Analysis

Should The Yankees Be ‘Bullpenning’?

The Yankees have recently been swept by the Tampa Bay Rays, so should they take a shot at trying Tampa Bay’s way of ‘bullpenning‘.

I mentioned in the last #PinstripePride Roundup that the Yankees should consider “Bullpenning” while Tanaka is in the DL and we have yet to trade Clint Frazier for Jacob Degrom (not likely).

After watching the Rays use this strategy against the Yankees the past two series against them, and indeed sweeping the Yankees this past weekend, I feel confident in saying the Yankees definitely need to try Bullpenning.

Right now the rotation stacks up like this:

  1. Luis Severino (will contend for CY Young)
  2. Sonny Gray (Rough start, but turning it around)
  3. C.C. Sabathia (Why is he considering retiring? 3 ER or less in his last 5 starts)
  4. Domingo German
  5. Luis Cessa/Jonathan Loaisiga

*Masahiro Tanaka on the DL

Everyone agrees Domingo German is very talented, however, as the league figures him out, chances are he will not be a reliable piece in our rotation. Also, the most he’s pitched is 114 innings in 2017. He’s already at 60+ innings this year. He’s going to be tired in the second half — unless the Yankees only pitch him once through the lineup for much of the summer.

Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga are nice players, but they are unproven and don’t have the upside of German. Can the Yankees really risk 20-30% of the rest of their starts on these rookies?

Should The Yankees Be Bullpenning?

Without making a trade, and while Tanaka is on the DL, the Yankees can take advantage of their amazing bullpen (except for Chasen Shreve apparently).

As Katie points out, non-Shreve Yankees relievers have given up 0 runs in what amounts to six full games since June 5. These guys need to be pitching more often than Cessa and Loaisiga.

An added benefit to bullpenning now is that the Yankees can be prepared for the playoffs if a scenario like last year’s wild card game presents itself.

Super Bullpen

Check out how dominant this pen has been:

Name IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP WAR
Aroldis Chapman 33.2 43.5% 11.5% 0 1.07 1.32 1.7
Chad Green 35.1 33.8% 5.0% 1.02 2.29 2.51 1
David Robertson 34 29.7% 8.0% 0.53 3.44 2.43 0.9
Dellin Betances 33 45.8% 9.9% 1.09 3.00 2.41 0.8
Jonathan Holder 27 26.2% 3.9% 0.33 2.00 2.14 0.7
A.J. Cole 13 30.6% 12.2% 0.69 0.69 3.18 0.1
Adam Warren 14.2 26.2% 12.3% 0.61 1.84 3.31 0.1

Will the Yankees be able to find four to five innings per game twice a week from this bullpen? Absolutely. How would it actually work if the Yankees decided to try Bullpenning?

Hashtag Bullpenning

Versus Right Hand Heavy Top 3

Inning 1

Adam Warren has terrible splits against lefties. Start him against a team that has right-handed batters 1-3. If he makes it through the first inning unscathed, then we can bring in Cessa, Loaisiga, or another pitcher we call up.

Inning 2-5ish

This is where the traditional starter comes in. Why? The theory goes that your starter, who is not as good as the reliever you started, is better off facing the middle and bottom of the order than the top of the order. In some lineups, on any given day, this could be wrong, but the majority of the time the 4-9 hitters are not as good as the 1-3. Let’s say the Yankees are playing the Orioles. They would much rather have … okay, the Orioles lineup is horrible, let me choose a better team.

Let’s say the Yankees are playing the Astros. They would much rather have Warren — who right-handed batters are hitting .152 against — face Springer/Bregman/Altuve and Cessa or Loaisiga face Correa and the rest of the Astros. Then, depending on how Cessa or Loaisiga are pitching, and if the Yankees offense has staked a few runs, Aaron Boone can decide how long he lets them stay in.

Inning 5ish-9

Same as always. If the first reliever doesn’t last into the 6th, Chad Green can come in for multiple innings and hand off to Betances, Robertson, and Chapman.

Versus Left Hand Heavy Top 3

If the lineup the Yankees are facing has a few lefties in the top third, the Yankees should start Jonathan Holder. Lefties are batting a paltry .119/.140/.244 against him this year.

Alternatively, the Yankees could call up *checks notes* Justus Sheffield to start against lefties. They’re not going to call up Sheffield to pitch one inning to start a game.

Everything above regarding innings 2-9 stays the same.

German Starts

As implied above, Domingo German is really good, but he’s not going to last 150+ innings. When it’s Domingo’s turn in the rotation, he should be limited to pitching once through the order for most of the summer. This should keep him fresh for the end of the year and he can be stretched out against in September. The Yankees can decide whether to start him and have him pitch once through the lineup, or start Warren/Holder and then bring in German.

Will This Work?

Of course, it’s the Yankees.

Seriously though, if this exercise has taught us anything it’s the following:

  1. The Yankees can bullpen and should start now. Every win counts.
  2. We need another LOOGY. Shreve is not cutting it and we don’t have options in the minors.
  3. Brian Cashman will trade for another starter and probably a left-handed reliever.
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