So the Yankees have a major bullpen problem

Exactly three weeks ago today, on June 14, the Yankees lost to the Angels 7-5. Andrelton Simmons crushed a go ahead two-run homer off of Ronald Herrera to give the Angels the win. I’m sure most of you remember this. However, even though that game was a crushing loss, it wasn’t the end of the world. Okay, fine, the Yanks lost two out of three to the Angels, and the bullpen struggled the entire series. Just a slump, right? Wrong. Three weeks later, the bullpen is still in the midst of that slump, the Yankees are 6-16 in their last 22 games, and it’s getting harder and harder to watch as the season goes by.

Photo via Kathy Willens of AP

Earlier today, former trusted reliever Dellin Betances walked FOUR Blue Jays in the span of five batters. In doing so he allowed the Jays to score the go ahead run, en route to a 7-6 victory. It was, by far, the worst outing Dellin has had this season, and that’s saying a lot. The frustrating thing is that Dellin’s struggles pretty much started when the team’s slump started. On June 21, he had a 0.40 ERA; one earned run allowed in 22.1 innings. He was lights out. However, let’s take a look at some of his more recent outings:

June 22: 0.2 IP, two earned runs, one walk
June 27: 0.2 IP, two earned runs, two walks, one hit, plus a blown save and a loss
July 1: 0.2 IP, four earned runs, three walks, one bomb by Evan Gattis, another blown save and loss
July 5: 0.1 IP, one earned run, four walks, another blown save and loss

All in all, since June 21, which was two weeks ago today, Dellin has allowed NINE earned runs in 4.2 innings, to go with 12 walks. 12 walks in 4.2 innings! That’s 2.57 per inning, and 23.13 per nine innings. Yeesh. You can’t get much worse than that. He’s always had some control issues, but they’ve never even been close to this bad before. What’s going on?

This is just my opinion, but a lot of his problems could be stemming from the fact that before the slump, it was rare that Dellin would actually pitch. When Aroldis Chapman was placed on the DL on May 14, Dellin assumed the closer role. He was reinstated on June 18. In that span of time, Dellin threw a TOTAL of ten innings spread across ten outings. The Yankees played 34 games while Chapman was on the DL, and Dellin pitched in just ten of them. That definitely did not help his command at all. Pitchers in general need to pitch on a regular basis. A pitcher like Dellin is used to throwing about 20 pitches a game every other game or so, or at least that has been his usage the last few years. Switching from that to twice a week takes a toll on your command, and it’s starting to show now.

Betances isn’t the Yankees only problem in the bullpen, however. Chapman is another case, and he hasn’t looked himself pretty much the entire year. Ever since April 26, the game where he almost blew a 3-0 lead at Fenway, Chapman has pitched 12.1 innings and has given up eight earned runs, which is good for a 5.84 ERA. Of course, there was his month long DL stint mixed in there, but still, even after coming off of the DL, he’s pitched six innings and allowed three earned runs. He hasn’t been as awful as Betances, but he’s just not as trustworthy as he used to be. Batters just aren’t fooled as much by his fastball anymore, and are finding it easier to foul it off. Plus, Chapman has never had good control of his offspeed pitches, so if he doesn’t have control of them he’s essentially a fastball pitcher. He needs to figure out a new game plan in order to become the lethal closer he once was.

Photo via Caylor Arnold of USA Today Sports
But again, Betances and Chapman aren’t the only weak links in the bullpen. Tyler Clippard has been giving up extra base hits left and right for the past month (although he’s looked better recently). Jonathan Holder showed that his early season success was mostly a fluke, before he was optioned to AAA. The list goes on. Since June 14, the magical three-week mark of this Yankees slump, the bullpen has blown SIX of the 22 games played. If the Yankees win just four of those, this season is entirely different. True, there have been multiple injuries to key players, along with underperformance from a few starting pitchers (looking at you, Michael Pineda), but the main culprit of this recent slide has been the bullpen.  Chad Green has been the lone bright spot the past month or so, and he can’t do this alone.

Stay tuned for more on the bullpen, as fellow BBB writer Matt Luzzi will discuss options the Yankees could turn to in order to reverse this slide. The Yankees aren’t out of the playoff hunt, by any means. But as long as the bullpen is this big of a weakness, that might change soon.

Article by: Alex Weir


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