So much of the writing process is inspiration. A poem about a beautiful sunset. A novel about a tragic event. A Twitter rant about the idiot in the Porsche that took up two parking spaces when you went grocery shopping. This post you're reading is no different. I knew I had to write something about Dellin Betances today, because holy hell that was some dominant appearance he made in last night's game against the Mets. Seven batters, six strikeouts.
I would say it was like something out of a videogame, but I've never been able to do that in any baseball videogame. And trust me, I've turned the difficulty sliders down to "Pathetic". Those were professional hitters, the top 1% in their chosen profession, and they were made to look downright silly. It was Betances' magnum opus in what has been, thus far, one of the most dominant stretches by a pitcher in recent Yankees history. Sure, it's May and he's a reliever, but it's still been nothing short of amazing.
Like most things, it's best to view Betances' awesomeness in context. Of Yankees pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched in a season, Betances' K/9 of 15.72 is the highest in team history, beating out the 2011 version of David Robertson with a 13.5. He's struck out 44.8% of the batters he's faced. He's third on the team in strikeouts and tied for second on the team in pitching fWAR. His 39 strikeouts are more than those of noted quality starters Dan Haren, Mark Buehrle and Yovani Gallardo. He has the most strikeouts of any reliever in baseball. He's been nothing short of dominant.
Not bad for a former starting prospect that seemed to be on the verge of being relegated to the minors for the rest of his career. The biggest detriment to him to this point, his lack of control, has been kept mostly in check. His BB/9 rate is under 4.00, which for a high-powered reliever is certainly acceptable. Even beyond the walk rate, he's had the necessary control to tempt hitters to swing at pitches out of the zone and catch them looking with pitches that just catch the corners. One of the more impressive aspects of his performance on Wednesday night was that four of his six strikeouts were looking, so it's not as though they were bailing him out by swinging at junk.
With Adam Warren pitching well and David Robertson being the great closer we knew he would be, the Yankees bullpen has become less of a question mark with considerable potential and more like the strength of the team. No pitcher embodied that potential quite like Betances and he is rewarding the Yankees for being patient with his development by being one of the best relievers in the game. He's sure to have some lapses in control and a home run or two is bound to occur, but I think we're at the point where we can assume that Betances is the real deal. As Yankees fans know, sometimes a reliever just bursts onto the stage and a few great performances become a sustained run of brilliance. It looks like Betances may have that in him.