Since Dellin Betances established himself in the league in 2014, the relief pitcher with the most fWAR in that time has been...Dellin Betances. He has the most innings in that time. He has the fourth lowest ERA- and the fourth lowest FIP-. About two months into the 2017 season, Betances has continued his dominance. He has the fourth lowest FIP- (23), the second lowest ERA- (14), and the highest K/9 (16.66). It’s pretty clear, even knowing his recent struggles in the second half of last season, he is where he should be.
His velocity, if it can be believed, is just as fast as its been:
The movement on his pitches last year...
...are the same as they are this year:
His results, surprisingly, are even better. He has allowed hard contact at a 12% rate. Even though more batters are swinging at pitches inside the zone, and fewer pitches out of the zone than they did last year, his swinging strike percentage has jumped 3% to 18.4%, the highest in his career. This basically means he’s blowing hitters away.
This is pretty good timing for that. With Aroldis Chapman out indefinitely, Betances will have to be the closer, and the Yankees will need him in even higher leverage situations. This does rob the Yankees of their “fireman role” they had for him in past years, but there’s reason to believe he’ll be back in that role soon, and I think it’s good he gets a break from that for a while.
Betances, to put it mildly, is being worked very hard. He has the most innings of any reliever since he came into the league, and the history of relievers who get incredible workloads over years and years do not look favorably on our friend.
And we saw what that looked like this year. When Betances had 44 innings and a 2.66 ERA in the first half, he followed that up with a second half of 29 innings and a 3.72 ERA. Basically, he was toast by August. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen again.
For now at least, keeping him in the role of closer or “exclusive eighth inning pitcher” wouldn’t be so bad, and I think reversing that innings profile from last year (aka, pitching two thirds of your innings in the first half) would be beneficial in preserving him down the stretch.
“Dylan” Betances is one of the most exciting players on this team. Arguably, he’s one of the best relievers in baseball, and if the game is on the line, I don’t think I would take any other reliever right now. But if we’re being realistic, this early season performance follows a similar pattern of an incredible start and a creep to finish. I’m hoping that Joe Girardi and the coaching staff can recognize this yearly, sour denouement and work to correct it. Imagine Good Dellin Betances for an entire year, and throughout the playoffs.