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Pinstriped glory, the greatest moments in Yankee history part four: The ’98 Yankees’ magnificent season

There are a few things about the Yankees that I’m very stubborn about, things that no matter how hard you debate with me I’ll just never change my mind on. For instance, Joe DiMaggio is the greatest baseball player the world has ever seen, if I ever have a son, I want him to grow up to be the man Lou Gehrig was, and the 1927 team is the greatest that baseball will ever see. However, while I am of the mindset the ’27 team is the greatest, there will never be a season more impressive than 1998. The team won 114 games in the regular season while losing only 48. They won the AL East by a mind boggling 22 games and went 11-2 in the playoffs sweeping the San Diego Padres in the World Series for the club’s 24th overall championship. Their win total regular season and postseason combined was 125 which is still a major league record to this day.

The Yankees' success in 2018 will be built on their bullpen

The Yankees’ bullpen, which was already an incredible strength in 2017, is going to be an absolute juggernaut in 2018. Yes, I understand the bullpen went unchanged since 2017 concluded, (There’s really nothing to change about it) but it will be significantly better as a whole in 2018.  
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The bullpen wasn’t awful over the first few months of 2017, but it was far from what ultimately became the most feared bullpen in baseball. It’s easier and less nerve-wracking to call on Chad Green or David Robertson in a stressful situation as opposed to Chasen Shreve or Tyler Clippard. There is such a difference a few months can make for a roster. 

After posting a solid 2.97 ERA in April, they struggled to maintain that success. In May, that number spiked, and by June, they posted their worst ERA of any month, 4.27. They were tied at the top of the league for the most bullpen losses that month with seven, not to mention their six blown saves, which they also led in. 

By the end of the first half, the Yankees had led the majors with 17 blown saves. Although their ERA was a somewhat respectable 3.66, it was continuing to increase by a wide margin month by month. The Yankees bullpen was not bad, but it could not lock down wins and shut the door in the late innings.

On July 16th, the Yankees’ pen received desperately needed reinforcements. They acquired relief pitchers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox. It was a move that proved to be pivotal for the Bombers' postseason push. 

They went on to post a second half ERA of 3.01, good enough for second best during that span, behind only the Indians. They ranked near the bottom in blown saves with six, which was an enormous improvement from the first few months of the year. 

The Yankees’ reconstructed bullpen continued to be a dominating force throughout the playoffs. This is one of the biggest reasons why they were one win shy of a World Series berth.

They held hitters to a miniscule .185 average while posting a sparkling 2.94 ERA during the postseason. In 2014 and 2015, the Royals proved that teams with solid bullpens go deep in the playoffs, and the Yankees have mimicked this formula.

The list of solid arms that Aaron Boone can go to is endless, and there are further reinforcements in the minor leagues that could be called upon at any given moment. The key for Boone's bullpen is if everyone meets what is expected of them. Two guys who struggled to do so consistently last year were Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. 
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Betances seemed to lose the plate every other outing last season. You blinked and suddenly two men were on with no outs, and the count 3-0 on the third batter. 

When he’s on, he has some of the nastiest stuff you’ll see. His fastball is consistently near 100 mph and he follows that up with his knee buckling curve. However, the key words here are “when he’s on” because when he’s not, it’s hard to watch.

As for Chapman, although he lost the closers role for a brief period, there’s not really much to worry about here. He became close to automatic down the stretch and throughout the postseason. Once back in the role, he was a different pitcher, one who regained his confidence and was determined to never lose the closer role again. 

Even if those two guys or anyone else struggle at times, the Yankees bullpen is so deep that it gives them a plethora of options. As stacked as the powerhouse lineup is that they have, the real strength of this team comes from the powerhouse arms waiting in the wings. 

Article by: Shawn Maguire