Yankees Bullpen: Deller Betandrew

This post continues our Depth Chart Discussions. In an effort to suss out every team, we’ve divided them into four parts (infield, outfield, bullpen, and rotation) and will continue to break them down for you over the next few weeks. You can find the Depth Chart Discussion posts gathered here.

When rounding to one decimal place in WAR, the Royals and Yankees were tied for Best Bullpen of 2014. Both teams received dominant—historically dominant, even—breakout performances from set-up men. Both had excellent closers. The difference between the two teams going into 2015 is not so much one of quality, as both bullpens project to be among best in baseball again; rather, it’s a difference of roles. The Royals are returning all of their major relievers for 2015, with Greg Holland set to resume his role as closer. The Yankees, on the other hand, saw their 2014 closer leave via free agency, and brought in another excellent set-up man via the same method.

While there might be a reasonably clear answer to the question “Who should be the Yankees’ closer in 2015?”, the answer to the question “Who will be the Yankees’ closer in 2015?” is at least slightly less clear. This relative lack of clarity may frustrate fantasy owners as they prepare for drafts and auctions this year—at least those in leagues that don’t use Holds as a scoring category.

Deller Betandrew

First, let’s look at the Yankees’ Big Two, whose names combine to form the absurd, post-colon portion of this article’s title and the above section heading.

Dellin Betances

  IP W SV HLD ERA WHIP K% BB% SwStr% GB% HR/FB BABIP FIP SD MD
Actual 2014 90 5 1 22 1.40 0.78 39.6% 7.0% 12.9% 46.6% 6.9% 0.241 1.64 34 7
Steamer 2015 65 4 24 2.73 1.13 31.3% 9.9% 0.281 2.96

Andrew Miller

  IP W SV HLD ERA WHIP K% BB% SwStr% GB% HR/FB BABIP FIP SD MD
Actual 2014 62.1 5 1 22 2.02 0.80 42.6% 7.0% 14.6% 46.9% 8.6% 0.263 1.51 29 12
Steamer 2015 65 4 9 2.36 1.03 33.9% 8.4% 0.281 2.50

Aside from the innings pitched marks, we see here two relievers that were nearly equals in excellence in 2014. Some arguments that Betances should/will be the Yankees closer going forward: On various depth charts, Betances is listed as closer; the former top-prospect would be a home-grown heir to Mariano Rivera to whom Yankees fans could easily attach; he clearly has the stuff to be a closer; he was, indeed, better than every other reliever in 2014 by WAR, RA9-WAR, and WPA. To boot, per Steamer, he’s projected to get the bulk of the Saves for the Yankees, though Steamer doesn’t seem to be giving him full closer credit: it projects only 24 Saves when dozens of other relievers are projected for 30 or more.

So what are the arguments for Miller being the closer? Well, he has more major league experience than Betances, and has a bit more of a track record as a successful reliever, though 2014 was a standout year for him. The Yankees let David Robertson walk and instead committed $36 million over four years to Miller. More or less, that’s closer money, and so maybe the Yankees end up thinking, We’re paying him closer money, so he should be our closer. But the Yankees don’t have to worry about money in those ways. They signed Rafael Soriano when Mo was still around, so it’s not like they’ve never ponied up cash for a guy they expected to fill a set-up role. Finally, Miller, like Betances, has the stuff to be a closer.

Probably, this issue will be settled more clearly in spring training, as teams (to varying degrees) and players alike seem to value having assigned roles. The Yankees could try a “bullpen by committee,” but plenty of teams have said they were going to do that only to effectively—if not nominally—choose a closer in short order.

As far as Steamer goes, there’s some regression for both Betances and Miller, which makes sense given general their lack of precedent for their dominant 2014 campaigns and given the regression tendencies of any projection system. But these are still excellent projections, and I think many of us would pick them to beat those projections, even if they fall back to earth a bit.

If you play in a fantasy league that doesn’t use Holds, how this situation plays out is obviously going to affect how you value Betances and Miller for 2015. In leagues that use Saves and Holds, you probably aren’t waiting with such bated breath for this decision as both of them will pitch in the high-leverage situations in the late innings while putting up very good strikeout rates and rate stats while doing so.

The Rest of the Lot

While Betances and Miller are the standout talents that will produce headlines (maybe), the Yankees have a number of other good relievers in the fold for 2015. They already had another good set-up man in Adam Warren, and this offseason they have acquired David Carpenter from the Braves (for Manny Banuelos), and Justin Wilson from the Pirates for (Francisco Cervelli).

Here’s how they stack up, alphabetically speaking:

David Carpenter

  IP W SV HLD ERA WHIP K% BB% SwStr% GB% HR/FB BABIP FIP SD MD
Actual 2014 61 6 3 19 3.54 1.26 25.9% 6.2% 11.4% 37.6% 7.7% 0.333 2.94 17 9
Steamer 2015 55 6 3 3.30 1.17 23.8% 6.9% 0.279 3.74

Adam Warren

  IP W SV HLD ERA WHIP K% BB% SwStr% GB% HR/FB BABIP FIP SD MD
Actual 2014 78.2 3 3 23 2.97 1.11 23.5% 7.4% 10.6% 45.4% 6.0% 0.272 2.89 29 10
Steamer 2015 55 3 1 3.46 1.22 21.6% 7.3% 0.237 3.72

Justin Wilson

  IP W SV HLD ERA WHIP K% BB% SwStr% GB% HR/FB BABIP FIP SD MD
Actual 2014 60 3 16 4.20 1.32 23.8% 11.7% 9.7% 51.3% 7.3% 0.285 3.62 18 12
Steamer 2015 60 2 3.46 1.28 23.1% 9.9% 0.282 3.82

Carpenter—both by alphabet and by projected performance—appears to be the top pitcher in this bunch. However, the general effectiveness of both Warren and Wilson (and the incumbent role of the former) means that the late-inning, high-leverage appearances that don’t go to Miller and Betances will probably be too divided to have any of these three guys matter, even for the purposes of most Holds leagues. Sure, one of them could emerge as a solid source of Holds, but these are the kind of players you wait out and pick up on waivers once roles are more solidified, or in times of great need.





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Bobby Ayala
Member

Have to mention Chasen Shreve, the Yankees 3rd LHP option in the pen, track record of success in the minors, acquired along with Carpenter in the Banuelos deal. He gives them more flexibility to entertain the idea of a lefty closer than most teams.