Looking At Bullpen Usage

While doing my daily dose of Yankees reading, I came across an interesting article on another Yankees blog called The Yankee Analysts.  In the article, they talk about the inability of the Yankees starters to go deep into ball games.  They use an article from Baseball Prospectus to back up their argument.  Here’s an excerpt of the BP article:

Given the workload they have been asked to bear and the skill with which they’ve borne it, it may not be surprising to learn that Padres relievers have thrown a higher percentage of their team’s innings than any other. At 42 percent through the first 11 games, the Padres featured one of just five bullpens to have thrown more than 40 percent of its team’s innings. The others—the Mets, the Yankees, the Royals, and the Orioles—all share the same characteristic asymmetry between the quality of the starters and the quality of the bullpen….

The Yankees bullpen was definitely seen as a week spot coming into the season.  Everyone knew they could hit the ball far and the $73 million that they spent on the bullpen definitely solidified things on the back end.  However, when only seven of fourteen games includes pitchers getting through six innings, you know Joe Girardi is going to be on that phone quite a bit.

(J. Meric/Getty Images)

And rightfully so.  As good as the Bomber bullpen looks on paper, it has looked just as good through these first couple of weeks the New York pen is second in the American League K/BB at 2.37 (only behind Chicago who is at 2.88), fourth in WHIP at 1.22, and first in FIP at 2.98.  So with a weaker rotation than in the past Girardi is using a bullpen-heavy strategy to win.

The only thing that worries me about this is we don’t want to be too reliant on the pen.  If they keep throwing this much, by the time August and September roll around, and the team will really need these guys, they will be burnt out.  The starters need to start going deeper into games.  AJ Burnett has done very well in this so far, CC Sabathia, although not showing his best stuff in his four starts has done an okay job of this, and Freddy Garcia has done this, but only in one start.

Ivan Nova has only gone 4.2 innings in each of his last two starts and Phil Hughes has hurled only 10.1 innings for the entire season.  And I don’t think Bartolo Colon is the answer to this question nor do I think Garcia will keep pitching the way he did on Saturday.  Each of the pitcher’s need to step up and start eating up more innings.  

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