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The early workload of the pitching staff

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Is the bullpen overworked?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With game 39 in the books, the Yankees are now nearly a quarter of the way through the season. The team is in first place, and while the offense looks rejuvenated after a miserable couple of years, it is arguably the pitching staff that is carrying the bigger part of the load early. Perhaps against type, but the Bronx Bombers currently lead the league in pitching fWAR, and lead the American League in team FIP.

Is the pitching staff being asked to do too much though? Particularly the bullpen? It's a difficult question to fully answer, but perhaps we can make something of the workload off the staff to this point. For that we'll need some data, and when breaking it up into starters and relievers it seemed only polite to begin with the guys who begin games. Even if the guys who end them might be a little more interesting for this.

Starters


Starts Innings Pitched IP/162games K/9IP BB/9IP ERA FIP WAR WAR/ 100IP
Masahiro Tanaka 4 22.1 92.76 9.67 2.82 3.22 3.11 0.6 2.71
Michael Pineda 8 51.2 214.63 9.58 0.52 3.31 2.01 2 3.91
CC Sabathia 8 52 216.00 7.44 1.73 4.67 4.13 0.6 1.15
Nathan Eovaldi 7 41.1 171.68 6.75 2.4 4.14 4.09 0.5 1.22
Adam Warren 7 38 157.85 5.45 3.32 4.5 4.15 0.5 1.32
Chris Capuano 1 3 12.46 12 6 12 6.82 0 0.00
Chase Whitley 4 19.1 80.29 7.45 2.33 4.19 4.6 0.1 0.52

Couple of columns worth mentioning, IP/162 Games is an extrapolation of the existing innings pitched after 39 games out to 162, up a factor of about 4.15 or so, and it's expressed in decimal form after the multiplication - Innings Pitched is in the standard thirds of an inning. IP/162 Games not meant to be predictive here, Chase Whitley won't be pitching 60  - or any - more innings this season. It's just an attempt to re-scale current innings totals into a full season worth where it might be easier to visualise workloads. WAR/100IP is current individual pitcher WAR, expressed as a rate stat, per-100 innings pitched.

Just for fun, scale Michael Pineda's WAR out to 214 innings instead and he's on-pace for about 8.4 WAR. Clayton Kershaw lead baseball with 7.6 WAR last season. Pineda has had some downward regression after his most recent start of course, right after his 16-strikeout masterpiece he was on-pace for over 9 WAR and one of the 25 or so best liveball seasons ever, alongside some folks like Tom Seaver and Sandy Koufax. Pineda might be due for some more regression, but he has already made a quarter of his starts and his numbers are strong enough to hold up after his five run, 10-hit appearance last time out. As long as he stays healthy he is in the early stages of a season that could well have him contending for a Cy Young.

While we are on the topic of fun, here are a few charts. Charts are fun,  right?

starter innings pitched

starter era and fip

starter war 100

Chris Capuano is the seventh starter to have made an appearance for the Yankees this season. One of them down for the season now with Whitley requiring Tommy John surgery. Masahiro Tanaka is currently on his way back and walks into the team when healthy, which barring further injury moves one of the current five out, likely either Adam Warren or Capuano to long relief. From above, Warren has pitched to roughly the same level as CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi who are both almost certainly locked into the rotation. If Tanaka will need at least two rehab outings, Capuano will have at least two more starts. Certainly the three plus innings he has pitched are not enough of a sample on which to base decisions, but going forward he might need to pitch a little better to keep his rotation spot ahead of Warren.

Meanwhile, Ivan Nova continues his rehab and will hopefully get a column for himself here for the second half of the year. Bryan Mitchell serves as starter depth, with Esmil Rogers also a candidate to move from bullpen to rotation if needed. If the Yankees are to contend though, the two guys on the left columns will need to be healthy and pitch a significant chunk of the starter innings.

Relievers


Games Innings Pitched IP/162 games K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR WAR/100IP
Andrew Miller 17 17.2 73.40 14.77 4.08 0 1.57 0.8 4.65
Dellin Betances 19 21 87.23 13.71 3.86 0 1.39 1.1 5.24
David Carpenter 15 13.2 56.78 5.93 2.63 5.27 4.83 -0.1 -0.76
Justin Wilson 17 11.1 47.06 8.74 5.56 5.56 3.33 0.2 1.80
Esmil Rogers 12 25 103.85 7.56 3.24 3.24 4.75 -0.1 -0.40
Chasen Shreve 11 15.1 63.68 9.39 2.93 2.35 3.08 0.2 1.32
Chris Martin 15 12.2 52.63 9.24 2.13 3.55 2.04 0.3 2.46
Branden Pinder 5 5.1 22.14 5.06 3.38 0 3.15 0 0.00
Kyle Davies 1 2.1 9.68 7.71 0 0 1.44 0 0.00
Matthew Tracy 1 2 8.31 4.5 9 0 5.15 0 0.00
Jose Ramirez 1 1 4.15 0 18 36 9.15 0 0.00

Esmil Rogers is the only reliever on the team projected to pitch over 100 innings, and as a true long reliever this doesn't seem overly concerning. Joe Girardi has been steadfast in giving Rogers rest after longer outings, and should the Yankees keep their current starters healthy as Tanaka and Nova come back, they will be competition for the long relief spot that might at very least eat into Rogers' innings.

As a general point,  Girardi has seemingly monitored workloads quite effectively with his practice of avoiding pitching guys three nights in a row, and in distributing out innings through the staff.  Notably though, Dellin Betances is on-pace for a relatively high total of 87 innings pitched, which would have placed him third among all relievers last season. Still, it would have placed him behind 2014 Betances who pitched 90 innings, and as a former starter in the minor leagues he might be able to continue to shoulder his present load. Andrew Miller is being used almost purely as a closer, and it is a role that naturally lends itself to some protection in innings totals. He hasn't been put in to pitch for quite the variety Betances has faced, but a projection for 73 innings pitched remains a reasonably high number here; it would have put Miller among the top 15 or so last season.

reliever innings

reliever era and fip
reliever war 100

Kyle Davies, Matt Tracy and Jose Ramirez have all been kept out of the above charts as they have pitched no more than 2.1 innings each, just the one for Ramirez.

From above we can see the challenge Girardi has in lessening the workload of Betances and Miller. David Carpenter was meant to be the third man in the bullpen, pitching the seventh inning and occasionally the eighth. To this point though, he has negative WAR, and Girardi has taken him out of high leverage situations until he finds his form. Chris Martin stepped up as a key contributor in Carpenter's place, until Martin went down with elbow tendinitis. Justin Wilson is being used mostly as lefty specialist and Chasen Shreve has been the next best reliever in the bullpen but his role is that of the multi-inning middle reliever.

Girardi has called on Betances and Miller relatively frequently, and on occasions for more than three outs, because at the moment he doesn't have a bridge he trusts to his elite late-inning pair. The bullpen depth was meant to be a strength coming into this season, so hopefully another reliever on the team finds the form to pitch high leverage situations. Otherwise, it might be a case of looking for Jacob Lindgren to be promoted, where he may hopefully be given a chance to earn Girardi's trust towards moving into a late-inning role.

As with the rotation through, it is the two guys on the left who need to stay healthy and keep contributing. If the 2015 Yankees are to make the postseason, the Fab Four of Tanaka, Pineda, Miller and Betances might very well need to carry the team there.