Expectations for the Yankees’ beefed-up bullpen are through the roof entering the 2016 season, which begins Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium against the Astros.
The combination of right-handed setup man Dellin Betances and lefty closer Andrew Miller was spectacular a year ago, pitching to a 1.73 ERA and 231 strikeouts over 145 2⁄3 innings.
As if that duo wasn’t potent duo wasn’t enough, the Yanks went and acquired All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman from the Reds. The left-hander somehow pitched to a better strikeout rate than either of the aforementioned incumbent relievers, notching 116 Ks in 66 1⁄3 innings. The Cuban’s 1.63 ERA wasn’t too bad, either, to say the least.
There’s a catch to adding the 28-year-old fireballer to the mix; Chapman will be suspended for the first 30 games of the season, stemming from a domestic violence investigation. That being the case, the Yankees pen will behave similarly to last season, with Betances and Miller in their former roles until Chapman returns and takes over ninth-inning duties.
On paper, the trio of top-shelf relievers looks set for a historic season as perhaps the best bullpen in the history of the game. Their combined 2015 stats resemble the output from some of the greatest individual seasons by a starting pitcher since baseball integrated in 1947.
If that sounds like hyperbole, consider this: During Pedro Martinez’s historic 2000 campaign for the Red Sox, the Hall of Famer pitched to a 1.74 ERA and 284 strikeouts in 217 innings. Chapman, Miller and Betances combined last season to post the following numbers: 212 innings, a 1.70 ERA and 347 strikeouts.
As long as the Yankees’ starters are doing their job and these three remain healthy, the bullpen may satisfy the lofty aspirations of fans and pundits.