For years, one of the strengths of the New York Yankees has been its stout bullpen. With future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera evolving into arguably the greatest closer of all time, The Bronx Bombers always had him as an anchor to fall back on. Now, two years removed from Mo’s retirement, The Yankees brass has decided to strengthen the team’s pen by featuring three of the toughest late inning guys in the game.
After the 2013 Season, The Yankees were able to admirably fill Rivera’s role with long-time setup man David Robertson. However, after one year as Mo’s successor, Robertson took large free agency dollars from the Chicago White Sox, which opened doors for the signing of Andrew Miller, and an expanded role for Dellin Betances. Both men flourished last season, as the Yankee pen set the all time record for strikeouts in a season by a team’s relief pitchers with 596K’s in 530.2 relief IP.
That number could be shattered easily in 2016 now that the team went out and acquired star closer Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds over the winter. Chapman had another great year in 2015. For the dismal Reds, he was still an All-Star who racked up 33 saves in 66.1 IP with 116 K’s…yes, that’s 116 strikeouts in 66.1 innings pitched. Adding a 15.7 K/9 rate to an already strikeout happy bullpen is insane, but the scary part? That 15.7 K/9 rate was down from 17.7 the year before. In 2015, Chapman, Miller, and Betances ranked first, second, and third respectively in K/9 rate, for pitchers who tossed at least 60 innings, which could mean a lot of bad news for teams looking to come from behind against this group in 2016.
The Yanks will still face father time in 2016 with an aging roster, and several questions in their starting rotation, so building a pitching staff from the back-end forward is probably the best way to approach the 2016 team given the dollars owed to its veteran players.
Rather than addressing some of the other holes in the team’s roster, long-time GM Brian Cashman has instead decided to construct a super bullpen reminiscent of the Nasty Boys. Those guys were tremendous in Cincinnati, but I don’t think the baseball world is ready for the possible eye-popping, video game-type numbers this Yankees trio, and bullpen as a whole could produce when the upcoming season is all said and done.