Monday, June 1, 2009

The Bullpen

With the exception of Jose Veras, who has been consistently bad, inconsistency has plagued the Yankees bullpen for the first two months of this season. While the month of May resulted in better overall numbers for the bullpen, I cannot help but dig my nails into the chair whenever Girardi heads towards the mound, regardless of the situation. This sense of dread has been pervasive whenever any non-Rivera reliever takes the mound, and even the Sandman has struggled a bit this season.

With roughly one-third of the season on the books, we are at an awkward point in terms of gauging what needs to be done. While each player has over one-hundred games left to turn himself around, this first chunk of the season provides a fair sample size for projection, with some accounting for regressions and progressions. Given that the bullpen's performance declined after the All-Star Break last season, I believe that it is reasonable to say that some change is necessary.

The Keepers:
  • Mariano Rivera - Well, duh.
  • Alfredo Aceves - I trust Aceves in high-leverage situations. He's smart, and his starting experience should allow him to come in at any point in the game and pitch for however long is necessary. I view him as a less erratic Ramiro Mendoza.
  • Edwar Ramirez - Inconsistent, but effective against righties and lefties. Notwithstanding Girardi using him for 3.1 IP on 9 May, Ramirez has been excellent since the end of April.
  • David Robertson - Great in the minors, he has nothing left to prove at Triple-A.

The Losers:

  • Jose Veras - He has a 5.90 ERA since August 2008, and has been awful in every situation thus far this season. While his stuff is solid, the Yankees appear to have much better options.
  • Damaso Marte - While bad luck is partially to blame for his struggles, Marte hasn't done much to encourage Yankees fans, either. Between his lack of production and Girardi's inconsistent use of him, this may be addition by subtraction.
  • Jonathan Albaladejo - He has middling stuff, middling control, and a fairly extensive injury history. His lack of results make this a fairly easy decision.
  • Brett Tomko - Tomko is a decent option to have in the minors, but he doesn't belong on a major league roster - particularly one with Wang and Aceves... and even one with just Aceves.

The Final Two:

  • Mark Melancon - While I think he could still use a bit of seasoning at Triple-A, I also believe that he is better than at least three pitchers currently on the roster. It's just a matter of time, I suppose.
  • Phil Coke - I see him and Ramirez as nearly interchangeable, with Coke having a higher upside. I prefer Ramirez for the time being, as Coke is less consistent, but I believe there is a great deal of value in having both, due to their effectiveness against righties and lefties.
  • Brian Bruney - He's injured now, and I didn't list him as a keeper due to his injury history and bouts with inconsistency. That being said, a healthy Bruney has the chance to be a fantastic set-up reliever, and with a bit of health he'll find himself right below Rivera.
  • Kei Igawa - The Yankees need to get their value somehow... Igawa's been very good in the minors, and seems to be strong his first time through a line-up.

I didn't consider Hughes or Wang here, as I believe that Hughes will head down when Wang is deemed healthy (and justifiably so). I hope to see Hughes fill Pettitte's spot in the rotation in 2010, and I think consistent work at Triple-A will be better than inconsistent relief appearances in working towards that goal.

In the end, I think the Yankees could be very strong with a six-man bullpen. Things are questionable after Rivera, but I have faith in the talents of those pitchers that I want to keep around, and think they can help the Yankees immensely with a bit of consistency.