Yankees have little choice but to demote Dellin Betances and hope he figures things out in lower leverage spots

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

In what has been an ongoing theme all season, the Yankees have a problem in their bullpen. They’ve never had everyone clicking at once. Not even for a game or two, it seems. There’s always been that one guy who is out of sorts. It was Tyler Clippard for a while, then Adam Warren, then Dellin Betances, then Aroldis Chapman. On and on. All season long there’s been someone struggling.

The problem right now is, again, Betances, who faced four batters last night and recorded one out, on a gift bunt. He hit a batter and walked the other two. Overall, Betances now has a 17.3% walk rate this season — that’s 43 walks to 249 batters faced in 56.2 innings — and he’s also hit ten batters. Ten! He hit eight batters total from 2014-16. Only nine pitchers have hit more batters than Betances this season and they’re all starters.

“(Sunday) he located extremely well and I thought it was a game that got him back on track. Today it kinda reared its ugly head again. We’ll keep trying to figure it out,” said Joe Girardi following last night’s game and Dellin’s latest rough outing. “I haven’t really made any decisions (about roles). We just came off a pretty emotional game and a big win. We’ve got to get him straightened out because he’s really important to us moving forward.”

Here’s the thing to understand about Betances: it’s not command. Command is painting the corners and dotting the knees. He’s never had good command, even when he’s been great. Betances has had basic strike-throwing problems pretty much all season. We’re talking simple “throw the ball over the plate” stuff. Dellin’s stuff is good enough that he can get outs and swings and misses in the strike zone. Just getting the ball over the plate is the problem right now.

Girardi can be loyal to a fault at times, though he has demoted relievers when their performance warranted such a demotion this season. Clippard eventually stopped seeing high-leverage work. Chapman lost the closer’s job for a while. And now it’s time to move Betances out of a late-inning role until he straightens things out. I mean, last night was Game 150 of the season. The time for patience is over. It’s time to take away some responsibility and try to get him right in lower leverage spots.

The Yankees are fortunate right now to have a) a fairly sizeable lead in the wildcard race, and b) a pretty deep bullpen. Chapman seems to be back on track, meaning David Robertson can set up and Chad Green can still do his multi-inning fireman thing. Tommy Kahnle has been better of late too, so there’s your fourth option. Imagine being able to demote your four-time All-Star setup man and still have those guys to lean on? Pretty cool.

Can the Yankees get Betances on track? I mean, maybe. It could click tomorrow. It’s difficult to predict things with Dellin, who has a long history of losing the strike zone and finding it again. Until he finds it though — and he might not find it, that’s the problem — Girardi and the Yankees should not, you know, use him in one-run games against the team chasing you in the standings like last night. Let someone else handle those big spots for the time being.

There are 12 games and 13 days remaining the regular season. That’s all. There’s not much time for Dellin to hopefully figure things out, but the Yankees have to hope he does, because they’re a better team when he’s dominating. With any luck, they’ll clinch a postseason spot soon, giving them the luxury of using Betances in any situation without concern for the standings. A few meaningless game to close out the regular season would be nice.

Until that happens though, Betances’ control problems are too great to ignore, and he shouldn’t see high-leverage work at all. Chapman was demoted from his familiar closer’s role a few weeks ago because it was the best thing for the team, and now it’s time to demote Betances from his familiar eighth inning role because it’s the best thing for the team. The best thing for the team and the best thing for Dellin too.

Yankees 2, Twins 1: The Jaime & Aroldis Show

Who said the Yankees can’t win close games? The Yankees picked up a not at all stressful (nope, not at all) 2-1 win in the series opener against the Twins on Monday night. This is a pretty important series given the postseason races, I hear. The Yankees are 12-4 in their last 16 games and have opened up a five-game lead over Minnesota for the top wildcard spot. They’re 6.5 games up on the Angels for a wildcard spot in general. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot is seven and the magic number to clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game is eight.


Jaime’s Revenge Tour
Thanks to a perfect storm of pissed-off-edness, Jaime Garcia threw what is far and away his best start as a Yankee on Monday night. He was mad at the Twins for trading him after one start and mad at Joe Girardi for the quick hook last time out. The result was a season high nine strikeouts in 5.2 innings, including five strikeouts among the first six batters he faced. Angry Jaime is a heck of a pitcher.

I thought Garcia had the best slider and the best changeup he’s had in any of his seven starts as a Yankee, and he had them both in the same start. He threw 20 sliders and got seven swings and misses. He threw 15 changeups and got five swings and misses. That’ll work. Garcia allowed his run on back-to-back singles — Aaron Judge bobbled the ball on the second single, allowing the runner to go to third — and a ground ball to third base. It was unearned thanks to Judge’s error.

The final line for Jaime: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. Imagine if the Yankees had traded Garcia to the Twins and he pitched like that against them in the postseason race. The internet wouldn’t survive the hot takes. I was a bit surprised Girardi sent Garcia back out for the sixth considering the lineup was about to turn over, but he got two quick outs before handsome Joe Mauer ended his night with a handsome single to right.

In his last three starts now Garcia has allowed four runs (two earned) in 15.1 innings, which is pretty darn good. He has a 3.89 ERA (4.24 FIP) in seven starts and 41.2 innings as a Yankee, and considering he is no higher than fifth on the rotation depth chart (probably sixth), that is pretty rad. The Yankees needed another starter with Jordan Montgomery hitting a wall and Luis Severino‘s innings piling up. Jaime’s stepped in and done a solid job overall.


Sometimes Two Runs Is Enough
This felt very much like a “they’re going to regret leaving those runners on base” game. The Yankees stranded a runner at third base in the second, third, and fifth innings. They left a runner on second base in the fourth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. So that’s a runner stranded in scoring position in every inning but the first. Oy vey. The Yankees went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Fortunately, home runs are cool, and sacrifice flies are slightly less cool but still useful. Judge opened the scoring with a first inning solo home run to right field, giving him seven homers in his last 14 games now. He has 44 (45*) homers on the season and is a) the first Yankee with 44 homers since Alex Rodriguez hit 54 during his sicko 2007 season, and b) closing in Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49 homers. Judge has 13 games to hit five homers to tie Big Mac.

The Twins tied the game in the fifth inning, and one inning later, the Yankees took the lead for good. It wasn’t pretty and the Yankees should’ve scored a boatload more runs that inning, but at least they got one. Chase Headley and Starlin Castro started the rally with back-to-back one-out singles, then advanced on Ervin Santana’s wild pitch. That prompted the Twins to intentionally walk Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases. What a time to be alive.

Todd Frazier, who was 5-for-17 (.294) with three homers and more walks (seven) than strikeouts (five) in his last six games going into Monday night, drove in the game-tying run with your garden variety sac fly to left field. Really nothing special about it, other than the fact it drove in the winning run. Greg Bird grounded out to end the inning, so no insurance run(s) was scored, but Frazier got one run home and ultimately that’s all the Yankees needed.


Bad Dellin, Good Aroldis
Great night for every reliever not named Dellin Betances. David Robertson inherited a runner on first with two outs from Garcia and retired the next four batters on 15 pitches, including two on strikeouts. I thought Girardi was going to send Robertson back out for the eighth given his pitch count and the fact we’ve seen Joe use Robertson for extended outings (against the Mets, most notably), but nope. In came Dellin for the eighth inning.

The Twins did the Yankees an enormous favor. Betances starting that eighth inning by plunking Robbie Grossman, then the Twins gave him a free out on a bunt. First of all, playing for one run when you’re down one run on the road is kinda stupid. Second, given Dellin’s ongoing control problems this year, why wouldn’t you wait to see if he’ll walk the park before gifting him an out? Whatever. Thanks Twins. The bunt was the only out Betances recorded.

A walk, a wild pitch, and another walk later, the Twins had loaded the bases with one out. Told you they should’ve given Dellin a chance to walk them into a rally. Betances threw only six of his 17 pitches for strikes. At that point Girardi had no choice but to go to Aroldis Chapman, and Dellin was booed off the mound. Not that first time that’s happened this season. Hopefully it’s the last.

Anyway, Chapman inherited a mess and he escaped in four pitches. He completely overpowered Mauer (overpaured?) for the second out of the inning. That was huge. Even left-on-left, Mauer is not an easy out. He doesn’t strike out much, so you’re kinda hoping he hits it at someone or grounds into a double play. Instead, three pitches and three strikes (two swinging) for the strikeout. A Byron Buxton pop-up followed and that was that. Exhale.

But wait! There were still three outs to get. Chapman got those with zero stress. Two fly balls — well, one line drive and one pop up, but whatever — and a strikeout to end the game. He blew a 103.7 mph fastball by Eduardo Escobar to end the game, then stared him down. Pretty badass. The bullpen: 3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HB. The bullpen without Betances: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. Could Dellin and Chapman please be good at the same time at some point this season? Could be cool.


Two steals for Brett Gardner and two steals for Ellsbury. First time the Yankees have had multiple players with multiple steals in a game since Ellsbury and Brian Roberts (?!?) did it back in June 2014. Gardner went 3-for-4 to pace the offense. Judge, Headley, Castro, Ellsbury, and Frazier each had one hit. All singles except Judge’s dinger. The Yankees sent 35 men to the plate and 30 put the ball in play (one walk and four strikeouts).

Gary Sanchez took a brutal foul tip right to the left wrist/forearm in the seventh inning and was in obvious pain. He stayed in the game after being looked at by the trainer. Losing Gary for even a few innings would’ve been bad. I have no idea why anyone voluntarily catches. Seems terrible.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, MLB.com has the video highlights, and FanGraphs has the postseason odds. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Weather permitting, the Yankees and Twins will get together for the second game of this three-game series Tuesday night. There is rain in the forecast through the afternoon and evening thanks to Hurricane Jose, though it looks like there will be a big enough window to play the game. We’ll see. CC Sabathia and Jose Berrios are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Game 149 150: Wild Card Game Preview?

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Can’t say I expected a mid-September series to be important for both the Yankees and Twins, but here we are. The Yankees currently sit in the top wildcard spot, four games up on the Twins. The Twins have a two-game lead over the idle Angels for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees have some breathing room in the standings. The Twins are surely looking to close the gap with New York so they could possibly host the Wild Card Game.

Because of the importance of this series, I expect Joe Girardi to manage like the postseason. There’s an off-day Thursday, so don’t be surprised if he uses guys like David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman back-to-back-to-back days, even though he doesn’t like doing that. Chad Green, if he pitches tonight, might only get one day of rest and come back Wednesday rather than his usual two or three days off. We’ll see. Win one before worry about winning three. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. DH Chase Headley
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. 1B Greg Bird
    LHP Jaime Garcia

It is overcast and on the cool side in New York, and there’s a little bit of rain in the forecast. Shouldn’t be anything that interrupts the game. We’ve had the same weather for about a week now. Kinda sucks. I miss the sun. Anyway, tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network out-of-market. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Aaron Hicks (oblique) expects to begin taking batting practice soon. The minor league season is over, so there’s nowhere to play rehab games. He’ll have the jump right from batting practice to big league games. Sucks, but that’s how it goes in September.

Rotation shuffle confirms what we already knew: Luis Severino will start the Wild Card Game


Over the weekend the Yankees shuffled their rotation under the guise of keeping CC Sabathia and his balky right knee off the turf in Toronto this coming weekend, and I’m sure there’s some truth to that. Sabathia aggravated the knee and had to go on the disabled list the last time he pitched at Rogers Centre. The last thing the Yankees want this late in the season is an injured pitcher.

“We are trying to keep CC off that turf, yes. Is his knee okay? Yes. Are there concerns always about his knee? Yes. It won’t change his amount of starts, but it will keep him off the turf,” said Joe Girardi when announcing the rotation change following Saturday’s win. “Right now we are (Jaime) Garcia, CC, and (Masahiro) Tanaka (against the Twins this week).”

The rotation shuffle does two things. One, it keeps Sabathia away from the turf in Toronto. And two, it means Luis Severino will not start this week against the Twins, the team closest to the Yankees in the wildcard race. No player on the Twins has ever faced Severino (seriously), so Minnesota would be going into the Wild Card Game blind, should they and the Yankees qualify. Reading scouting reports and watching video only helps so much. There’s no substitute for standing in the box.

I’ve seen a few people mention the rotation shuffle lines Severino up to start the Wild Card Game, but that’s not really the case. He was already lined up for the Wild Card Game and the shuffle changes nothing. Here’s how the rotation would’ve lined up before the shuffle and how it lines up now:

Old Rotation Plan Current Rotation Plan
9/17 vs. Orioles Sabathia Gray
9/18 to 9/20 vs. Twins Gray-Tanaka-Severino Garcia-Sabathia-Tanaka
9/21 off-day
9/22 to 9/24 @ Blue Jays Montgomery-Sabathia-Gray Severino-Montgomery-Gray
9/25 vs. Royals Tanaka Garcia
9/26 to 9/28 vs. Rays Severino-Garcia-Montgomery Sabathia-Tanaka-Severino
9/29 to 10/1 vs. Blue Jays Sabathia-Gray-Tanaka Montgomery-Gray-Garcia
10/2 off-day
10/3 Wild Card Game Severino (two extra days) or Gray (one extra day) Tanaka (one extra day) or Severino (normal rest)

I would bet against Garcia making that start in the makeup game against the Royals next Monday. Thursday’s off-day allows the Yankees to start everyone on extra rest next week anyway, and, more importantly, skipping Garcia lines Severino up to pitch the Wild Card Game with an extra day of rest. And it’s not just about the extra rest. That extra day is also an insurance policy in case there’s a rainout or something. If the Yankees do skip Garcia next Monday, the Game 162 start could go to Domingo German or Bryan Mitchell, assuming the game is meaningless. If it’s a must-win situation, you run Tanaka out there on normal rest.

Anyway, the Yankees were originally going to skip Garcia this turn through the rotation, which would’ve allowed them to start their three best pitchers against the Twins this week. They were ready in case the wildcard race was closer than it is and this series really meant something. Instead, the Yankees increased their lead over the Twins the last few days, so this series isn’t as important as it looked a week ago. It’s important! But the race isn’t as close as it was, and it gives the Yankees some flexibility.

“We’re planning on Tanaka for Wednesday, but I could change my mind,” said Girardi yesterday, hedging a bit and indicating Severino could indeed start against the Twins this week. I suppose that depends how tonight and tomorrow go, but, worst case scenario, the Yankees will be one game up on the Twins for the first wildcard spot and 3.5 games up on Angels the for a wildcard spot in general come Thursday morning.

Right now the Twins are the team the Yankees are mostly likely to face in the Wild Card Game — for all intents and purposes it’s down to the Twins and Angels because everyone else has fallen further back — so hiding Severino makes sense. Let them go into the Wild Card Game blind. At the same time, if things go wrong the next two days, the Yankees can still run Severino out there Wednesday to stop the bleeding. They have some flexibility.

Shuffling the rotation this week is as much as about Severino as it is Sabathia’s knee. He was already lined up to start the Wild Card Game, or at least close enough to being lined up that the Yankees could’ve made it happen at pretty much any point. Now the Yankees have a chance to make sure the Twins don’t see Severino before the Wild Card Game while still having the ability to throw him at Minnesota this week, if necessary. It was a small little move that could potentially yield big dividends.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 18th, 2017

Record Last Week: 5-2 (43 RS, 21 RA)
Season Record: 82-67 (793 RS, 619 RA, 91-58 pythag. record) 3.0 GB in ALE, 6.0 GU on WC
Opponents This Week: vs. Twins (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

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Game 149: Score runs for Sonny

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Following yesterday’s game the Yankees shuffled their rotation to ensure CC Sabathia and his balky knee will not start on the turf in Toronto next week, which means Sonny Gray gets the start this afternoon. Gray has made eight starts as a Yankees, and in those eight starts, the Yankees have scored 24 total runs. Nine of the 24 came in one game. They’ve scored four runs in his five losses. Get that man some runs!

The good news is the Yankees are facing the Orioles at home today, and gosh, they’ve destroyed the O’s in Yankee Stadium all season. They’re 7-1 with a +57 run differential against the Orioles at home. Overall, the Yankees have scored 150 runs in 18 games — 150 runs in 18 games! — against the O’s this season. No team has scored more runs against any other team since baseball expanded in 1961. Crazy. How about another blowout today? Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Matt Holliday
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. LF Clint Frazier
    RHP Sonny Gray

Another cloudy and humid but not crazy hot day in New York. There’s also a little rain in the forecast. Not much. Probably not enough to interrupt the game. This afternoon’s series finale — it really is a shame this series has to end, isn’t it? — will begin a little after 1pm ET, and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Adam Warren (back) played catch again today and everything feels good. He’s still on track to get in a few games before the end of the regular season … Caleb Smith was placed on the 10-day DL with a viral infection, the Yankees announced. That might end his season. Only two weeks left.

Roster Move: Domingo German was called up from Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. He essentially replaces Smith as the extra long man. The Yankees did not need to place Smith on the disabled list to call up German. German had been down for much more than ten days.

Yankees 9, Orioles 3: Yankees rout O’s behind Montgomery

Source: FanGraphs

Make it a season high five consecutive series wins for the Yankees. At 82-66, the Yankees are a season high 16 games over .500, and the magic number to clinch a postseason spot is down to a season low nine games. The Yankees picked up an easy 9-3 win over the Orioles on Saturday afternoon. Since it’s Saturday, let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Making Earl Weaver Proud: The Yankees have hit five — five! — three-run home runs in the first three games of this four-game series. Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge (two) combined for three Thursday night, and on Saturday, Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird socked three-run homers of their own. Didi’s gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the third and Bird’s gave them a 6-0 lead in the fourth. That all happened after the trainer came out to look at Jeremy Hellickson, who remained in the game. He didn’t look all that good after the visit and the Yankees took advantage.
  • Six Strong For Montgomery: Great start for Jordan Montgomery. He needed one too. The last few weeks have been tough. Montgomery completed six innings for the first time since July 25th (eight starts ago) and he did not allow a run for only the second time all season (27 starts). Montgomery held the Orioles to four singles and a walk in his six scoreless innings, and he struck out six. He allowed just one runner to reach second base and none made it as far as third. Way to go, Monty.
  • Insurance Runs: The Yankees didn’t stop at six runs because, well, have you seen the O’s pitching staff? Jacoby Ellsbury, who went 3-for-4 and has reached base safely in 28 of his last 52 plate appearances, singled in a run in the fifth inning. Frazier cranked a two-run home run in the seventh inning to make it 9-0 Yankees. That was Frazier’s fifth homer in his last eleven games now. The Yankees have outscored the Orioles 30-10 in the series so far.
  • Leftovers: Scoreless innings from Tommy Kahnle and Ben Heller, then Chasen Shreve walked four and allowed a garbage time two-run homer in the ninth, and Gio Gallegos balked in a run. Whatever … three hits for Didi and Ellsbury, and one each for Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Frazier, and Bird … Judge drew two walks while Headley and Frazier had one each … Miguel Andujar pinch-hit and grounded out in the ninth. His career MLB batting line went from .750/.800/1.000 to .600/.667/.800. Lost .333 OPS points with one swing … and finally, the Yankees have clinched a winning record for the 25th straight season. That is the second longest such streak in history behind 39 years by the 1926-64 Yankees. If the current streak lasts long enough to match that one, Luis Severino will be 37 when it happens. Crazy.

Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page. Sadly, this four-game series will come to an end Sunday. That’s unfortunate. That’s a 1pm ET start. CC Sabathia Sonny Gray and Ubaldo Jimenez are the scheduled starting pitchers. The Yankees shuffled the rotation so Sabathia won’t have to pitch on the turf in Toronto next weekend.