Friday, February 17, 2017

The Key to the 2017 Yankees Bullpen is Not Who You Think…


When you think of the New York Yankees bullpen and when you think of which one of those talented arms will be the key to success in 2017 who immediately comes to mind? Is it Aroldis Chapman who will presumably be closing games in the Bronx for the foreseeable future? Is it Dellin Betances who will be setting up games and acting as the Yankees fireman all season long? Is it Tyler Clippard in presumably his final year in the Bronx? Is it Adam Warren who can give you middle relief, who can start games, who can pitch as a long man and has even closed games for the Yankees in the past? Nope, nope, nope and nope. When you think about it the key to the Yankees bullpen in 2017 is likely left-handed reliever Chasen Shreve.

The Yankees back-end of the bullpen is solid and may be one of the better bullpens in all of Major League Baseball but with the Yankees starting rotation in the shape it’s in right now you could have four All-Star closers back there and it wouldn’t matter. Having the best closer in the game and about $15 will buy you a beer at Yankee Stadium if your starting rotation can’t give you six-or-seven innings a night or your middle relief cannot hold the lead that the offense and that day’s starting pitcher give them. Enter Chasen Shreve and quite possibly the most important season of his young career.

Aside from Chapman, and LOOGY Tommy Layne who may or may not even make the team this spring, Shreve is the only other left-handed relief pitcher that is expected to make the bullpen this season. Shreve struggled at the end of 2015 and he let those struggles carry over into the 2016 season posting a 5.18 ERA in 33 innings as we all watched his home run rate per nine innings soar to 2.2 HR/9. You don’t have to be the author of Moneyball to know that’s not good, especially when his HR/9 ratio from 2015 was just 1.5 HR/9.

So how does Shreve return to the dominance he saw in Atlanta and in his first five months or so in the Bronx? While it’s easier said than done in most cases the lefty simply has to throw more split changeups. Period. Shreve buries that pitch in the dirt and gets more swings and misses on it than any other pitch in his arsenal due to the movement and deception of the pitch.


If Shreve can keep the ball down, which he has not during his struggles, and bury that pitch for strike three he can return to being a dominant reliever in the Bronx again. If Shreve can return to being the dominant force in the fifth, sixth and seventh inning that he was for much of 2015 the rest of the league better watch out because these games against the Yankees may have just become four inning games again. And that’s scary for anyone not wearing a Yankees uniform in 2017. 

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