The state of the Yankee bullpen

The Yankees have one of the most heralded bullpens in the majors, routinely labeled one of the best in the MLB, and usually owning a top five bullpen ERA. However, if you took the blood pressure of Yankee fans when Aroldis Chapman or Dellin Betances stroll out to the mound in a tight game, they would most likely compare to a cardiac arrest patient, why is that?
Mostly because all New York fans are used to the great Mariano Riveria closing out every game, and they all got used to that and expect every closer they get to replicate that. Another reason is that the bullpen has had their issues in critical moments, and everyone remembers the bad outcomes more than the good ones. Yankee fans remember the now infamous Rafael Devers home run off Chapman or Betances implosion in Houston, as they stick out more than the good outings. Lastly, the bullpen has struggled but is loaded with talent, as oxymoronic as it sounds, it's true. With guys like Chad Green and David Robertson routinely pumping out great outings, it helps improve statistics like ERA of the bullpen, when in reality the bullpen as a whole is still blowing saves at an uncomfortable rate. The club is fourth in team bullpen ERA but is fifth worst in save percentage, so is the bullpen is both great and bad at the same time? 
Not quite, half the bullpen is a shutdown crew day in and day out, guys like Chad Green and David Robertson, guys who have been good but have faltered at times, such as Adam Warren and Tommy Kahnle. Then there are the guys who at their peak are practically unhittable, but have had struggles that border those of players on being DFA’d, like Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. This paradox is why the Yankees have had so many issues with blown saves, and every fan and media member has come out with possible solutions. Before we look into solutions, let's take a brief look at the key bullpen pieces as the possibility of a one-game wild card appearance increases:
Caleb Smith, Ben Heller, Bryan Mitchell, Giovanny Gallegos:
These four pitchers have mostly been used in mop-up duties and are last resorts or matchup dependent in a postseason game.
Chasen Shreve:
Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke
Shreve is at his best in mop-up and low leverage situations. However, in recent weeks, he has been employed in closer games. On the year, the lefty is 3-1 with a 3.98 ERA and a 0.4 WAR. His usage has been erratic at times but as a lefty low-leverage reliever; you just hope he doesn’t have to pitch too much.
Adam Warren:
Mike Stobe/USA Today
Warren has been a really solid piece this year holding a 3-2 record, a 2.40 ERA and a 1.4 WAR. As a mid-inning reliever, he isn’t expected to be amazing, and with the success of Chad Green, Warren has been used in more low-leverage situations but can go a few innings during an outing if needed. Not to mention he is currently on the road back from the disabled list, so his success is a little less predictable.
Tommy Kahnle:
Hannah Foslien
The flamethrower brought back to the Yankees in the Chicago White Sox trade was off to a great start for the Yanks as he was used late in games with great success. However, since his blown outing at Fenway a few weeks back, he has not looked the same and has been used less and less as a result. Hopefully, the coaching staff and Kahnle can figure it out before the postseason. On the season, Kahnle is 2-4 with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.7 WAR, also boasting an excellent 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings this year, showing the talent the righty possess when healthy.
Dellin Betances:
The bane of Randy Levine’s problems it seems like, Betances has had an up and down year. The four-time All-Star is often viewed as one of the more talented relievers in all of Major League Baseball, owning a career 9.7 WAR, but struggles with command at a frightening rate. There are times when he looks like the stud he is built up to be, and then there are moments like in late June and July where he looks lost and can’t get near the strike zone. Recently he hasn’t been horrible, but it always seems to be an adventure when he comes out to the mound, with runs and baserunners. Thus far, the towering reliever has a 3-6 record, a 3.02 ERA, a 15.7 K/9, and a 1.4 WAR.
David Robertson:
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
The fireman of the bullpen, the much-loved Robertson has a 9-2 record, 2.02 ERA, and 2.4 WAR. The “Magician,” as he is known as by the Yankee faithful, he can come in any situation, even as early as the fourth or fifth inning, and end a threat. As with Betances, sometimes it can be nervy with Robertson, as he has the tendency to let runners on early, but has shown the grit to get himself out trouble. Robertson is also the most experienced of the bullpen, with a championship pedigree, and it won't be surprising to see Girardi lean on him come October in a role similar to how Andrew Miller has been utilized by Terry Francona's Indians.
Chad Green:
Getty Images
The most consistently dominating member of this bullpen, Chad Green is arguably the MVP of the team this year, sporting a 5-0 record, 1.96 ERA, a 2.5 WAR, a highly-ranked 6.60 K:BB ratio trailing AL leader Chris Sale at 6.71. In recent weeks, Green has been put into games that aren’t too close, drawing the ire of fans and media alike, but Joe Girardi and company may have a plan.

It is most likely the Yankees end up hosting a Wild Card game this year, and will probably use ace Luis Severino as the starter. This situation is a big spot for a young pitcher against at least a decent team, and we do not know how he will fair, hopefully well, but if not, they need a backup plan. Some will point to using another starter since they can go a longer period, but who do you trust out of those, CC, Tanaka, Garcia, Montgomery? Probably none of them, so it's down to Sonny Gray or Chad Green. Now, as good Gray is, he does struggle at times putting batters away, which would only be more detrimental in a relief appearance. Therefore, the best choice is Green, he can shut down almost any lineup, and can go a good distance. Girardi has used him in outings of 44, 36, 21, and 47 pitches, which three out of four of those being well over his 30 pitch average this year hint that he sees how long the young righty could pitch effectively. If needed, they hope Green could go three or four innings, or at least until the seventh inning, letting them go to Robertson, Betances, and Chapman.
Aroldis Chapman:
Getty Images
There may be no more controversial player on this club this year than Chapman, opinions ranging from cutting him to lauding him as the savior of the bullpen (usually leaning towards the prior). Chapman struggled mightily this year after his injury, starting to hint that he’s lost his magic. This all came to a head against the Red Sox earlier this August in the Bronx. Chapman came in a one-run game in the ninth inning and was firing on all cylinders, looking as good as he had all season. Until the rookie Rafael Devers came to bat, and took a 103 MPH fastball over the wall, tying the game, and eventually, the Red Sox would win the game. This was a gut-wrenching blow to the team, and to Chapman’s confidence, and he looked lost in his next few outings, as he ended up losing his job as closer. The lefty would start to work his way back slowly, and in his eight games since losing his job as the closer, the lefty has 9 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 14 K, and 3 BB. 
Looking closer, his one earned run outing came in an extra-inning game against Seattle on no rest, so besides that appearance, which is fair to eliminate, he has been dominant, regaining his closer job in early September. Fans and media alike have issues with Chapman, and his detractors will point to his struggles as a reason to not trust him in a big game. However, the reality is that the team is at their best when Chapman is their closer and Betances, and Roberston can be used as rally killers and in setup roles.
The bullpen has had their issues, but right now it is a strength of a team and makes this team extremely dangerous in a short series or single elimination playoff game. If we looked at a likely wild-card game if Severino does give us length, it should shake out like this:
Approximate Inning(s)
Luis Severino
Chad Green
David Robertson/Dellin Betances
Dellin Betances/David Robertson
Aroldis Chapman

This is a scary group of arms to face as an opponent, with a lineup that includes flamethrowers, technicians, and those possessing both. Although the faith in the bullpen isn’t at a Riveria era high, this group should be looked at as a weapon that the team can go to in tight situations, and I think they will prove that going forward.


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