Yankees reliever Dellin Betances seems to be back to the dominant form that we all remember from years past, but how long will it last?
Yankees fans have had a love-hate relationship with reliever Dellin Betances for years now. At times, Betances has been among the most effective relievers in baseball, consistently touching 100 MPH on the radar gun and blowing hitters away.
In the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the New York City native pitched to a combined 1.45 ERA in 144 games, allowing only 14 earned runs per season while posting an absurd 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings ratio. He earned a trip to the All-Star Game in each season and solidified himself as one of the top relievers in the game.
But then in 2016, something happened to Betances. He pitched to a 3.08 ERA- more than double his 1.50 ERA the year before. He gave up a career-worst 25 earned runs despite pitching in one fewer game than he did the year before when he gave up 14 earned runs. His statistics in September/October were especially awful. Betances recorded a season-low 16 strikeouts and a season-high 8 walks in 11 appearances. Opponents hit to a .279/.392/.372 slash line against the right-hander, significantly worse than any of his slash lines from prior months that season.
However, he real Dellin Betances roller-coaster experience took place in 2017. Betances was up and down for much of the year, especially dominant in April and May. But in June, he pitched to an ugly 4.50 ERA and experienced control issues as he walked nine batters in eight innings. His struggles continued into July, as he recorded a 4.26 ERA and walked 13 batters in 12.2 innings of work.
Betances seemed to find his stride again in August, returning to his dominant form with a 1.50 ERA in 12 appearances. Although he pitched to a 12.8 strikeouts per 9 innings ratio, his lowest monthly total of the season, he got the walks under control, only allowing six. But his statistics in September and October were particularly horrifying. Betances recorded a 5.59 ERA, allowing six earned runs in 9.2 innings. In the postseason, his 4.76 ERA led to him being often the last man the Yankees wanted to turn to- manager Joe Girardi used Betances sparingly and often only in blowout games.
There were even talks that Betances could be left off a potential World Series roster had the Yankees advanced past the Astros in favor of opting for another bat off the bench for games in a National League ballpark where the DH was not in play.
So coming into 2018, the Yankees had no idea what to expect of Dellin Betances. Would they get the Betances of 2014 and 2015? The Betances who dominated any hitter who stepped in on him, touching 100 MPH with ease? Or would they get the Betances they had seen at the end of 2017- unable to command his fastball and inconsistent? New manager Aaron Boone was faced with a tough task in determining how to utilize Betances and get the best out of his performances.
Betances’ season got off to a shaky start when he allowed a homer to the very first batter he faced on Opening Day when Kevin Pillar took him deep. But Betances was able to right the ship and thus far has pitched to a 3.54 ERA, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. When looking at Betances’ performance in different games this season, it is clear that Betances is often a very effective reliever in his first inning of work.
It’s only when he stays in for a second inning that’s when he struggles. In his 26 appearances this year, he has pitched a scoreless first inning in 24 instances. In the four instances where Boone let Betances work another inning, Betances gave up at least one run every time in that second inning of work. The Yankees have lost three of those four games where Betances has worked a second inning and given up at least one run.
However, it seems that Boone has learned that Betances is a one-inning pitcher only- Betances hasn’t worked multiple innings since May 23rd. If Betances keeps this up, it would not be surprising to see him earn a fifth consecutive All-Star Game trip this season. Now Yankees fans just have to hope that he can maintain this form into the second half of the season, instead of collapsing down the stretch like he did in 2016 and 2017.