Yesterday, I took a look at the New York Yankees’ bullpen and noticed a few problems, albeit fixable ones.
Compared to last year’s team and this year’s league averages, Yankees relievers are stranding less inherited runners and enduring heavier workloads than last year. They’re doing a worse job “relieving” their starters when they come in mid-inning and are, overall, less effective.
If you’d like to read the whole numbers crunch of Inherited Runner Percentage, Average Leverage Index, and pitches per appearance, travel here. It gets wordy and number-y, but made me feel smart when I wrote it.
It would only make numerical sense that relievers suffer increased workloads because their starters aren’t pitching effectively enough to work as deeply into games. There are, of course, other factors: injury, platoon advantages, extremely bad managers who do everything according to their corny three-ringed binder and make bad decision after bad decision, etc.
In 2012, the average Yankees starting pitcher, according to Baseball-Reference, threw 98 pitches and totaled 6.2 innings per start. Their run support per 27 outs was 5.1.
This year, the average Yankees starter is throwing 98 pitches per start but only totaling six innings per start. Their run support per 27 outs? 4.4.
Last year, they bequeathed 249 runners to their bullpen. This year, they’ve bequeathed 31 — a 162-game pace of 162.
When 2013 relievers do enter the game with runners on base, though, they’re faced with tougher tasks. In those situations, there’s an average of 1.6 runners on base compared to last year’s average of 1.55. That might seem miniscule, but let’s look just a little bit deeper.
2012 saw the bullpen facing fewer men with runners on third and less than two outs — an exceptionally tough situation. Last year, there were 294 plate appearances where Yankees pitchers faced such a situation. Subtract the 166 that were those of starters, and you’re left with 128 such situations for relievers.
In 2013, the total number is 66 with 32 of those by starters, which means relievers have had 34 plate appearances with a man on third and less than two outs. That’s a pace of 180 through 162 games.
In 2012, only 28.9 percent of those runners scored. In 2013? 55.9 percent.
So, while relievers are facing an overall decrease in high-leverage situations, they’re faced with tougher tasks when situations are indeed high. Even so, this is more evidence that the Yankees relievers aren’t doing as good of a situational job as they did last year and their starters aren’t helping.
David Phelps and Boone Logan are the two biggest culprits contributing to the problem, and while it’s still a small sample size, perhaps manager Joe Girardi should start considering finding his relief elsewhere … at least in high-leverage situations.
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