Sunday, July 21, 2013

Yankees First Half Report Card: The Bullpen

Valedictorian of his class.

The Yankees and the Boston Red Sox are in the midst of the rubber game of a three game series Sunday night to kick off the post All-Star break portion of the season. Remarkably, this is the first time that the Yankees have visited Fenway Park this season.  It's also the first time in a long time that neither Derek Jeter nor Alex Rodriguez have been in the Yankees lineup for a game against the old town team.

Both starters were roughed up, especially the Yankees CC Sabathia, who saw a 3-0 lead go bye bye. So what better night is there to post the first half grades for the Yankees bullpen.
(Note - statistics are as of the All-Star break)

Mariano Rivera - I might as well start right at the top. There's no reason to go into a lot of detail here; it's been talked about, written about, gifts, videos, the greatest retirement tour ever. Mariano is human, believe or not, as evidenced by the two blown saves in 32 chances. Has anyone ever had a quieter 30 saves, even with the hoopla surrounding his retirement tour? And 30 saves by a 43-year old at the All-Star break? 

It's hard to believe, but just how outstanding he has been seems to have been a bit overlooked by the media. "He's the same old Mariano" doesn't quite cut it.

Grade: A+

David Robertson - DRob's off the field endeavors (High Socks for Hope) get a bit lost among the stars in the Yankees clubhouse, and his on the field performance tend to as well. While he may never be the Yankees regular closer, he's one helluva set up man.

Robertson was selected to the AL All-Star game two years ago when he finished 4-0, 1.08 ERA, 1.125 WHIP, and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. After scuffling at times last year (still averaged 12 K's per nine IP) with his performance and health, DRob has improved on some areas of his 2011 performance. He's still averages 12 K's per nine IP and has put up a WHIP under 1.0 in 41 relief appearances.

Grade: A

Joba Chamberlain - Has there been a Yankees relief pitcher in recent history that has created more headaches than Joba Chamberlain? I'm not going to go in summarizing the rise and fall of Joba, but we know that some past issues are due to injuries, the"Joba Rules" and other nonsense the Yankees front office created.

But just like someone who has a bad beginning in life, sometimes you have to pull yourself up by your cleat laces and get things done. Such is not the case with Joba, who comes off very down to earth one minute and then undeservedly arrogant the next. He has not been the type of pitcher that has earned the level of respect he believes he has coming to him.

Is there any situation in a game that you trust Joba in at this point?  He allows inherited runners to score, he lets the opponents lead get bigger, and the Yankees lead get smaller. It's time for Joba to try to find success somewhere else.

Grade: F

Boone Logan - The tall left-hander is a bit of enigma, he looks incredibly solid one second (strikes out Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau with the bases loaded) and very ordinary the next. Joe Girardi has been very careful with not overworking his bullpen like his predecessor Joe Torre did, but Logan is the exception. He appeared in 64 games in 2011 and 80 last year, and that's not counting how many times he got warmed up and didn't enter the game.

It was no surprise that he reported to camp with a cranky elbow this year. It carried over to the start of the season with a shaky April, but Logan bounced back strong in May. In fact, he struck out 25 batters and walked just two in 15.1 innings over May and June combined. In July, opponents have just a .111 Batting Average on balls in play (BAbip). All that said, I still have difficulty trusting him in big spots...or small ones.

Grade: B

Shawn Kelley - Was a surprise pick up this past off-season. With the Mariners trying to improve you would think they would have held on to Kelley, who made only $600K last year and had a solid season. On top of that they dealt him to the Yankees for Abe Almonte, a non-prospect.

Kelley has been a strikeout machine in pinstripes with an average of 13.2 per 9 innings. He quickly gained Girardi’s trust and has become invaluable in high leverage situations. If David Robertson gets the closer's role next season, Kelley is the likely replacement as the 8th inning guy. Then again, he could fill the closer role instead of Robertson.

Grade: B+

Preston Claiborne - The 25-year old came out of nowhere to be an integral part of the bullpen early on. The bloom has come off the rose a bit over the last month, but it doesn't take away what Claiborne did in May and the first half of June. Namely, he gave up just one run in 15 appearances.

For now Claiborne will likely be doing mop up and non-crucial work until if and when he gets back on track.

Grade: B- (very close to being a C+)

Adam Warren - I have to admit I never saw this one coming. Warren looked horrible in his debut last year and looked like he was the target in a game of whack-a-mole in spring training. But since the regular season began it has been Warren doing the whacking of opponents in the long man role.

Warren has amassed 43.2 innings in 16 appearances, half of which he has finished, and has compiled a nearly 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio. It's doubtful he'll be a starter again (if he remains in the organization), but he can certainly fill a valuable role in the bullpen.

Grade: A-

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