The Yankees basically didn’t change a thing in their bullpen heading into next season. Their only real change they brought in involves a long relief pitcher (likely Freddy Garcia or Phil Hughes) and possibly Rule V pick on the back end. The remaining group, with their 2011 statistics:
- Mariano Rivera – 61 1/3 innings, 232 ERA+
- David Robertson – 66 2/3 innings, 410 ERA+
- Rafael Soriano – 39 1/3 innings, 108 ERA+
- Boone Logan – 41 2/3 innings, 129 ERA+
- Cory Wade – 39 2/3 innings, 157 ERA+
Those guys, plus Joba Chamberlain when he returns, will likely be responsible for the vast majority of innings that actually matter in relief of their starting pitchers over the course of the 2012 season. Even if injuries occur, the call ups are unlikely to get a lot of the truly meaningful innings. This is an important distinction, as relief innings tend to be highly selective. The performance of these guys is what matters.
We can assume that Rafael Soriano and David Robertson’s performances will regress toward their mean levels. I think that Soriano, in particular, is a good bet to improve quite a bit next season. His upside is good enough that it will make up for the inevitable downside as David Robertson’s ERA+ comes back to levels that real human beings can maintain. On top of that, you’ll see Cory Wade and Rafael Soriano pitch more innings than they did last year, replacing both Luis Ayala’s great innings and Hector Noesi and various other pitcher’s bad innings. On net, all indicators seem likely to even out.
I think you have a blueprint for the best bullpen in baseball. In fact, I think the Yankees are the best by a pretty wide margin. Obviously, there is a wide degree of variability at stake here, but the Yankees are on paper pretty darn good. They may or may not go into the season with the best lineup or starting pitching in baseball, but the bullpen should help break any ties that the Yankees hold with their competitors.
And the best part? Logan, Wade, and Robertson are all relatively cheap players, helping to make up for the colossal mistake that the Yankees made by signing Rafael Soriano to an extremely player-friendly deal. The Yankees didn’t have to get to the point they are by going out and overspending for one of the many expensive free agent relief pitchers next year. If Logan or Wade or even Robertson don’t work out, they have the flexibility to try out someone else.
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