It’s no wonder the Yankees have shown so much patience with Brian Bruney. Dominant relief pitchers don’t come around that often, and in 2008 and early 2009 Bruney appeared to be just that. He pitched well both before and after a lisfranc injury last season, and opened 2009 with a bang. Two injuries later and he’s just not the same. The Yankees continue to give Bruney chances, but each one is a reminder that this is not the guy who struck out five straight Rays over two games.
Even in August, when he had a 0.87 ERA, Bruney still didn’t look reliable. He only allowed one run over 10.1 innings, but that might have been a string of reliever’s luck. He struck out only five in that span and walked seven. Opponents reached base 37.5 percent of the time. He threw 201 pitches, almost 20 per inning. With peripherals like that, it’s no wonder he’s struggled in September.
This month Bruney has appeared in nine games, the same number as August, though has pitched 4.2 fewer innings. He’s throwing fewer pitches, but not many, around 19 per inning. Opponents get on base 41.4 percent of the time. His strikeout to walks ratio sits at 4:5. The difference is that teams have gotten to him this time around, going deep twice for a .583 slugging percentage.
Over the course of 2009, Bruney has gone from lights out setup man to questionable postseason roster candidate. The Yankees will take only 10 pitchers to the ALDS, and Bruney doesn’t appear to be one of the 10 best on the roster. Can they trust him in a playoff appearance? Certainly not the way he’s pitching now. He’ll have to show considerable improvement in the season’s last 10 games, and even that might not be enough to convince the Yankees to take the chance.
Bryan Hoch examines Bruney’s woes which, the Yankees think, relate to a mechanical issue. There are plenty “I feel good” quotes in the article, but perhaps the most interesting paragraph reads
The question is if the Yankees have enough time to allow Bruney to continue ironing out what he said have been season-long mechanical problems — bad habits on the mound that have plagued him relating to his hip rotation.
That doesn’t sound like an easy problem to fix. Bruney will have a maximum five games to work it out, and even then he’ll likely only get into three or four more before the regular season ends. Some improvement would be encouraging, but would it be enough to put him on the postseason roster? Not quite, I would think. There are certainly 10 more deserving candidates, especially with David Robertson slated to return this weekend.
It’s a shame what happened to Bruney this season. It appeared he was coming into his own, and then we found out he was unavailable for the first game of the first Boston series. It’s been downhill from there. There’s a chance Bruney could recover, but he probably won’t get a real chance again until 2010.