Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Looking At The Newest Version Of The Bullpen

About a month ago, I went and addressed the state of the bullpen after Sourpuss Soriano hit the DL, and all signs were pointing to the bullpen still being in good shape.  Since then, the Yanks have lost Joba for the next year + and had Soriano moved to the 60-day DL, signifying a decreased likelihood of us seeing him in pinstripes again this year.  There has been some juggling and re-juggling of the 'pen over the last couple weeks and now there's some new faces and new roles that we need to familiarize ourselves with.  As we live and breath right now, the Yankee bullpen is:

- Mo
- D-Rob
- Luis Ayala
- Boone Logan
- Hector Noesi
- Cory Wade
- Jeff Marquez

Mo is Mo.  No need to discuss anything about him other than the fact that Joe still needs to be mindful of not overworking him and his 41-year-old arm.  And D-Rob, who has now assumed the setup role for Mo, is what he is.  He's a damn good relief pitcher with big balls and good stuff.  His walk rate is frightening to look at, but I can live with it if and when he continues to strand guys and strike out 15 batters per 9.

Ayala is an interesting and a much more important part of the bullpen puzzle right now because he's been very good so far.  He's pitched to a 1.59/3.27/3.70 tripleslash in 22.2 innings with a 7.15 K/9 and has been rewarded with more high-leverage innings recently.  His walk rate is a bit of a concern and we still haven't seen what he can do in true high-leverage situations, but he has earned some of Joe's confidence.

Also seeing more high-leverage work thrown his way lately is Hector Noesi, who, despite being overlooked for the Bartolo Colon replacement position, has continued to pitch well out of the bullpen.  His K rate also isn't great, and his higher FIP numbers indicate that his ERA isn't the truest depiction of how good he's been, but he has good stuff, has not appeared rattled by any of the situations he's been thrown into, and gets swings and misses when he needs them.  Between him and Ayala, Joe has 2 guys he can use for the 7th-inning role, since he's so in love with predetermined roles.  And that covers the solid holdovers.

The new kids on the block are Wade and Marquez, and both had exceeded expectations (if there were any) through their first few appearances.  SMALL SAMPLE SIZE WARNING!!!: Marquez has been solid if not pretty good in his 4 innings of work, allowing just 1 run.  He's never going to be a shutdown guy, but his stuff and his approach is much improved from where it was when he was still a Yankee farmhand.

Wade has been perfect in his 3.2 innings over 3 appearances, giving up no runs, showing great stuff, and throwing a lot of strikes, both taken and swung at and missed.  He's already been worth 0.2 WAR, which is more than Noesi or Boone Logan have provided in many more innings and more than the Yankees got from Phil Hughes and Rafael Soriano went down.  He's shown that he's at least worth considering for more high-leverage work should Noesi or Ayala be unavailable.

The big question mark out of this group is, at it has been since Opening Day, Boone Logan.  He's the lone lefty out of the 'pen right now and he continues to not live up to his lefty specialist responsibilities.  His 3.94/4.08/4.62 line over 16 IP is bad enough, as is his 72.0% strand rate, with only Rafael Soriano ranking lower out of the regular Yankee relievers.  But it is Logan's inability to get left-handed hitters out that is killing him and the team right now.  In 40 ABs against lefties, Logan has a .300/.391/.425 tripleslash against with 5 BB and 1 HBP thrown in for good measure.  That's too many guys getting on base against a guy who is supposed to shut lefties down.  And it is this inefficiency that has led to the signing and the promotion of Brad Halsey in the Minors as well as the addition of Randy Flores to the SWB roster.  The measure is clear.  Shape up or ship out.

Just like they were back at the end of  May, the Yankees still look to be in good shape in the 'pen right now despite the plague of major injuries.  They still have question marks and uncertainty, but really, which bullpen doesn't?  If guys like Ayala can keep performing well enough and Noesi and Wade continue to show they can handle the stress, things should be just fine.

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