Sound the Alarm! Relievers Are Overworked!

When it comes to the New York Yankees, there always has to be an alarm bell. Call it a meme or a talking point, a clarion bell, whatever: There always has to be one. Remember a few years ago when the Yankees were hitting too many homers? Yeah, we still yuk it up over that one. The latest seems to be about the Yankees' bullpen being overworked. Is it really? Mike Axisa probably had it drilled down a little bit better. He only mentioned Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller the other day. But are even those two overworked? Part of their workload is the success the Yankees have had this season. The Yankees are winning...a lot. Thus there is more need for your setup and closer to finish out games. But again. are they overworked?

How can you tell with Dellin Betances? He pitched 70 times last season and compiled 90 innings. That's a new breed of animal. Was that abuse? Was that overwork? He held up all season, so who knows. Time will tell the long-term effects and even then injuries have never really been cleanly tied to workload.

As for this year, Betances has worked in eighteen games and has compiled twenty innings. Last year at this time, he had 15 appearances good for 19.1 innings. He is pitching more often and for less innings per outing. Is that a good trade off? And remember, at this time last year, his star was just starting to rise and he was worked more as the season went along.

Personally, I don't think Andrew Miller is overworked. He is on pace to appear in 74 games. That seems reasonable for a closer. Mariano Rivera broke that total four times and I am not counting 1996. David Robertson and Craig Kimbrel have averaged 68 games a season. In that light, 74 seems a bit high, but that assumes the Yankees will keep winning at this rate and that they will play this many close and tight games.

Part of the problem is that after the top two, things have gotten kind of iffy. Chris Martin's injury hurts (for him and for the Yankees). And I'm sure that affected his performance a couple of times before he finally admitted he was hurting. David Carpenter is unreliable thus far and it is clear that Joe Girardi does not trust him. Esmil Rogers is not trusted (and rightly so) for high leverage situations. And Rogers is needed for long outings.

Last year's bullpen was deeper. In addition to Robertson and Betances, Adam Warren was useful ahd had three saves. Shawn Kelley had a couple of clunkers, but he had four saves as well. And Matt Thornton's numbers looked good (better than my memory of him).

That brings us to Chasen Shrieve. He has pitched 24 times in his MLB career and has a 1.46 ERA and a 2.56 FIP. That sounds good to me. He hasn't pitched for three days. Why couldn't he have pitched the seventh today? Either Girardi is saving him for tomorrow when Betances can't go or he doesn't trust him.

But let's get back to my original question. Where do the Yankees stand in the league for bullpen usage? The Yankees were tied for fourth in bullpen innings pitched before last night's game. They are tied with the Royals. I don't hear any clarion bell ringing for the Royals' bullpen being overworked.

Before last night's game, the Yankees were tied for eleventh in reliever games pitched. That is in the top half, but not terrible. The Cardinals lead everyone. I don't hear a lot about them overusing people.

It's good that Joe Girardi worries about his players. It is commendable that he does so. But how much of it is him or his superiors listening to broadcasters and other pundits constantly talking about how many innings the Yankees are pitching in relief? And what are the results?

Sure, it is hindsight, but CC Sabathia probably pitched one inning too many on Monday and in hindsight, Nathan Eovaldi quit being effective after six full innings of shutout baseball last night. And Eovaldi turning into a pumpkin is not surprising when you understand that he only averages 5.6 innings per start, I don't care what his pitch count was at the time.

If Joe Girardi doesn't trust his bullpen beyond the top two, then getting him some bodies he trusts seems imperative. Shrieve could be used more. Jacob Lindgren should be on the roster. Jose Ramirez has been very good at Scranton//Wilkes-Barre. David Carpenter has never really been a stud in his career (one good season). If you don't trust him, replace him!

I can see concern over Betances. He is such a freak of nature and his numbers are like when you get hot with a Strat-O-Matic player, You use him so much that you have cartoon numbers. He is unlike anyone we have seen in years. How much is too much for him? Nobody knows. But his and Miller's numbers will settle down as the season moves along.

The panic is overblown. But that's typical when it comes to the Yankees. If you really want to get into a meaty conversation, can we talk about Garrett Jones instead of Greg Bird?