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Yankees Bullpen Among MLB’s Best

When the Steinbrenners went against Brian Cashman’s wishes to sign Rafael Soriano they envisioned a lockdown bullpen that would be among the best in MLB.  They got what they were looking for, although probably not the way they envisioned it.  Soriano struggled early and got hurt. Joba Chamberlain had to have Tommy John surgery.  David Robertson became a savior and was one of the best setup men in MLB.  Once Soriano came back he pitched well. Along with Robertson and Mariano Rivera the trio formed one of best 7-8-9 combo’s in baseball.

Having a lockdown bullpen is crucial in baseball. It is devastating for a team to waste a good starting pitching performance or a good offensive performance because the bullpen blew it. The bullpen can also bail out a bad start from a pitcher to allow the offense to comeback. The 2011 Yankees bullpen finished 4th in MLB in bullpen ERA at 3.12.  They only blew 16 saves, which was good for 5th best in MLB, and 8.46 K/9 which was good for 6th best in MLB.  Once Soriano and Chamberlain went down all the pressure went to David Robertson. If he hadn’t stepped up his game, the Yankees season could have gone with him. He responded in a way nobody could have ever dreamed off.  Robertson went 4-0, with a 1.08 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, and an unprecedented 13.5 K/9.  Robertson did allow to many walks (2.86 BB/9), but he always seemed to get strikeouts to cancel them out. With the help of a deceptively fast fastball and a devastating 12-6 curve, Robertson always came through in the clutch.

Mariano Rivera continued to defy the odds to be almost as dominant as in his prime. Rivera had 44 saves, pitched to a 1.91 ERA, and an impeccable .897 WHIP. He displayed his amazing control by only walking 8 batters all season.  He did have his usual stretch of the season, last year in August, when people questioned whether he was done based off a few blown saves in a row. Of course the answer was as it has always been. No he is not done. There are still not many closers, if any, you would rather want on the mound for a big save other than Mo.

Cory Wade, Hector Noesi, Boone Logan and Luis Ayala also made nice contributions to the bullpen last season. These guys fulfilled many different roles and were versatile enough to perform. When Wade was going well he was even the 7th inning guy. Noesi performed great as a long man and middle innings guy.  Logan was the Yankees only lefty reliever but was also capable of getting righties out due to his plus fastball and slider.  Ayala got off to a good start, but struggled down the stretch. These guys provided great depth behind the Yankees great back end of the bullpen pitchers.          

Going into this year I see the Yankees having the 2nd best bullpen in MLB behind the Atlanta Braves. The San Francisco Giants are a very close 3rd. A 7-8-9 of Soriano, Robertson, and Mo the Yankees will be in great hands at the end of the game. Chamberlain is a wild card coming off Tommy John surgery because he was pitching extremely well before he got hurt. Combine the great Yankees bullpen with an improved starting staff,and you are looking at one of the best overall pitching staffs in MLB.  The Yankees bullpen was a huge reason for the teams’ 2011 success and should be about just as good heading into 2012.

Yankees Interested in re-signing Luis Ayala

Yankees Interested in re-signing Luis Ayala

By Delia E.

According to River Avenue Blues, the Yankees remain interested in re-signing Luis Ayala after scoring a 2.09 ERA in 2011.

The Yankees have 2 spots open in the bullpen and the Yankees liked everything they saw in Ayala and the best part is that Ayala is cheap. The Yankees don’t have to have the urgency to sign him right away as there are only 5 teams that are after Ayala but the Yankees wouldn’t want to give the soon to be 34 year old anything more than a few hundred grand.

Grading 2011 and Looking Ahead: Bullpen

Mariano - The Greatest just keeps on going

The last part of the team we’ll look at is the bullpen. This was the strongest unit on the team as the pen led the American League with a 3.12 ERA, and was 2nd in OPS against (.677) and K/9 (8.46).

Mariano Rivera

He just keeps rolling along. Another year with a sub-2.00 ERA, his 4th in a row and 8th time in last 9 years.  Mo was consistent all season and finished with 44 saves in 49 chances to break the All-Time record for most career saves with 603.  The Sandman had a 1.91 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 and a ridiculous 7.5 strikeout to walk ratio.  While he doesn’t throw as hard as he did when he was 27, his velocity was actually his highest since 2008 averaging 92.3 on his FB and 91.6 on his Cutter.   Grade:  A

2012 Outlook:  He is signed for one more yr @ $15M and will turn 42 in a month.  We all know he has to fade at some point but until he does he’s welcome as my closer for as long as he wants to pitch.

David Robertson

Maximum extension & follow through is how a 5'11, 180 pounder can blow Fastballs by MLB's best hiters

Robertson began the yr as the man Girardi used in the middle innings to get out of jams.  He did so well in that role he was the natural guy to take the 8th inning role after injuries to Joba & Soriano.  DRob flourished in that role the way he did in every situation Girardi used him in.  He led A.L. relievers in ERA (1.08) & K/9 (13.5) as he used his sneaky Fastball and knee-buckling Curveball to get big outs whenever he needed them.  His only blemish is he still walks a lot of hitters (4.7 BB/9) but makes up for it by getting strikeouts whenever he needs them and inducing a lot of groundballs.  He saw a big 7% increase in his GB rate and his velocity was up 1.2 mph to an average FB of 93.1 MPH.  Robertson showed a filthy Changeup and Cutter at times but his FB/Curve combo is so dominant he rarely needs his 3rd and 4th pitches.  Grade: A+

2012 Outlook: Robertson was one of the best bargains in baseball at $462,450 in 2011.  He’ll see a raise to around $1.5-2M in his first yr of arbitration in 2012.  He’ll have to be in the 8th inning role again and heir to the closers role if Mo ever retires.  With his 4 nasty pitches one can’t help to imagine DRob throwing 200+ IP as a starter but with his max effort delivery and small frame he may be best suited as a 1-2 inning guy.

Rafael Soriano

Didn’t look right in beginning of yr and soon went down with arm injury.  After nearly 3 months on the DL was much better when he returned in August. Finished with 4.12 ERA in just 39.1 ip.  His K rate (8.2) was the same as his dominating 2010 yr in Tampa but his Walk rate more than doubled to 4.1.  Grade: C-

2012 Outlook:  He has an opt-out he won’t exercise so will be back for $11M to pitch the 7th Inning.  Hopefully he will get comfortable in the role as the highest paid middle reliever in MLB. He has the stuff and track record to give the Yanks a shutdown 7th thru 9th inning unit.

Boone Logan

Logan was off to a lousy start through April & May then he lowered his arm angle a little and things turned around for him. After striking out just 7 in his first 13 innings he K’d 39 in his final 28 innings to finish the yr 5-3, 3.46 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9.  He was fairly good against lefties but was prone to HRs vs them with a 1.32 HR/9 vs them and 0 HRs vs Righties.  Grade: B

2012 Outlook:  In his 3nd yr of Arbitration he’ll get a small raise on his $1.2M salary and be back in his lefty relief role.

Luis Ayala

Ayala was  a nice find and had a surprising season although he pitched to a lot of luck.  He had a tidy 2.09 ERA but a 4.19 FiP.  He’s not a strikeout pitcher (6.2 k/9) but induced a lot of grounders (50% GB rate) and gave the team 56 quality IP.  for $650,00.  Grade:  B

2012 Outlook:  He was solid but I doubt he’ll be back as the Yanks are loaded with bullpen arms and could insert a younger guy with a higher upside.

Cory Wade

Wade is a feather in the cap of Billy Eppler’s pro scouting department as he was plucked off of Tampa’s Triple A team in late June and was brilliant in New York.  He finished 6-1 with a 2.02 ERA & 1.03 WHIP. While he dominated righties (.541 OPS against) his ChangeUp & Curve were also effective vs Lefties as he held them to a .730 OPS.  Grade:  A-

2012 Outlook:  Wade will definitely be back in the bullpen mix in 2012

Others:  Joba Chamberlain was pitching well with a 2.83 ERA/1.04 WHIP til he blew his elbow out.  His surgery will likely keep him from being effective until around June or later.  Hector Noesi showed some promise while riding the Scranton to NY shuttle and being moved back and forth from starter to reliever.  He may be in the mix as a #5 starter or long man in 2012.  Late inning call-ups George Kontos and Andrew Brackman will be candidates to make the pen in ST as both showed good stuff in Sept.  Cashman will look to bring in a second lefty in the Winter but other than that the bullpen appears set with almost everyone coming back and a lot of young guys looking to make the team.

Mariano Rivera 1 2 1.91 44 61.1 0.897 6.9 0.4 1.2 8.8 7.50
David Robertson 4 0 1.08 1 66.2 1.125 5.4 0.1 4.7 13.5 2.86
Luis Ayala 2 2 2.09 0 56.0 1.268 8.2 0.8 3.2 6.3 1.95
Boone Logan* 5 3 3.46 0 41.2 1.344 9.3 0.9 2.8 9.9 3.54
Rafael Soriano 2 3 4.12 2 39.1 1.297 7.6 0.9 4.1 8.2 2.00
Hector Noesi 2 2 4.47 0 56.1 1.509 10.1 1.0 3.5 7.2 2.05
Cory Wade 6 1 2.04 0 39.2 1.034 7.5 1.1 1.8 6.8 3.75
Joba Chamberlain 2 0 2.83 0 28.2 1.047 7.2 0.9 2.2 7.5 3.43
Scott Proctor 0 3 9.00 0 11.0 2.818 15.5 4.9 9.8 9.0 0.92
George Kontos 0 0 3.00 0 6.0 1.167 6.0 1.5 4.5 9.0 2.00
Provided by

Yanks collect just 3 hits off Weaver in 2-1 loss

Colon pitched very well: 7 IP, 0 ER, but the Yanks' offense was quiet except for a Montero homer.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 1
0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 2 8 0
W: Walden (5-3)
L: Laffey (2-2)
Jeter, SS 4 0 1 0 0 0 1 .296
Granderson, CF 4 0 0 0 0 2 1 .268
Teixeira, 1B 4 0 0 0 0 1 0 .250
Rodriguez, Al, 3B 3 0 0 0 1 1 0 .284
1-Nunez, E, PR 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .262
Pena, R, 3B 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .074
Cano, 2B 4 0 1 0 0 3 0 .302
Martin, C 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .240
Jones, An, RF 2 0 0 0 1 2 1 .242
Montero, DH 3 1 1 1 0 0 1 .350
Gardner, LF 3 0 0 0 0 3 1 .263
Totals 29 1 3 1 3 12 6 .266
Colon 7.0 6 1 0 1 5 0 3.55
Robertson 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.21
Laffey(L, 2-2) 0.0 1 1 1 0 0 0 4.24
Ayala 0.1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.84
Totals 8.1 8 2 1 1 6 0 3.69

And here is the game recap from’s Bryan Hoch:

ANAHEIM — Maicer Izturis’ game-winning drive landed in Curtis Granderson’s glove, too deep in center field to attempt a throw, and all Derek Jeter thought about was the toss he should have made.

Izturis connected for a bases-loaded sacrifice fly facing Luis Ayala in the ninth inning on Friday night, lifting the Angels to a 2-1 victory over the Yankees that made Jeter’s hurried fifth-inning throwing error loom even larger.

“It boils down to giving them extra outs,” Jeter said. “I gave them an extra out throwing that ball away.”

More importantly, Jeter added, the Yankees couldn’t afford to cough up runs facing a stellar Jered Weaver, who limited the Bombers to just Jesus Montero’s homer over eight innings, striking out 11.

Read the rest of this entry

Yankees Grades Part 2: Bullpen

Here are your grades for the New York Yankees Bullpen!


Final Grade: A+

Description: One of my favorite topics is David Robertson and apparently he is one of the Yankees fans favorite topic as well. Ever since Joba Chamberlain had Tommy John Surgery, David Robertson came up and took the task at hand. Robertson’s numbers were phenomenal, with a 2-0 record, a 1.27 ERA in 35.1 innings and if you think that’s not great, Robertson had 56 K’s. Robertson also has the second lowest ERA in the American League and has earned the name “Houdini” for his daredevil pitching style. If Robertson continues to pitch the way he did in the first half, then he could be in for a big contract with the Yankees.


Final Grade: A-

Description: When you hear Enter Sandman in Yankees Stadium, it only means one thing: Mariano Rivera is coming. Mo has had a good season thus far, with a 1-1 record and a 1.84 ERA. The only reason Mariano Rivera gets an A- is because he had already blown 4 save opportunities for the Yankees. Last year Rivera had only blown 5 saves the whole year and this year he already has 4. But guess what? Mariano is human. Just like Robertson or Logan might mess up, Mariano messes up as well. Mariano overall has been dominant and is the best closer in baseball. Lets hope (and we all know) that Mariano will be dominant in the second half as well.


Final Grade: C-

Description: In the beginning of the year, Boone Logan looked like a lost cause. He couldn’t get either righties or lefties, and he was apparently the lefty specialist. Everything seemed lost for Logan, until the pitching whisperer sat him down and talked to him, and by pitching whisperer I meant Alex Rodriguez (running for future pitching coach anyone?). It was after Boone Logan plunked Joey Votto in the inter-league game against the Cincinnati Reds that A-Rod had a talk with him. Since then, Boone Logan had gained confidence and was always brought in to deal with the heart of the opposing team’s lineup, and easily retiring them. Logan still gets into trouble here and there, but he has learned the ways of “Houdini” and strands them there. If he can bring that into the second half, there will be no doubt that his grades will go up.


Final Grade: B

Description: With all the talk of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, Luis Ayala has slowly made a name in the Yankees clubhouse. In 27 innings, Ayala has a 1-2 record with a 1.33 ERA & 19 K’s. Ayala is not as splendid as Robertson, but he has done his job in retiring hitters, and making it look easy as well. If Luis Ayala continues this into the second half of the season then he will be a valuable piece in the bullpen.


Final Grade: B

Description: Cory Wade has been another valuable piece in the bullpen for the Yankees and he doesn’t seem to slow it down. Wade is currently 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA after signing a contract with the Yankees. Wade’s appearance between the Cleveland Indians was the reason that his ERA is creeping towards 2, with 2 earned runs on a homer. Ironically those are the only 2 runs that Wade has given to an opponent team. If Wade can continue this performance into the second half, again he would be another valuable piece as with Ayala.


Final Grade: F

Description: Oh Sergio Mitre, I am going to say this in the nicest way possible: why did the Yankees get you back? In the beginning of the season Mitre was traded to the Brewers for Chris Dickerson (Who I might add has done well for the Yanks, but we’ll get to him later). For whatever reason possible, the Yankees brought him back into the bullpen for an undisclosed amount. Well, I think the Brewers gave us a defunct pitcher cause Yankee fans are demanding a refund. In his 2 innings that he pitched as a Yankee he has a 15.43 ERA and opponents are batting .250 against him. Isn’t the job of a pitcher getting hitters out and not giving up runs? Unless Sergio Mitre picks it up in the second half of the season, then he will lose the faith that the Yankees fans have left in him. Want an example Mitre? Take a look at Mike Gonzalez for the Orioles.


Final Grade: D

Description: The Yankees had originally gotten Rafael Soriano as an 8th inning guy, and originally the Yankees had the bullpen layout JoSoMo (Joba in the 7th, Rafael in the 8th & Mariano in the 9th), but Soriano had not been able to get the job done. Soriano had a 1-1 record with a 5.40 ERA. To add to the Soriano drama, Soriano was placed on the 60-Day DL for elbow soreness. We’ll see how Soriano performs once he comes off the DL, or if he comes off the DL at all. From this point, Soriano has not sparkled, but hopefully he will open our eyes soon.


Final Grade: B+

Description: I was surprised when a lot of people didn’t include Joba Chamberlain in there grading, as he was apart of the bullpen in the 1st half of the season before getting season ending Tommy John Surgery. From what I’ve seen of Joba Chamberlain, he had pitched very well. He had looked dominant. Chamberlain had a 2-0 record with a 2.83 ERA. If that’s not dealing then I don’t know what it is. It was a shame that Chamberlain had surgery which ended his season, cause he was on fire. Hopefully we will see more great things from Chamberlain next season, but till then even though his season was short, he had been a very important part of it.

UP NEXT: Yankees Outfielders

MLBTR on the Yanks’ Upcoming Contract Issues

Here’s the article from Tim Dierkes of MLBTR:

The Yankees are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.  Here’s what the team faces after the 2011 season:

Eligible For Free Agency (6)

  • In one of the year’s biggest surprises, Bartolo Colon‘s name is all over the leaderboard for free agent starters.  An offseason stem cell treatment was a factor, a procedure that was unknown to GM Brian Cashman at the time of the signing and is being investigated by MLB.  If Colon is not linked to HGH and his stellar pitching continues for the remaining three quarters of the season, he has to be looking at at least a nice one-year deal north of $5MM.
  • Jorge Posada has been a source of drama but not offensive production this season.  I’m guessing the Yankees move on from Posada, who has hit 267 home runs for them to date.
  • Former stars Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez are bench players on one-year deals; Chavez was hitting well when he hit the DL for a foot injury.
  • Freddy Garcia has a 3.22 ERA on the season, hanging in there in most of his six starts.  Will he do enough to warrant a big league deal after the season?
  • Luis Ayala will also be eligible for free agency.    

Contract Options (5)

  • Robinson Cano: $14MM club option with a $2MM buyout.  This should be an easy decision to exercise for the Yankees.
  • Nick Swisher: $10.25MM club option with a $1MM buyout.  Swisher’s option seemed like an easy choice to exercise, but his bat has yet to come alive in 160 plate appearances this year.  He’s got time to bounce back, but the option is not a lock.    
  • Damaso Marte: $4MM club option with a $250K buyout.  Marte is likely out for the season with October labrum surgery, in which case the Yankees will have gotten 31 innings for their $12MM.
  • C.C. Sabathia: Can opt out of remaining four years, $92MM.  Most expect Sabathia to opt out, though he certainly could re-sign with the Yankees.  GM Brian Cashman told ESPN’s Buster Olney he’ll stick with his policy of avoiding in-season negotiations, but “we fully expect him to be here.”  Sabathia’s overall numbers look solid, though he’s scuffled in May.  If Sabathia does reach the open market, he’ll probably be the best available free agent starter, as he was in the 2008-09 offseason when he received the biggest contract ever for a pitcher.
  • Rafael Soriano: Can opt out of remaining two years, $25MM.  Even without knowledge of Soriano’s current elbow concerns, I wrote two months ago that Soriano is unlikely to opt out of his contract after the season.  This offseason when he does choose to stick with the contract, don’t blame the opt-out clause.  Without it, all the money still would have been guaranteed to him.      

Arbitration Eligible (8)

From the Yankees’ standpoint, none of these cases should be daunting.  This is only Gardner’s second full season, and he doesn’t have power, so his arbitration reward will probably be $3MM or less.  Hughes’ issues will limit his raise to perhaps a million dollars at most.  Raises for relievers Robertson, Chamberlain, and Logan won’t be crazy either.  Martin’s hot hitting has tailed off this month.  He could still get a bump to $6MM+, depending on how the rest of his season goes.  I’ll use a rough estimate of $17MM to retain the team’s arbitration eligibles.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Yankees’ 2012 payroll obligation, according to Cot’s, is $140.875MM if options for Swisher and Marte are declined, Cano’s option is exercised, Sabathia opts out, and Soriano does not.  That goes up to around $158MM with the arbitration eligibles, about $49MM short of this year’s payroll before accounting for minimum salary players.  If Sabathia is re-signed at a $25MM salary for 2012, that still leaves $24MM in ’12 salaries to work with before raising payroll.  That’d be enough for Swisher or a replacement, as well as some kind of starting pitching signing to go with Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Ivan Nova.  Cashman could find $6MM more with a bump to the 2010 payroll of $213MM. 

The Yankees should be able to address their issues without taking payroll much higher.  If Sabathia leaves, it could be another situation where they struggle to find a good way to spend the excess cash.