Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Relievers

It’s another chilly day here in the northeastern United States. Two games of the World Series are under our belts with the Boston Red Sox winning both games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Game 3 is tonight at Chavez Ravine. Meanwhile, all the other teams in Major League Baseball are assessing things from this season with an eye on 2019.

In our last entry, we took a look at the starting rotation of the New York Yankees, deciding whether GM Brian Cashman should “take ’em or trash ’em”. Today we shall take a look at the bullpen. Let’s get started!

 

Dellin Betances – (4-6, 2.70 ERA) After a very up and down 2017, Betances cleaned up his mechanics and had his best season since 2015. He worked over the winter to make his delivery a bit more compact and more repeatable. He also credits bullpen coach Mike Harkey with using his high-octane fastball a bit more and admitting he started “listening a little bit more”. The results? Betances lowered his walk rate per nine innings from 6.6 in 2017 to 3.5, and struck out 115 batters in 66.2 innings. Over a span of 94 days (May 27-August 29), he allowed two runs over 33.2 innings while striking out 58.

Take him.

 

Aroldis Chapman – (3-0, 2.45, 32 saves) The 30 year old Chapman was reliable in 2018, saving 32 games for the Yankees and only blowing a pair of save opportunities. In 2017, Chapman was hittable, and his stuff seemed less electric. The velocity was there, but the life wasn’t and it showed, as his strike-outs per nine innings dropped to a career-low 12.3. In spring training, Aroldis worked to improve his off-speed pitches to keep hitters off his fastball and it resulted in a renaissance season. Chapman’s always been proud of his triple digit heat, but he mixed in some good sliders and even a change-up. At season’s end, Aroldis ended up striking out 16.3 per nine innings, an all time high for him.

Take him.

 

David Robertson – (8-3, 3.23, 5 saves) It seems like D-Rob has been around forever, as he was a young up and coming pitcher when the “Core 4” was still intact. Now 33 years of age, he has nine years of service time and will soon become a free agent. When he came back to the Bronx at the trade deadline in 2017, he dominated hitters down the stretch to the tune of  an ERA of 1.03 and 13.1 K/9 IP. In 2018, he was still as effective as ever but his 3.23 ERA is misleading. Four poor outings where he allowed three runs or more skewed his numbers. If you throw away those four appearances (13 ER in 3.2 IP), Robertson’s ERA drops to 1.64 over the other 65 games he appeared in. D-Rob will turn 34 at the beginning of next season, but he’s still got plenty in the tank.

Take him.

 

Chad Green – (8-3, 2.50) It would have been a difficult task for Green to repeat his performance in 2017, where he allowed only 4.4 hits per nine innings and struck out 13.4 per nine. His numbers were still good, but his hit-rate jumped to 7.6, and he allowed 35% of inherited base-runners to score. His K-rate also dropped to “only” 11.2. For some reason, Green threw his fastball more this season (86.5 percent of the time vs. 69.4 in ’17) and his slider much less (10.2% this year, down from 22.1 in ’17), while completely abandoning his cutter (thrown 7.8% in ’17) altogether.

Take him (but bring back the cutter and start mixing up the pitches).

 

Zach Britton – (2-0, 3.10, 7 saves) Britton came over from Baltimore at the trade deadline in return for a few minor league prospects. He had a few rocky outings in the first couple weeks, mostly attributed to control/command issues. To be fair to Britton, his season didn’t start until early June as he was returning from an injury to his right Achilles tendon that he suffered at home last December. By September, he looked more like the 2016 version of himself when the former Orioles closer nailed down all 47 save opportunities, allowing only four earned runs for the whole season. Britton’s one year deal (12M) is set to expire in a couple weeks. While he said “I would love to be back”, I have to wonder if an opportunity to close elsewhere for the right amount of money might entice him.

Take him (if you can keep him).

 

Tommy Kahnle – (2-0, 6.56, 1 save) Yuck. Kahnle was brilliant in 2017 after coming over from the White Sox in the deal that brought David Robertson back to New York, but his stuff never carried over into 2018. His velocity was down from the upper 90’s to 93-94 in spring training, and so was his effectiveness. After an especially horrific outing on April 10, he ended was optioned to Triple-A Scranton, where he pitched most of the season. Kahnle came back for good in the middle of August, but was relegated to mop-up duty. His season ended with an ERA of 6.56, and hopefully his days with the Yankees have ended as well.

Trash him.

 

Jonathan Holder – (1-3, 3.14) Holder was poised for his first full season in the big leagues after splitting 2017 between Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre and the Bronx. Back to back disastrous outings in early April got him shipped back to Triple-A, but he put things back together and two weeks later, he was back in the Big Apple. Holder’s overall numbers look rather pedestrian on the surface, but they are skewed because of five poor outings, including the aforementioned games in April. If you throw away those numbers (15 earned runs over 3.1 innings, also including a seven run meltdown at Fenway in early August), his ERA is a miniscule 1.15 over 55 appearances. Holder started using his fastball more, cut back on his cutter and added more velocity to his swing and miss curve, making it more like a slider. He also uses a change-up to keep batters off his fastball. It’s definitely working for him.

Take him.

 

A.J. Cole – (2-2, 6.14) Cole came to the Yankees in a cash-considerations deal with the Washington Nationals on April 23, complete with an ERA of 13.06 after four very shaky outings. He began his career in the Bronx on the right foot, posting a 0.83 ERA over his first 21.2 innings in relief. Yankees fans on Twitter all but gave him his own place in Monument Park. That would have been fine (not the Monument Park thing….), but the problem was the season wasn’t over yet. From July 31 through the rest of the season, Cole pitched to the tune of a 8.82 ERA, giving up 16 runs in 16.1 innings. By October, Yankees fans couldn’t wait to be rid of him. Right now, I would say Cole is nothing more than Triple-A filler.

Trash him.

 

Luis Cessa – (1-4, 5.24, 2 saves) It seems like Luis Cessa has been around for a long time, but he only has logged 151 innings in his major league career since 2016, all with the Yankees. He’s had success in Triple-A, but for some reason it’s not translating in the bigs. Cessa missed some time early in the season with a strained oblique, but didn’t gain much traction when he returned. He pitched well in three appearances in mid-September (9 IP, 2 R, 12 K’s) but any good feelings got washed away when he opened the final game of the season in Boston and got ripped for five hits and four runs in only 14 pitches. Cessa is still under team control for 2019, but out of options — so the Yankees will have to make a decision on him. I know what my decision is.

Trash him.

 

What that, we have covered the pitching staff. In our next installment of Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em, we will take a look at catchers. See you next time!

 

 

 

 

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Yankees Report Card: Relief Pitchers

Yesterday, we took a look at the New York Yankees‘ starting rotation and their individual performances for the first two-plus months of 2017. In the final installment of Yankees Report Card, we will examine the work the relief corps have done.

As of today’s date (June 9, 2017), Yankees relievers have collectively pitched to a 2.93 ERA and a record of 8-6. Let’s dig in.

Aroldis Chapman – (1-0, 3.55 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) Chapman is currently on the disabled list due to shoulder soreness. His ERA and WHIP are misleading, as his final two appearances (before going on the shelf inflated the numbers. Prior to those two games, Chapman’s ERA was 0.79 and he converted all seven save opportunities, mowing down hitters as only he can. Upon being shut-down, he pointed to a 33 pitch appearance in Boston on April 26 where he earned the save, but it was rainy and cold and that is where the pain began. Thankfully, Aroldis is on track to return to the Yankee bullpen in Oakland on June 16. Let’s hope there are no residual effects.

Grade: A-

Dellin Betances – (3-1, 0.48 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) Betances allowed an earned run in his second appearance of the season (April 8) and hasn’t allowed one since, a span of over two months. I believe there is no doubt he took Yankees President Randy Levine’s harsh words to heart after the team defeated him in arbitration. The irony here is Betances stepped right in to the closer’s role after Aroldis Chapman went on the DL and converted all five save opportunities. His hits/9IP rate is at a career low 3.9. Betances still walks too many hitters (12 in 18.2 innings), but his ability to strike-out anyone usually negates the issue of occasional wildness. Someone needs to get Randy Levine measured for his astronaut costume.

Grade: A

Tyler Clippard – (0-3, 1.88 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) The “Yankee Clippard” made his return to the Bronx just before last year’s trade deadline. If you are following along on “Yankees Twitter” during the games, it seems whenever he is shown warming up or entering a game, he seems as welcome as an IRS audit. I acknowledge being part of the guilty party at times. I admit surprise at how good Clippard’s numbers are, if you look past his 0-3 record. His hits per 9 are 4.9, well below his career 6.2 His walks per nine is 3.4 (career 3.7) and his K/9 is 11.6 (career 9.9). Lastly, his FIP in ’17 is 3.36 — WAY below his numbers from 2015 and 2016. Maybe now is a great time to climb off his back and appreciate the nice numbers Clip has shown us this year.

Grade: A

Adam Warren – (1-1, 2.43 ERA, WHIP 0.81) Another Yankees reliever who is quietly having a decent season. Warren has done his job, giving the team multiple innings in games when needed. This season, Yankees starters have been giving more innings, which leads to less work in that capacity. The nice thing about Warren is he can be plugged into any part of the game and do well. Long relief? No problem. 7th or 8th inning set-up? Give me the ball. Need a save? He’s done that, too! A rough stretch of 5 appearances from May 14-May 23 (7 ER over 5.1 innings) inflated his ERA. If you throw that out, his ERA is 0.36 (one earned run over 24.1 innings). Warren doesn’t have the flashy arsenals possessed by Chapman and Betances, but he is pretty darn good!

Grade: B+

Jonathan Holder – (1-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) What a great surname for a relief pitcher, eh? Maybe someday he will advance his career into securing holds, but for now manager Joe Girardi seems more comfy using him in the middle of games and less in situations with the game on the line. Of Holder’s 25 appearances in 2017, 15 of them were in games the Yankees were behind and eventually lost. His stuff is legit, a fastball he touches 95 and an excellent swing and miss curve (76-79 mph) he throws as often as his heat. His results in 2017 have been uneven, but with more time, experience and hopefully good health, one would think he will only get better. I like his chances.

Grade: C+

Chad Green – (0-0, 1.62 ERA, WHIP 0.60) Green was recalled from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre in early May and has delivered good results in long relief, lights out in a few games in mop-up duty. In some outings, he can look great and others look shaky. His results with the big club in 2016 were mixed, and his stats in Scranton this season were sketchy (2-1, 4.72 ERA, 1.61 WHIP). For those drooling over Green’s numbers in New York for the past month, take it as fair warning. His stuff is good enough to pitch in the big-leagues, but he’s just been inconsistent. At most levels.

Grade: B

Bryan Mitchell – (1-1, 5.54 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) I have no idea what is happening with this guy. Until an injury late in Spring training last year, Mitchell seemed to be in line for a spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation. He finished 2016 with a handful of decent starts and began 2017 with seven good appearances (1-0, 1.04 ERA). Two rocky outings back to back at the end of April got him a ticket to Scranton. He ping-ponged back and forth again in May, making a total of five uninspiring outings between Triple-A and the Yankees for the entire month, at one point sitting for almost two weeks between appearances. To this writer, it makes me wonder if Mitchell has fallen out of favor with Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman. What happens from here remains to be seen.

Grade: C-

Chasen Shreve – (1-0, 0.57 ERA, 0.89 WHIP) In limited work, Shreve has shown flashes of brilliance reminiscent of his first season (2015) in Pinstripes. He’s been used in low-leverage situations most of the time, unlike in 2015. If he continues pitching well, it could force Girardi to keep him over Tommy Layne, since it’s doubtful the team will carry 13 pitchers long-term.

Grade: B+

Tommy Layne (0-0, 7.50 ERA, 1.83 WHIP) Sometimes the less said the better.

Grade: D-

 

Some time between the All-Star break and the trade deadline, we’ll re-examine Yankees players and issue another report card.

Thanks for reading, see ya next time!

Charlie