Though Mariano Rivera really deserves his own post, we’re including him in our bullpen Season in Review, primarily because we’ve already done so many individual player reviews that it just seemed easier this way.
We touched on the Yankee bullpen in the Positive Storylines from 2010 post a few weeks ago, noting that in 2010 the unit posted the third-best ERA (3.47) in the American League (and best mark of Joe Girardi‘s three-year tenure) and the fifth-best FIP (4.06).
Here are the numbers for the pitchers who threw in relief for the Yankees this past season, sorted by FIP (note: yWAR is simply an average of fWAR and bWAR):
Once again Mariano was the Yankees’ best reliever for the 14th straight season. Mo’s triple slash of 1.80/2.81/3.65 was as good as it’s ever been, and he has continued to defy all logic and reason by remaining one of the AL’s elite closers despite being 40 years old (Mo turns 41 at the end of November). While WAR isn’t the ideal metric for analyzing relievers, Mo still had the third-best fWAR among AL relievers, tying Neftali Feliz at 1.7. And to the surprise of no one, Mo’s cutter was the best in the league, rating at 16.7 runs above average.
Baseball Prospectus’ WXRL, which combines the individual adjustments for replacement level (WXR) and quality of the opposing lineup (WXL) to the basic WX calculation, and is considered one of the stronger relief pitcher metrics available, had Mo at 3.72, good for 7th-best in the AL. In case you were wondering, Joakim Soria was the AL leader in WXRL, at 6.53. Another BP metric, Adjusted Runs Prevented (ARP), which is a counting stat that compares a reliever’s performance to how an average (not replacement-level) relief pitcher would have performed in the same situations, saw Mo finish 12th in the AL at 15.7. For some additional context, Joaquin Benoit was first in the AL, at 28.8.
The much-maligned Joba Chamberlain, as has been pointed out by many people including ourselves, actually had a pretty strong season peripheral-wise. His 2.98 FIP was actually the 13th-best mark among American League relievers, his K/9 the 11th-best and his BB/9 18th-best (and second-best on the Yankees). Joba’s beloved slider, which he threw 26.5% of the time (and seemingly 100% of the time in 3-2 counts) was worth 3.6 runs above average, for 30th-best in the AL. In 2009, he threw the slider 22.2% of the time (of course, he was also starting), and it was worth 7.6 runs above average.
So why is everyone so quick to run Joba out of town these days? He certainly didn’t endear himself to the fanbase by (and this is of course based on selective memory) seemingly coughing up runs in key circumstances more often than not, although the numbers do back this up to a certain extent, with Chamberlain posting a fairly mediocre 1.29 WXRL, good for 34th in the AL and behind such luminaries as Matt Guerrier, Brandon League and Brian Duensing. Stripping away context, Joba had a 6.9 ARP. Let’s put it this way: Kyle Farnsworth had an 8.5 ARP. If the Farns is outdoing you in anything, something is wrong.
In the postseason, Joba was serviceable though far from great, throwing what ended up being a critical scoreless 5th inning in Game 1 of the ALCS; allowing an inherited runner to score in an inning of work in Game 2; and giving up a run in 1.1 innings of work in Game 4. However, in the latter two cases both games were essentially already out of hand when Joba did his damage. Of course, that also tells us everything we need to know about how far Joba fell in the bullpen pecking order this season.
All told the 2010 version of Joba Chamberlain was an enigmatic and frustrating young hurler, although the good news is that there’s still time for him to finally figure out how to harness that potential we’ve all been so high on for so long. The bigger question is whether he does it in a Yankee uniform. Though if he does, unfortunately he won’t be doing it as a starting pitcher.
After coming aboard via trade at the end of July, Kerry Wood emerged as the team’s best non-Mo reliever, posting an insane 0.69 ERA in 26 innings. I don’t know if it was the change of scenery or a corrected mechanical flaw, but Wood’s fastball went from -3.87 runs above average with the Indians to 4.7 runs above average with the Yankees. I wonder how many other pitchers in MLB experienced an 8.57-run (or higher) swing on their fastball during the course of the season? Many expected Wood to experience a drastic correction given the massive overperforming of his FIP (-2.69 E-F!), but it never really came. After two masterful performances in the first two games of the ALDS Wood did struggle a bit in Game 3, but on the whole he was great in the postseason, with a 2.25 ERA and 3.20 FIP.
The Yankees’ other key bullpen pieces in 2010 were David Robertson and Boone Logan. D-Rob posted a 3.82/3.58/3.79, 0.7 fWAR season in 61.1 innings, a year after posting a 3.30/3.05/3.20, 0.8 fWAR season in about 18 less innings. D-Rob had a weird year, with four brilliant months and two awful ones (May: 5.90 FIP; August: 5.18), but despite some ups and downs was probably Joe Girardi‘s third-most reliable reliever after Mo and Wood. Unfortunately Robertson completely bombed in the postseason, getting shellacked to the tune of a 16.20 ERA and 5.78 FIP in only 3.1 innings of work.
After a frustrating start, Logan emerged as a key bullpen piece upon returning from his second AAA banishment in mid-July. He threw 5 innings of 1.80 ERA ball in July, and gave up zero earned runs for the entire month of August (with a 2.20 FIP, to boot). Unfortunately the wheels came off for Boone as well in the playoffs, as he got torched for a 10.80 ERA and even scarier 11.48 FIP in a mere 1.2 innings. Though the Yankees’ loss in the ALCS against Texas was primarily due to the offense going into a coma, the bullpen did its part in pouring gasoline on the fire in both Games 3 and 4, and Robertson and Logan were two of its primary arsonists. They obviously had help from Sergio Mitre, but the mere fact that Mitre even saw innings in the playoffs tells you everything you need to know about the Yankees in this year’s ALCS.
Moving on we have Ivan Nova, who actually pitched about as well as anyone could’ve hoped in his first four Big League starts (including a rather big win in Chicago on August 29) before getting savaged by the Rays on September 14. On the whole Nova’s numbers as a starter weren’t terrible — – although if the Yankees actually intend to use him as a starter down the line, he’ll have to figure out how to get turn lineups over during the third time through the order. He was actually quite good in the majority of his outings during the first few innings, holding the opposition to a .554 OPS the first time through the order and .713 the second time through. However, the wheels really came off for Nova come the third run through the order, with opponents teeing off to the tune of .400/.531(!)/.480. If Nova can’t improve those numbers then he’ll obviously be relegated to the bullpen, although that’ll be his destination anyway assuming the Yankees sign Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte decides to come back.
The Yankees’ other spot starter, Dustin Moseley, was pretty bad, putting up a 5.29/6.02/5.02, -0.3 fWAR line, though he did have a few bright spots. Most notably stifling the Red Sox on national television on August 8 and also holding the absurdly potent Toronto Extra Base Hits to two runs over six innings on August 24. Moseley was also the unsung hero of the bullpen in the ALCS, pitching two huge perfect frames in Game 1 of the ALCS, keeping the Yankees’ deficit at five at a point in the game where there was almost no chance (the Yankees’ WE was as low as 2.9% in the sixth!) for them come back. Moseley’s two-inning ALCS stint was so great it resulted in a negative FIP; not something we see all that often.
The remainder of the Yankee bullpen was pretty useless in 2010. Jonathan Albaladejo, despite destroying the International League, continued to struggle at the Big League level, posting an ugly 5.46 FIP in 11.1 innings. 2009 bullpen savior Alfredo Aceves was done for the season after May 8, but had pitched to a smooth 3.00 ERA in 12 innings to that point, and was sorely missed. Damaso Marte continued to perform rather poorly (5.23 FIP) before also being lost for the season, while Chan Ho Park and Mark Melancon pitched poorly enough that the former was released and the latter traded. Romulo Sanchez got a 4.1-inning cup of coffee and didn’t surrender any runs, so I suppose that’s something. Royce Ring came up in September and despite being awful (15.43 ERA) was actually being talked about as a potential member of the postseason roster in some circles.
But for as bad as some members of the 2010 Yankee bullpen pitched, no one sucked quite as badly as Chad Gaudin, who managed to compile a 4.50/6.25(!)/5.29, -0.7 fWAR line in 48 innings for the Yankees. That was the second-worst FIP among all relievers in Major League Baseball (somehow Brian Tallet and his mustache were even worse, at 6.96), and Gaudin’s full-season -1.0 fWAR was also second-worst in all of MLB after Tallet. I know every team needs a mop-up guy, but good grief was Gaudin epically bad this year.
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