Despite all the injuries and players on the Covid list, there is no question that the New York Yankees have been excelling, going 28 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 havenâ€™t been themselves blowing 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 werenâ€™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 now, that isn’t an option either, as Britton has gone on the IL and may require surgery.
Recently Boone brought in Chapman in a non save situation to build up his confidence with a four-run lead. Chapman did his job, which was encouraging. But in his first close situation last night, he again faltered. Giving up a run and then loading the bases, that required Peralta to come in and save the game.
The New York Yankees look poised to at least get a wild card berth and are in hot pursuit of the Tampa Bay Rays to take the AL East lead away from them. They are going to need a solid closer to accomplish that. But who will it be? Jonathan Loaisiga has been the most successful, saving 5 games out of 8 tries. Chad Green is next, saving 6 out of 10 tries. Wandy Peralta has gone 3 for 3. Albert Abreu and Lucas Luetge have also gotten a save.
But the bottom line is that the New York Yankees have to find a way to get Chapman right, get his confidence back and get his blazing fastball working again. Chapman has 23 saves in 27 tries, but the record is really not that good as Boone has held him back in several opportunities because he was afraid to use him in one-run games.
If Wandy Peralta saves a couple more games without a blown save, he may become Boone’s go-to guy. Only time will tell. If and when the Yankees get to the postseason, which seems almost a lock, Boone may also be forced to use starters in the postseason to close games. Although I am not a huge Aaron Boone fan, he has been on fire finding the right mixes to win games. One thing is for sure; it’s going to be an exciting last five weeks of the regular season; it just may go down to the final series with the Rays at Yankee Stadium.