From Erik Boland:
“It’s the best stuff we’ve seen since he’s come back,” Girardi said. “You don’t always look at the results, you look at the stuff and his stuff was much better today, and it’s really something to build on.”
Now, there was an element of truth to that in regard to the first two hitters Bruney faced. The 91-mph slider Bruney struck out Robert Andino with was nasty, and the 95-mph fastball he got Brian Roberts on was outstanding.
So Bruney’s stuff, overall, did look better than it did in his previous outing in Anaheim, but he didn’t do himself any favors attempting to downplay the home runs either.
“I thought I threw the ball tonight like I had thrown at the beginning of the year and it just so happened that they hit two out of the park,” Bruney said. “Hats off to them. I’ll get them next time.”
Bruney said later: I felt good about the way I pitched today, if I didn’t, I’d tell you I didn’t.”
That is certainly true. It was Bruney who, after the game in Anaheim, told us, ““I’m pitching like —-, that’s all I can say.”
He definitely wasn’t that Wednesday afternoon but it’s tough to “yeah, but…” two home runs in an inning.
Bruney’s stuff did look better, but the results just were not there. What is wrong with Bruney?
A look at the numbers seems to suggest a simple answer. Brian Bruney’s Yankees career has been fairly solid: A 3.38 ERA and 1.37 WHIP are reasonable for a late inning reliever, as the WHIP is heavily inflated by his poor 2007. Since Joe Girardi took over as manager, the ERA is 3.14 and the WHIP is 1.12. His walks have come down to 4.5 per 9 innings (compared to a rate exceeding 6 per 9 earlier in his career), while his home run rate has held steady below 1 per 9. Bruney has always been difficult to hit, but in the last two seasons he has retained that ability while cutting down on his walks. However, since returning from the DL, Bruney has seemingly lost his command and control. He is leaving pitches up over the plate, leading to 3 home runs and 2 doubles in 7.2 innings after not allowing any homers and just one double prior to his DL stint. When the ball is not sitting over the middle of the plate, it is missing entirely, as evidenced by the 8 walks he has allowed since returning, compared to two (on Opening Day) prior to the injury.
Girardi and Bruney claim that his stuff was as good as ever yesterday. However, it seems clear that he is battling both command and control issues. He is no longer difficult to hit, and he has regressed in terms of walking batters. These seem like the sort of issues that may be caused by rust and altered mechanics. If the Yankees can figure out what is going on, it would be a major boon to the bullpen, allowing Joe Girardi to give Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera a day off during a stretch of close games. If Bruney continues to struggle out there, he may find that his role will continue to shrink.
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