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Just when the Yankees need them, the bullpen is regressing and tired

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Yeah, that's not a good combination.

Rich Schultz

It's no surprise that Yankee starters are not giving the team any length. Yankee starters have only averaged 5.9 IP/GS; their starters' innings pitched ranks 20th in MLB. They've done decently in the past month or so because of some admirable performances from Shane Greene, Brandon McCarthy, and David Phelps, but it's clear that the Yankees rely on their bullpen. They are second in MLB in reliever fWAR, so they're no slouches in making up for their starters' inadequate length. That accumulation is partially because of the sheer amount of innings they've pitched in, and partially because they're really good.

Unfortunately, though, the bullpen's gassed. That's been evidenced in particular by the bullpen meltdown against Texas in which they almost blew a massive lead, but it's becoming more evident each day that the bullpen is running on fumes. It's partial regression, and partial tiring. Or maybe they're regressing because they're tired. I don't know. Here are the FIP's of the main bullpen arms in the first half, and here they are in the past thirty days:


1st Half Last 30 Days
David Robertson 1.73 1.46
Dellin Betances 1.36 3.87
Adam Warren 2.70 4.16
Shawn Kelley 2.78 1.75
Matt Thornton 3.04 2.47

Now, there are a few things to infer from this. While Robertson, Kelley, and Thornton haven't gotten worse, there's a reason. Robertson has been asked to bleed into the eighth, but generally he's relegated to the ninth. Kelley was injured for a while and his innings total  has not nearly reached that of the others (only 33.1 IP so far), and Thornton is just the LOOGY. But, the regression from Betances and Warren is concerning. Joe Girardi has relied on them to cover the seventh and eighth innings, at least, but they very often are assigned to innings six through eight. Both are on pace for nearly 90-100 innings apiece, and the cracks are showing. So, what's the solution?

It's got to come from one end, either the bullpen or the rotation, but it's got to come from somewhere. If the Yankees try to fix the problem within the bullpen, they can try to find an internal solution or trade for someone of significance. I'd lean towards the latter. The organization has essentially exhausted their supply of internal pitching options, unless you're some fan of Pat Venditte. There's always Bryan Mitchell, but it's questionable whether he's big league ready. If the Yankees want to find an external option, there's possibly Joaquin Benoit. The Yankees have been connected to him, and I don't think that's a terrible idea. Someone who could fill up some innings in the seventh or eighth would certainly take some stress off of Warren and Betances. Girardi wouldn't be obligated to put one of them in in every high leverage situation.

And then there's the rotation. No one knows if or when Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda will return, so it appears they're essentially stuck with what they have. Again, there's no relief in the farm so they'd have to seek external help. If the goal is to take some innings away from Warren and Betances, any innings-eater to absorb some outs would be a huge help. Either option, be it bullpen or rotation help, would be tremendous.

There's no way the bullpen continues at its current pace. They've shown that they're reaching the tipping point, and any further stress could push them into a danger zone. We know this, and I'm certain that Brian Cashman and the front office knows this. Any reinforcements would be a boon.