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Do the Yankees Have the Best Bullpen in the American League?

Rafael Soriano with Joe Girardi, Randy Levine, and Brian Cashman (Jim McIssac/Getty Images)

Coming into 2011, there was a clear objective for the Yankees and GM Brian Cashman to improve both their starting and relief pitching. The Yankees’ main offseason target, Cliff Lee, shocked the Yanks, and the world, by signing with the Phillies. They instead brought in Rafael Soriano, the hard throwing All-Star closer for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees gave Soriano 3 years and $35 million to be their setup man. Their bullpen was most inconsistent last year and was much maligned until Cashman picked up Kerry Wood at the deadline.

The 2011 edition of the bullpen, once considered a weakness, is now considered the strength of the team. There is no better example than on August 5th in a big Friday night 3-2 win over the Red Sox, the bullpen got 4 1/3 scoreless innings against the best lineup in baseball, including Boone Logan coming in and getting Adrian Gonzalez out with the bases loaded.

One would think that Logan, the lone lefty in the Yankees’ pen, will be heavily relied upon to get out the big lefties (Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton) they’re certain to see in the post season, but in David Robertson and Corey Wade, the Yankees have two righties who are as adept at getting lefties as righties out. Logan has done a decent job for the Yankees, but is not the shutdown lefty specialist that the Yankees were hoping he would be. Because of that, manager Joe Giardi has relied heavily on his main righties. The Yankees’ right-handed relievers form the backbone of the bullpen.

The X-Factor:

Since debuting for the Yankees on June 15, Corey Wade has been nothing short of spectacular. Wade seemingly has come out of nowhere, but many people don’t realize that he has previously experienced success with the Dodgers. He is just two years removed from his ’08 Dodgers campaign, in which he made 55 appearances, spanning 71 1/3 innings, and posted a 2.27 ERA. If he can continue pitching the way he has as largely a middle reliever, sporting a sub two ERA, he will be a valued asset for Girardi going forward.

The Back-End:

David Robertson

First time All-Star setup man David Robertson has been lights out and one of the game’s best. Possessing a mid-to-high 90’s fastball with serious movement, Robertson has accumulated 71 strikeouts in just 46 2/3 innings, an average well over 13 strikeouts per 9 innings. One criticism of Robertson is that he has had a tendency to walk people, but he seems to have gotten that problem fixed. In his last seven appearances, he has only allowed a single base runner. He’s a perfect setup man in the sense that he gets out both lefties and righties equally as efficiently, and is capable of getting a strikeout in a big spot. He took over the setup job from Soriano after the former Ray went down, and he doesn’t seem willing to relinquish it.

Rafael Soriano

Rafael Soriano, who has had success closing and setting up in the past, was paid closer money to be the setup man for the Yankees. He had a very shaky beginning to his Yankees’ career, posting a 7.83 ERA in April before landing on the DL with a sore elbow. Since then, he’s come back and has shown signs of being the Soriano that Yankees paid for, registering six dominant outings. It is easy to overreact to his bad April, but history indicates that he simply had a bad month and he’ll soon revert back to his normal form. He had never posted an ERA over 3.00 in any season in which he’s made at least 40 appearances.

Mariano Rivera

Anchoring the bullpen is, and has been for seemingly forever, none other than Mariano Rivera. Rivera, who turns 42 in November, is his usual dominant self, already up to 30 saves. Although he’s been a little shaky of late, you wouldn’t want anybody else to close games for you.

The Verdict:

With Soriano for the seventh, Robertson for the eighth, and the greatest closer of all time in the ninth, teams will have to get to the Yankees’ pitchers early. Runs will be hard to come by the final third of the game. Brian Cashman deserves credit for piecing together possible the game’s, and certainly the American League’s, best bullpen. Cashman knows more than ever, especially after the pitching exhibition the Giants put on last fall, that dominant pitching wins World Series titles. When he failed to get Lee and with the free agent market for starting pitching so scarce, he did the next best thing and bolstered his bullpen. The bullpen is the main reason the Yankees are just a half game behind Boston atop the American League standings.

About A Lee

I'm as happy as the Mets, Knicks, Lions, and Devils allow me to be.

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One comment for “Do the Yankees Have the Best Bullpen in the American League?”

  1. New Post: Do the Yankees Have the Best Bullpen in the American League? http://bit.ly/r2WWkn

    Posted by Sports of New York | August 15, 2011, 4:38 am

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