Yankees: Why has Betances pitched only once in seven losses?

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

 The Yankees manager may have earned a mulligan when it comes to how to use a bullpen. But how can he justify using his best reliever only once over the seven-game stretch that has his team reeling?

The Yankees have been relying on their bullpen since day one of the 2017 season. And until now, the boys in the pen have served the team well. Presently, the Yankees rank number three in the major leagues in bullpen ERA and they’re holding the opposing hitters to a .219 batting average.

But the question that continues to haunt the Yankees is the number of innings the bullpen is piling up due to the inability of the starting staff to consistently pitch into the seventh inning. The workload may now be showing its first signs of wear and tear during this stretch of seven consecutive losses.

I did some math on those seven games, and two things jumped right out. First, Yankees starters can only account for 33 innings pitched, which is less than five innings per start, causing the bullpen to pitch the remaining 26 innings.

Adding to the problem, Adam Warren, one of the team’s most reliable relievers, was placed on the 10-day DL and Aroldis Chapman only returned at the tail end of the road trip.

Last night, Tyler Clippard looked like he barely had the energy to walk off the mound after failing to keep the team in a tie game. And Jonathan Holder did not look much better. If nothing else, Clippard especially may need a couple of mental health days to re-charge the batteries.

Yankees playing hide and seek with Betances?

But none of this has anything to do with what surprised me the most when I looked at the numbers. How is that the Yankees best reliever, Dellin Betances, has made only one appearance, and that was nearly a week ago and has pitched only 1.2 innings during a stretch when it would appear the team needed him most?

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To reiterate, Girardi gets a mulligan overall for his use of his bullpen, but how does he explain this? Last night, for example, the Bombers came back and tied the score in the sixth inning on the strength of home runs by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Wouldn’t you think that would be the right time, even though it’s “early” on the bullpen clock, to bring in the very best you have to hold the line?

I’m not big on second guessing. I’m only a sportswriter, and no one is closer to the team than Girardi. But I do believe it’s a fair baseball question and one that deserves an answer from Girardi.

The Yankees are seeing that they cannot rely on their starters to give them length. They’ll get quality for the most part from them, but not length. James Montgomery, tonight’s starter, for example, is making his 13th start of the season. He’s pitched a total of 69 innings, which averages out to only a tick above five innings per start. He’s going to need help if the team is going to win.

So, maybe the discussion needs to shift away from who the Yankees are going to get as a starting pitcher to who the team is going to get to secure the beleaguered bullpen.