Death Strength by Bullpen

Ibanez wrecks the Yankees; Mariners win 12-2
OOTP Baseball provides armchair GMs an outlet
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Don’t look now, but the Yankees bullpen has been really good of late. Before Brett Marshall bit the bullet last night, they amassed the fifth highest cumulative WAR (1.8) in Major League Baseball — trailing only the Rockies, Tigers, White Sox, and Twins. Over 133.2 innings, the Yankees relief core has produced a 9.42 K/9 rate, surrendered only 2.53 BB/9 and 0.95 HR/9, complimented by a 3.33 ERA (3.24 FIP / 3.18 xFIP). Let’s take a look at some of the big contributors.

It all begins and ends with Mo
After missing most of the 2012 campaign, Mariano has returned with a vengeance. He’s already accumulated 16 saves (with no blown opportunities). His velocity has primarily sat in the 88-92 mph range, while his patented cutter continues dominate. To say right handed batters have had slightly more success against The Sandman would be true (.307 wOBA). However, to say that any batter has been generally successful overall against Mo this season would be false (.205 wOBA overall). When the ninth arrives, so does Mo, without compromise and in vintage form.

Girardi’s (setup) crew
The road to Mo is also pretty well paved. David Robertson has embraced his duties as the official set up man while Joba Chamberlain has handled the seventh fairly effectively (prior to injury). I really can’t get enough of Robertson either. Even though he occasionally puts me on edge with his Houdini act, his strikeout rate is certainly prolific (11.02/9). What’s more, 55.6% of his first pitches are thrown for strikes, and interesting enough, batters have swung at more pitches outside of the strike zone (33.3%) then they have in the past against him (career 25.2 O-Swing%) so far. As for Joba, his 6.75 K/9 and 5.79 BB/9 peripherals aren’t quite where you’d like them to be overall. However, prior to straining his right oblique, Joba had been looking increasingly comfortable on the mound. More importantly, his velocity seems to be right where it should be considering he isn’t all that far removed from Tommy John surgery.

Behold! The obligatory LOOGY
After pitching in 80 (!) games last season, I was pretty confident Boone Logan was going to be toast this season. I was thinking back to the days of Joe Torre when guys like Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze, Tom Gordon and Scott Proctor had their arms basically turned into mush. Early on this season, it sure appeared to be heading in that direction too. Give old Boone credit though. He has pitched in 10.1 innings, and managed a 2.61 ERA (3.79 FIP, 2.39 xFIP) with a 10.45 K/9 rate. That’ll do. Curiously, for a guy who’s primary function is to get left handers out, he’s actually shown more of a reverse split (.352 vs. 349 wOBA). I suspect this more of a byproduct though of a small sample size, and will probably normalize over the course of the season.

(Nick Laham/Getty)
(Nick Laham/Getty)

The other guys
The Yankees have also found productivity from some of the less recognizable names. Mike gave Adam Warren his due yesterday. Preston Claiborne has also done a great job on the mound in limited opportunity. Anecdotally, the kid looks composed out there, and because of it I tend to have an irrational calm every time he’s pitches. He hasn’t shown very much in the strike out department (5.14 K/9), but he’s done a good job of not giving up free bases (no walks). Claiborne has also demonstrated a willingness to use a slider and a changeup in addition to his fastball, which I personally appreciate.

Overall, Cashman has done a pretty good job of piecing together quality bullpens over the past several seasons, which is important as it seems to be an increasingly specialized (and valued) part of the game. I think it’s worth acknowledging that a fair portion of the team’s success this season can also be attributed to the bullpen given the current roster construction.

Ibanez wrecks the Yankees; Mariners win 12-2
OOTP Baseball provides armchair GMs an outlet
  • Eddard

    Consistent pitching will always carry you through offensive ups and downs. Inconsistent pitching, like we saw last night, will get you beat every time. They have been dominating 1 run games and have shown the ability to come back and win. That’s because of the pitching. It’s not some fluke like people were saying about the Orioles last year. The Orioles still haven’t gone away, one year later.

    • throwmeacurve

      You mean good pitching. Consistent means something else.

      • Jim Is Bored

        Don’t stop him, he’s on a roll.

        • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)


  • Robinson Tilapia

    Hats off to Brett Marshall last night as well. It wasn’t glamorous, and it wasn’t particularly pretty, but the kid took a bullet for this team. As he said, it may not be what you expect for the first start, but I hope this kid gets good karma in buckets from that outing for the rest of his career. Everyone needs a workhorse at the end of the rotation and, if this guy can develop into an even average one, that’s less money to spend outside on the ass-end of the rotation.

    Let’s also give it up to TomH’s favorite reliever, Shawn Kelley, who’s certainly been hot and cold. If the “hot” can become more frequently, goddamn, this kid could be something quite special.

  • gageagainstthemachine

    We have been 100% totally spoiled as fans to have Rivera. It might be a really rough transition next year down to reality for us (the fans). Here’s hoping he goes the season perfect on save opportunities and hoisting another WS trophy!

    • slus trollmeat sandwich

      The flipside is that the team should be able to have someone who can do very well at closing games, as they did last year with Soriano. Whether they can just rely on the same person to do for the next 15 years is another story.

      We’ll just have to do as the commoners do, I guess, and re-evaluate the closing situation every few years.

      • jjyank


        • Robinson Tilapia

          Who says pablos sammy can’t do some branching out? They all can’t resist the desire to be taken seriously after a while.

          • jjyank

            Uh huh.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              You’re right. Now that I think about it, that does look like Eddard’s work.

              • jjyank

                Sure it does.

                • jsbrendog

                  oh wow…it does

    • CS Yankee

      He is doing the road tour in his last season collecting prizes and saves at fast pace.

      In 2014 (and thereafter), it would be great if he came back as our Yankee stadium closer.


  • CS Yankee

    How can you write this without talking about kelly and what he has done over his last 5-6 appearances.

    He was DFA-material two weeks ago, found another 1-2 MPH and some late slider movement and has been lights out.

    Warren, also has exceeded expectations.

    Joba is a big name, hopefully he can keep the BB’s down and stay healthy. Seems like he, as well as, Hughes are stubborn to (or just can’t) grow as pitchers, they’ll stay throwers. They are both good, but will never be great…problem being good is that great is your enemy.

  • mark

    Mike says: “Cashman has done a pretty good job of piecing together quality bullpens over the past several seasons”…

    I agree…but, it’s funny the higher profile bullpen acquisitions have flamed out and the lesser names have done well, right?

    • Matthew Warden

      A valid point, Mark. I think that’s part of the reason Cashman has tried to stay in-house with relief options. We’ve seen all too often a reliever who posts quality numbers one year only to promptly follow it with a miserable one the next. It’s tough to justify a big contract for a non-elite relief arm given their fickle nature. When Levine handed out the moster player friendly contract in the history of player friendly contracts to Soriano, I was terrified of exactly that. Fortunately for the Yankees it worked out as well as it probably could have.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That seems to be the name of the game. Multi-year deals, mid-season acquisitions…..we always can name the ones that go up in smoke, across baseball, much easier than we can name the ones that succeed.

      Bullpens are like sausage and law sometimes.

    • jsbrendog

      well boone turned out pretty well. other than him who in the last 3 years has been an FA or trade that flamed out?

      • YanksFan

        I would guess that its meant as a dig at Feliciano getting 8M for absolutely 0 innings. To a lesser extent Soriano’s first year, even though it was Levine.

  • trr

    The Bullpen is oft overlooked when performing well, but always critcized when pitching badly. On balance, the bullpen has been excellent this year, led by the peerless Rivera. I have to echo the other comments above, we truly have been spoiled by having him as our closer all these years.

    Here’s hoping the ‘pen contunues to perform at such a high level.

  • jjyank

    I wouldn’t leave Shawn Kelley out of this article. His ERA (5.87) isn’t pretty, but it’s also a bit inflated from three ER he gave up in back to back appearances in early April. He’s been much better since then, and has a 3.93 FIP, a 2.05 xFIP, and a very shiny 14.67 K/9.

    He’s not a set up man, but I am feeling increasingly confident in his abilities to be a quality middle relief guy.

    • Matthew Warden

      I probably should have included him in the article. Honestly, his name just kind of slipped my mind. But, yeah, LOVE the K/9 rate.