The Yankees bullpen was right in the middle of the pack in 2012. They ranked 14th in Major League Baseball and 7th in the American League with a 3.43 ERA. In fact, they ranked seventh or eighth in the AL in wins (24), games (156), opponents’ batting average (.241), and WHIP (1.27).
The bottom line is that last season they were very average, but a deeper look reveals some signs that 2013 could be a better year.
In the AL, only the Rangers and Rays were better than the Yankees in walks allowed out of the ‘pen. One thing that will drive any manager batty is a reliever coming into the game and walking hitters. The Yankees were among the best at not letting that happen.
(In Photo: Boone Logan)
Next, the Yankees were the best in the AL in Holds with 87. When the Yankees relievers came into games with the lead they seldom gave it up. Leading the way were David Robertson (30) and Boone Logan (23). Both should be back with the club in 2013.
Last season the Yankees relievers were strong against the first batters they faced. They ranked fourth in the AL , allowing a paltry .223 batting average against those hitters. That means Manager Joe Girardi could depend on his bullpen to shut down momentum when they stepped to the mound. Both Robertson (13th) and Clay Rapada (5th) were among the American League’s best against the first batters they saw.
Finally, there is what I call the “Joba Chamberlain factor”.
In the seventh inning last year, the Yankees held a 3.78 ERA and allowed opposing batters a .250 average. They were 10th in the AL in HR allowed (giving up 19 round trippers) and next to last in the league in inducing double play balls (only the Angels were worse).
With a healthy Joba Chamberlain all that could change.
Last year the Bombers didn’t have Chamberlain until August as he recovered from his much documented broken ankle and Tommy John surgery. In September the big right hander showed the team what they had been missing.
That month Chamberlain pitched 12.1 innings and allowed just 3 earned runs (2 came on September 2nd in a game against Baltimore), nine hits, and only walked 2 batters. He held opposing hitters to a .196 batting average and struck out 16. Even more impressive were his ground ball / fly ball ratio of 1.33 and microscopic WHIP of 0.89.
Joba is slated to be the seventh inning pitcher for the Yankees this season. With a performance similar to the way he ended 2012, Joe Girardi will not only be able to shorten games for his starters, but it will allow the Yankees manager to keep other arms in the bullpen fresh. Last season Boone Logan and Clay Rapada appeared in 80 and 70 games respectively. The workload took its toll and showed in the results. Their combined ERA went from a 3.16 prior to the All-Star break to over a 3.50 after.
Whether you like it or not, the polarizing Chamberlain will make a difference.
The rest of the AL East bullpens look like this:
(In Photo: Esmil Rogers)
Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays bullpen was the worst in the American League last year with a 4.33 ERA. They were at the bottom in WHIP (1.35), opponents’ batting average (.253), and HR allowed (70). In addition, this off season the team lost Brandon Lyon (28 strikeouts in 25 innings, 2.88 ERA) and Jason Frasor (53 strikeouts in 43 innings, 12 holds) to free agency. New additions to the bullpen are 27-year-old Esmil Rogers (3.06 ERA with Cleveland in 44 games) and 25-year-old Jeremy Jeffress (6.75 ERA with KC in 13 games, spent most of season in minor leagues). This is the one area that the Blue Jays did not significantly improve over last year.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles bullpen was one of the best in baseball last season and ranked third in the AL with a 3.00 ERA and held opponents to a .238 batting average. They return the entire foundation to the ‘pen and again should be near the top of baseball.
Joel Peralta led the American League with 37 holds and once again anchors the bridge to closer Fernando Rodney. There is no reason this crew shouldn’t once again be the class of the AL.
Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox bullpen finished 2012 in the bottom half of baseball as they posted a 3.88 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Those numbers ranked them 11th in the AL. The team signed Koji Uehara this off season and the 37-year-old should provide a nice veteran boost to the squad (he posted a 1.75 ERA in 36 games with the Rangers last season). Andrew Bailey battled injuries last season but the former A’s closer should have a much improved 2013. Andrew Miller struck out 51 batters in just over 40 innings pitched and the 27-year-old provides a solid arm from the left side of the mound.
Here’s how we see the AL East bullpens stacking up:
Tampa Bay: The bullpen is just as solid as their front five. Pitching won’t be a problem for the Rays in 2013.
Baltimore: They have a nice mix of young (3 pitchers 27 or younger) and old (O’Day -30, Ayala – 35) and solid talent. This squad will be among the best in the AL again.
New York: The Yankees have strengths both from the right side and left side of the mound. Joba Chamberlain has the chance to make this one of the best bullpens in baseball.
Boston: If they can have a healthy Bailey, and if Uehara does what he did in Texas, this squad will be a strength for the team.
Toronto: The Blue Jays improved in hitting and starting pitching, but the bullpen could weigh them down.
What do you think? Let us know!
--Steve Skinner, BYB Guest Writer
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