The unreliable Brian Bruney


Brian Bruney wondering where it all went wrongSmall sample sizes can be cruel. Just four, four-and-a-half months ago there was a big chunk of Yankee Universe that thought, that knew Brian Bruney was the answer to the Yanks’ perpetual 8th inning question. After all, the guy had just rattled off an unreal April: 8 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 12 K. In the middle of the month, he had a stretch where he struck out 12 in just 6.2 IP over seven appearances without allowing a baserunner.

But then Bruney got hurt, as a balky throwing elbow landed him on disabled list. He came back about four weeks later, presumably healthy, and fired a perfect inning against the Orioles in what appeared to be the first attempt at easing him back into that 8th inning role. Next thing you know, Bruney’s back on the DL with the same elbow problem because he wasn’t truthful with the organization, telling them he felt good when he really didn’t. Classic meathead syndrome, the guy thought he could pitch through it and still be a positive contributor to the club.

Four weeks after the setback, Bruney returned, this time for good. Except now the Yankees weren’t looking for an 8th inning guy – Phil Hughes took that and ran with it. They didn’t even need a 6th or 7th inning guy really, because Al Aceves had been masterful in the middle innings. Bruney was just another guy in the pen, but if he performed like he had earlier in the season, those high leverage late inning opportunities would eventually fall into his lap.

Except Bruney never returned to his April highs, not even close. Since returning from the DL on June 16th, Bruney’s allowed 41 baserunners in 20.2 IP, giving up five homers in the process. Opponents are hitting .310-.416-.548 off him in that time, so he’s turning everyone into Chase Utley. After a particularly dreadful stretch in July, Bruney didn’t allow a run in 8.2 IP from August 7th to the 31st. The problem is that he handed five inherited runners over to whoever relieved him in that time (three of those five were left in scoring position), and somehow none came around to score. Bruney gets no credit for those scoreless frames, he left a mess that someone else had to cleanup.

Bruney hasn’t struck out at batter since August 11th, seven appearances and six innings ago. His walks were always offset by his high strikeout rate, which coming into this year sat at exactly 9.0 K/9. The velocity is still there, but he’s just not making his pitches these days. He’s a liability whenever he enters a game, but the Yankees have such a large lead in the division (99.96542% chance of making the playoffs) late in the season that they can afford to keep running Bruney out there in an effort to get him back on track.

As it stands now, Bruney is no better than on the playoff roster bubble. There’s no fewer than three righthanders ahead of him on the relief pitcher depth chart, and there’s a distinct possibility he could be left home in October if favor of a long man or an extra lefty reliever. There’s really no need for the team to carry seven relievers in October just to stroke Bruney’s ego, the Rays left Edwin Jackson home in the ALDS and ALCS last year, and he was far more important to Tampa’s team last year than Bruney is to this year’s Yankee club.

Furthermore, with a glut of relief options in the majors and minors, Bruney may not have a spot on next year’s team. He’s out of options and entering his second year of arbitration, and the Yanks may not want to keep a rather expensive, ineffective reliever around when they have kids coming up who at the very least can be equally as unreliable at a fraction of the price. A nontender is always a possibility, but with that kind of power arm you’d think they could get at least something for him, even if it’s a Grade-C prospect. His salary could be prohibitive, though.

Of course, Bruney could render those last two paragraphs moot if he turns it around in the next month. We’ve seen him get hot, and when he’s on a roll he can make batters look silly. Right now though, I cringe whenever I see him walk through the bullpen door.

Photo Credit: Keivom, NY Daily News

Categories : Death by Bullpen


  1. A.D. says:

    At this point, I don’t see why they would want to take Bruney on the playoff roster, he’s been pretty dreadful of late, and the only upside is that he hopefully turns it back around. Right now figure Mo, Hughes, Coke, Marte, Aceves, D-Rob are all planted ahead of him, and personally I’d rather take Melancon over Bruney, making it tough to squeeze his way onto a roster.

    • Jeffrey says:

      I agree, they should leave Bruney home. I’m always left holding my breath when he comes into a game.

      Melancon pitched pretty good once he got comfortable in his meager 11.1 IP out of the pen. Have to see what he can do in September when he is called up before he can be considered.

  2. Makavelli says:

    This is by no means to come across as an “I told you so.” But I remember at the beginning when there was a lot of Bruney supporters and I was skeptical. The small sample size was just too much for me to push to the side. I won’t deny that the guy (at the time) was doing phenominal and he looked to be in great shape…but still…it was just too little of a sample size.

    It’s funny how players can be or look so dominant for a certain period of time…and then seem like they had forgotten what they were doing that whole time. Doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the case…but it seems that way sometimes.

    • Jamal G. says:

      You really were skeptical after his 2008 campaign and the start to the 2009 one? I have a hard time surmising a valid reason as to why.

      • Makavelli says:

        I’m skeptical with any reliever, not named Mariano Rivera, on our staff. Unless they are nasty starters bumped to the reliever role part-time also.

        I just don’t buy relievers as being consistent. They’re inconsistent by nature…that’s why they’re where they are. So, while they may put together some good outings and make you think a little bit…reality and common sense tells us that it probably won’t last…and it didn’t.

        • Mike bk says:

          then i guess you dont get any credit for being skeptical if you are for all of them except for mo because you are bound to be right sometime.

          • Makavelli says:

            Never said I was looking for any credit on being skeptical. Just wanted to explain my point of view on middle of the road relievers, basically.

      • Ed says:

        I’m agreeing completely with Makavelli on this one.

        His 2008 was a 3 week stint, a little over 3 months off, then a 2 month stint. That’s not just a small sample, that’s two separate small samples, one of which was a fraction of the size of the other. You’re got an 11 inning sample and a 23 inning sample.

        In 2009 he pitched 8 innings before getting hurt.

        If he pulled all of that off in one straight run, I’d start to have faith. You can find 20-30 inning stretches where any reliever looks good. Look at Fransworth’s game logs for last year – you can find several 20-30 inning stretches where he pitch to about a 2.8 ERA if you start the range right after a bad outing. If you limit it to around 10-11 inning stretches, you can find several periods where he pitched better than Bruney did in his small samples.

        Just look back at Bruney’s career. It’s full of stretches of dominance followed by totally losing control.

    • A.D. says:

      This is by no means to come across as an “I told you so.” But I remember at the beginning when there was a lot of Bruney supporters and I was skeptical.

      By bringing up saying “I told you so”, almost certainly will make something come across as “I told you so”

      Otherwise I agree, Bruney’s success was over a small sample size, which everyone wanted to hope was him finally realizing his potential. In general that’s the issue with guys coming up that are touted to some extent or another, once there’s any success people say they’ve finally arrived. Its true (so far) of Bruney that everyone though he had finally found the form that was going to make him a future closer back in the day.

    • toad says:

      Good or bad results over small number of performances do not mean you won’t continue to do well or badly. There’s absolutely no logic that says that.

      All the small sample means is that the results obtained are more likely to be far away – in either direction – from true long-run performance levels than results over a longer period. The “standard error” is large.

  3. Nady Nation says:

    I’m not gonna say I told you so, but – I did end up telling you so, didn’t I?

    • Makavelli says:

      You should tell yourself so about the reply button sometime

      • Nady Nation says:

        Stop making me out to be the villain for no reason!

        • Makavelli says:

          Here we go with this again…

          • Mike Pop says:

            Axl, you literally said every Yankee prospect sucked from what I remember. You were in your Accounting class with some teacher you couldn’t understand and was pissed because Bowden came in and dominated, when Melancon didn’t or some shit.

            You saying I told you so, wow. Finally, you were right. I call it how I see it, not trying to be a dick but when you consistently bash the bullpen and the Yankees like you did/do when they were/are losing. You are going to be right, ya sure. But you have also been wrong, wrong, and wrong.

            I’m not going to say I told you that you were wrong, but ya, you kind of were.

            • Makavelli says:

              Mr. Pop,

              Your hatred or predetermined reputation you have given me have skewed most of your memory.

              A reminder, it’s a lot easier to be calm, cool, and collected when you live in New York surrounded by fellow Yankees fans. As I’ve stated, I live in the Norther part of CT where it’s Red Sox country and all of my friends are Sox fans. You never hear the end of anything. After having your back against the wall going back and forth with them…sometimes you need a little reassurance or boost of confidence…in which I came here for.

              I also don’t recall claiming that ALL our prospects sucked. I remember, AT THE TIME, all of the Red Sox prospects that were called up had either won a ROY, MVP, was making a bid for Cy Young, etc…along with random Jeff Bailey’s, Nick Green’s, and Josh Reddick’s hitting out of their shoes…while our prospects or newly major leaguers were seemingly dormant at the time.

              I was frustrated.

              Maybe sitting peacefully in New York or New Jersey is different as it should be…but I battle back and forth with my friends all the time and needed some reassurance and/or a confidence boost…and instead of providing that…it was easier to gang up on people on a message board instead. Which is fine…because I understand I came across as a “troll” or an “ass” and nothing positive. But from that point on…there was barely any chance to even attempt to turn the corner. People had already made their minds up. And it’s kind of hard to turn a corner when everybody’s mind is already made up.

              • A reminder, it’s a lot easier to be calm, cool, and collected when you live in New York surrounded by fellow Yankees fans. As I’ve stated, I live in the Norther part of CT where it’s Red Sox country and all of my friends are Sox fans. You never hear the end of anything. After having your back against the wall going back and forth with them…sometimes you need a little reassurance or boost of confidence…in which I came here for.

                You keep saying this. We don’t give a shit. Learn some coping techniques, or get some drugs. Deal with it.

    • Nady Nation says:

      Ugh, reply fail. That was meant for Makavelli.

  4. Makavelli says:

    Classic meathead syndrome, the guy thought he could pitch through it and still be a positive contributor to the club.

    I love this comment. So true. Although to REALLY put this image together…you should think of him telling the Yankees organization he’s fine wearing an Ed Hardy t-shirt or any other “TapOut”, “BadBoy”, graphic tee for that matter…

  5. Frank says:

    He’s certainly on the playoff roster bubble. And if Coke doesn’t start pitching better, he may join Bruney.

  6. Chris says:

    99.96542% chance of making the playoffs

    I don’t buy all those fancy metrics. My eyes tell me the Yankees have a 99.96543% chance of making the playoffs.

  7. Cam says:

    When the cameras turned their site on the Yanks bullpen last night, I was almost certain we’d see Phil for 2 innings. Then Bruney comes trotting out which caught me so much by surprise that I blurted out ‘what the hell is Bruney coming in for?’. Definitely does not instill conidence right now.

  8. Gregorio says:

    Funny enough I got Bruney’s signature at the game yesterday, and he gives up a home run during the game, to make it 3-2; BUT I did get Johnny Damon’s signature too on the same baseball, and he went 4-5, too bad Bruney kind of lowers the value of the baseball for me….lol

    • Makavelli says:

      You can call Bruney’s John Hancock a “signature” but I think once you get to Johnny Damon’s status you can firmly call it an “autograph” lol

    • too bad Bruney kind of lowers the value of the baseball for me….lol

      Squeaky-voiced bellhop: Tip?
      Homer: Oh, here, take this.
      [hands bellhop his Grammy Award]
      Squeaky-voiced bellhop: HEY, AN AWARD STATUE! I– oh, it’s a Grammy.
      [throws the Grammy off the balcony]
      Man on Street Below (off camera): Hey, don’t throw your trash down here!
      [throws the Grammy back up at Homer, hitting him in the head]

  9. Tampa Yankee says:

    So, playoff staff is:

    1. CC 2. AJ 3. Andy 4. Joba 5. Mo 6. Hughes 7. Marte 8. Aceves
    9. DRob

    with and 10. and 11. two of Coke, Bruney, Gaudin or Melancon depending on who pitches the best done the stretch?

  10. pc says:

    bruney is a poor mans burnett, you need consistency out of the bullpen and that is not what you get from bruney, nyy have similar right handed arms that are younger, i say trade him in the off season and move on.

  11. Bill says:

    Bruney is awful. He needs to go..

  12. Billy says:

    with the need for 40-man space next year, it wouldnt suprise me if bruney is dealt in the offseason. he has proven two things in his tenure as a yankee
    1) he cant stay healthy for the duration of the season
    2) when he is healthy, he is very inconsistent
    why keep him next year if he’s gonna do the same things?

    • Chris says:

      They’ll be fine for spots on the 40-man roster. It’s the fact that he’s out of options that will likely be his demise, but I would guess that he will start 2010 with the Yankees (just like Jose Veras).

      • jsbrendog says:

        and then we sell him to a team falling fast who’s bullpen implodes and will try anyone to fix it (just like jose veras)

  13. jsbrendog says:

    if they held onto veras for as long as they did and kept trying to get him right i don’t see why they wouldn’t with bruney.

    bruney has the potential and has shown he can harness it and has yet to be veras bad…

  14. It’s been downhill since he shaved his head in the spring. A cranky elbow is like a black eye – it just don’t matter for a pitcher. Let me tell you, it was that one trip the barber that’s messed him up – the barber said something or did something to his head. In fact, barbers always screw people up. Remember Randy Johnson and his mullet? Well, after he shaved that and his mustache/goatee, he bombed. Remember the Giambino and his clean-shaved mug? Well, last year he says he ain’t going to no barber, and grows one of the greatest mustaches in recent history (though it was no contest with Rollie Fingers). And what happens? He just puts up 32 HR and stays off the DL.

    To put it briefly, the barber doomed Brian Bruney.

  15. mryankee says:

    “You kids should not play so rough someone is going to start crying” Mr Blonde Reservoir Dogs

  16. Mike Pop says:


    I give him another year, just because there are options in the minors doesn’t mean they can work out. Bruney can be real filthy, and I think it is worth the risk to hold onto him.

    It looked like he figured it out before the injury, but he’s just been off the boat ever since the first dl stint. Kind of sucks, but for what 2-3 million? I say he is worth the risk of bringing him back. We all boasted about how the Yanks have so many relief options prior to the season, and now unfortunately we see Hughes in the pen. I don’t want to see the same for Z-Mac.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

      i dont think its the money, its the 40 man spot…

      • But who has proven for at least a stretch of time, that he deserves a 40 man spot over Bruney? I’d much rather lose Edwar or Claggett off of the 40 man before Bruney.

        • Mike Pop says:

          I’d much rather lose Edwar or Claggett off of the 40 man before Bruney.

          No doubt. Bruney has proven over stretches of time he can be a dominant reliever. We all believed in him prior to his struggles this year, we shouldn’t give up on him so soon.

          Might end up kicking ourselves later.

          • I’m with you guys on this one. No, Bruney will never be dominant over a long-term. But very few relievers in the non-Mo (or, to be fair, non top closer) division ever get consistent results like that. The bullpen is the place where you take gambles on guys like Bruney. Very few guys are ever consistent out of the pen, but Bruney has the talent/stuff to dominate out there. You can’t teach what he’s got.

            Not saying you go nuts keeping him on the roster, but I definitely wouldn’t be so quick to bid him adieu just because he’s disappointed this season.

  17. mryankee says:

    I dont like unreliable pitchers, seems to be an epidemic. Drob looks solid and I think now its time for Melncon to take a shot at Bruney’s role. Mr Bruney thank you for playing but its time security escorts you out of the building.

  18. Billy says:

    Edited by RAB: Personal attacks will not be tolerated. This commenter has been banned.

  19. bigpinklips says:

    Bruney almost makes you nostalgic for Jose Veras.
    Okay, maybe not.

  20. Dwnflfan says:

    “Bruney gets no credit for those scoreless frames, he left a mess that someone else had to cleanup.”

    Really? Bruney posted a WHIP of 1.38 in those 8 2/3 innings. The Yankees as a team have a WHIP of 1.34. In those 8 2/3 he gave up 7 hits, (all singles), 6 walks, (1 intentional) and 1 HBP.

    His #’s against: .212 BA .350 OPB .212 Slg.

    He finished the inning 6 of 8 times, the 2 that he didn’t he left the bases loaded and 1 out with the Yanks up by 10 runs & 1st & 2nd 1 out with the Yanks up by 4.

    So, Bruney gets no credit for pitching better than your average Yankee pitcher, (see #’s above). Seems a little harsh. I understand not giving him any credit for the two innings he left after getting just 1 out and allowing 5 baserunners. But giving him no credit for the other 8 innings where he gave up no ER’s, finished each inning and had a WHIP of 1.125 with each hit being a single seems ridiculous.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

      Bruney posted a WHIP of 1.38 in those 8 2/3 innings. The Yankees as a team have a WHIP of 1.34.

      since those were the only stats you posted that i could use to compare, i will…


      whip is like golf, lower is better…

      • Dwnflfan says:

        Thank you captain obvious. The point was he posted an almost exactly average Yankee WHIP, (even ignoring his outstanding BA & SlG % against), so why in the world would he get, “no credit”?

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:


          you said he’s better than average, then posted data to the contrary

          obvious is your friend sometimes.

          So instead show me the comps where he’s better than guys making the playoff cut, rather than calling names.

          • Dwnflfan says:

            If you think a pitcher that allows 1 more base runner per 25 innings than the average Yankee pitcher but none of the hits are more than singles is performing below average then there’s no way I can help you. You obviously completely ignored all but the WHIP # in my first post.

            AGAIN, his #’s during his previous 8.2 innings:
            .212 BA .350 OPB .212 Slg. Tell me you wouldn’t take those numbers from every pitcher on the staff…

            With regards to the playoff cut, none of my comments relate to the playoff cut. I’m referring to the author’s ridiculous statement that Bruney should get no credit for his previous 8.2 innings without an earned run. Quite frankly the playoff cut argument is silly right now. Two weeks from now would it really surprise you if you read an article here stating that Bruney’s dominating performances recently combined with David Robertson’s recent meltdown make Bruney a virtual playoff roster lock? Two weeks after that Bruney could be sitting out the playoffs and DR could be getting setup innings in playoff games. It’s too early for anything but a casual analysis. Bruney is a long way from being eliminated from playoff roster consideration.

  21. Bo says:

    Bruney has earned his non invite to the playoff roster.

    Robertson has passed him.

  22. Tank Foster says:

    Bruney’s a puzzle. It’s probably a mental thing. When his mind is right, he gets out of his own way, and he’s great. Sometimes I think he overthinks or puts too much pressure on himself, or something…

    Get rid of him? No way. It’s always a question of what you’re exchanging him for, and he’s a young guy. The minor league relief pitcher ‘glut’ is just that, a minor league glut. Every one of those guys could prove inferior to Bruney.

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.