Yankees’ Bullpen Is Better Than People Think

I’ll go into this more thoroughly in my upcoming Yankees-Red Sox season preview, but for now, I’d just like to debunk the myth that the Yankees’ bullpen is a weakness. Last week, a co-worker of mine unwaveringly told me that Joba Chamberlain should be in the bullpen because “[the Yankees] have no one other than Mariano.” ESPN’s Bill Simmons perpetuated this myth in yesterday’s “B.S. Report,” declaring the Yankees’ bullpen “terrible.” Perhaps time will prove both Simmons and my co-worker right, but given the information at hand, it’s pretty hard to say these things with such certainty.

The 2008 Yankees got the majority of their relief innings from Mariano Rivera, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Kyle Farnsworth, LaTroy Hawkins, Ross Ohlendorf, and Brian Bruney. As the season progressed, Farnsworth, Hawkins and Ohlendorf were replaced with Damaso Marte, David Robertson, and Phil Coke – superior pitchers. These ten pitchers went a long way towards compiling these relief numbers:

  • 3.79 ERA – 7th best in baseball
  • 1.36 WHIP – 13th
  • 3.05 BB/9 – 8th
  • 7.12 K/9 – 9th
  • 0.89 HR/9 – 4th
  • .329 opposing OBP – 14th
  • .405 opposing SLG – 10th
  • 2.33 K/BB – 7th

These numbers plainly indicate that the Yankees had a bullpen that ranked somewhere in baseball’s top ten. It’s also entirely possible that these numbers will improve in 2009. The team’s Opening Day relievers are currently Rivera, Veras, Ramirez, Bruney, Marte, Coke, and Jonathan Albaladejo. Having jettisoned Farnsworth’s astronomical home run rate, Hawkins’ total inability to miss bats, and Ohlendorf’s general ineffectiveness, the Yankees should feel good about their bullpen’s chances for improvement. 

But even if they don’t improve, saying that the Yankees’ bullpen is “terrible” is an inaccurate assessment, particularly given all the information at hand.

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