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An assortment of relievers [2019 Season Review]

Tarpley. (Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of the Yankees’ core tenets is a strong bullpen, as evidenced once again in 2019. But a strong bullpen isn’t just about the relief aces like Zack Britton or Chad Green (among others). Other pitchers play important roles too, even in blowouts and games that aren’t on the line. Today, I take a brief look at an array of pitchers who spent time on the Yankees’ major league roster this season. Most of these pitchers didn’t have much success on the mound, and many won’t be back in 2020, but they still played some role on this year’s club.

Jonathan Holder

After a strong 2018, the Yankees expected Holder to be an important piece of the bullpen. Not in terms of high leverage, but rather, holding the fort down in the middle innings. Unfortunately, he fell far short of his 3.14 ERA and 3.04 FIP in 66 innings a year ago.

Not only did Holder get sent down to Triple-A twice this year, but to add injury to insult, he finished the season on the injured list. The 26 year-old righty wasn’t horrible to start the year, but he certainly wasn’t anything special. By the end of May, he had a 4.55 ERA but a much better 3.07 FIP. Come June, things took a turn for the worst. He allowed six homers and 15 runs (13 earned) in eight innings before he was sent to Scranton.

The final straw came on June 24th, when Holder faced five batters and did not record an out. The big blow was Freddy Galvis’s grand slam. Holder was optioned after the game, returned for one appearance in July, and didn’t resurface in the Bronx again until August. But not long after, he hit the injured list with shoulder inflammation and missed the remainder of the season. There’s no indication that any portion of his 2020 season is in jeopardy.

Assuming he’s healthy, Holder will be in the mix for one of the last bullpen spots in spring training. He has one more minor league option remaining, so he could be an up-and-down relief arm once again if he can’t re-establish himself.

Stephen Tarpley

If you had me guess how many innings Tarpley threw for the Yankees this season, I would have guessed a dozen or so. Maybe it’s because the season has been over for a few months now, but my guess is far off. In fact, the lefty threw 24 2/3 frames for the Bombers this year. He was ineffective and finished the season with a 6.93 ERA and 5.69 FIP.

Tarpley’s big issue was the long ball. He’s been a ground ball pitcher for some time now, even garnering (unfair) comps to Zack Britton, but that was far from the case in 2019. He had just a 36.2 percent ground ball rate and surrendered six homers (2.2 per nine innings). This came on the heels of a 63.8 percent ground ball rate for Scranton this season.

Tarpley still has two more minor league options, so he still has time to work the kinks out. He’s had plenty of success in Triple-A, but it’s just not translated at the big league level. However, he may also be on the 40-man chopping block as we await the official announcements of Gerrit Cole and Brett Gardner.

Cory Gearrin

The Yankees claimed Gearrin off waivers from the Mariners near the end of August. Unexpectedly, he quickly became one of the team’s most oft-used relievers. The sidearmer appeared in 18 of the Yankees final 32 games of the regular season.

His usage was a little perplexing given his uninspiring results, but upon reflection, it makes sense. Not only did Aaron Boone say that the organization believed Gearrin had upside, but Gearrin also offered some relief (pun intended) for guys who had been worked hard like Adam Ottavino.

Gearrin’s a free agent, but there hasn’t been a peep about him in the rumor mill. Not that anyone would expect there to be. Chances are Gearrin receives a minor league deal for 2020, and your guess is as good as mine regarding with what team he’ll sign with.

Tyler Lyons

The Yankees picked up Lyons on a minor league contract in August after the Pirates released him earlier in the month. The former Cardinal was last an effective big league reliever in 2017 while he was still with St. Louis. Once rosters expanded in September, the Yankees gave the lefty a shot.

Lyons was decent in September and had eight scoreless outings in eleven total appearances. Similar to Gearrin, Lyons gave the Yankees another warm body to provide key relievers a breather. Surprisingly, Lyons earned a spot on the playoff roster and appeared in both the ALDS and ALCS. He retired all five batters he faced, including four strike outs, but the games he pitched were already out of hand.

The others

Longtime farmhand Brady Lail, the Yankees’ 18th-rounder in 2012, made a one game cameo in August before the Yankees’ designate him for assignment. He’s currently a minor league free agent…Jake Barrett appeared in two games for the Yankees before elbow inflammation ended his season. He too is a free agent…Same deal for southpaw Joe Mantiply, who was one-and-done for an August game and is now a free agent…the Yankees nabbed Ryan Dull, part of their run on scrapheap relievers, in mid-August off waivers. Dull last only lasted three games with the Bombers before the Blue Jays claimed him off waivers in September…Joe Harvey was a surprise addition to the 40-man entering 2019 and was decent in 10 innings for the Bombers (4.50 ERA). The Yankees traded him to the Rockies for Alfredo Garcia before the deadline.

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Yankees Activate Dellin Betances from Injured List

I know this is old…but it sure is pretty.

Well, the day is finally here. After a long, arduous rehab process, the Yankees have finally activated flame-throwing righty reliever Dellin Betances off the 60-day Injured List. There were a few other notes: the Yankees activated Jordan Montgomery, too, designated Ryan Dull for assignment, and transferred Jonathan Holder to the 60-day IL.

Here is the official news from the team:

Let’s start with the bad news. This officially ends Jonathan Holder’s season, as his shoulder inflammation got the best of him. Too bad, even though he really struggled this year, with a 6.31 ERA (4.45 FIP) in 41 innings pitched. He still struck batters out (25%) and limited walks (6%), but was really done in by the long ball. I like Holder and think he is a useful piece, so this is too bad. See ya in 2020, Jonathan.

Ryan Dull only got 2.1 innings as a Yankee, one of which was yesterday. He gave up 5 runs in those innings. He was a true last man out of the pen type option.

Now, to the good news. Jordan Montgomery (Tommy John) was activated as expected. I said all I can say about him yesterday, so check that out if you missed it. He’s about to pitch as I’m writing this, which is very cool. Welcome back, Jordan.

But the real story here, of course, is the return of Dealin’ Dellin. What a beautiful sight that is. I say so because, well, a healthy and normal Dellin is quite simply one of the most dominant relievers in the entire league. Check out Betances’ statistics among key metrics from 2014-2018, with his rankings among the 273 qualified relievers in parentheses:

  • ERA: 2.22 (8th)
  • FIP: 2.26 (4th)
  • Strikeouts per 9: 14.63 (3rd)
  • Strikeout percentage: 40.3% (4th)
  • Home Runs per 9: 0.60 (29th)
  • Innings Pitched: 373.1 (1st)
  • Average Leverage Index When Entering Game: 1.44 (44th)
  • fWAR: 11.3 (2nd)

That is just so pretty, isn’t it? Who knows what version of Betances we’ll see this year–reports are that his velocity is down, which is normal for a guy like Betances, who always takes a while to get up to full speed–but it is going to be just awesome to see him again. Whatever he contributes will be just gravy, in my opinion.

Either way, great news. Betances is one of the easiest guys on the team to root for, in my opinion, and I hope he has success right away. (He definitely does, too, as it’s a contract year for him. Brutal.) That sure would be nice. Imagine this bullpen plus a weapon like Betances?

Game 150: Yanks Pound Blue Jays, Win 13-3

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Well, that sure was a baseball game. The Yankees absolutely destroyed the Blue Jays (box score) 13-3. It was even uglier than the line appears. The Yanks improve to 98-52 on the season and remain ahead of the Astros and Dodgers for home-field advantage in the postseason. Both teams will play later tonight. Keep an eye out on that, if you’re so inclined.

The Yankees had 19 hits and scored a bunch of runs. This one was a laugher. Let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. James Paxton, Game 1 Starter: I believe that James Paxton is reminding everyone why the Yankees traded for him. Today is his 9th consecutive victory (he has not lost since the trade deadline). As I wrote the other day, he should be the Yankees’ Game 1 starter, hands-down, at this point. Here is his line today: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, and 3 K.

It wasn’t his sharpest performance–he got lucky in the 1st, a 30 pitch inning from which he escaped unscathed because the one hit was hit too hard for a runner to score from 1st–but he got the job done. Here is his strike zone plot:

There’s not a whole lot to say about this one. He wasn’t great but he did not get punished for it. All in all, a fine performance. I’ll take it.

2. Brett Gardner Today, Tomorrow, Forever: Brett Gardner made his Major League debut on June 30, 2008, more than 11 years ago. In his first 620 big league games, played from that debut through the end of the 2013 season, Gardner hit .268/.352/.381 (97 OPS+) with 23 home runs in more than 2200 plate appearances. He actually had more triples (33) than home runs. What a difference a half-decade (and a juiced ball) makes, eh? As we all know, Gardner is having a career year in 2019 despite being asked to play every day–and he is having quite the power surge.

He added to that today, slugging two home runs, a double, and logging 5 RBI. Let’s start with the “double”. Check it out:

Obviously, that’s a seeing-eye ground ball, but it’s a bit misleading to leave it at that. After some bad baserunning earlier in the game, Gardner deftly took the extra-base and set up the team with 2nd and 3rd and nobody out. He also drove in a run. That’ll do.

That wasn’t enough, though. He added his 24th homer of the season, too. Check out the solo blast in the 4th:

That was no cheapie, either, leaving the bat at 99 mph and traveling 412 feet. Good stuff yet again. But that still wasn’t all, because one 412 foot home run just isn’t enough for Gardner anymore. Check it out, this one coming with two on in the 5th inning:

That one also traveled 412 feet and made it 6-0 Yankees. You might be thinking that this was enough excellence from Brett Gardner for one game but I am pleased to tell you, my friend, that you are badly mistaken. He flashed some trademark leather in the bottom half of the inning, making a great leaping catch against the wall that he had to travel to get to:

Statcast says he traveled 126 feet to get there, which feels about right. What a play that is, and what a game for Brett. He went 3-5 on the game, raising his line to .248/.323/.500 (113 wRC+). I love it. For good measure:

3. DJ LeMahieu Still Wants that Batting Crown: DJ LeMahieu has been in a bit of a slump recently. Check it out:

In English, that means he has been struggling. Coming into today’s game, DJ was hitting just .242/.306/.273 (58 wRC+) over the last week, which has gotta be one of his worst weeks of the season. I’m too lazy to look that up (though the above graph kinda supports it) but that is how it feels. There was never really much to worry about though. Good players get into slumps all of the time. They get out of them, too.

DJ started getting out of the funk in the 2nd game of the doubleheader in Detroit. He went 0-6 in the day game, 3-5 in the 2nd game, and 2-6 last night. He added 4 more hits tonight, raising his average to .329 on the season.

DJ is still trailing Chicago’s Tim Anderson for the AL batting crown, but today’s performance should help him close the gap. This will be a fun one to watch as the season winds down. It sure would rule if DJ won the batting crown. It’s amazing nobody has won it in both leagues before. It really is. I think that should stop being true now, though. It is time.

4. Luke Voit is Definitely Healthy: So, remember when Luke Voit was hurt and not looking like himself? Me too. But I think it’s plainly obvious at this point that the big man is feeling it yet again. He was hitting .289/.373/.444 (119 wRC+) in 51 plate appearances since returning from the injury coming into today, but the big question with him was the power. He’d been in a bit of a power funk before unleashing on a ball in Detroit last week.

More of the same today, really, where he absolutely mercilessly murdered a baseball. Check this out:

That thing had a family, man. Good grief. 107 miles-per-hour, 439 feet, etc. etc. Just an absolute bomb. That angle is good, but I just love this view from YES via The Times’ James Wagner:

That is just ridiculous. I could watch that all day, honestly. Anyway, remember when nobody was sure if Voit would be the odd-man-out in playoff lineups? I think those days are gone. Obviously, they’re gone in part because of injury, but even still: Luke Voit leads the team in OBP at .390, has been an offensive force for a year, and is getting his power back. If the Yanks make a run, Voit will be at the heart of it. It’s nice to see him getting back into his normal power-hitting form.

Leftovers

  • Gleyber Torres, 40-HR Power: Gleyber Torres is going to hit 40 home runs. It’s insane. Now, it’s also worth noting here that Gleyber left the game with what could have been an injury. He made a nice play in the middle innings, but seemed to have some weird footing on the dumb Toronto turf. He was examined, stayed in the game, and then was removed after the score became 9-1. Hopefully, that was just precautionary due to the blowout (laughs nervously). Everything is fine, right? Right? I mean, he did do this, so it can’t all be bad (laughs even harder):
  • Hit Batters: Thairo Estrada and Gleyber Torres were both hit by pitches in this game. So was Lourdes Gurriel. For a few minutes, it seemed like there may be some fireworks. That was quickly dispelled and the only fireworks came from the Yankee bats.
  • Bad Baserunning: There was a lot of bad baserunning in this game–from Torres and LeMahieu most notably–but the Yankees crushed the Blue Jays and those mistakes seemed to be mental errors. The kind where they misread a flyball and got caught stranded. I’m only putting this here because it happened and maybe cost the Yanks a few runs? Whatever. The Yanks don’t make these mistakes often and this game was, in the grand scheme of things, pretty pointless. (Cue 500 people on Twitter trying to “teach” me about home-field advantage.)

Up Next

The Yankees and Blue Jays will meet for the final time of the 2019 season tomorrow afternoon at 1:07 pm in the Rodgers Centre. Jordan Montgomery (read about him here) will make his season debut (!) against T.J. Zeuch (0-0, 5.40 ERA) in Canada. Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone.

Game 138: Gardner hands the keys to Ford to ignite victory

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It’s hard to feel good before any game JA Happ starts this season, but today, he veteran southpaw stepped up. He threw six shutout innings, and though Sean Manaea and the Oakland bullpen matched zeroes to that point, the Yankees were resilient. The B-list relievers put the Bombers in the hold, but it was nothing the offense couldn’t overcome (in walkoff fashion). After losing four straight to the A’s to start the regular season, they finished off the last two victorious, including this one, 5-4.

JA leaves everyone feeling Happy. Heck of a performance by Happ this afternoon. He threw six one-hit innings, didn’t allow a run, and struck out five. His only real blemish was four walks. Here are the last two times he completed six innings of work:

  • 7/30 vs. Arizona
  • 6/6 vs. Toronto

This A’s club hit Happ pretty hard two starts ago, so it’s nice to see him rebound today. He did two things really well: command his fastball and induce soft contact.

That’s a lot of blue and light red, including two clutch double plays to end the first and second innings. The latter helped him escape a jam with runners on the corners and no one out. In sum, Oakland’s batted balls average 82.7 miles per hour, much lower than Happ’s season mark of 88.9.

Even though the southpaw handed out four free passes, he still had quite good location on his fastball:

He pretty comfortably attacked away from a righty’s perspective all day. 62 of his 98 pitches were four-seamers, which came in at an average of 92.5 MPH, his third highest average velocity game for him on the year. Oakland couldn’t seem to square up Happ’s heater; they whiff 8 times and fouled off 16 against it.

For all the good Happ did, he came very close to unraveling in the fith. After walking the first two hitters of the frame, he struck out Jurickson Profar looking and induced Sheldon Neuse and Josh Phegley to fly out. It took 29 pitches to do so, leaving him at 89 overall, so it seemed like the end of his day.

Alas, Happ returned to the mound for the sixth. Didn’t seem like a great idea, especially when it was against Oakland’s top of the order for the third time. Nonetheless, Happ delivered a nine pitch 1-2-3 inning to finish the day.

Boone’s decision to go to September callup relievers proves costly. There’ll surely be some frustration about Boone’s decision to pitch Ryan Dull in the seventh once Happ departed. When Dull entered, there was no score. After recording the first out with ease, he promptly loaded the bases for Sheldon Neuse:

That was Neuse’s first career hit, a go-ahead two-run double. Later, Josh Phegley dribbled an RBI groundout to first base to make it 3-zip. Initiallly, it didn’t look like a run would score on the grounder as Profar held up at third while Luke Voit retrieved it. Once Voit flipped to Dull covering first, Profar broke home to make it 3-0.

In the eighth, Boone went to Chance Adams. The 25 year-old righty made one big mistake: he hung a curveball to Matt Olson, who hit a classic left-handed hitter short porch homer to increase Oakland’s lead to 4-0.

Who else could Boone have gone to?

(Fangraphs)

We know the Yankees don’t like to throw pitchers three games in a row, so count out Cory Gearrin and Tommy Kahnle. Even though Zack Britton said he was available pregame, I’m sure the Yankees wanted to be careful with his calf cramp. Adam Ottavino threw 22 pitches yesterday, but considering he pitched the ninth inning, he could have came in before any of the September call up relievers. Especially since Oakland had their best hitters up when Dull came in.

The offense had no answer for Oakland through seven frames. Sean Manaea, Yusmeiro Petit, and Jake Diekman blanked the Yankees for seven innings. Manaea was particularly impressive in his first game since last summer after undergoing shoulder surgery. He was perfect through three innings and wound up allowing just one hit while walking three and striking out five.

The only real scare the Yankees had against Manaea was the first at-bat of the game. DJ LeMahieu put a charge into one to dead center which died.

The Yankees also threatened in the fifth and loaded the bases with three walks vs. Manaea. But, Matt Olson robbed Mike Tauchman of a hit with a diving playing to end the frame. Tauchman’s batted ball had an expected batting average of .440.

You can’t hold this lineup down for long. Don’t ever count this Yankees team out of any game. This offense is way too good for a four run deficit to be safe. In the eighth, Mike Tauchman walked against Diekman, who was pulled for Lou Trevino. LeMahieu singled and Aaron Judge walked to load things up with nobody out to make Gleyber Torres the tying run. He hit a sac fly that cut the deficit to 4-1. That kept the Yankees streak of at least one run scored in every game dating back to July 1, 2018 alive. It’s the second longest streak ever, only mid-1931 to mid-1933 Yankees went longer.

After the sac fly, Oakland decided to go to closer Liam Hendriks for a five out save. Gary Sánchez popped out in foul territory on a nice play by Olson (again), leaving it up to Didi Gregorius with two outs and runners on second and third. Didi ripped a rocket on one hop to shortstop Marcus Semien, but it was too difficult to handle and went into center field. Two runs scored and the Yankees were down just one. Hendriks escaped further trouble in the eighth. But in the ninth, the Yankees wasted absolutely no time to tie it and win it.


Brett Gardner is awesome, folks. He was a hero once again. And what a moment for Mike Ford, huh? He’s been fantastic lately. He certainly made the most of his pinch-hit opportunity in place of Clint Frazier.

Leftovers:

  • Clint Frazier return to big league action for the first time since June 16th. He went 0 for 2 with a walk. In his first at bat, he scalded a 108 MPH groundout against Sean Manaea.
  • Luis Severino threw one inning and 33 pitches for Scranton. He was pulled after the second inning’s leadoff hitter, Andy Burns, homered. Sevy had allowed a run in the first inning too, which resulted in a final line of: one inning, three hits, two runs, two strikeouts, and one homer. Severino threw his fastball between 94 and 96 MPH.
  • Edwin Encarnación went 1 for 3 with a single and hit by pitch. He was hit by a breaking ball and laughed it off, so nothing to worry about there.

The Yankees are back in action tomorrow afternoon on Labor Day. It’s a 1:05pm start vs. the Texas Rangers. Have a good rest of your Sunday!

Yankees add Frazier, Adams among initial call-ups

Clint!!! (MLB.tv)

The Yankees recalled OF Clint Frazier, RHPs Chance Adams and Ryan Dull and selected the contract of LHP Tyler Lyons for their first set of September call-ups.

To make room for Lyons on the 40-man roster, David Hale was placed on the 60-day IL.

Frazier was the lone position player called up and is in the lineup batting eighth and DH’ing for the series finale in Oakland. Though he batted .283/.330/.513 (115 wRC+) in 53 MLB games, he struggled in Triple-A, going .247/.305/.433 (85 wRC+) in 61 games. However, he worked on his defense and seemed to improve in left field.

Adams and Dull worked in the Triple-A bullpen after recent demotions. Dull never got into a game with the Yankees this year, while Adams had a 7.48 ERA in 21 2/3 innings in his second taste of the Majors. If you want more on Dull, here’s my piece on him from his original acquisition.

Lyons, meanwhile, is new to the Yankees’ roster after signing a Minor League contract two weeks ago. The left-hander was an effective reliever in St. Louis in 2013-2017 before falling to a 9.15 ERA over 20 2/3 innings with the Cardinals and Pirates over the last two seasons. He’s been more effective in his Triple-A stints, including with the Yankees.

The 31-year-old’s fastball velocity is down from the low-90s to high-80s in the past two seasons, though he’s a slider-first pitcher anyway. We’ll see if he can find something back in the Majors.

Hale recently had an injury to his left kene in his rehab from a back injury, so he’s on the shelf for a while. The 60-day IL placement likely keeps him out for the season.

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