photo courtesy of: Frank Franklin II/AP
Continuing in this 3-part series, with relief pitching.
Relief Pitching – Astros
While the Astros bullpen doesn’t feature multiple fireballers like the Yankees, they’re very effective in their own right. The acquisition of Gerrit Cole pushes veteran starter Collin McHugh to the bullpen for 2018. In December, the Astros signed Joe Smith and Hector Rondon to 2-year deals. These two relievers, along with Will Harris, Tony Sipp and Chris Devenski, should give AJ Hinch reliable options late in games. Ken Giles is once again the closer. Brad Peacock will also see innings out of the bullpen but could see time in the starting rotation if there’s an injury.
Chris Devenski is a workhorse out of the Astros bullpen. In 2017 Devenski finished fourth in the major leagues for innings by a reliever. In his 80.2 innings, Devenski averaged 11.16 K/9 against 2.90 BB/9 with an ERA of 2.68.
Will Harris is a decent strikeout pitcher, but also has excellent control. In 2017, he posted a K/9 of 10.32 while walking only 1.39 batters per nine. Unfortunately, he also gave up 1.39 home runs per nine, a troubling number for a pitcher whose home field ranked 30th in Park Factor last year.
Héctor Rondón is entering his first season with the Astros. The 5-year veteran of the Chicago Cubs had his best season in 2015, saving 30 games while posting a 1.67 ERA.
Tony Sipp will be looking to return to his 2015 form when he posted a 1.99 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .204 batting average. Sipp has struggled in both 2016 and 2017, with a FanGraphs WAR of -0.9 (yes you read that right).
Joe Smith saw time in the bullpens of both Cleveland and Toronto in 2017. Between the two, Smith had his best season statistically. He struck out 10 more batters than he walked per 9 innings pitched last year.
Brad Peacock had a great year as a starter for the Astros in 2017, going 13-2 and accumulating 3.4 fWAR in only 132 innings pitched. With the addition of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, Peacock finds himself coming out of the bullpen in 2018.
Collin McHugh is in the same situation as Peacock. The 30-year-old McHugh is also moving to the bullpen in 2018 after four seasons in the Astros starting rotation. McHugh missed most of last season with elbow injuries.
Ken Giles struggled badly in the postseason in 2017, but he is still the closer in 2018. Giles had 34 saves last year, more than double his previous high. He has performed better this spring, posting an ERA of 1.35 along with 10 strikeouts in 6.2 innings pitched.
Relief Pitching – Yankees
This article in the Sporting News recently ranked the Yankees bullpen as the best in baseball.
It would be difficult to disagree with.
Last season the Yankees bullpen posted a 7.2 fWAR, which led the MLB.
The Astros finished second with a 5.5 fWAR, 30% less than the Yankees.
The 2018 season will be the same as 2017: If your starter can get you 5 or 6, turn it over to the bullpen and let them lock the game down. Aaron Boone will have endless matchup options late in games with David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder for the 6th and 7th innings. Dellin Betances in the 8th, and Aroldis Chapman in the 9th. Even with some nice additions to the Houston Astros bullpen, the Yankees relief corps is unmatched.
Tommy Kahnle – After 3 unremarkable seasons in the majors, Tommy Kahnle finally broke out in 2017. Posting a 2.59 ERA (along with a 1.83 FIP) Kahnle struck out 96 hitters in only 62.2 innings pitched. Often overlooked by the big names at the back of the Yankees bullpen, Kahnle will look to repeat the success that made him a valuable pickup last year.
Although Chasen Shreve posted a decent ERA (3.77) and a good strikeout rate (11.51/9IP), his walk rate (4.96/9IP) is troubling. The lanky lefty still managed to go 4-1 and stranded 82% of baserunners but will need to make some adjustments if he’s going to remain in this talented Yankee bullpen.
Jonathan Holder won the final bullpen spot over Domingo German this spring. 2017 was Jonathan Holder’s first full season in the major leagues. He posted a decent 3.89 ERA in 37 appearances, with a very solid 1.83 BB/9. Holder will likely stay in the Yankees bullpen in 2018.
Aroldis Chapman was dominant to start the 2017 season, making 7 consecutive scoreless appearances in April. Shoulder inflammation sidelined Chapman for over a month in the first half of the season. Upon his return to the lineup last June, Chapman struggled, and his ERA reached 4.29 on August 18. Chapman finished the season strong, lowering his ERA to 3.22 by the end of the season. He was dominant in the postseason, giving up only 1ER in 8 innings, with 16 strikeouts and 2 walks. Once again, Chapman will be looked upon to close out games for the Yankees in 2018.
Chad Green was a major part of the Yankee bullpen in 2017. After spending most of his minor league career as a starter, Green found success in the Yankees bullpen. He threw 69 innings in 40 appearances, posting an incredible 1.83 ERA, striking out 13.43 batters per 9 innings, while only walking 2.22 per 9. Green will likely be in the bullpen again for 2018, as the Yankees will rely on him in the later innings of ball games.
The Yankees reacquired David Robertson last July in a trade with the Chicago White Sox. Robertson posted an incredible ERA of 1.03 in his 35 innings pitched with the Yankees last season. After posting three consecutive 30+ save seasons, Robertson will be predominantly used in a setup role.
Dellin Betances had a poor season by his own standards in 2017, though it was still good enough to earn him his fourth all-star nod. Betances walked 6.64 batters per 9 innings last season, nearly triple the 2.40 BB/9 he posted in 2014. Despite the high walks, Betances was still tough on batters, with a K/9 of 15.08. The Yankees will be hoping for Betances to improve on the walks in 2018.
Adam Warren struggled in 2016, posting an ERA of 4.68. In 2017 he cut that number nearly in half. Entering his 6th major league season, Warren’s consistency helps give the Yankee bullpen depth.
Part 3 Tomorrow