Starters, mix-and-match setup crew step up during Robertson’s absence

Girardi asks for, and receives, better work from Martin
Injury Updates: David Aardsma & Joba Chamberlain
RA! PA! DA! (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The Yankees are expected to get David Robertson back for Friday’s series-opener in Washington, making tonight the last time Joe Girardi will have to use his mix-and-match bullpen tactics in the late innings. The one thing Girardi does better than anything else is manage his bullpen and put his relievers in a position to succeed, and year after year they continue to perform. Clay Rapada had no business throwing a scoreless eighth inning against one of the best offenses in baseball with a two-run lead while appearing in his fourth consecutive game last night, yet he did it anyway.

Rafael Soriano has stepped up and performed well as the closer while Robertson and Mariano Rivera were on the shelf, and while that is certainly appreciated, I think it’s the four-man setup crew that deserves the most applause. Boone Logan and Cory Wade started the season as sixth inning matchup guys and became a powerhouse setup duo, striking out 28 of 82 batters (34.1%) while walking just three unintentionally (none by Logan) during Robertson’s absence. Wade did allow back-breaking homers to Mark Trumbo (walk-off) and Miguel Cabrera (game-tying) during this stretch, but otherwise these two shut things down in the late-innings of close games.

Rapada and Eppley have been true specialists, almost never facing batters of the opposite hand. Seven out of every ten batters Rapada faced while Robertson was down were lefties, and he held them to two hits and four walks in 25 plate appearances. The free passes are a bit of an eyesore, though two of the four came in his first two appearances after Robertson’s injury, plus I don’t consider walking Nick Johnson to be a cardinal sin. Johnson tends to do that. Eppley has generated plenty of ground balls against right-handers in his matchup role, getting 11 grounders out of the 19 righties who put the ball in play off him.

Of course, one of the primary reasons this makeshift setup crew has pitched so well during Robertson’s absence has been the starters, who have consistently pitched deep into the game and are keeping the relievers from being overworked. In the 28 games without Robertson, the starter has gone at least six innings 22 times — including 18 times in the last 19 games — and at least seven innings 16 times. The Yankees haven’t had a starter complete fewer than five innings since David Phelps was making spot starts between Freddy Garcia and Andy Pettitte. You can’t say enough about how much strong starting pitching helps the bullpen.

Assuming nothing unfortunate happens between now and Friday, the Yankees are going to turn a very good bullpen back into a great one thanks to Robertson’s return. He’ll help lighten the load on Wade and Logan specifically, but also Soriano as well. The starters are on a collective roll and are pitching deep into the game, which has helped soften the blow while Robertson has been on the mend. Getting him back this weekend won’t solve the RISPFAIL, but it’s going to be a huge addition to a pitching staff that has stepped up and carried the team during this three-week stretch of winning.

Girardi asks for, and receives, better work from Martin
Injury Updates: David Aardsma & Joba Chamberlain
  • gageagainstthemachine

    I just hope the starters continue their inner competition they’ve been having and don’t look at the bullpen as an excuse to not dominate games. Not that they’re weren’t trying to do it before, but knowing your bullpen is short probably really says to them, “Ok, they need at least 7 strong out of me tonight and every night.” And Andy Pettitte saying, “Your turn”. CC…just a matter of time, but he’s still keeping games close and eating innings when he isn’t on top of his game. Now, about that RISP…sheesh…when is that levee going to break!?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break,
      When The Levee Breaks I’ll have no place to stay.

      Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan,
      Got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home,
      Oh, well, oh, well, oh, well.

      • Dick Gozinya

        Major props for the Zep reference.

  • jjyank

    Could any other bullpen in the majors be this effective after sustaining loses of the Mo and Robertson caliber? Maybe, but if so, it can’t be more than a couple. Bravo boys, hope you all keep it up well after Robertson gets back as well.

  • blake

    Say what you want about Girardi but I think he could take a few guys out of the stands and somehow figure out how to make a decent bullpen out of them…….

    • DM

      Bullpen inning mgmt is his strongest skill by far.

      • Tcmiller30

        It seems more impressive because he came following Joe “The Bullpen Butcher” Torre.

      • Steve (different one)

        Which in the AL, is what, 80% of the in-game responsibilities?

  • http://Yahoo Larry Smith

    This is pure unadulterated bs. All you people making all these “scientific” reasons for his weight being a problem remind me of some little league coach making excuses why he just ruined a 12 y/o’s arm. Anyone that’s ever seen that big cat come of the bump and make a fielding play should know better. IF his weight were the problem, does it not make sense it would be a problem the whole game instead of one or two innings. When he makes ingame adjustments, does he suddenly lose 25 lbs between innings. There is nothing wrong with CC Sabathia, except MAYBE arm slot or jerking his front shouolder just enough to alter the delivery spot. I don’t pretent to know, Rothschild would know better than anyone. Sure, it wouldn’t hurt him to drop a few pounds, I just don’t see the weight issue.

    • jjyank

      I’m thinking this is in the wrong thread.

      • Need Pitching

        and I think missing the point of the thread it should be in

        • Havok9120

          I’m hoping it was a response to someone in particular and not the article in general.

  • nsalem

    Maybe it’s time to consider renaming the Death By Bullpen category. It is very Joe Torreesque term that brings up visions of the mid-aught days. Tanyan Sturtze, Scott Proctor. and others probably would have had longer, more productive and healthier careers if not for Joe’s mismanagement. It’s good to see that Johnathan Broxton is finally recovering from his 48 pitch outing two years ago vs. the Yankees two years ago.