On the bullpen workload

Cano remains productive amid slump
Game 156: North of the Border
(Rob Carr/Getty)

It’s no secret that Joe Girardi and the Yankees have leaned on their bullpen heavily these last two months, as the division lead was squandered away and games became increasingly important. The late-game quartet of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Boone Logan, and Joba Chamberlain have been at the forefront of the increased bullpen workload, as they form what amounts to the Circle of Trustâ„¢. Every manager has those guys, but Girardi has been pressed into using his more than he probably would like of late.

Joel Sherman noted today that Wednesday’s win over the Twins was the first time at least one of those four relievers did not appear in a game since August 14th, when Hiroki Kuroda two-hit the Rangers. That was 38 games ago. Since that date, Logan (22) and Robertson (21) have appeared in more than half of the team’s games. Soriano (17) and Joba (15) have had it a little easier. Looking at September only, Logan ranks second in baseball with 16 appearances. Robertson is third (14). Only former Yankee Randy Choate (17) has made more pitching appearances this month.

Robertson has made four sets of back-to-back-to-back appearances since Kuroda’s complete game, the first four back-to-back-to-back appearances of his career. That blew my mind. Had he not missed more than a month with an oblique strain, Robertson would be sitting on 70+ appearances and 70+ innings on the season. Both would be career highs. Logan, on the other hand, leads the AL with 77 appearances, three more than anyone who spent the entire season in the junior circuit. This is a guy who hadn’t appeared in more than 65 games since 2007. He seems to be worn down and his performance has suffered down the stretch.

These next seven games are imperative and Girardi shouldn’t hold back on his top relievers until the Yankees clinch something, preferably the AL East. The good news is that CC Sabathia is starting to look more like himself, which means more innings-eating appearances like what he gave the team yesterday. Andy Pettitte has stretched his pitch count up to 88 and should be good for 100 or so next time. David Phelps and his ability to go multiple innings is now in the bullpen to help lighten the load, and we’ve already seen Girardi be willing to use him in higher-leverage seventh inning appearances. I’d like to see him go two innings at a time, but even the one inning helps.

With the AL East magic number down to six, the Yankees could be wearing the division crown by the time they return home to face the Red Sox next week. That would give them three precious days to rest the four core relievers before the season ends, but of course clinching that soon will require some help. At this point of the schedule, the proverbial bullpen damage has already been done. Maybe the late-inning guys can get an extra day or two or rest before the end of the season, but the workload already is what it is. The goal right now remains winning the division and if that means these guys have to throw a bunch of innings in the next week, so be it.

Cano remains productive amid slump
Game 156: North of the Border
  • Monty Capuletti

    Once Mo and half the starters got hurt, did Girardi have other options we’re forgetting about?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That’s so easily forgotten when we’re wondering what the hell Cody Eppley is doing out there but, also, so true.

      A little bit more Phelps in short stints would help in getting these guys a least a bit of rest, I think.

      • Joe F

        It’s kinda crazy how much Eppley was used though. He was getting Proctor kind of work. Not good for his young arm.

    • Tom


      1. Let the starters go longer. (this obviously is a tricky balancing act)

      2. Stop bunting in early and mid innings which keeps games closer as you forego the chance of a big inning for a marginal increase in a chance at 1 run. This means quicker hooks for your starter because games are closer and more high leverage late game situations when the starter does leave.

      3. Continue to manage on offense when up 2-4 runs – while pinch hitting may not impact the final outcome of the game, it may give you a tack on run or two and save an arm in the pen (or again not have such a quick hook for the starter if/when he gets in trouble).

      Sometimes managing the bullpen can be about how you manage the other aspects of the game beyond making pitching changes in late innings.

      The Yankees had the 2nd fewest relief innings in the AL the last time I looked (~1 week ago). While the load has been larger of late, the impact of all the appearances over a season do sometimes catch up with you.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Another option would be to allow certain relief pitchers to pitch more than one inning. Girardi started to do that with Joba when he returned, but seems to hacve fallen back into only allowing him to go one and then move on to the next arm. There was (and still is) a great opportunity with Phelps, as he’s been stretched out most of the season. While Phelps isn’t necesarily in the “Circle of Trust”, he’s shown he can get through an order multiple times. Allowing him to pitch 2 or even 3 innings of fairly high leverage should not be out of the question. I hope Girardi considers that.

        It’s still a balancing act, ensuring everyone gets enough rest, and longer outings probably leads to more rest being required, but it’s something that could be worked.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Is Rapada broken or something? He seems to not suck, so I’m not sure why he isn’t pitching more, especially of late…

    • Josh

      Yeah, it’d be nice to give Logan a day off once in a while.Besides Rapada is just as good, if not better, as Logan at getting lefties out.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I agree that every manager has his own “circle of trust,” that you have your set of guys that tend to pitch when you’re ahead versus when you’re losing, and that the “B” team or relievers is often the softest underbelly of the team.

    It’s been a frustrating bullpen, but far from even the most frustrating I’ve seen in recent memory. Which season was it the Yanks tried to revamp in August with Karstens, Jim Brower/Brewer, etc.? There’s that. There’s also the permanent scars Felix Heredia and Wayne Franklin caused me.

    • Deep Thoughts

      Ugh, Brower. And Colter Bean. It was 2007 and Torre’s Proctoring in NY was perfected by the time the trade deadline rolled around.

  • Zack

    The Rangers,Tigers,Angels and O’s are also having this issue,as you have one or two starters going deep..but the rest sometimes not being able to make it past the fourth or fifth inning.
    That’s the thing. There is no team in the AL postseason that won’t have a bullpen starting to run low,even the mighty O’s are having that issue.

  • johnny yanks

    My problem too is the amount of times they warm up and not pitch that day so no full rest

  • CountryClub

    Assuming they win the division, the earliest they’ll play game 1 is saturday. So at least everyone will get a couple days off. If they pull off the #1 seed they wont play until Sunday.

  • http://stoogazzo@comcast.net Tom Morea

    These poor over-worked Yankee relief pitchers. They are so tired. They need a rest. Does anybody out there remember Allie Reynolds, he was a starter and a reliever!

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Dizzy Dean also pitched and won both games of a doubleheader.

      That has about as much to do with Mike’s post as your inane comment.

    • Joe

      No one cares about what a pitcher did 60 years ago I hate when people do that. First those guys wouldn’t last 2 innings in a game today because hitters are better and lineups are deeper and second teams would be dumb to let a guy start 2 games of a DH. Compare the avg career span of a pitcher then to one today too.

      • Joe

        Damn reply fail wasn’t going at the person above me sorry. Was going at the first one

        • bpdelia

          I agree that was a fumb comment but pitchers from then would be just as good. back them baseball got the BEST athletes in the nation. now not so much. if allue Reynolds or Luis arroyo or Mickey mantle were born in 1982 they would be awesome, players. if they were Bborn in 1902 theyd be awesome plauers. by your logic yuni bettencourt would a perrenial MVP in the 60’s. doesn’t work that way guys played against the other team using the best training methods available to them. so whitry ford would, not, be a scrub today and Adam Warren wouldnt win the cy young then. they played the guys in front of them and were world class at what they did. if sandy koifax playef yoday with modern training and, medicine he would still be amazing. thst works both ways. if Ruth had a weight regimrn and trainer he would of hit 90 hrs.. see how that works?

      • Joe F

        This is NOT me.

  • Better off Eddard

    He needs to audition Clay Rapada as high leverage LOOGY. We’ll need a lefty to get Dunn, Fielder, Hamilton and Boone Logan’s arm is shot. I think with Andy now in the rotation we have 3 starters who can go 7-9 innings. Hughes should have been given a chance to get the last out in his last start, not Boone. Phelps adds another reliable arm.

    • Steve (different one)

      Hughes had 3 chances to get the last batter, or did the inning start with the bases loaded?

      • This Again?

        Hughes didn’t get another shot after recording two outs; Span was the first hitter due with two outs in the inning.

        Thought that was obvious.

        Nice to see Axisa finally acknowledge the workload the pen has bad to endure.

        • Steve (different one)

          I know this. The point was Hughes was given plenty of rope in that inning, but he loaded the bases. Going to a lefty in that spot was a fairly obvious decision that only drew fire because Logan made a shitty pitch. Pulling Hughes at that point was perfectly defensible.

  • Steve (different one)

    This is a direct by-product of the new playoff format. The difference between the division and wc is so vast, Girardi almost has to manage these games like the post season.

  • sevrox

    I have a feeling clinching the division this year will be a bit sweeter than years past – – – Baltimore’s actually an admirable team. The ‘we’ win they win, ‘we’ lose they lose is a bit bizarre and surreal…

    • Mike Francessa

      It’s bizzah. It’s just awd.

  • FreeAgentSignee

    I agree Mike.
    Go Yankees!