Despite all the injuries and players on the Covid list, there is no question that the New York Yankees have been excelling, going 24 and 8 since July 17th. Yet, strangely for most of that time, they have gone without a reliable closer. Both setup man Zack Britton and closer Aroldis Chapman haven’t been themselves have blown saves they used to get easily. This presents a big problem for the Yankees; who will close those close games that they have been playing lately?
Chapman started the season with a new weapon to add to his missile fastball, a splitter that he used early in his career and reincarnated. For the first half of the season, he mixed it up for 18 games, not blowing a save and not allowing a run for an 0.00 ERA. Then, on May 23rd, he blew his first save but got the win in the game. He continued to pitch well through June 20th as he racked up 16 saves, then he blew two saves in a row. Since then, things have gone south, only adding on 7 saves through July and August, and most of those weren’t pretty.
It seems as though Chapman has lost control of his fastball and is often afraid to throw it at critical times. He got so bad at one point that manager Aaron Boone was afraid to use him, resorting to others, including setup man Zack Britton. But the problem for one of the best relievers in the game is that he has gotten only one save all season. He has gotten several holds but has also blown three saves causing him to tell Boone last Friday that he shouldn’t be the go-to guy to close games.
The problem for Boone is that no matter how well his team plays, he has no dependable closer to go to. So during Chapman and Britton’s troubles, he has been mixing and matching and trying to use different closers, Like Jonathan, Loaisiga, Chad Green, Lucas Luetge, Albert Abreu, and Wandy Peralta, according to who fits the situation best. So far, Boone’s picks have mostly panned out for him. The Yankees have been closing those close games they have been playing lately, most of the nail-biters.
The bottom line is that Boone needs a dependable go-to closer, and he hasn’t got one. When considering Britton and Chapman, they have some things in common: both have been on the IL, and both have gotten the coronavirus. Both have played worse upon their returns. Britton has recently said that his problem is 10% physical and 90% mental. The fact is that it may be more 50/50. The Covid virus hit Britton had he lost 20 pounds and came back weak, and still has not regained all his strength. His signature pitch, the sinker, has lost velocity compared to previous years.
For some unknown reason, Chapman has lost control of this fastball that has been his signature pitch, putting down players at up to 103 mph. The mental that Britton was talking about affects Chapman as well. They need to keep it simple and regain their confidence and rely on what has made them great. Until then, Boone will have to continue to mix and match. He has also been trying to help Britton and Chapman in situations that are not as challenging to help them regain that confidence.
Britton recently told The Atlantic:
â€œDo I feel like I did years prior? No. But things arenâ€™t gonna always be perfect physically and youâ€™ve gotta deal with it,â€ Britton said. â€œItâ€™s like, my brain knows what I want to do, my bodyâ€™s not doing it. A lot of thatâ€™s just lack of reps, and feeling a little different with the arm after the surgery. Then at some point, you just get frustrated, and then it kind of overwhelms you, and then you worry about that rather than just working yourself through it. I just need to fucking relax and do what Iâ€™ve always done well â€” throw my sinker.â€