Before the start of the season, I wrote the annual Order of Importance for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka was ranked No. 1. Jacoby Ellsbury was No. 3. Tanaka landed on the disabled list and was out of the rotation for six weeks. Ellsbury landed on the disabled list and is still there, having already missed three weeks. Despite the team’s best starter and best all-around player missing significant time in the first two-plus months of the season, and their absences overlapping for a couple weeks, the Yankees have survived. At 33-26, they are in first place in the AL East.
Now the Yankees will be without Andrew Miller for an unknown amount of time. I ranked both Miller and Dellin Betances as the fourth most important Yankees for 2015, and if I redid the order now I would put them both at No. 1, as the two have combined to be the MVP of the Yankees.
Here’s Dellin Betances’ pitching line: 32.1 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 14 BB, 54 K, 0 HR.
Here’s Andrew Miller’s pitching line: 26.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 10 BB, 43 K, 1 HR.
Betances and Miller have turned Yankees games into seven-inning games and they have turned games in which the Yankees lead after seven innings into wins. They have become the most dominant back end of a bullpen in the majors and they have allowed the Yankees to withstand losing their ace for the end of April, all of May and the beginning of June and their best all-around player until whenever he returns.
I was nervous when Tanaka landed on the disabled list because of his right elbow issue that destroyed his 2014 season and I was worried when Jacoby Ellsbury landed on the disabled list because of his history of long and mysterious DL stints and his fragile and soft demeanor and how Joe Girardi handled the 31-year-old making $21.1 million with kid gloves even before this knee injury. Even though I was nervous and worried for those two, I thought I would have been petrified, but I wasn’t. However, I’m petrified about the loss of Miller.
Outside of Betances and Miller, the Yankees’ bullpen is a group of unproven and underachieving arms, which could pitch to their abilities and keep the Yankees’ June going the way it has, or ruin games bringing us back to May 12-24. The loss of Miller moves Betances into the closer role, which is where he was expected to be before the season began, but after him, it’s unclear how Girardi will navigate the middle innings and where he will now get three extra outs from in the vacant eighth-inning role.
When the news was announced that Miller was headed for the disabled list and wouldn’t pick up a baseball for 10-14 days, I thought about going to CVS and buying all the “Get Well Soon” cards in the store, but instead I wrote this. Here is how the Order of Trust for the non-Betances and non-Miller Yankees’ bullpen from least trustworthy to must trustworthy.
Number 53, Esmil Rogers, Number 53
I wouldn’t trust Rogers to tell me what time it is or even what day of the week it is. Rogers has no place on this team, or any team, but I hope he lands on another team, and one the Yankees play regularly. He shouldn’t see any game action unless the Yankees are trailing by double digits. That’s the only instance he can be trusted to pitch in as he continues to be a New York Yankee and a Major League Baseball pitcher despite lacking the necessary ability to be either.
Number 26, Chris Capuano, Number 26
When Capuano entered Wednesday’s game in extra innings, it was only a matter of time until the Nationals scored. After pitching a scoreless 10th inning, the Yankees had to score in the bottom of the 10th if they wanted to win because there was no chance Capuano was pitching a scoreless 11th. The Yankees didn’t score, the Nationals scored against Capuano in the 11th and the seven-game winning streak ended.
Capuano shouldn’t have been re-signed in the offseason for one year and $5 million, like another Yankees … cough, cough, STEPHEN DREW, cough, cough … but he was. He lost all three of his starts as part of the rotation, allowing nine earned runs in 12 2/3 innings, and with Wednesday’s loss, he’s now responsible for four Yankees losses in six appearances. He’s the long man for now and apparently the extra-inning man too. Let’s hope the Yankees don’t play any extra-inning games until Miller is back.
Number 41, Justin Wilson, Number 41
The Yankees traded Francisco Cervelli for Wilson and he was supposed to be the hard-throwing left-handed option out of the bullpen, but right now, I have him third on the left-handed bullpen depth chart. Unfortunately, Girardi loves Wilson and I have a feeling he will be given the eighth inning.
Wilson walks way too many hitters (11 in 21 IP) to be given the eighth inning or any set inning really, and his strikeout numbers aren’t exactly impressive (15 in 21 IP) to trust him to protect a close game.
Number 57, Chris Martin, Number 57
Martin hasn’t pitched for the Yankees since May 8 after getting hurt. He has struck out 13 in 12 2/3 innings with just three walks and only allowed earned runs in three of 15 appearances. He hasn’t pitched in over a month, and his time away from the team has actually built his trust stock for me because while he has been getting healthy, the other relievers have been showcasing their abilities (or inabilities) and that hasn’t helped me believe in them in this time of need. Martin getting hurt and not pitching has actually played into his favor when it comes to trust.
Number 64, Jacob Lindgren, Number 64
If Lindgren doesn’t give up that game-tying home run on Wednesday, he might be higher, but he did. One bad pitch shouldn’t change his ranking (especially when Nathan Eovaldi never should have been in to give up that leadoff single and Stephen Drew should have turned two to end the inning), but when he only has 6 1/3 career innings under his belt, one appearance holds a lot of stock.
Lindgren admitted after the game he’s still “getting his feet wet” in the majors, and considering he was pitching for Mississippi State last year, was drafted by the Yankees a year ago and pitched just 46 2/3 innings in the minors, that’s a reasonable quote from him. His minor league numbers were insane with a 1.74 ERA and 77 strikeouts in those 46 2/3 innings and he never gave up a home run in the minors against 196 batters, but has now given up two to 27 in the majors.
At some point, Lindgren will be the best Yankees reliever not named Betances or Miller, but that’s going to take some more time and it’s likely to take Girardi even longer to trust him because that’s how Girardi is.
Number 45, Chasen Shreve, Number 45
I bet the Yankees thought David Carpenter would be the prized return on the Manny Banuelos trade, but now Carpenter is with the Nationals after being designated for assignment by the Yankees, and Shreve has become the third-best Yankees reliever when Miller is healthy, and the second-best reliever now that Miller is on the disabled list.
In 25 innings, Shreve has the best strikeout numbers (25 in 25 IP) in the bullpen after the Big Two, has allowed only 16 hits and has a 0.960 WHIP. As a left-hander, he has actually been better against right-handed hitters (.153 BAA) than he has against left-handed hitters (.250 BAA).
When Shreve made the Yankees out of spring training, I was surprised they went with him over Lindgren or other more appealing options. When he then allowed a home run on Opening Day, I wasn’t surprised and laughed that of course Chasen Shreve made the Yankees out of spring training and allowed a home run on Opening Day. But now a little over two months later, he is the most trusted option out of the bullpen after Dellin Betances.
Get well soon, Andrew Miller.