Middle Relief An Issue Early On

The Yankees bullpen was supposed to be a strength this year, just like it has been throughout the Joe Girardi era.  One of Girardi’s biggest strengths as a manager has been his bullpen management, as he usually never overworks anybody.  Bad starting pitching has forced his hand this year, and other than David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, the bullpen has been terrible.

The Yankees bullpen has allowed 21 runs and 52 base runners over 25.2 innings this season. Yesterday, they turned a painless game into an annoying one, as they made closing out a 11-3 game a lot harder than it should have been. Shawn Kelley was awful, as he allowed three runs, three hits and a walk, over 1.1 innings. Kelley was selected to be on the roster over David Aardsma for his ability to pitch multiple innings, but in the second inning of his last two appearances he has allowed two and three runs respectively. His career fly ball percentage of 51.3% may not play well in Yankee Stadium, and his fastball has been down two MPH this year (90.4).

Also, contributing to yesterdays and this season’s poor bullpen performance was Joba Chamberlain. He did not allow a run yesterday, but he did walk two batters in the ninth inning of a 11-6 game, which is brutal. Chamberlain was throwing full count sliders with that 11-6 lead, which just made no sense. This is when he gets into trouble. He over thinks things and does not attack hitters enough. He has great stuff, yet is still always nibbling at the corners, as he has six walks already this year in only 2.2 innings.  The Yankees desperately need Chamberlain to get consistent and become a reliable pitcher in the seventh inning.

Boone Logan has not looked good for the Yankees either, which is a big problem since he is their only lefty. Clay Rapada got released because he was injured and the Yankees had a tight squeeze on the 40 man roster. Logan allowed a big three-run home run to Prince Fielder on Friday that blew the game open and could not retire him again on Saturday either, allowing a single. He threw 80 innings last year, which you might think could be the reason for his struggles now, but his velocity is essentially the same as last year, so it might just be a slow start. Logan was very good last year, as lefties only hit .231/.293/.372/.665 against him, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt. If he continues to struggle the Yankees could call up Vidal Nuno, who lit it up spring training, but he is not on the 40 man roster.

Chamberlain and Logan are the two most important players that have to get going because they are the most proven and have the talent. The Yankees have often gotten in-season reinforcements in the bullpen that nobody saw coming, so that is always possible. David Phelps, who has also been bad, Adam Warren and Kelley all have minor league options available. The Yankees might want to consider sending Phelps or Warren down to be stretched out as a sixth starter if one of the starters gets injured.

Obviously, we are dealing with a small sample size, so this is nothing to go crazy over yet, but it is something to keep a close eye on. On some level everybody team’s middle relief is bad, since they are always the worst pitchers on a baseball team. Also, the starting pitchers pitching at least six innings is a good way to improve your middle relief, which has not been happening for the Yankees. This is a much better problem to have than having late inning issues or starting rotation issues because it is less important. However, if Rivera or Robertson were ever to get hurt than it would become a huge problem. The bullpen was supposed the be the biggest strength on the team and it needs to get turned around.

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About Matthew B

I am a student at William Paterson University and studying to become a sportswriter. I have a huge passion for the Yankees and love sharing my opinions on them. I can analyze every aspect of the Yankees very well. I am very active on Twitter so feel free to contact me there Twitter: @RAYROBERT9

Posted on April 9, 2013, in No Category, Personal Opinion, Player Analysis and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Logan and Joba have been terrible so far and they both pitch in important, high-leverage situations. Those 2 guys have to get it together. I think Phelps will be fine as a 2-inning type guy and Warren looked good in long relief. I haven’t seen enough of Kelly but at this point I’d much rather have another lefty than him.

    Nuno isn’t really a Loogy type as he is actually more effective vs RH hitters from what I’ve seen but I think he would be a good candidtae to take Kelly’s spot as a guy who goes multiple innings.

    Cabral is working his way back and will start throwing in Extended ST this week.

    i think swapping Nuno for Kelly is the only move I’d consider now. Phelps, Joba & Logan deserve more time.

    • fishjam, I couldn’t agree with you more, Nuno might be the answer. I would give them more time to right the ship, I think the Griardi read the riot act to Joba yesterday.

    • Cedeno also tossing well, and they could always pluck Rondon out of Trenton if the to-the-rotation experiment busts. with Phelps, Warren (who i never really cared for but is suited to BP work and looks solid) available and Claiborne, Whitely (injured now and not sure of a return), Perez in AAA and of course Montgomery coming soon i think the middle relief could be fixed pretty easily.

      • jimmy, you hit the nail on the head, their are capable pitchers in the minors should Joba and Logan prove to be unexceptable.

      • Greatest strength of Cashman/Girardi leadership team is bullpen building. I don’t agree with every move but in the long run they always manage to have a good pen.

        Obviously it helps to have the best to ever do it closing games and Robertson is one of the best set up men in MLB. But they figured out the best way to build the middle relief is not to spend big on a couple guys but to acquire a ton of affordable depth. Middle relievers are so fungible and unpredictable that you need the flexibility to go to the next guy when someone fails. That is hard to do if the player is making big money on a long term deal.

        They came to this after a lot of bad moves for guys like Karsay, Feliciano, Quantrill, etc.

    • Rapada re-signed to an MiL deal. Cleared a roster spot and retained the player. Excellent.

  2. Nuno pitched well for Scanton tonight! Montgomery and Romine also looking good.

  3. Too Many Damn Home Runs Is Back!!!

    • Hahaha. Love it.

      They’re scoring in all ways though, and plenty with two outs… someone mentioned that it was ten runs with two outs tonight, but i haven’t seen that confirmed. Cano on fire, Gardy warming up and the middle of the order rocking right now. sweet.

      • I was listening to Cano after the game and he mentioned hitting with runners in scoring position, so it must have been on their minds except for the new guys. Sometimes the media can plant a bad seed in the minds of players.

    • A lot of 2-out RBIs the last 3 games and bunching their hits together leading to rallies. I like the makeup of the lineup right now against RHP. A lot of different types of offensive players.Really liked to see Wells going the other way yesterday….3 opposite field hits in 1 game equaled his total for all of last yr. Youk and Cano have been using the whole field also…..Nunez also has that ability.

      This team might not score as many Runs as it did last year but I kind of like the diversity and makeup of the lineup. But it’s way too early to tell through 8 games and stats are pretty meaningless at this point BUT for shits and giggles…… they are hitting .319/.355/.609/.964 with RISP and .361/.395/.722/1.117 with 2 outs and RISP

      • My hope is that the players coming back don’t mess things up by trying to hit the HR all the time. I like the way the team has been going the last few games. What they are doing now, is real baseball, get the hit at the right time in the right place by everyone being the hero. Some times a hit is better than trying for the fence and two out hits are like money in the bank…or , gold in your hands!
        Don’t get carried away but, it is damn good baseball right now!
        Pitching must keep going as it is now also, otherwise the timely hitting is not going to help.

  4. Delia, you must be in your glory, Gardner having a great night!

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