Yankees Preview 2017: Bullpen

new-york-yankeesThe Yankees once again have a top-notch bullpen. Last year between Betances, Chapman, and Miller in just 205 total innings they struck out a combined 339 batters, which is insane. This year they return Chapman after his short sabbatical with the Cubs, Betances, journeyman Typer Clippard and a lot of young guys looking to make a big league roster.

Let’s start with the knowns:

Aroldis Chapman is the closer and is getting paid like one. After signing a 5yr $86MM contract Chapman is looking to do more of the same in 2016. In just 58 innnigs he posted a 2.5 WAR, 1.55 ERA, 0.862 WHIP, to go along with 90 strikeouts and 36 saves. I disagree that “closers” should get so much more money than just set up men but there is a mental aspect to the role. Does Chapman have the mental toughness? Well, maybe. He has an issue with coming in when there are runners on base and tends to rely on his fastball too much. Everyone knows about the 100MPH+ fastball, let’s talk about something besides the velocity.

Champan either throws his fast ball or slider, rarely throwing a change-up.


What does this chart tell us, that Chapman needs to keep throwing his slider and maybe that change up too, if players just sit on his fastball then he’s going to get lit up. We saw it in the World Series, Chapman just went to throwing fastballs, got fatigued, and was torched.

Chapman is  a known commodity, bring him in at the start of an inning with no one on base, and let him shut the door. Which can be a positive and negative, yes he’s so good in those situations but we should be utilizing him in all situations, just like we do with Betances.

I will like to see is him using his slider more when batters get on base. When someone is on base 90% of his pitches are fastballs, then batters sit on the fastball and bye b ye baseball.  If he can get a better mix the batters can’t sit dead red and will be more off balance, more off-balance means more strikeouts or weakly hit ground balls.

Dellin Betances: Betances and the Yankees had a little fight following arbitration, mainly because Randy Levine can’t keep his mouth shut. While we will discuss that issue during spring training  I really want to stay with performance in this preview.

Betances is a two pitch pitcher with a high quality fastball with movement and a devastating curveball. He can dial up the fastball to 98 which makes his curveball seem even slower even though it averages 85.

Even with the 98 MPH fastball, the curve is Betances best pitch. It is sharp and has both vertical and horizontal movement. He can throw it for a strike or as a put-away pitch.

He led the league in K/9 last year with a ridiculous 15.5 number. This year I am looking for one thing: that Girardi doesn’t blow his arm out. Girardi brought Dellin in in a 7 run game last year, not what a manager should be doing to one of his most important weapons.

I don’t worry about Betances pitching 2+ innings at a time, rather the # of appearances and the situation. If its September and the Yankees are in a close 3-2 game in the 7th inning, fighting for  a playoff spot, go ahead and use him, if its may and they are up 7-1, don’t.

Tyler Clippard: Annointed the 7th inning guy already Clippard is in his second go with the Yanks. He was actually drafted by the Yankees and then traded for Al Albuquerque in a horrendous deal that a) paid no dividends immediately and b)  lost a young player who went on to have to really good seasons, highlighted by his 3.4 WAR in 2011 with the Nats. That year Clippard threw 88 innings with a 1.83 ERA.

Clippard is no longer than pitcher and has bounced around 3 organizations since 2014, the Yankees being his fourth. Last year was a tale of two seasons for Clippard. With Arizona he had a 4.30 ERA in 37 innings, not good; but when Clippard came over to the Yankees at the trade deadline he showed some of that old talent. He pitched in 29 games which included 25 1/3 innings, 26 strikeouts, and an ERA+ of 177. Remember ERA+ reflects park effects and the average pitcher is at measured at 100.

He relies on being a Fastball/Change reliever which is great for longevity, i.e Trevor Hoffman. Clippard seemed to command his pitches a lot better when he joined the Yankees. Maybe it was a mechanical adjustment or maybe it was a mental one but Clippard was clearly better in the second half.

Okay so we know those three, what happens to the rest of the ‘pen?

Adam Warren: Warren has always done what is needed, whether that is starting or relieving, but make no mistake, this year he is a reliever. He struggled after the trade to the Cubs posting a 5.91 ERA in Chicago. Once he was traded back though he was right back to the steady reliever that we knew he could be. His 3.26 ERA as a Yankee was right in line with his 2013,2014, and 2015 ERA in NY. If Clippard struggles I could see Warren give a shot at the 7th inning but overall he is more of a long man than a 1 inning guy.

Severino/Green/Mitchell/Cessa: I wrote here about these three and expect  at least one of them to start the year in the bullpen. I could actually see this being a fluid situation with Severino maybe getting stretched out in AAA to work on secondary pitches with Green/Mitchell

If these guys are developing their secondary pitches and don’t make the rotation they will probably be sent to AAA to see how they fare.


The Yankees are set with a great bullpen led by Chapman and Betances. If Clippard and Warren can do what they did last year in Pinstripes they will make the bullpen that much more formidable. I am interested to see how the younger players perform because that will determine the final bullpen spots, and I do like the Yankees going young there.

Girardi needs to get his usage in order. He relies too much on structure instead of feeling how the game is going, highlighted by the Betances call while up 7 in Boston. He relies on Betances way too much which could hurt the Yankees at the end of the year.

Sometimes the game is going to be determined in the 7th based on situations so I would like to see Chapman or Betances there instead of Clippard, but with Joe who knows.




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