One of the most important components of success for the Yankees over the 2012 season was the bullpen. With Mariano Rivera out for the season after tearing his ACL and questions about the durability and depth of the starting rotation, the rest of the bullpen had a tall order to fill. For all the question marks, the bullpen was a huge source of strength for the Yankees. Most surprising was the success of the two newest, and relatively under-the-radar additions for 2012, Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada.
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Eppley pitched to a 3.33 ERA in 59 games (46 innings), going 1-2 with 32 strikeouts in his second season in the majors. Eppley allowed exactly one hit per inning but his 1.370 WHIP isn’t all that great for your prototypical one-inning reliever, especially when the game is close and your depth is a question (say, on a day Boone Logan wasn’t available or before Joba Chamberlain came back to the majors).
His tendency to give up some hits could have been exacerbated by the poor defense behind him. For instance, an average RAdef9 was a negative .05. If this number is in the positive range, the defense behind the particular pitcher is above-average. With Eppley’s RAdef9 in the negatives, issues with his WHIP and hits allowed were not necessarily entirely the fault of Eppley. Despite being discarded by the Texas Rangers early in the season, he was a welcome addition to the Yankees, and actually produced quite nicely, with a fairly respectable .6 WAR and 1.0 gmLI.
- Good effort
- Work is satisfactory
- Steps in when others aren’t up to the task
- Still some room for growth
FINAL GRADE: B
Rapada, a prototypical LOOGY, appeared in 70 games for the Yankees this season, going 3-0. Granted, he had limited action, pitching only 38.1 innings, the vast majority of which were against lefties only, but still pitched to a respectable 2.82 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. As a LOOGY, Rapada’s sample size is so small that his numbers are likely to be affected greatly enhanced. By contrast, Logan, who is used against lefties (and, possibly more effectively) and against righties, pitched in 55.1 innings; David Robertson pitched 60.2 innings. However, thinking about all of the tough lefties that the Yankees face — David Ortiz, Prince Fielder, etc. — his numbers are still worth noting and will be helpful for the team as Joe Girardi looks to those match-up situations that he knows and loves all too well. A highly effective lefty is a valuable asset; Rapada was worth 10 RAA, which can become significant when you consider the lefty opponents that he could face. That said, Rapada’s extreme specialization combined with Girardi’s tendency to trust high-leverage situations to Logan limits Rapada’s usage which can negatively impact the team.
- Participates too little
- Satisfactory participation
- Often favors only lefties, must play well with everyone
FINAL GRADE: B-
Conclusion: Though the final result wasn’t what we had all hoped, it’s clear that the Yankees 2012 bullpen was a huge strength to the team with Eppley and Rapada doing their parts. In many ways, despite their modest success, both players were positive contributors to the 2012 bullpen, and will be just as important, even if they remain under-the-radar in their efforts, in the 2013 bullpen. This is especially true considering their extremely reasonable costs will further the Yankees goal of getting payroll to $189 million by 2014.