Jun
28

A bullpen band-aid: More Robertson, Marte

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Last night we undoubtedly witnessed one of the most exciting, satisfying wins of the 2010 season. The Yankees brought back some of that 2009 comeback luster, taking advantage of a seemingly fatigued Jonathan Broxton. The job might have been a degree easier, though, had Joba Chamberlain not surrendered a run in the bottom of the eighth, extending the Dodgers’ lead to four. At that point the game seemed all but over.

Joba’s performance again highlighted one concerning aspect of the 2010 Yankees, their bullpen. The starters have, for the most part, done a great job of limiting the need for relief pitchers. They’re going deep into games and are handing the ball to Joba or even Mo. But with Joba’s inconsistencies, perhaps he’s not the man to take the ball in every eighth inning situation. But that only creates another question. Who would provide the bridge to Mariano?

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

While the Yankees just finished one of their best games of the season, they’re still less than a month removed from their worst loss. On May 29 they blew multiple big leads to the Indians, eventually dropping the game 13-11. Once again Joba was front and center. He took the ball with two outs in the seventh and not only allowed both inherited runners to score, but allowed four of his own. All with just one out left to record. The Yankees bullpen to that point didn’t help much. David Robertson hit a guy and allowed him to score after a steal. Sergio Mitre walked a guy, and while Damaso Marte retired the only batter he faced, Joe Girardi still decided to go to Joba rather than let Marte finish the job. In other words, while Joba ultimately blew it, the inning was a team effort in futility.

Photo credit: Paul Sancya/AP

Since that game Robertson has been much better. He has appeared in nine games and has pitched nine innings, allowing just one run on eight hits and four walks, while stranding the only runner he has inherited. He’s still not perfect, of course. Those four walks stick out, as do the 164 pitches it has taken him to finish those nine innings. But he also has plenty going for him. Even with his poor start he has struck out more than a batter per inning. His walk rate is in line with last year, and as we saw then he improved on that dramatically in the second half, walking just seven in 21.0 second-half innings. He has also kept the ball in the park, allowing just three home runs all season. Two of them came in one particularly poor performance against Baltimore; the other was that infamous grand slam against Anaheim at the home opener.

From Marte we see similar flaws and strengths. He keeps the ball in the park, allowing just one home run to the 65 batters he’s faced. He’s not as proficient as Robertson with the strikeout, just 10 in 14.2 innings this year, but he still has a quality rate. His walk rate is also troubling, as he’s walked one more than he’s struck out. That, however, might be attributable to his odd usage patterns. In fact, he’s walked only two batters in appearances that have come within two days of his previous one. In other words, it seems like the old adage holds true for Marte: he needs to actually pitch in order to stay sharp. To that end, four of his walks came in his two appearances prior to last night. He had gone three and then five days between appearances. That’s not to say that he’ll miraculously stop walking guys when given consistent work, but it doesn’t look like that could hurt.

The issue standing between Marte and Robertson, and more prominent roles, is that of trust. While Joe Girardi doesn’t share the same trust issues as his predecessor, he does favor certain relievers in certain situations. When his team has a small lead in the late innings, he puts his trust in Joba Chamberlain. At this point, that trust appears misguided. Joba’s peripherals look good, and in the long run I feel his results will move more in line with his strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed. But for now the Yankees need another option, or options. There aren’t many viable candidates sitting out in the bullpen. Marte and Robertson, it appears, present the best cases to receive more high leverage innings.

Turning to Marte and Robertson is not the ideal solution, but neither is continuing along the current path. Joba just isn’t getting the job done. While I think he eventually will, the Yankees need a solution that will work during the next couple of weeks. With the way they’ve been pitching lately, Marte and Robertson present the best options. Neither has pitched much so far. Marte is on pace for 31.2 innings this season and Robertson is on pace for 54. Both can handle more, and if the Yankees want to explore all possible options to fix the bullpen problem they’ll get that chance. After all, why would they go and trade for a reliever if they don’t explore all possible internal options?

Categories : Death by Bullpen

41 Comments»

  1. The issue standing between Marte and Robertson, and more prominent roles, is that of trust. While Joe Girardi doesn’t share the same trust issues as his predecessor, he does favor certain relievers in certain situations. When his team has a small lead in the late innings, he puts his trust in Joba Chamberlain. At this point, that trust appears misguided.

    Dayton Moore said it correctly (although the way he did it was dumb): Trust the process. Girardi shows faith in his relievers, even when nobody else does, because that’s how you build them into confident, effective relievers. You make yourself the guy in his corner, no matter what, and show him you believe in him.

    Joba’s peripherals look good, and in the long run I feel his results will move more in line with his strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed.

    And that’s why Girardi keeps giving him the 8th. As he should.

    • Jamal G. says:

      Joba’s peripherals look good, and in the long run I feel his results will move more in line with his strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed.

      And that’s why Girardi keeps giving him the 8th. As he should.

      Agreed wholeheartedly.

      • Torre’s problem was he kept pitching the same 2-3 guys in the same role every time because he didn’t trust the other 4-5 pitchers in his bullpen.

        Girardi sometimes repeats that pattern of using the same 2-3 guys and ignoring the others, but for a different reason. It’s not that he doesn’t trust the 4-5 relievers who don’t get work, it’s that he’s attempting to build trust in the guys who occupy the most important slots in the bullpen.

        Even when he does it, though, he still finds work for everyone and doesn’t burn anyone out.

        • CS Yankee says:

          The story of different Joe’s…

          Girardi’s critics charge that…
          He overused young SP in Florida
          Dishonest with MSM (kept injuries, etc.)

          Torre’s critics charge that…
          He kept dead beat Veterans on the roster
          He overused a setup guy every year.

          While there is merit in each criticism, it seems that Girardi has been coached (or learned it himself) to correct those things while Torre stays the same.

          So, the old saying does apply here…
          You can teach a young dog new tricks but you can’t teach (or correct) an old dog.

  2. Chip says:

    Like tommie, I have no problem at all with Joba being the de facto 8th inning guy because he can be really, really good and definitely needs the work.

    My issue is the bullpen construction. Neither Logan nor Park seem to be reliable major league relievers and have no place in high-leverage situations. Hopefully, this will be resolved when Mitre and Aceves return (and hopefully that’s soon) but what is the risk of demoting Logan right now and giving Melancon, Sanchez, Albie or even Ring a shot? Is somebody really going to make the argument that Albie needs more time to develop down in Scranton?

    • CountryClub says:

      There’s nothing wrong with Park as long as he’s used correctly. Girardi kind of admitted that they need to use him in 1 inning bursts yesterday. Logan is a much different story. he needs to go.

      • CS Yankee says:

        Agree…

        CHoP may not be anyones favorite but is a solid decent cost signing.

        DRob has a lot of moving parts (sick pic in story) and will be solid but using last year as his benchmark is a little unfair as those K/9 rates were unreal.

        Joba seems to be a lost soul but I think he’ll work through it and will be quite solid come the second half.

        Loone Bogan should be DFA’d…give Albie or Melancon another go before the break and see if they can stick.

        This years pen overall is more solid than last years despite not having Hughes in it. The SPers are the real blessing (and surprise) and I’m hoping they stay healthy.

  3. Scout says:

    This is a tough call, because none of the options is especially attractive. Robertson has had very few clean innings this year; Marte has been inconsistent, though not used often enough to develop consistency. It is something of a vicious circle — a pitcher earns a manager’s confidence by pitching well (and then gets used more often), but cannot pitch well unless he pitches with greater frequency.

    If anyone can figure out the bizarre infatuation with Logan, please explain it to the rest of us.

  4. jsbrendog (returns) says:

    no more death by bullpen tab?

    i think every post discussing the bullpen should be accompanied by the no boone logan graphic of his face with the red x through it.

  5. In his 4th appearance of the year, David Robertson gave up that grand slam to Bobby Abreu. He made two spotless appearances after that, then hit another speedbump, giving up 2 runs to the Orioles, 2 runs to the White Sox, 2 runs to the Orioles again, and a run to the Red Sox in back-to-back-to-back-to-back appearances. At that point, after the games of May 7th, his ERA was a Burnettian 13.50. His WPA was -0.432.

    From May 8th to the present, here’s D-Rob’s line:
    17 appearances, 17.2 IP, 77 BF, 17 H, 9 BB, 18 K, 0 HR, 3 R .258/.355/.303 against, 2 inherited runners (0 scored), 1.53 ERA, +0.674 WPA.

  6. Bill says:

    I don’t really like Joba in the 8th inning, but frankly Robertson and Marte are not any better. Neither is really more consistent or more effective than Joba. Also I hate the idea of matching up in the 8th inning because if Robertson is on one day, Marte could be off, and then you can get into trouble that way. The 8th inning should be a 1 man job with other guys filling in when workload dictates.

    Basically switching it up would be a change just for the sake of change. If someone proves they’re better and more deserving, fine, but in the meantime I don’t necessarily see the purpose of switching things around.

    • Also I hate the idea of matching up in the 8th inning because if Robertson is on one day, Marte could be off, and then you can get into trouble that way.

      But if they’re all inconsistent, it doesn’t really matter whether you use them one at a time or all three at once each time, does it?

      They’re inconsistent. The chance of your pitcher having a good outing or a bad outing doesn’t change whether you use 3 inconsistent pitchers a night or just one inconsistent pitcher a night.

      • CS Yankee says:

        He might be saying that using 3 different guys increases your chances that one of them blows versus one guy…similar to like saying that “I’ll take the direct flight as that gives me less chances of being in a plane crash”

        However, in having a 8th & 9th inning guy the pitch counts can be limited to make them sharper and more available (on shorter rest) instead of having one guy go multiple innings and not used for another 3 days.

        In general, if the starter goes 7 quality innings (100+/- PC) these days and hands it to the pen (with the lead), you’ll have 90% (or more) of those turned into wins.

  7. I think it’s worth noting that Robertson’s walks tend to come in bunches, and that’s a pattern that holds up from MiLB. He’ll go do that D-Rob thing generally but you never know when his evil twin Walk Everyone Robertson will show up.

    But then again that’s just about every relief pitcher in the universe.

    • Januz says:

      But then again that’s just about every relief pitcher in the universe. We know who the exception to that rule is.

  8. Januz says:

    The bullpen by its very nature is quite inconsistant, as are the numbers that are used to quantify success: 1: Inherited runners to score. 2: Blown saves. 3: Saves. That is what we saw last night with Broxton. He had no inherited runners score, and he did not blow the save,so that stats still show 15-15 in save opportunities (Since he did not get the loss, the only negative was a spike in his ERA). Another example: I remember how good Hughes was as a set-up man (Until the playoffs), then Joba settled in to that position. Another example was regular season Marte (Bad), then came the playoffs (Good). Look what happened with Boston this week with Papelbon, blowing back to back saves. The level of Mariano Rivera’s consistancy, is why Rivera is a freak of nature. You would have difficulty naming 20 games in his entire career, where he blew a save opportunity (Last year there was only two (Boston & Seattle). If you look at last year’s playoffs, he was the only one who did not fail in the big situation (Nathan’s, Fuentes’s, and Lidge’s missteps occured against the Yankees). As long as Rivera does not fail like in 2001, and stays healthy, this team will be fine in the pen.

  9. nsalem says:

    Speaking of Mariano and Blown Saves
    1995-2003 S 283 BS 44 86.5%
    2004-2010 S 260 BS 19 93.1%

  10. Mike HC says:

    The current bullpen seems good enough to get us through the regular season. And during the playoffs, at least one of our current starters will be in the pen (presumably Phil Hughes). Plus, there could be another starter available to pitch an inning on their throwing days. So I think the Yanks will be alright in the pen.

    Saying all that, I have no faith in Joba. He has a ton of talent and all that, but he has just been wildly inconsistent. I hope he goes on a tear, but I’m not expecting it.

  11. Mike G says:

    Bring up Albaladejo!! He’s been lights out this year so far in AAA.

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