Cash & Girardi know how to build a strong bullpen

DRob induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Pujols today

Both Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have  gotten their share of criticism for different things throughout their tenure.  However, one area they are both very adept at is building and handling the bullpen.  The Yankee pen was far and away the top unit in the American League last year and is off to another blazing start this year despite the opening day blown save by Mariano.  Both Joe and Brian deserve praise.

Cashman didn’t always make the best decisions when building the bullpen.  After Cash inherited an awesome pen in the mid-90’s, he spent a lot of years trying to build the pen through Free Agency and trades with mixed results.  But a few years back, Cashman came to the realization that relief pitchers can be very inconsistent from year to year.  Armed with this knowledge, it became clear the best way to find relievers was to develop a lot of depth of young arms and inexpensive veterans. Since then, the Yankees have been drafting a lot of power college relievers and have done a great job developing them as well as converting young starters to relievers.  Some have helped the team like David Robertson, while others have been used in trades such as Mark Melancon & George Kontos.  Billy Eppler’s pro scouts have done a fine job finding cheap, unheralded arms like Cory Wade, Luis Ayala & Clay Rapada to make contributions as well.  Besides Mo, the only high-priced reliever is Rafael Soriano which wasn’t a Cashman choice.  However, now that he’s healthy Soriano looks poised for a strong season.

Girardi makes a lot of questionable moves but one thing that can’t be criticized is how he handles his relievers.  He doesn’t overwork guys and does an incredible job keeping them fresh, while also getting everyone work.  It does help that for the last few years, the team has always carried 12 pitchers.  I remember not many years ago when most Yankee teams carried only 10 pitchers, but it’s now accepted that 12 is the norm.  Those 2 extra arms definitely help a manager with his maneuvers.  Sometimes Girardi can get a little carried away with his platoon switches and he doesn’t like using his better relievers when the team is trailing but you can’t argue with the final results.

Last year, the Yankee pen was far and away the best in the AL with a 3.12 ERA.   This was nearly a half run better than the 2nd team – the Angels with a 3.52 mark.  So far in the early going this year, they haven’t disappointed.  They are leading the AL again with a 2.01 ERA with an amazing 34 K’s in 22.1 ip for a sick 13.7 K/9.  Last yr, both Mariano & DRob were All-Stars and there is no reason to expect anything different this year.  Soriano has looked very good in his first 2 outings as has rookie David Phelps. As good as Cory Wade was last yr with 6-1, 2.04 mark – he has looked even better out of the chute this yr.  Never overpowering, he has 9 Ks in just 5ip so far.  Of course, it’s too early to derive any judgements but his stuff looks crisper this yr and he may have another stellar year.  The only question marks are the 2 lefties – Boone Logan & Rapada.  I like the stuff Logan has shown and think he just needs to gain some consistency.  Rapada has always been hell on lefty hitters and if used solely as a LOOGY, he can be an asset for Joe against some of the tough lefty-laden lineups in the AL East.

There are also more arms ready in AAA in DJ Mitchell, Adam Warren, Manny Delcarmen, Michael O’Connor, Chase Whitley, Kevin Whelan, etc.  And below them there are many other capable relief arms to keep the team replenished.  The system put in place by Cashman and executed by Girardi will keep the team in position to continue being atop the A.L on an anual basis.  Part of the Championship recipe, all the great Yankee teams in the last 16 years have had strong pens.  This year’s team looks to be no different and it will be up to the rotation and lineup to do their part.

About fishjam25

Was a 4-yr Pitcher and Communications Major at Seton Hall University in the 90s. His knowledge & opinion of the game comes from his background as a player and ardent lifetime Yankee fan. However, Fishjam also incorporates sabermetrics and statistical support to form a well-rounded view of the game.

Posted on April 13, 2012, in Personal Opinion, Player Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. nice article Fish. The bullpen is def a strong point this year. If Joba pulls a miracle this year and can come back and if Aardsma come back healthy in July it will get even better!!!!

  2. I can see giving Cash credit for pen building but I wouldn’t be so quick to praise Girardi. His middle innings management leaves a lot to be desired. Last year the Yankees were good in the 6th but horrid in the 7th.

    Girardi pigeon holes himself when it comes to roles that end up hurting the team. A good example of this was last years Twins series when he pitched Soriano in back to back April night games just because he was the so called 8th inning guy.

    I will say that he doesn’t burn guys out but is that his doing? Or is it a mandate from Cashman to the pitching coach and then to Girardi?

    I am curious about this years pen with a second lefty if this will help or hurt pen management this year. So far we’ve seen Girardi throw Rapada under a bus in what ended up a winnable game.

    • Good to hear from you George,

      I think Cash & Joe are aligned at the hip and it’s very difficult to credit or discredit one without the other.

      I don’t like a great deal of Girardi’s decisions but, for better or worse, he has to be given credit for having the best bullpen in the AL (by far) for the last 2 yrs and they’ve been in the top 5 all 5 years of his tenure. He’s done this without blowing people out which is something that Torre would often do.

      The last 4 years of the Torre regime, the Yankees bullpen finished 10th, 8th, 10th & 9th in the A.L. in Bullpen ERA so there has been a huge turnaround since Girardi took over. Whether he played a big hand in it or not, he deserves some credit.

      I have been critical of Girardi for seemingly giving up on games when the team is down. He went to Ayala in the playoffs last yr with a fully rested pen in the 9th of a winnable game. And letting Rapada face Longoria down 4 in the 7th inning pissed me off also. I certainly think he makes a lot of dumb moves but I have to acknowledge the overall fact that he has managed to have a great pen every year. After years of crappy pens under Torre (despite having Mo), it makes him look good.

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