Yankees bullpen has been set adrift without Aroldis Chapman
Yankees pitching was supposed to be easy to predict. The starters were going to struggle while the bullpen was going to save the staff. But lately, the pen has been sinking games instead of saving them. What started with a sense of complete order has degenerated into a desperate search for consistency. And it all seemed to fall apart when Aroldis Chapman went on the DL.
The 2017 Yankees starting pitching has been solid if unspectacular. And that’s okay when the bullpen is anchored by two of the top five relievers in the game: Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. The bullpen has always had its warts, of course. But those problems were masked earlier in the season.
Yankees starters Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka have gone into the seventh inning a lot more this year. And the team has had a lot of blowout victories. This has often meant that only lower-tiered relievers pitched in those games and it was okay if they gave up a few runs.
But you don’t fix what is not broken, and the pitching seemed an equal partner in the Yankees first 27 wins. The partnership has been dissolved.
The last week or so has shown the Yankees bullpen to be their Achilles heel, at least for now. And it is not just that it is not getting the job done. The bullpen is even failing the eye test, or maybe it’s the feelings test. Because even before the pen blew it in last night’s loss (that loss coming on May 23rd), Yankees fans just felt something bad was going to happen.
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It’s a feeling that seems to emanate from the bullpen every time YES network shows a shot of it. Something does not seem right. Every time the phone rings and a reliever gets up, and you can almost hear the music from the Keystone Cops.
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What’s unusual is why the pen has almost collapsed. Chapman was not his usual self before becoming temporarily disabled. His ERA in 2016 was 2.01, while his WHIP was .894. Today those numbers read ERA 3.55, WHIP 1.421. Chapman was anchoring the staff but in the wrong way.
That should have completed the analysis: The closer was struggling. The solution also seemed straightforward: Remove him, have the rest of the vaunted bullpen move up for a few weeks, and the Yankees bullpen might improve. Of course, they are better with a healthy Chapman, but they should also have been better off without an unhealthy Chapman.
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Instead, by removing the struggling Chapman, the pen has fallen into chaos. And you can tell from your living room. It’s not just that no one seems reliable anymore. Or that everyone who has been counted on is failing. The best way to explain it is as the opposite of that “it” factor, which is that indescribable feeling of surety and positivity that exudes from a person, or bullpen.
Now, I don’t know what the obverse of that feeling is, but it is emanating from the Yankees bullpen. And it has been doing that since Chapman went on the DL.
It seems that the pen was set adrift when it lost its anchor, even one that was weighing it down. Somehow, when the Yankees removed their struggling closer, it reverse-inspired the rest of the staff.
And this is not about people pitching in spots they are not used to; no, the pitchers have been underwhelming even in familiar innings.
You might have noticed I have not mentioned any names or specific situations. That is because this is a problem that must be thought of holistically and solved the same way. Whatever the issue is, the Yankees relievers can only solve it together.
They could do some bonding, like a series of trust falls. Or go camping or bowling or farting or whatever. I suggest they start a book club and start with Emerson’s essay on the Over-soul.
And, since I have mentioned Emerson, I must take a moment to correct an earlier mistake. In a recent piece, I referenced Emerson when I meant to write Thoreau. My apologies. I would like to forgo or ignore the ignominy, but My Teacher wrote that a man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.
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What a pain in the butt he can be. But he’s right. And I would like to be wise, one day, and that takes effort. It’s something I’m struggling with.
Just not as much as the Yankees bullpen is struggling.