Archive for Dellin Betances
Just about all summer, Joe Girardi and the Yankees have enjoyed arguably the most dominant setup man/closer tandem in baseball in Dellin Betances and David Robertson. The team has scaled back on Betances’ workload in recent weeks but for the most of the season he was a multi-inning monster who would regularly bridge the gap from starter to closer all by himself. Robertson has been dynamite in his first season as closer, making the transition to the post-Mariano Rivera era relatively painless.
The Yankees had a similarly dominant late-game duo the last few years thanks to the Robertson and Rivera, though Robertson has always been a true one-inning reliever, not a four or five or six out guy. The multi-inning reliever is a dying breed, especially when it comes to late-inning guys. The last time the Yankees had a duo like Betances and Robertson, meaning an overwhelming multi-inning setup man and a shutdown closer, was way back to 1996, when Rivera was setting up John Wetteland.
There are more than a few similarities between the 1996 duo and the 2014 duo. Betances, like Rivera, was scuffling along for much of his early-20s, trying to make it work as a starting pitcher before moving into the bullpen full-time. They both opened the season in an undefined middle relief role before pitching their way into some more responsibility — Rivera threw 15 straight hitless innings at one point from mid-April through early-May in 1996, which is a great way to earn the manager’s trust — and eventually a no-doubt high-leverage role. Robertson has a knack for making things interesting but gets the job done more often than not, similar to Wetteland.
Statistically, there isn’t much of a comparison. Betances and Robertson have been quite a bit more effective this year than Rivera and Wetteland in 1996, at least on a rate basis. Wetteland and (mostly) Rivera did throw a ton of innings back in the day, a workload Betances and Robertson won’t sniff this year:
|2014 Betances & Robertson||137.1||0.84||1.97||1.84||39.4%||7.6%||5.18|
|1996 Rivera & Wetteland||171.1||1.06||2.36||2.57||28.8%||8.0%||3.43|
Rivera and Wetteland also excelled in the postseason in 1996, combining to allow only four runs in 26.2 innings (1.35 ERA) during the team’s march to the World Series title. Wetteland saved four games in five days en route to being named World Series MVP. Hopefully Betances and Robertson get a chance to strut their stuff in the postseason next month, but eh. Things aren’t looking too hot right now.
The similarities don’t stop there either. Betances (26) and Robertson (29) are the same age right now that Rivera and Wetteland were back in 1996, respectively. That’s sorta freaky. Robertson is also due to become a free agent this offseason just like Wetteland became a free agent following the 1996 season. The Yankees let him walk and installed Rivera as their closer. The team is going to face a similar decision this winter — do they let Robertson go and hand the ninth inning reigns over to Dellin?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with re-signing Robertson and keeping one of the game’s most dominant late-game bullpen pairs together for another few seasons. In fact I would prefer it. I don’t mean that as a slight on Betances either. I think he’d be able to close no problem just like I thought Robertson would have no trouble closing this year, but there is no such thing as having too many great relievers. The game has changed a lot in the last two decades. Deep bullpens are imperative these days because no one scores runs anymore and every game is close.
Eighteen years ago, the Yankees had an advantage over every team they played thanks to Rivera and Wetteland. Rivera’s ability to go multiple innings — he went two full innings in 35 of 61 appearances and three full innings eight times — combined with Wetteland’s ninth inning reliability effective made it a six-inning game for New York. Girardi has had the same luxury this year thanks to Betances and Robertson. Both guys are having phenomenal seasons and they’ve been essential in keeping the Yankees in the race this summer.
Even though it is not really the halfway point of the season, there is no better time to review the first half than the All-Star break. This week we’ll hand out some simple, straightforward, and totally subjective grades, A through F, for the catchers, infielders, outfielders, rotation, and bullpen. We’ve already covered the catchers, infielders, outfielders, and rotation, so now let’s wrap up with the bullpen.
David Robertson — Grade A
So maybe replacing Mariano Rivera won’t be so difficult after all. Robertson inherited the closer’s job — to the dismay of more than a few — and has run with it, pitching to a 2.76 ERA (1.73 FIP) in 32 appearances and 32.2 innings. He is 23-for-25 in save chances with a career best strikeout rate (16.26 K/9 and 44.7 K%) and a career best ground rate (51.6%) while keeping his walk rate (2.76 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) in line with the last two years. Robertson is also holding opponents to a .198 batting average, second lowest of his career (.170 in 2011) despite a career worst .356 BABIP.
Robertson has allowed ten earned runs this year with five coming in one disaster outing against the Twins on June 1st. He has allowed one run while striking out 27 of 56 batters faced since. Overall, 59 of 98 outs this season have been strikeouts, including 58 of 89 (65.2%) since coming off the disabled list (groin) in mid-April. No pitcher who has thrown at least 30 innings this season has a high strikeout rate. It’s not even close, really. Robertson leads in K/9 by more than one full strikeout and in K% by roughly three percentage points. He’s been dominant in every sense of the word.
The Yankees will need Robertson to continue his dominance in the second half for obvious reasons, though his looming free agency will be hanging over everyone’s head. The two sides have not discussed an extension but that could change at any time. Relievers like Robertson — super high strikeout pitchers with proven late-inning/big market chops and no history of arm problems — are rare and the Yankees should make every effort to keep him beyond this season. If his work this year doesn’t convince them he is the man to replace Rivera long-term, then I’m not sure they’ll ever find someone good enough.
Dellin Betances — Grade A
Just a few short months ago, Betances had a win a roster spot in Spring Training. Now he’s an All-Star high-leverage reliever who is 1996 Rivera to Robertson’s 1996 John Wetteland. Betances has a 1.46 ERA (1.37 FIP) while ranking third among full-time relievers in innings (55.1) and first in both fWAR (2.1) and bWAR (1.7). His strikeout rate (13.66 K/9 and 40.8 K%) is a bit behind Robertson’s but still among the highest in the league. He’s also stopped walking dudes (2.60 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%) and is getting grounders (50.5%).
Joe Girardi has not been shy about using Betances for multiple innings given his history as a starter — Betances has recorded at least four outs in 25 of his 40 appearances and at least six outs 12 times — though he did take his foot off the gas right before the All-Star break because it did appear the big right-hander was starting to fatigue a bit. His stuff was still electric but not quite as crisp. Hopefully the break recharges his batteries. A little more than a year ago, Betances looked like he may soon be out of baseball. The move into the bullpen has saved his career and given the Yankees a second elite reliever to pair with Robertson in the first season post-Mo.
Adam Warren — Grade B
From spot starter to swingman to trusted high-leverage reliever. Warren has had his role redefined over the last few seasons and he has now settled in as a quality third option behind Robertson and Betances. His numbers — 2.79 ERA (2.70 FIP) in 42 appearances and 48.1 innings — are not quite as good as those two, but he gets strikeouts (8.57 K/9 and 22.4 K%), gets grounders (46.8%), and is stingy with ball four (2.79 BB/9 and 7.3 BB%). His fastball velocity has also ticked up in short relief, averaging 94.1 mph this year after sitting 93.0 last year.
As with Betances, Girardi has taken advantage of Warren’s history as a starter by using his for multiple innings on several occasions — he’s recorded 4+ outs in 18 of his 42 appearances. The Yankees have said that if the need arises, they would pull Warren out of the bullpen and stick him in the rotation, but starters are dropping like flies and it hasn’t happened yet. Warren seems to have found a niche in short relief and he’s been a very valuable member of the bullpen despite being overshadowed by Robertson and Betances.
Shawn Kelley — Grade C
It was a tale of two first halves for Kelley, who opened the season as the regular eighth inning guy and nailed down four saves in four chances while Robertson was on the disabled list in April. He had a 1.88 (1.67 FIP) in his first 14.1 innings of the year before a disaster outing against the Angels on May 5th (two outs, four walks, three runs), after which he was placed on the disabled list with a back injury. It kept him out a month and he has a 4.05 ERA (3.21 FIP) in 13.1 innings since returning.
Kelley didn’t look right when he first returned from the back problem. He wasn’t able to finish his pitches and his trademark slider didn’t have much bite. It just kinda spun and floated. He looked much better in his last few outings before the All-Star break — one run, five hits, no walks, 13 strikeouts in 8.1 innings — and hopefully that’s a sign he’s now 100% and ready to take on some late-inning responsibilities so Girardi can spread the workload around. Definitely a mixed bag for Kelley in the first half.
Matt Thornton — Grade C
The rules of baseball fandom say we must hate the team’s lefty specialist, but Thornton has been solid (3.10 ERA and 3.04 FIP) in his 38 appearances and 20.1 innings. As his innings-to-appearances ratio suggests, Girardi has used him as a true matchup left-hander and not tried to force it against righties whenever possible. Thornton has held same-side hitters to a .229/.319/.244 (.262 wOBA) batting line with a 15.1% strikeout rate, a 3.8% walk rate, and a 50.0% ground ball rate. Solid.
The only real negative about Thornton is he doesn’t miss bats, even against left-handed hitters. That 15.1% strikeout rate is 76th out of the 90 left-handed pitchers who have faced at least 50 left-handed batters this year. Lefties have swung and missed only 20 times at the 220 pitches Thornton has thrown them this year (9.1%). That kinda sucks for a left-on-left reliever. Thornton missed a week with undisclosed soreness right before the break but did return to pitch against the Indians last week. LOOGYs, huh? Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.
Remember how awful Claiborne looked in Spring Training? We were talking about him as a candidate to be dropped from the 40-man roster if a need arose, but the Yankees kept him around and he pitched to a 3.57 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 17.2 innings while going up and down a few times in the first half. Three of his nine walks were intentional, uglifying his numbers a bit. Claiborne is currently on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list with a shoulder injury of unknown severity, which is not insignificant given his status as the team’s primary up and down depth arm.
The Yankees re-acquired Huff from the Giants in mid-June as part of their continuing efforts to find a not awful long man, and he’s since given the team 16.2 innings of 2.16 ERA (5.18 FIP) ball. Girardi used him as a matchup lefty while Thornton was out with his soreness and that predictably did not go well. Warren was pretty awesome by long man standards last year and that kinda spoiled us. Most long relievers stink. Is Huff keeping runs off the board? His ERA says yes. Has it been pretty? No but who cares. In that role you just want someone who can limited the damage and Huff has done that for the most part.
Alfredo Aceves — Grade F
Did you realize Aceves threw the sixth most innings among the team’s relievers in the first half? I sure didn’t. The Mexican Gangster threw 5.1 scoreless innings in long relief in his first outing back with the team, but it was all downhill from there. He allowed 14 runs on 20 hits (six homers!) and four walks in his next nine games and 14 innings, putting his overall season numbers at 6.52 ERA (6.29 FIP) in 19.1 total innings. The Yankees designated Aceves for assignment in early-June, he accepted the outright assignment to Triple-A Scranton, and he was recently suspended 50 games after a second failed test for a drug of abuse. He will be missed by: no one.
The combined pitching line of these seven: 33.2 IP, 46 H, 36 R, 33 ER, 19 BB, 33 K, 6 HBP, 6 HR. That’s an 8.82 ERA and a 5.19 FIP in one more inning than Robertson has thrown this year. I didn’t even include Dean Anna. /barfs
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Girardi has had to rely on his bullpen more than I’m sure he would have liked in the first half, mostly because of the rotation injuries. Yankees relievers have thrown 292 innings this season, the 13th most in MLB, though their 264 total pitching changes are only 23rd most. That’s because of guys like Betances, Warren, and Huff being used for multiple innings at a time.
The bullpen has a 3.85 ERA (3.60 FIP) overall, which is bottom third in the league, but they have a top-heavy relief crew with arguably the best setup man/closer tandem in the game. The late innings are no problem at all. The middle innings are where it gets messy. Kelley is the bullpen key to the second half to me — if he gets back to pitching like he did before his back started acting up, Girardi will have another trustworthy high-strikeout arm who could potential solve that middle innings problem.
With an assist to leadoff hitter and Yankees captain Derek Jeter, the American League beat the National League by the score of 5-3 in the 2014 All-Star Game on Tuesday night. The AL will have home field advantage in the World Series this fall, which will be helpful after the Yankees make their huge second half surge and secure a postseason spot.
Jeter received the loudest ovations of the night, both during pre-game introductions and before each at-bat. He was pulled after taking the field in the fourth inning and was cheered as he exited to the dugout, eventually coming out for the curtain call. It was a pretty cool moment. Jeter went 2-for-2 with a double off Adam Wainwright in the first and a single off Alfredo Simon in the third, both to the opposite field (of course). He scored the game’s first run on Mike Trout’s triple. Trout was eventually named MVP. I thought Jeter would get it.
Following the game — or really in the middle of it — Wainwright created some controversy by saying he grooved a pitch to Jeter in his first at-bat. He eventually backtracked and said he misspoke, but whatever. It’s not the first time a pitcher has grooved a pitch to a legend in an All-Star Game, see Chan Ho Park and Cal Ripken Jr. Don’t forget Ian Kinsler’s weak attempt to field a Chipper Jones ground ball during the 2012 Midsummer Classic, allowing it to scoot by for a hit. Who cares. Grooved pitch or not, it was an awesome night for Jeter.
Dellin Betances did not pitch in the game and as far as I know he did not even warm up. Disappointing but I’m fine with it. He could use the rest. Masahiro Tanaka, the team’s third All-Star, was not in Minnesota because he is receiving treatment for his partially torn elbow ligament. What a sad sentence. Here is the box score, if you’re looking for it. There is no Major League Baseball at all these next two days. Everything returns to normal on Friday, when the Reds come to the Bronx for a three-game weekend set.
According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman, the Yankees and Cubs exchanged proposals for both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel before the two were traded to the Athletics. It sounds like they were discussing them in separate deals, not one big trade. Heyman says the Yankees finished second in the bidding for Samardzija and lost out because they didn’t want to give up Dellin Betances and simply don’t have a prospect as good as Addison Russell.
With Chase Whitley crashing back to Earth and Vidal Nuno being Vidal Nuno, it’s clear the Yankees need at least one and maybe even two starters. It sounds like CC Sabathia is done for the year and who knows when or if Michael Pineda will return. Even if you think the Yankees won’t contend and have no business being buyers, they still need some kind of veteran innings eater to take some pressure off Betances and Adam Warren. Those two are already starting to show signs of being overworked and the Yankees need to scale back on their workload in the coming weeks.
Only six questions for you this week, but they’re good ones. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime.
Paul asks: Dellin Betances: All-Star?
At this point in time, I say yes on merit and no on actually getting elected to the game. Among the 108 relievers who had thrown at least 20 innings going into yesterday’s game, Betances ranked first in strikeouts (51), second in strikeout rate (44.9%), and second in FIP (1.02). Wade Davis ranked second (40), first (44.9%), and first (0.94), respectively. Betances has legitimately been one of the five or ten best relievers in baseball this season and that makes him All-Star Game worthy in my opinion.
Non-closing relievers get elected to the All-Star Game every year — Brett Cecil and Jesse Crain went just last year, for example — but it’s usually only one or two (not including the final vote). Remember, Red Sox manager John Farrell is filling out the AL roster this year after the players have their vote, and the manager tends to take his own guys. Joe Torre did it all the time in the late-90s and early-2000s. Would the Red Sox manager take a Yankees middle reliever over one of his own guys like Junichi Tazawa or Koji Uehara? Probably not. Betances has been awesome and I think he belongs to be in the All-Star Game, but belonging there and getting there are two different things.
Matt asks: Can you see the Yankees letting David Robertson walking at the end of the year and giving Betances the closer job?
Yes, I could, but the problem is that they’d still have to replace Robertson. Sure, Betances takes his role as the closer, but the Yankees would still be letting an elite reliever walk. Robertson is replaced as closer, but who replaces Betances as the middle innings fireman? Maybe someone like Danny Burawa or Mark Montgomery or Jose Ramirez could step up and do the job, but until they get a chance, we don’t know how much they can really help.
The Yankees have done a very good job of fielding a quality bullpen on the relatively cheap over the years, and letting Robertson walk as a free agent and saving $10-12M a year to spend elsewhere makes sense. At the same time, Robertson just turned 29 and he hasn’t had any arm problems in his career. He’s a strikeout machine who has proven he can handle high leverage spots in New York. It’s tough to let that guy walk, isn’t it? If he’s demanding Jonathan Papelbon money, then yeah, maybe let him walk. But if they can get Robertson to come back on a three-year deal worth that $10-12M per year (Rafael Soriano money, basically), I think they should do it. This isn’t like letting Joba Chamberlain or Luis Ayala walk.
Travis asks: What about Raciel Iglesias? What are the scouting reports on him?
Iglesias, 24, defected from Cuba over the winter and is throwing a showcase for scouts in Haiti today, according to Joel Sherman. Sherman says teams view the right-hander as a bullpen arm who could help as soon as the second half of this year (he was a reliever in Cuba). Here’s some more from Ben Badler:
Major league scouts (and Baseball America) have been able to see Iglesias pitch in person outside of Cuba twice this year. At the World Baseball Classic in March, Iglesias pitched at 88-92 mph. When Cuba visited the U.S. in July for a five-game friendship series against the U.S. College national team, Iglesias looked more impressive, throwing 92-95 mph while varying the speed and shape of his sweepy 76-81 mph breaking ball to get swings and misses.
“I think he’s a guy that, as he gets bigger and stronger, could be in the mid-to-upper 90s,” said Team USA coach Jim Schlossnagle, who is also the coach at Texas Christian. “He’s lean, has a ridiculously loose arm and pounded the strike zone. I was glad they didn’t pitch him more. He was the guy where you’re like, ‘Let’s find a way to get a lead before they get to this guy.’”
Badler says Iglesias stands 5-foot-11 and 165 lbs., so he’s a skinny little guy. You can see that in the video above. I’ve also seen his name spelled Raciel, Raicel, and Rasiel, so we don’t even know how to properly spell the guy’s name at this point. There isn’t much information about him available. Sherman is well connected though, and if he hears that teams think Iglesias could help in the bullpen later this year, then it’s probably true. I assume the Yankees will do their due diligence — they can use another reliever, but that’s true for every team — but I haven’t heard anything specific about their level of interest. Same goes for every other team for that matter.
A different Mike asks: Should the Yanks see if they can nab Wandy Rodriguez? He was recently designated. I don’t know if I’d give him a major league deal but a minor one for certain.
Yeah, there’s no way I’d give Wandy a big league contract at this point, but there’s no harm in a minor league deal. The Pirates ate about $5.5M in salary by cutting him — yet they won’t call up Gregory Polanco because they’re worried about a similar amount of money three years into the future, but I digress — so no one will claim him off waivers and take on that money. Rodriguez will eventually be released and free to sign with anyone.
Before getting designated for assignment, the 35-year-old southpaw had a 6.75 ERA (7.32 FIP) in 26.2 innings. He also gave up ten homers (!) and has been dealing with on and off elbow problems the last two years. Wandy’s numbers against lefties haven’t been all that good either, so it’s not even like there is reason to think he could help as a situational reliever. There’s no harm in giving him a minor league deal just to see if something clicks, but I don’t see how an AL East team could stick this guy on their active roster right now.
Nik asks: Question about Extended Spring Training games. Just who exactly is left down in Tampa to play these games? We hear about rehabbing players going to ExST and playing and how that doesn’t count toward their return countdown. Are these like practice squad players?
Extended Spring Training is basically Spring Training for the two short season leagues. It’s similar to regular old Spring Training in that there are daily drills and games against other ExST teams. They travel to the other complexes in Florida and everything. The games are not official though, they’re basically scrimmages. From what I understand they are open to the public too, you can just walk in and watch.
The players in ExST are the guys under contract with the team who have not been assigned to one of the full season minor league affiliates. SS Thairo Estrada is in ExST right now. So are RHP Ty Hensley and OF Leonardo Molina, for example. ExST ends when the short season leagues start in late-June (so when Short Season Staten Island and the Gulf Coast League Yanks begin play) and the players who do not get assigned to a minor league affiliate at that time are released or hidden on the phantom disabled list somewhere. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a continuation of Spring Training, only with minor leaguers.
Ryan asks: After seeing what Babe Ruth’s paycheck was it has me curious. If Ruth were say a 28 year old free agent today, what type of deal do you think he would sign? Money and years.
Here is Ruth’s paycheck, if you miss it floating around the internet the other day (I did). He was paid $7,685.23 twice a month (MLB players are paid on the 15th and 30th during the season, so today’s payday), which works out to $104,709.93 in 2014 dollars according to the CPI Inflation Calculator. That puts his annual salary at $1.25M or so in 2014 dollars, which is nothing by MLB standards. Baseball salaries have increased at a rate greater than general inflation.
Ruth was 32 years old in 1927 (the date on the paycheck) and was still a marvelous hitter, hitting his career-high and then-record 60 homers that season. Here is what Ruth did through his age 28 season:
Bold means he led the AL, bold and italicized means he led all of MLB. Take a second to fully grasp how dominant a hitter Ruth was. Defense is irrelevant at that point. He could have sat in a lawn chair in the outfield and been the best player in the game, which he clearly was.
Anyway, Ruth had a 231 OPS+ in his first four years in pinstripes. Miguel Cabrera had a 177 OPS+ in the four years before signing his record extension this spring. (We can’t really compare raw homer totals given the difference in eras, but Ruth hitting 40+ in the 1920s is far superior to Miggy hitting 40+ these days. Ruth out-homered entire teams back in the day.) Cabrera’s deal was ten years and $292M total, the extension plus the two years left on his current contract. He wasn’t a free agent on the open market, so there no bidding war to drive up the price.
Having just completed his age 28 season, I think Ruth would wind up getting something like 12 years and $396M ($33M per year) these days. That’s nothing more than my guess, we’re in uncharted territory here. Ruth was far and away the best player in baseball and I think that would result in far and away the richest contract in sports history. Remember how Alex Rodriguez‘s contract with the Rangers shattered records (the second largest sports contract at the time was Kevin Garnett’s $126M deal)? I think that would happen again today if 28-year-old Ruth hit free agency in today’s market. It would be unlike anything we’ve seen before.
For the first time in his three big league starts, Chase Whitley completed five full innings of work yesterday afternoon. Usually five innings isn’t anything to celebrate, but for a recently converted reliever who had thrown 4.2 and 4.1 innings in his first two starts, five full innings was definitely nice to see. Whitley started the sixth inning as well, though he failed to record an out and the bullpen was pressed into action.
The bullpen has been pressed into action quite a bit of late, especially on the road trip. The Yankees have played three extra innings games on this trip through Chicago and St. Louis, totaling nine additional innings. They’ve played an extra game on the trip, basically. The Yankees did win all three of those extra innings games thanks to some strong relief work, so there’s no complaints there, but all that extra work is starting to tax the bullpen.
Through the first 50 games of the season, the late-inning duo of Adam Warren and Dellin Betances are on pace to throw 94 and 98 innings this year, respectively. Nine of Warren’s last 13 appearances have been for multiple innings while Betances has been asked to get more than three outs six times in his last seven appearances. In fact, of his 21 appearances this year, Betances has thrown one inning or less only seven times.
Of course, both Warren and Betances were starters their entire careers up until last season, but throwing 150+ innings in a season while on a five-day routine is much different than throwing 90+ innings when you’re pitching every other day in relief or something like that. It’s fewer total innings, yes, but they’re pitching more frequently as relievers. Warren and Betances have shouldered most of the workload, but the bullpen as a whole has been worked hard this year. Check out the first 50 games of the last few years:
|Starter IP||Reliever IP||Starter IP / Reliever IP|
The bullpen has already thrown 15 more innings this year than last through 50 games, and roughly 20 innings more than 2011 and 2012. Fifteen innings doesn’t sound like much, but we’re talking about one extra inning every three games or so. That adds up in a hurry, especially since these Yankees tend to play close games (only 14 games decided by 5+ runs), which means more work for Joe Girardi‘s primary late-inning guys.
Obviously injuries have a lot to do with this. Shawn Kelley has been out for a while and he would have definitely taken some of those innings away from Betances and Warren. The same applies to David Robertson when he was on the disabled list last month. Losing CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova — two starters the Yankees were able to count on for 6+ innings every fifth day in the not too distant past — to significant injuries has trickled down and added pressure on the bullpen since guys like Whitley and Vidal Nuno aren’t innings eaters.
The Yankees will hopefully get Kelley back soon. He played catch yesterday and will do so again in the coming days, reportedly, plus Michael Pineda is on the mend and a few weeks away. (The Yankees were very careful with Pineda early on, but he is still a better bet to get you through five innings than some guys in the rotation right now.) Those two will help lighten the load on the current relievers, at least somewhat. Every little bit will help. It wouldn’t kill the offense to break a game open every now and then either.
Girardi’s strength has long been his bullpen management, and I can’t remember another time when he worked two relievers as hard as he has Warren and Betances these last few weeks. You know he doesn’t want to do it — ““We’re trying not to kill Betances,” said the manager to Chad Jennings yesterday, after Betances threw two more innings — but Kelley’s injury and the thinned-out rotation have forced his hand. The Yankees are really pushing the limits of their pitching depth right now.
Until some guys start getting healthy, Girardi will have to rely on Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley and yes, even Alfredo Aceves in higher leverage spots — at least higher leverage than they deserve — to avoid overworking his normal late-inning relievers. The Yankees aren’t going anywhere without Betances, Warren, Kelley, and Robertson dominating at the end of games, but at their current pace, Warren and Betances will burn out by August. The rest of the roster has to pick up some slack and give these guys more rest in the coming weeks.
Got seven questions for you this week. Send us anything at anytime through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Jerry asks: Just read a quote where Joe Girardi said there is no guarantee CC Sabathia ever comes back, obviously this is an extreme response, but it got me wondering, how does a retirement due to medical issues work as far as the contract is concerned? Does he not retire and continue to collect his check? Negotiate a medical buyout then retire? Are these contracts insured?
Here’s the full quote for those who missed it (via Brendan Kuty): “I think there’s always that possibility a player may not make it back, but I feel pretty good about he’s had done so far and the steps that were taken, and you just kind of keep your fingers crossed.”
Anyway, players forfeit the remainder of their contracts if they retire. If Sabathia’s knee is bad enough that he can never pitch again, he’ll simply sit on the 60-day DL for the next few years and the Yankee will collect whatever insurance they’re entitled to based on their policy. I suppose a buyout is possible, but I can’t remember there ever being one in MLB.
I remember reading that many times teams won’t insure these super-large contracts because the premiums are often higher than the contract itself. The Yankees do have insurance on Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez though — that’s based on what we heard after Teixeira’s wrist and A-Rod‘s hip problems — so I’m guessing they have one on Sabathia too. The only player I can recall who retired and walked away from his contract due to injury is Gil Meche, who forfeited roughly $12M a few years ago. I would be stunned if Sabathia did that. It would be stupid. The Yankees knew the risks when they agreed to pay him all that money. He shouldn’t let them off the hook out of the kindness of his heart.
Mark asks: Is it fair to say that Peter O’Brien is now the team’s second or third best prospect behind Gary Sanchez? Does O’Brien’s meteoric rise on this list along with his versatility make him more valuable to the Yanks over the long-term and make it more likely they’ll trade Sanchez for some pitching help this summer?
I’m going to post my pre-draft top 30 prospects next Friday and right now I’m on the fence about whether O’Brien is even a top ten prospect in the organization. He’s a one-tool guy — granted, that one tool is power, and if you’re going to be a one-tool guy, power is the one to have — without a clearly defined position and some concerns about holes in his swing. If he does make the top ten, he’ll be in the back half for sure. O’Brien’s having a monster season, no doubt about it, but 40 strikeouts and three unintentional walks (!) is a red flag. How usable will that power be at the next level?
I don’t think O’Brien’s big year makes it any more or less likely the Yankees will trade Sanchez. Or John Ryan Murphy for that matter. If anything, it might make it more likely they trade O’Brien. They obviously don’t think he can catch — they wouldn’t have tried him at third base last year and in right field this year if they thought he could hack it behind the plate — but some other team might be willing to give him a shot as a catcher. The Yankees will probably trade a catcher for a pitcher this summer because they have a ton of catching depth, not because someone broke out and made someone else expendable.
J.R. asks: I know its early but can we get a scouting report on Kenta Maeda? Pitches, etc?
Maeda is the best pitcher in Japan now that Masahiro Tanaka is wearing pinstripes. There was some speculation he would be posted last offseason, but the Hiroshima Carp decided to keep him around for another year. Maeda is expected to be posted this coming offseason but he is not on par with Tanaka or Yu Darvish. It’ll be a little while before someone of that caliber comes along. Here’s a snippet of a Baseball America (subs. req’d) scouting report from last year:
Maeda doesn’t have a plus pitch, but he’s shown plus command at his best with the ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes, pitch to both sides of the plate and change hitters’ eye levels … Maeda’s size (6 feet, 161 pounds) doesn’t give him great fastball plane, but his fastball plays up because it has good sink and run and he commands it well. He throws a solid-average slider with short break, a low-70s curveball that he’ll use early in the count and an occasional changeup. Some scouts aren’t sold on Maeda’s stuff playing in the big leagues, but those who like him think he has No. 4 starter potential.
Righties Shohei Otani and Shintaro Fujinami are the early favorites to be the next elite pitching talents to come out of Japan, but they are only 19 and 20 years old, respectively. Long way to go before they’re MLB ready and made available via the posting process.
Mike asks: I get it that Pat Venditte doesn’t have great stuff, and his main point of interest is that he switch-pitches, but after seven years in the minors with a 2.31 ERA and 376/86 K/BB ratio, isn’t it at least worth just seeing if he can do it in AAA? Why not just release him if they believe in him that little?
This question was sent in right before Venditte was promoted to Triple-A Scranton. Teams still need players to fill out their minor league rosters and soak up the playing time left over by the actual prospects, which is why guys like Venditte continue to get jobs even though the team may not believe they’re a future big leaguer. No club has a prospect for every roster spot on every minor league affiliate. Organizational players are necessary and somewhat important. That said, Venditte has been nails against left-handers this year (.071/.188/.071 with a 43.8% strikeout rate). With Cesar Cabral and Fred Lewis both pitching poorly and getting demoted to Double-A Trenton recently, Venditte just might be next in line for a call-up if another lefty reliever is needed. Unlikely? Yeah, probably. It’s not completely far-fetched though.
Andrew asks: With Dellin Betances being amazing in his new bullpen role, why not approach him with an extension right now? He’s under team control for 6 years I believe, why not offer him 6 years, $10 million? It would give him a big payday now, but also give the Yanks cost certainty as he advances into a more high leverage role.
The Yankees do still have six years of control left over Betances and yes, he has been totally awesome this year. He’s also been completely unpredictable throughout his career and I think his flame out potential is lot higher than many either realize or want to admit. There’s not much of a difference between him and, say, Daniel Bard. Electric when on but a perpetual risk of falling apart at any moment.
David Robertson will earn approximately $11.2M during his six years of team control, so that six-year, $10M deal is in the ballpark. Relievers don’t make much during their years of team control unless they rack up saves, and right now Betances isn’t closing. Maybe he’ll close next year — don’t you just love him as a dominant fireman for the middle innings though? — which would change things. Six years and $10M is a relatively small amount, yet it comes with quite a bit of risk and wouldn’t be much of a bargain unless he takes over as closer at some point relatively soon. I’m not a fan of rushing into extensions with non-closing relievers. Their earning power is so relatively small that it’s not worth the risk, especially when they have fewer than one year in the show. Maybe after 2015?
Russell asks: After watching Gerrit Cole, I am wondering why he turned down the Yankees. Growing up a Yankees fan, being selected by them and turning them down? I do not understand why.
Cole simply decided to go to college, that’s all. Teams knew he would be a tough sign coming into the draft, but the Yankees rolled the dice anyway because they never get a chance to draft that kind of talent. They were prepared to offer him a far-above-slot $4M bonus, but Cole’s family is wealthy and money wasn’t a big factor, so he went to UCLA. That’s life. No player should base a decision like this on their fandom growing up.
Sandy asks: What minor league players must the Yankees protect or could lose to the Rule 5 Draft in December?
General rule of thumb is high school players drafted in 2010 and college players drafted in 2011 (or earlier) will be eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft. International prospects are always tough to pin down because the exact dates they signed are often unknown. Based on that, the notables who will be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season are OF Tyler Austin, RHP Danny Burawa, SS Cito Culver, OF Ben Gamel, 2B Angelo Gumbs, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Branden Pinder, and OF Mason Williams.
Of those eight, I think only Austin, Montgomery, and Williams are locks to be added to the 40-man roster and protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Williams hasn’t hit a lick in two years, but the Yankees have a tendency to protect their one-time top prospects regardless of whether they would actually stick in MLB for a full season (coughJoseCamposcough). There’s a good chance Burawa and/or Montgomery will be called up at some point this season, so they’ll likely already be on the 40-man. Culver and Gumbs shouldn’t be protected and both Gamel and Pinder are on the fence at best. That’s what I think right now, but there are still six months before these decisions have to be made.
The Yankees dismantled the Red Sox last night, and you could argue their two most exciting pitchers were on the mound for the win. Masahiro Tanaka navigated the first 7.1 innings before Dellin Betances mopped things up and recorded the final five outs. The duo combined for nine strikeouts and no walks, improving the team’s league-leading K/BB ratio to 3.44. The Red Sox are a distance second at 3.12.
Tanaka has been everything we could have possibly expected (and more!) this season while Betances is … still a middle reliever despite only allowing one run on three hits in 9.2 innings of work. He’s also struck out 16 of 38 batters faced and 56.3% of his balls in play are on the ground. Plus he can do this (via Pitcher GIFs):
That’s a pretty neat trick.
And yet, despite all of his early season success, Betances is no higher than sixth on Joe Girardi‘s bullpen pecking order. There are two reasons for that. One, he’s walked six guys in those 9.2 innings. Betances has a history of control problems and we’ve seen him come completely unhinged once or two already this season. He just loses the ability to throw strikes — I’m not even talking about painting the corners here, just basic strike-throwing ability — without warning and that can be scary.
Two, Betances is just a kid, at least in terms of experience. He did turn 26 a few weeks ago after spending eight years in the minors, but he has still only thrown 17.1 innings in the big leagues. That’s nothing. Girardi has used him as a low-leverage reliever and his 0.43 gmLI (Leverage Index when entering the game) bears that out. Only eleven out of 177 qualified relievers have a lower gmLI right now and they’re last guy out of the ‘pen types. There’s no doubt Girardi has been keeping Betances away from important situations if at all possible.
Is that wrong? I don’t think so. Not at all. There’s a level of trust that has to be built and it hasn’t yet. There hasn’t been enough time. David Robertson went through a similar situation early in his career — remember he had walk problems early on — sporting a 0.66 gmLI in his rookie year in 2008. Heck, it was a 0.77 gmLI in 2009. Robertson didn’t graduate from exciting young arm to bonafide high-leverage reliever until 2011, his fourth year in the show. Shawn Kelley went through the same thing last year (0.69 gmLI in April and May). So did Boone Logan a few years ago and Phil Hughes when he first moved into the bullpen in 2009.
As good as he was last year and in Spring Training and during these first few weeks, Betances still has a lot to learn about being a reliever in the Major Leagues. Girardi is very good with his bullpen and he’s shown he will be patient and not unnecessarily push new faces into primo bullpen roles (veteran free agents like Matt Thornton and Rafael Soriano are the obvious exceptions). With more experienced guys like Robertson, Kelley, Adam Warren, and David Phelps around to handle the important innings, the Yankees and Girardi have the luxury of breaking Betances in slowly. His opportunity for high-leverage work will come, but he has to put in some time in a lesser role first.
Six questions in this week’s mailbag, so you know what that means: six answers. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.
I really doubt the Nationals, who have World Series aspirations, would trade on of their ace setup men for a catching prospect who will only be a backup to Jose Lobaton while Ramos is out. If you’re going to shoot that high, I’d ask for Danny Espinosa instead. I’m confident the Yankees can cobble together a quality bullpen from internal options — Clippard or Storen, both of whom the Yankees drafted once upon a time, would obviously help though — but the infield cupboard is bare. You’re ambitious, The Yankees would have to add major sweeter to the pot to build a trade for one of those two righties around Murphy or especially Romine.
Jonathan asks: Dellin Betances has looked great out of the bullpen in ST and in the opener. Is the door closed to him ever competing for a spot in the rotation in the future?
I don’t think he’ll ever start another game in his career. The Yankees stuck it out and tried to make it work with Betances as a starter for a long time, but it never took. He’s had a lot of success in his relatively short time as a reliever and considering that he looked like a lost cause as recently as last April, I’d leave him right where he is and be happy he’s contributing. Betances has said the move to the bullpen helped him because it simplified things, remember. No need to get cute and try to make him a starter again.
Cory asks: Would it surprise you at all if any one of the starting five ended up being the best pitcher of the group this year? Or the worst? There’s a lot to be excited and worried about.
I would be surprised if Hiroki Kuroda ended up being the worst pitcher in the rotation, but that’s about it. The starting staff is very boom or bust in my opinion. It could be excellent, legitimately one of the best in the game, but there’s also a ton that could go wrong and make it one of the worst. The end result will probably be somewhere in the middle. Some things go right, some things go wrong. Such is life.
Anonymous asks: Let’s say the Yankees find some luck and have some of their minor league players come up and have success. Being that they broke their policy and signed Brett Gardner to an extension this year, do you see them signing more of their homegrown players to extensions that seem to be the norm around the league now?
Yes, definitely. Cashman confirmed the “no extensions” policy was a thing of the past after the Gardner deal and it has to be. The game has changed and keeping your own players is incredibly important. Relying on free agency to build your roster year after year won’t work like it did back in the day, when star players were available every winter. Heck, forget star players, even solid regulars are hard to find these days. Whenever the Yankees have another young player worthy of an extension (Ivan Nova? Michael Pineda?), I’m sure they will explore signing him long-term.
Warren asks: Thoughts on the Mike Trout deal? My initial reaction is seriously? How did he give up that much money especially in light of what Miguel Cabrera just got paid?
I thought it was fair for both sides. Maybe he left a couple bucks on the table, but he is still a player under team control with little leverage. He was going to be with the Angels the next four seasons no matter what. Cabrera was much closer to free agency when he signed his (crazy) deal the other week. Sure, Trout could have asked for ten years and $300M, but I’m not sure he would have gotten it. The Angels might not be in a position to make that sort of commitment right now. Trout has his generational long-term security and he still gets to hit free agency at 29. The Halos have the prime years of the best player in the world under contract. Seems pretty great for both sides.
Anonymous asks: (Regarding last week’s mailbag question about Derek Jeter‘s best teammates) I’d like to see this with best single season WAR during this era. Obviously Ryan remains on the bench. Do other positions change?
So I put together that teammate team for Jeter last week using bWAR accumulated during his career as a full-time player, so 1996 through 2013. Instead of using total WAR — I’m using bWAR because it’s easy to search and it’s perfect for a fun, quick-and-dirty exercise like this — we’ll now use single season bWAR. So the best season by a Yankees catcher during Jeter’s career, the best season by a first baseman, so on and so forth. My only playing time criteria is that the player played at least 50% of his games at whatever position in a given season.
Here’s the single-season bWAR team. Click on the links for the full results at each position:
- Catcher: 2003 Jorge Posada (5.9 bWAR)
- First Base: 2002 Jason Giambi (7.1)
- Second Base: 2012 Robinson Cano (8.4)
- Third Base: 2007 Alex Rodriguez (9.4)
- Left Field: 2010 Brett Gardner (7.3)
- Center Field: 2011 Curtis Granderson (5.7)
- Right Field: 1998 Paul O’Neill (5.8)
- Designated Hitter: 2009 Hideki Matsui (2.7)
- Bench: 2012 Chris Stewart (1.0), 2013 Jayson Nix (0.9), 2012 Eric Chavez (1.6), 2001 Shane Spencer (2.1),
- Rotation: 1997 Andy Pettitte (8.4), 2011 CC Sabathia (7.5), 2001 Mike Mussina (7.1), 1997 David Cone (6.8), 2006 Chien-Ming Wang (6.0)
- Bullpen: 1996 Mariano Rivera (5.0), 2011 David Robertson (4.0), 2004 Tom Gordon (4.0), 1997 Mike Stanton (2.8), 2012 Rafael Soriano (2.6), 2009 Phil Hughes (2.6), 2006 Scott Proctor (2.6)
Ryan doesn’t make the bench because Nix simply had more at-bats with the team last year and accumulated more WAR in pinstripes. Nix had 1.2 bWAR during his two years with the team but he played more games at third base (70) than shortstop (66), which is why I took Ryan as my backup shortstop on the other team. Got it? Good.
The shortstop for this team would be 1999 Jeter (8.0 bWAR), which isn’t very surprising. We could have taken 2005 A-Rod at third base instead of 2007 A-Rod since he had 9.4 bWAR both years, but yeah, I’m taking the guy who hit 54 homers, not the chump who only hit 48. Giambi actually had the best DH season (2.8 bWAR in 2006), but I didn’t want to use him at two positions. If I were to use the same player multiple times, there would be two Mussinas in the rotation plus pretty much the entire bullpen would be Mo. I also pick actually bench/part-time players for the bench.
Anyway, that team is pretty stacked. Granderson is the worst regular position player (by bWAR) and he hit .262/.364/.552 (142 OPS+) with 41 homers during that 2011 season. The gap between the top three reliever seasons and everyone else is pretty big — there were several Rivera seasons in the 3.something bWAR range — but it’s not surprising considering how dominant those three were in those years. The gap between 2002 Giambi the next best first baseman (2009 Mark Teixeira) is almost two full wins. That’s nuts. Then again, Giambi was a monster that year. What a team that is.
I know I just did a thoughts post yesterday, but there’s a bunch of stuff going on after Opening Day and none of it is worth a full post. This is the worst time of the season because we know the samples are still way too small to mean anything, but what else are we supposed to talk about? Baseball, man. It can be cruel.
1. I’m really curious to know what adjustment CC Sabathia made after the second inning last night. There had to be something, he looked like a completely different pitcher in his last four innings than he did his first two. Joe Girardi told Dan Barbarisi his pitches were cutting early and Sabathia told Bryan Hoch he was too amped up, but that doesn’t help us any. If there was a tangible adjustment made, that’s good. You want to be able to point to something specific for the improvement, something real. Everything gets magnified on Opening Day, that’s just the way it is, and Sabathia was far from impressive on Tuesday. I am looking forward to seeing his next outing though. Something changed after that second inning.
2. The offense was mostly a no show on Opening Day, but I thought Mark Teixeira looked really good. He hit a ball to the warning track in his first at-bat, ripped a line drive to right that sliced just foul in his second time up, then slapped a single the other way later in the game. He also drew a walk and saw 18 total pitches in four trips to the plate. Teixeira said he is still a little apprehensive about his surgically repaired wrist at the end of camp, which is a concern for obvious reasons, but he didn’t show it last night. He swung hard, made some solid contact, and he’s seeing the bell wall. Does that mean he’ll be fine going forward? Who knows. This one game, those four at-bats, were encouraging.
3. I’m fully on board with batting Brett Gardner seventh after being on the fence about it at first. Yeah, he would serve as the second leadoff man by batting ninth, but I think batting him seventh does a better job of helping the middle of the order. Gardner’s whole thing is not making outs, and by batting him closer to the middle of the lineup, he’ll get more of an opportunity to extend rallies and cap them off. The middle of the order is the key to everything; Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson aren’t going to generate much offense no matter where they slot into the lineup. Batting Gardner two spots higher to get that one extra good hitter behind Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano gives them more of a chance to turn rallies into runs. Instead of being a leadoff guy, he’ll be expected to drive in some runs. Plus he might get an extra at-bat once in a while.
4. I am wrong all the time, about everything, yet I’m still surprised at how wrong I’ve been about this last bench spot stuff. Literally every step of the way. I thought they’d take Scott Sizemore, then when it was clear he was out of the running, I thought they’d take Eduardo Nunez. When they didn’t take Nunez, I thought they’d keep him in Triple-A as insurance. Instead, he was designated for assignment yesterday to make room on the roster for Yangervis Solarte. Wrong, every step of the way. Even by my terrible standards, that’s amazing. The Yankees don’t have much shortstop depth now — Addison Maruszak figures to be the starter in Triple-A with Nunez gone — especially with Brendan Ryan out for a few weeks, so they’ll probably have to keep an eye on the waiver wire for an extra body.
5. Dellin Betances is going to be my favorite sidebar this season. He was great in relief last year, very good in Spring Training, and just electric last night. Betances has been in the farm system for an eternity and he’s had a ton of ups and downs, and we’ve watched them just about every step of the way. It’s great to finally see him find some sustained success and a niche in the bullpen. His stuff is obviously excellent, and now that he’s throwing strikes regularly, Betances can be a late-inning force. There is plenty of opportunity in the bullpen with a clear path to higher leverage seventh and eighth inning work, so this is a good time for everything to be clicking. Very much looking forward to seeing more.
6. As a team, the Yankees saw 138 pitches in last night’s game. That isn’t a huge number, but out of their 150 nine-inning games last year, they saw 138+ pitches only 72 times. Less than half the time. The 2014 offense had a bad day on Opening Day and yet they still saw pitches at a higher rate than last year’s squad. Roberts did the heavy lifting with 20 pitches in his four trips to the plate while Gardner, Teixeira, and Soriano saw 18 apiece. That was by far the worst part of the 2013 offense. They made a ton of outs and they were mostly quick outs, two or three pitch at-bats. This group isn’t like the 2004-12 lineups or anything, but they make the pitcher work for whatever he gets. It’s refreshing.