Sep
29

Bruney, Robertson and a post-season bullpen

By

When the Yankees beat the Red Sox on Sunday, the story obviously focused around the AL East crown. After missing the playoffs last year and winning the Wild Card in 2007, the Yankees had reclaimed the division title for the first time since 2006.

There was, however, a bigger story in the game-within-the-game and one that could be potentially more important for the Yanks’ postseason chances than the inevitable clincher. With the Yanks up by a run and Andy Pettitte out of the game after six solid innings, Joe Girardi had to deviate from his usual game plan. Phil Hughes had just thrown in back-to-back games and was unavailable to pitch. David Robertson was not yet back from his elbow injury.

With the stadium holding its collective breath — and the woman sitting in front of me having some conniption fit — Girardi gave the ball to number 99 Brian Bruney. Coming into Sunday’s game, Bruney had a season to forget. Since returning from an injury in mid-June, Bruney had appeared in 31 games to bad results. He had allowed 52 baserunners in 26 innings, and opponents were hitting .302/.414/.528. After a stellar start to the season, Bruney had walked 20 and struck out 19 while generally stinking up the joint.

And so into the fire walked Bruney. He came out more than alive. Strike out, ground out, ground out went the Red Sox in the 7th. Pop out, fly out when Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis, two dangerous hitters, in the 8th. When Girardi came out to get Bruney, the much-maligned right-hander left to a standing ovation in the Bronx. The fans had put no faith in Bruney, and the Yanks’ reliever delivered.

His stuff on Sunday was better than it had been in a long time. Thanks in part to a wide strike out and Jose Molina’s pitch framing, Bruney threw 14 of his 21 pitches for strikes. He was throwing his fastball at 94.55 mph and peaked at 96.8. It was vintage Brian Bruney.

After the game, he was emotional in talking about the crowd response. “The thing that was special for me was the crowd reaction,” he said in the clubhouse amidst champagne.”I’ve been through a lot all year, fighting a lot of injuries and mechanics and pitching like garbage. It’s special. The ovation I got, for me, meant a lot. Everybody here was counting on me and everybody here let me know they appreciated it. I would have loved to look up and give a ‘thank you,’ but honestly, I had tears in my eyes and I couldn’t do it.”

For much of the season, my dad has speculated that Bruney has been more injured than he is letting on, and this comment seems to hint that perhaps his throwing arm has not been 100 percent. While I hate to read too much into 1.2 innings, Sunday’s outing could be the start of a solid run for Bruney. He threw with confidence and made his pitches.

Meanwhile, David Robertston will take the mound for the Yankees tonight. After missing much of September with a sore elbow, the Yanks’ strike out artist will resume his role in the bullpen, and all systems are go for Robertson. In effect, then, the Yankees could be gaining two bullpen arms right when they need them the most. As Tyler Kepner reports today, the Yankees will look at Bruney, Robertson, Chad Gaudin and Damaso Marte for two bullpen spots in the first round.

If Bruney can restore some confidence, if Robertson can pitch and stay healthy, the Yanks will have the ability to reduce their playoff games to six-inning affairs. Gaudin, a versatile starter/long-reliever and Marte, a lefty specialists, have their upsides for other reasons, but I would lean toward a healthy Robertson and Bruney. With their offense and their starting pitchers, shortening games could very well lead to more than a few October W’s, and in the short best-of-five first round, those victories are both rare and important.

Categories : Playoffs

97 Comments»

  1. Drew says:

    It’s almost hard to believe that his ERA is 4.17. Versus Boston he had his tight slider and solid velocity, it would be great if he makes a run into and through October.

    I hope to Mo that K-Rob comes back strong over his final few appearances of the season.

  2. jsbrendog says:

    gaudin has pitched great the past 3 starts. what a steal by cashman. he should def get some consideration even for 4th starter still depending on how thing shake out.

    at the very least he is DEF in the picture for a starting role next year esp if pettitte doesn’t come back/injuries happen

  3. Morgan Tsvangirai says:

    I was at the game on Sunday and when Bruney came out I leaned over to my girlfriend and said to her, “Welp, get ready for some runs.” I heard a guy in front of us say “I guess it’ll have to be a walk off today.”

    When Girardi pulled him I gave him a hell of a round of applause as he walked to the dugout and it was really loud in the stadium. It was great to see.

  4. Pete says:

    Hopefully Bruney pulls a Graeme Lloyd. My man gave up *one* hit, *Izero* walks for the entire 1996 playoff run.

  5. Ross says:

    I’m hesitant to leave Marte off the postseason roster. He has been there before and seems healthy. He isn’t lights out, but I think in the right situation, he can help a team in the playoffs. Bruney’s meltdowns scare me.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      It depends who they play, really. Against Detroit, do they really need that second lefty to face Granderson and Huff? The Twins have Mauer and Kubel (137 OPS+), so in that case you probably want the extra lefty.

    • Mister Delaware says:

      I imagine Marte’s odds of being carried are significantly better if we face Minnesota in the 1st. Detroit only has one lefty of consequence (and Robertson throwing left-handed could likely do the job) but 2 of the 3 Twins you’d have to worry about late in a game are lefty and Marte is a better matchup LOOGY than Coke. If I had to pick one to face Mauer in the 7th of a tight game, I’d feel much better seeing Damaso on the mound.

  6. Kiersten says:

    I think I’d rather see Gaudin on the roster than Bruney. One good outing does not convince me that he’s ready for the postseason.

  7. As Tyler Kepner reports today, the Yankees will look at Bruney, Robertson, Chad Gaudin and Damaso Marte for two bullpen spots in the first round.

    Tyler Kepner is wrong. Marte’s a lefty, his spot is locked up. So, that sentence should read: “The Yankees will look at Bruney, Robertson, and Chad Gaudin for ONE bullpen spot in the first round.”

    Locks:
    Pitchers (9)
    CC, AJ, Andy + Mo, Hughes, Aceves, Coke, Marte, Joba
    Position Players (13)
    Posada, Tex, Cano, Jeter, ARod, Damon, Melky, Swisher, Matsui + Molina, Hinske, Gardner, Guzman

    That’s 22 spots locked up with 3 still up for grabs, and those 3 will be one of the following configurations:

    A) A 10th and 11th pitcher (two of Robertson, Gaudin, or Bruney) and a single LIDR IF (one of Hairston or Peña)
    B) A 10th pitcher (one of Robertson, Gaudin, or Bruney) and two LIDR IF (both Hairston and Peña)

    It’s a 5 man race for the final three spots. And, Robertson and Hairston are near-locks for two of those final three spots; all they have to do is show they’re healthy by the time the ALDS begins next week and they’ve got it.

    So, really, it’s Gaudin v. Bruney v. Peña for the 25th spot on the ALDS roster.

    • So far you’re the only one who thinks that Marte’s a postseason lock if the Yanks face the Tigers. PeteAbe joined Kepner in speculating that Marte’s on the bubble right now.

      • Both Kepner and PeteAbe are overthinking it. I can’t see Girardi leaving Marte off a roster just to go with Gaudin or Bruney because the Tigers have fewer lefty bats than the Twins do.

        Having two lefties in the pen has been the plan and goal and desired bullpen configuration for YEARS now. We’re not going to scrap that plan for the ALDS just because our scheduled opponent only has a few lefties. If the Tigers had ZERO lefties, sure, maybe.

        Also:

        A) If we only went with one lefty and not two, it would probably be Coke and not Marte who gets left off.
        B) Marte’s track record trumps anything that Bruney, Gaudin, or Coke have.

        Marte’s a lock. You heard it here first.

        • Mike Pop says:

          Agreed. The Yankees gave Marte that big deal for a reason.

          I don’t see how Coke gets in over him. Sounds wrong to me.

          • Both Coke and Marte will be on every single postseason roster. ALDS, ALCS, and WS. Book it.

            (Unless, during the next week, one of them gets hurt or totally shits the bed in craptastic fashion and there’s just no way you can possibly rely on them, of course).

          • I guess everyone’s assuming Coke’s in because of his being with the team all season.

            • That matters though. Coke has been a regular all season, he’s been one of the regular cogs in that bullpen. Marte hasn’t. I’m not saying I’d take Coke over Marte, but the Yankees certainly might.

              • Moshe Mandel says:

                Might? I would be stunned if Coke was left off the postseason roster for Marte. His ERA is inflated by a few bad outings, which obscures his very solid season. He needs to cut down on HR’s, but a WHIP of 1.08 is quite good. Also, his stuff is getting sharper, as his K/9 has been trending upward for the last few months.

                • I can say all the same things about Marte that you just said about Coke.

                • But you can’t say that Marte has given the Yankees a 1.075 WHIP in 57.2 IP in 2009, like Coke has.

                  Marte is not a lock over Coke.

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  Coke did it all year. Listen, I get the Marte love, i have written many a post about his strong career prior to coming to NY. That being said, there is no way the Yankees would carry Coke all year, have him perform well, and then leave him off the postseason roster for a guy with 7 innings since coming off the DL. They may both make it, but I would be willing to bet that Marte would not replace Coke.

                • Mister Delaware says:

                  But Marte is a better matchup guy so (hopefully) lefties will be exclusively facing lefties and righties almost exclusively facing righties in 5th-7th innings. That’s why Marte & Coke makes the most sense. That and because there’s no good reason to carry Pena or a 3rd catcher.

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  Career, Lefties OPS

                  v Marte: .581
                  v. Coke .571.

                  The sample isnt huge for Coke, but he is very strong against lefties.

        • IF they decide to only take one left-handed reliever for the ALDS, I’m not so sure Marte’s such a lock over Coke to get that spot.

          Incredibly small sample size since Marte’s August 21 return:

          Coke: 7.2 IP, 4 H, 4 ER 2 BB, 6 K
          Marte: 7 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

          I guess Marte gets the spot before Coke based on track record, but based on performance it’s not so clear-cut. It’s a tough comparison because Marte has so few innings with the Yankees. Coke hasn’t been wonderful, but he’s certainly played a bigger role in the Yankees bullpen in the last couple of seasons. They’ve used Coke a lot this year and seem comfortable relying on him, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume they’d leave him off the ALDS roster in favor of Marte (who, as much as we like his track record and stuff, doesn’t have much of a track record with the Yankees).

        • leokitty says:

          Marte besides being a LHP is simply better than Bruney.

          Yes I know horrible in the beginning of the year and all that but really does anyone think ONE INNING from Bruney will suddenly make Girardi actually trust him? Because it shouldn’t.

      • Also, PeteAbe in his post theorizes that we roll with 10 pitchers and 15 position players, but that 6 man position player bench includes BOTH Molina and Cervelli. Not likely.

        We’re not carrying 3 catchers in the ALDS, especially if two of the three are identical (all glove, no hit).

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

          I think there is no doubt they carry 3 catchers, but there is no need for 2 utl. guys.

          • Really?

            I mean, the more I think about it, the less farfetched I think Pete Abe’s line of thinking is (carry 3 catchers so you can DH Posada and bench Matsui against a tough lefty), but that “less farfetched” has moved it from “No f#$%%ing way” to “I really, really, really, really doubt it.”

            HazMat, 2009:
            vs RHP as LH – 365 PA, .278/.378/.479 (.857)
            vs LHP as LH – 147 PA, .285/.361/.623 (.984)

            No, we’re not going to be benching him against lefties to give a start to Molina or Cervelli. The horror of Matsui facing Nate Robertson or Jarrod Washburn does not make me pine for Frankie Cervelli getting 4 plate appearances; thanks but no thanks.

            • Chris says:

              The argument is that Cervelli is better than Matsui against a lefty.

              Please explain what world that would possibly be the right decision. The only answer I can think of is 2015, when Matsui’s knees finally confine him to a wheelchair.

            • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

              I think the only reason they carry 3 catchers is the fear of injury. I think Giardi, being a former catcher, will push for this decision.
              I really don’t expect Frankie to get any at bats to be honest with you, but then again, I don’t expect to see much pinch-hitting or the entire first round. They could probably go with a 8 man pitching staff and still be safe. haha

              • Chris says:

                Injury is only an issue in a single game. If someone is injured, then they can be removed from the roster and replaced by someone else between games. I believe that removes them from the next series as well.

                • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

                  What if the injury is in the deciding game?

                • Chris says:

                  It would only affect that game. Of course it would suck, but you could say same about any injury. Besides, you have Molina as a backup catcher. The only situation where this would be an issue is if Posada gets on base and is pinch run for, and then Molina gets hurt (or both of them get hurt). Considering this would only happen in the last 2-3 innings of a game, I find that possibility so remote that there is basically no benefit in carrying the 3rd catcher.

            • leokitty says:

              Benching Matsui against a tough lefty is a remnant of some of the crazier things Torre would do (benching Giambi/Abreu against Kazmir to play guys like Kevin Thompson instead because matchups).

              I think everyone is trying to be creative and come up with whacky stuff so they can look smart if they’re right. It’s sort of like people picking the Reds or Royals as playoff teams before the season started.

      • Bo says:

        martes a lock. Dont overthink it. Just look at who the manager is. He’ll def want Marte

    • CountryClub says:

      Robertson is a lock if he has no setbacks over the last 5 games. Cash said the other day that he’ll be on the roster because he’s one of their best guys. I think it comes down to Marte, Bruney and Gaudin for 1 spot.

      However, I’m still not convinced that Joba will be on the ALDS roster. I still have a feeling they want no part of him pitching out of the pen.

  8. Pete says:

    I would think Girardi would go with the guys who’ve done it more consistently lately – which would be Gaudin (both for the BP and in case something happens to one of our starters) and Marte (who’s been back from the DL longer than Robertson).

    I can’t see Bruney being given a spot…

    • Based on season success, usage patterns and relative importance, there’s no chance Marte gets the call over Robertson if Robertson is healthy. It’s not even a competition. As long as he’s healthy, Robertson is a mortal lock.

      • Pete says:

        If it was me, I’d just be a little hesitant to put a guy on the roster who’s only been back for such a short time from the DL…

        • leokitty says:

          He wasn’t even put on the DL. Dr Andrews said he just needed some rest. And they gave it to him, so he could be ready to pitch in the playoffs.

          Gaudin on the roster instead of Robertson is just terrible.

          • Bo says:

            He wasnt on the DL because u dont need a DL spot in Sept. Semantics.

            Wouldnt Robertson have to show hes healthy for more than 1 appearance before being given a spot?

  9. Accent Shallow says:

    I don’t think I want Bruney on the post-season roster if he’s not striking guys out at a reasonable rate (say, 8+ K/9).

  10. I’ll go on record.

    ALDS Roster:
    Pitchers (11)
    CC, AJ, Andy + Mo, Hughes, Aceves, Coke, Marte, Joba, Robertson, Bruney
    Position Players (14)
    Posada, Tex, Cano, Jeter, ARod, Damon, Melky, Swisher, Matsui + Molina, Hinske, Hairston, Gardner, Guzman

    Gaudin replaces whomever pitched least effectively in the ALDS.

    • CountryClub says:

      My memory might be lacking, but I don’t recall them having as many legit options for the pen as they do this year. There were usually 1 or 2 scrubs who made the pen that we all knew would never pitch in a meaningful spot. All the guys we’re talking about bring something good to the table.

    • Nady Nation says:

      Man, I really hope Gaudin replaces Bruney in your roster projections. I don’t see what Bruney has done to deserve that spot over Gaudin. Unless Bruney is on the roster strictly for mop-up innings in blowouts, I don’t want him anywhere near the mound in the postseason.

      • I’d take Gaudin over Bruney too, but if Bruney looks lights-out over these last 5 games, I could see Girardi rolling with the hot-hand.

      • Nady Nation says:

        I should clarify. I don’t want to imply that Gaudin should be pitching high-leverage innings in the ALDS. If Gaudin makes the postseason roster, he’d basically fill the same role as Bruney, in terms of pitching in fairly low-leverage situations. But, I’m more confident in Gaudin to come in to a Game 2 down 6-1 in the 4th and hold the deficit right there than I am with Bruney preserving any lead or holding any deficit, ever. Which is why I’d take Gaudin over Bruney.

        • Kiersten says:

          Down 6-1 in game 2 is not happening, I don’t even know why you’re discussing it. I think you meant up 6-1 in Game 2.

        • Pete says:

          Thing is, we’ve seen Gaudin breeze through 2-3 innings with little difficulty. Bruney, until recently, wasn’t able to get through just the one without some sort of issue.

          I trust Gaudin more at this point.

          • Bo says:

            i cant see them taking 2 long type relievers. Gaudin will get the ALCS call. Thats why they take the extra days off. So you dont need Gaudin. You take the power throwers. Especially if they think Bruney is right

  11. Tank Foster says:

    I agree Girardi will want both “Cokey” and Marte-ee. Whether he wants Gaud-ee and Bruney-ee (or Brian-ee and Chad-eee) I guess will remain to be seen (or heard).

  12. Mike HC says:

    Come playoff time, it should be Starter, then Hughes and Mo everytime. In an optimal world, that combo would be the only pitchers who see the playoff mound. If not them, then Aceves gets the nod next, and depending on if we go with a three man rotation or not for the first round, then Joba would be next as well. We have Coke or Marte as our lefty specialist if need be as well. Bruney, Roberston, and anyone after them should not be a factor at all come postseason. If if they do play a major role, I think the Yanks would be in trouble.

    • Jersey says:

      Don’t discount Robertson after the year he’s had, assuming he’s able to pick up where he left off this week (which remains to be seen).

      • Agreed.

        Also, even if the formula is Starter-to-Hughes-to-Mo, if Marte and Coke are used as the occasional LOOGY, those LOOGY situations would likely come in the 6th or 7th innings (since Hughes and Mo are in the 8th and 9th), and if there’s 6th and 7th inning LOOGY situations where you’d use Coke or Marte, there’s also probably 6th and 7th inning ROOGY situations where you’d use DRob or Joba or Ace.

        • Mike HC says:

          As I wrote below, I am expecting that both Hughes and Mo goes for more than one inning. Up by one run in the 7th, I would expect some combo of Mo and Hughes to end the game. And even in the sixth, it would not be that crazy to go with Mo and Hughes to end it, although that is a stretch, and the Ace, Coke combo should be trusted in that situation.

    • Drew says:

      You can’t expect your starters to go 7 every time, especially against the best teams in the league.

      If you do, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Girardi plays matchups, if we only get say 5.2 or 6.1 from a starter, expect to see more than 2 or 3 pitchers. Joe isn’t going to go away with what has gotten him here. Yes folks, that means an occasional bunt too. ;)

      ::ducks for cover::

      • Also: Extra innings. That’s a possibility too.

      • Tank Foster says:

        Heh…you’re right.

        The angst of the playoffs…it was almost nice having a year off last year. It can be excruciating.

        I am hoping for some offensive sizzle this postseason, perhaps to take some of the pressure off the bullpen.

        [Yankee starter] -> Hughes -> Rivera is the best three part gig in MLB right now, but I’d rather not have to see it needed for 11 wins…

      • Mike HC says:

        I expect both Hughes and Mo to go more than one inning a piece if need be. Maybe not everygame, but for the majority of them. Then Ace, the lefties and Joba handle all the rest.

        Extra innings is the only situation where Bruney or Roberstson might be needed, and even then, Gaudin, Joba or Ace, should get the nod for two or three a piece in that situation.

  13. Accent Shallow says:

    Bruney is getting far less swinging strikes than he was earlier in the year.

    Whether this is a sample size issue, an injury issue, or if he just doesn’t have it remains to be seen.

  14. TheZack says:

    I can’t fathom trusting Bruney in the playoffs and discounting an entire year of not so goodness simply because of one inning against the Sox. That’s pretty much what Bruney does. he teases you with an inning or two there, sometimes even a string of appearances, and then reverts to, well, not being so good.

    Knowing the way baseball works, if Bruney puts in one more good inning, he’ll make the roster, but it would seem to be a mistake.

  15. haiku-man says:

    -Tigers have Ganderson and Huff that hit lefties well.

    -Yankees won every game Gaudin started,even if he got a no decision.

    -As for Gaudin in the starting rotation,figure Wang ,Phil,Joba AJ,and CC.Where does that leave Chad?

    • -Tigers have Ganderson and Huff that hit lefties well.

      This is a joke, right? Huff has a .650 OPS vs LHP this year and has a career .723 OPS vs LHP. As for Granderson:

      .480 OPS, yes OPS, vs. LHP this season, .615 for his career.

      This is a joke, right?

      • Rob in CT says:

        It’s gotta be. Granderson “hitting” LHP and CM Wang being in the Yankees rotation. Dude, Wang blew out his shoulder. Before he did that, he was a disaster. I wouldn’t expect anything from him, ever again. It would be sweet to see him come back and be the worm-killer Wang we know and love, but the odds on that have to be low.

  16. Rob in CT says:

    The relievers I want to see in the playoffs:

    Mo
    Hughes
    Robertson (provided he looks good in his tune up this week)
    Aceves

    Relievers I’d be ok with in the right spot:

    Coke
    Marte

    What would Bruney’s roll be, if he were to join that group? He’s not a longman, so that means he’s a ROOGY, inferior to D-Rob. Aceves gives you one guy who can give you ~3 IP. If you go Gaudin over Bruney, you get a guy who is capable of a long emergency relief stint (Mo willing, this will not happen). He also happens to be a guy you could use as a ROOGY, and he’s been better than Bruney.

    I like Bruney, but if he enters a close playoff game my heart will be in my throat.

  17. Bo says:

    Maybe Bruneys figured it out. maybe hes finally healthy. But I dont think one outing should make him force his way on the roster. He’ll have probably 3-4 more outings here to make a dent starting tonight.

    I just think they’ll do what they have done since late May. Give the power pitcher as many chances as possible.

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