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Bullpen Day Thrives, Yanks top Rays 4-1

Entering the last week of the regular season the Yankees opened a four-game set Monday night in the always dreaded trip to face the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees came into tonight sitting one and a half games (two in the loss column) above the Oakland A’s for home field advantage in the AL Wild Card game. Aaron Boone decided to go with a “bullpen day” tonight instead of giving the ball to a typical starter.

How is the Yankees bullpen faring sans one Aroldis Chapman? It’s kind of hard to say

The current Aroldis Chapman Injury situation is not the Yankees’ (or Chapman’s) first rodeo regarding Chapman and his problem recurring knee tendinitis.
Regardless, it’s no secret to the Yankees, or to fans, that Chapman saves games. His absence since this recent D.L. stint is, at first glance, conspicuous. And the Yankees will certainly be better off in the postseason with Chapman than without him.
Credit: Lynne Sladky/AP
However, we’ve seen great improvement in Dellin Betances since his early-season slump, but, he has not held the closer’s role consistently since 2016, upon the departure of Andrew Miller and of, at the time, Chapman, who was traded from the Yankees only for him to return later on. 
But, there’s a reason why Brian Cashman made the move for Chapman to come back to the Bronx: a closer was needed. And in that knowledge, it’s possible that Cash’s plan all along was to trade Chapman and get him back. If he’d thought that the Yankees could have managed, it’s possible Betances would have stayed in the closer’s role. Now, there’s no choice, and when there’s a save situation for the Yankees, Betances has to close -- he makes the most sense. And he’s been solid, already picking up one save in September.
As such, the closer question is the easiest question to address in terms of how the Yankees bullpen is faring sans Chapman. What about the middle relievers? Now that Betances is no longer a setup man for the time being, logic tells us that everyone else has to shift.
One solution for the Yankees bullpen, even before Chapman re-aggravated his knee injury, looked like it was going to be minor-league call-ups. I’ve seen more At-Bat notifications informing me of Tommy Kahnle and/or Luis Cessa being called-up, only to be optioned back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (in ‘blink or you’ll miss it’ style), than I’ve ever noticed from anyone else, pitcher or otherwise. Not to mention, Jonathan Loaisiga drops into middle relief from time to time.
But let’s not forget that the middle relief department has seen its fair share of changes this year, aside from having to shift to accommodate Betances in the closer’s role. While the Yankees have lucked out from the arrival of Luke Voit as a result of trading Chasen Shreve, Shreve was still a bullpen pitcher who was used to the rotation (albeit an unreliable one). The departure of Adam Warren was unfortunate. A.J. Cole came aboard in April. Sonny Gray dropped in after his justified demotion from the starting rotation. And while his discomfort in his right shoulder didn’t sideline him to the D.L., David Robertson has struggled with his health.
The two standout constants in the bullpen have been Jonathan Holder, appearing in 52 games on the season with a respectable 3.20 ERA, and Chad Green, appearing in 55 games with an even more respectable 2.53 ERA.
But it’s difficult to declare how the bullpen is managing without its star closer when said closer wouldn’t even be needed thanks to games like September 5th in Oakland. Or September 2nd against the Detroit Tigers. Or August 29th against the Chicago White Sox. And the problem with these three games, all played over a short span of time, had much more to do with a quiet offense than the pitching.
Of course, a great deal of the issues on the offensive front can be attributed to the continued D.L. status of Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius, and to the previous D.L. status of Gary Sanchez. However… Giancarlo Stanton had a four for last 24 stretch recently -- which is not bad by normal standards, but not great by Giancarlo Stanton Standards. Gleyber Torres had a recent two for 24 stretch. Andrew McCutchen had two hits in first 16 Yankee plate appearences. The offense, save for two standouts -- the power-hitting Voit and a consistent, .297 batting average Miguel Andújar -- is quiet.
Which brings us to… the actual problem with the bullpen sans Chapman -- or, hypothetically, even with Chapman, because who’s to say that this situation wouldn’t present itself if Chapman was healthy. The irony? The problem with the bullpen isn’t the bullpen per se. Green and Holder, for all of their stellar stats and their consistency, aren’t the story of late. They can’t be the story when there’s a revolving door of minor leaguers coming and going. They can’t be when their pen-mates are experiencing injuries, changing roles and being traded to other teams. And they can’t be when they don’t have support from the offense. When the lead is so far from reach that it doesn’t make sense to bring either of them into the game.
So, is it fair to conduct an analysis of how Betances is managing without Chapman? Yes. The absence of Chapman has affected him the most. With five Ks over 3.0 IP in the past week alone, not to mention two saves since Chapman found himself on the D.L., it’s safe to say Betances has risen to the challenge of his temporary role -- in the event that he’s called upon to fill it, in which the offense would have done its job.
But, to analyze how the bullpen is faring without Chapman isn’t fair when there are so many other factors at work. Lack of Chapman isn’t the problem. The bullpen stats aren’t the problem. Constant changes and a quiet offense? That’s the problem.
Article by Mary Grace Donaldson





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