4/17/09

Looking at the Bullpen

It's early, and we can't draw big conclusions about the bullpen obviously, but let's take a look at everyone we have that could be in the 'pen this year. Here's a list of our relievers that we could see in the bigs for a significant amount of time this year....

Mariano Rivera
Brian Bruney
Damaso Marte
Mark Melancon
Jose Veras
Edwar Ramirez
Jon Albadejo
Phil Coke
David Robertson
Alfredo Aceves/Sergio Mitre/Brett Tomko/Kei Igawa

Mariano is obviously the closer, as he is the greatest in the history of the game, and he is the best closer in baseball right now (although Joakim Soria and Joe Nathan are close).

Typicaly a team will have two set-up men, guys who they can trust in the 8th to hold a lead. One of those spots is rightfully Brian Bruney's, as when he is healthy he has always been effective, and has done fine so far this year, with 10 K's in 5 innings of work and a 3.60 ERA.

The other spot is supposedly Damaso Marte's, but he was innefective as a Yank last year (he had a 5.40 ERA in 18.1 innings as a Yankee last year. He walked 10 and struck out 24 as a Yank last year). I'm not a Marte fan, despite his track record in Pittsburgh and Chicago. He doesn't seem to be as effective as he used to be and he got a deal he didn't deserve this off-season ($12mm/3 years). If Marte isn't effective the Yanks could shop him, or make him primarily a lefty specialist. If he needs to be moved out of the set-up role we could see the spot taken over by....

Mark Melancon has been deemed the heir to Mariano Rivera. The 24 year old righty is popular amongst all scouts and statisticians. He has been said to have great make-up, meaning he shouldn't have a hard time dealing with the New York scene. So far this season Melancon has struck out 14 in 7.1 innings of work, only allowing one hit, two walks, and not having let in a run. Last year, between Tampa, Trenton, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre he had a 2.27 ERA over 95 innings of work, striking out 89 and walking 22 in that time. Melancon should be in the bigs by June at the latest, and don't be surprised if he quickly becomes an intricate part of the relief crew.

Jose Veras was a big part of the pen last year, with a 3.59 ERA over 57.2 innings of work. Veras averaged over a strikeout per inning, and maintained a 1.40 WHIP. Veras will most likely stay in the pen all year and is mostly a 6th or 7th inning guy. His 2.17 K/BB ratio was fine, but his 4.53 BB/9 is higher than we would have liked. Veras is fairly dependable, but is rarely dominant.

Edwar Ramirez, the 165 pound Dominican,was a staple in the 08 rotation. He had an acceptable 3.90 ERA in 08, but his GO/AO ratio of 0.56 is dangerous, especially if New Yankee Stadium keeps producing home runs like it has so far. I like his 10.25 K/9 ratio, but when Edwar gets hit, he gets hit hard. Edwar is a fine strikeout pitcher, but if a batter makes contact it can be dangerous. Edwar will keep his spot in the bullpen unless he proves he can't hold it down, which could happen if he has 2 or 3 bad outings in a row.

Jonathan Albadejo was awarded the last spot in the bullpen, and it is because of him that Joe Girardi decided not to have a long reliever in the 'pen this year, he thought Albadejo would be more useful. He had a 0.93 ERA in 9.2 innings of Spring Training work, and struck out 8 over those appearances. He earned his spot through Spring Training, and it is up to him to justify the spot as the year goes on.

Phil Coke amazed everyone last year, when he came up for 14.2 innings, and struck out 14 while only allowing one run. Coke is a converted starter and will primarily be our lefty specialist this year. Coke came out of nowhere last year, as he was never supposed to be a star, but he had a great stint in the bigs, which earned him his roster spot this year. He could be the first effective Yankees lefty specialist since Mike Stanton, and we'll see what he can do when he must faces the likes of David Ortiz, JD Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Carlos Pena, who are the most prominent left handed hitters on the rival Rays and Sox.

David Robertson was just sent to triple A to make room for Juan Miranda. Robertson pitched 30.1 innings for the Yanks last year, striking out 36 while holding a high 5.34 ERA. The 24 year old will be back in the Bronx at some point this year, but he's behind Marte, Bruney, Melancon, Albadejo, Coke, and Veras in terms of being able to pitch consistently and effectively.

Alfredo Aceves, Sergio Mitre, Brett Tomko, and Kei Igawa are all at triple A right now. The Yanks decided to keep Albadejo on the roster, rather than bring up a long reliever, and they have paid for it (see Chien-Ming Wang's last start). At some point the Yanks will come to their senses and bring up a long reliever. That spot will go to whoever of these 4 performs the best until that point in time. I personally think Igawa should get another shot, as he did perform well in Scranton last year. Aceves would be fine, but he's good enough to be an effective starter, so we're more likely to see him come up for a spot start, or be traded to a pitching starved team. You might be wondering where this leaves Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Those two are starting in Scranton, and Hughes is first on the list of people to call up in case of an injury to a starting pitcher. Neither of them will be used as long relievers because that could hurt their progression as pitchers. Someone in the rotation is bound to go down at some point, and we'll see what Hughes can do then.

There will almost certainly be one or two guys not on this list that come up to the pen at some point, but these are the people we will most likely see coming in to relieve our starters.

If I were Girardi I'd have Rivera, Bruney, Marte, Edwar, Veras, Coke, and Tomko on the squad. That would leave Albadejo, Melancon, and Robertson in Scranton. Melancon should be called up as soon as he is ready, and the Yanks should listen to offers for Marte, even if they have to pay some of his contract, because he doesn't seem to have adjusted to AL pitching since last year's trade from Pittsburgh.

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