LADY AT THE BAT: Post-Deadline Bullpen Almost Costs Yankees In KC

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Post-Deadline Bullpen Almost Costs Yankees In KC

All I can say is, it wasn’t me this time. Given my ability to seemingly jinx the Yankees with the most innocuous of tweets during rain delays, I kept my keyboard quiet during the lengthy one in Tuesday night’s game, a 5-4 extra innings win for the Yankees. Nevertheless, the rain delay was long enough that Masahiro Tanaka, who suffered a bit from Pineda-itis in his vacillation between dominance and crucial mistakes, was forced out of the game in the 6th inning with the Yankees up 4-2.

Then came the game of bullpen magical chairs with old friend Adam Warren entering in the 6th and quickly giving up a run, leaving a bit of a mess for Tommy Layne and Tyler Clippard.

I was never a huge believer in having a lockdown 7th or 8th inning pitcher. Despite the success of the Kansas City Royals over the past 2+ years and the Yankees in the first half of 2016, somehow, I thought, the Yankees could get those outs easily enough if needed.

I could not have been more wrong. Between Anthony Swarzak, Warren and Chasen Shreve, it’s clear that not everyone can form a successful bridge to the 9th inning closer. Which is likely why Girardi had Dellin Betances, who has mostly seemed fine in finally getting his opportunity to close games, pitch the 8th and the 9th inning.  After being passed over for Andrew Miller, then Aroldis Chapman for closing opportunities, Betances had gone 6-for-6 in save opportunities in the last 30 days, with a sub 1.00 ERA and 19 strikeouts in just 10.1 IP, prior to his blown save tonight.

It’s getting the ball to him that’s costing the Yankees games. Given the direction of the team (future facing), it’s hard to want to undo the trade that sent Miller out to Cleveland but, part of me, selfishly, does.  With the old bullpen in place, is Betances pitching two innings in this game?  Yes, he blew the save in the 8th not the 9th but, with a more trusted bullpen, would Betances have even been asked to go multiple innings?  

It's possible that Girardi might just be playing for his job here and, either way, you just know he wants the satisfaction of taking this dismantled and talented but young team to the playoffs. What a statement that would make. Who could fire him then? Jeffrey Loria, perhaps, but not the Steinbrenner family.

Girardi's calling card, however, has been bullpen management.  If he had a 6th inning guy, Warren wouldn't even have been in the game.  He was and he gave up a key run and it cost the Yankees later in the game.  

This might all be a moot point, because the Yankees chances of making the playoffs grow slimmer by the day but, if it’s not clear already, I’ll go ahead and admit I’m still rooting for them to get there. It would be fitting. Didn’t youngsters get a taste of the playoffs in 1995 before stunning the baseball world in 1996? With all the parallels that have been drawn this season, it just seems right that Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and even Tyler Austin and Chad Green, would get to wear those MLB Playoff hoodies, even if just for one game.

All this to say that, when rosters expand later this week, I’d like to see some power arms out of the bullpen. Luis Severino will obviously be returning, although in what capacity may yet be determined. Put him in the bullpen and let him see that he can still get major league hitters out. Restore that confidence.

Reward this team for putting together a very good month of August by giving them some reinforcements. The Kraken has already been unleashed and Judgement Day has arrived. Let’s see what else that Yankees farm system (all levels of which have performed very well this season) has in store for 2016.

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