At its core, baseball is a game of 27 outs. Ignore the record breaking pace of over 270 homeruns the New York Yankees are on pace for. Ignore the dual sensations that are Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, battling it out simultaneously for AL Rookie of the Year. Even ignore the Cy Young Candidacy of young superstar Luis Severino, who looks difficult to hit on his off-days, and untouchable when firing on all cylinders. No, the key to the Yankees success will be the continued dominance of the bullpen that has been lights-out this first half of 2018.
The Yankees bullpen has been the backbone of trust in Aaron Boone’s first season as manager. Even factoring in Chasen Shreve’s struggles as of late, the Yankees Bullpen is still ranked 3rd in Earned Runs Allowed, behind Houston and Arizona, and 2nd in strikeouts, with only the powerhouse pitching staff of Houston again ahead of them in that category (ESPN.com). An effective bullpen makes for a confident offense that always knows they can stay in the game, as seen by the countless late-inning heroics in which the Yankees were kept in the game by spectacular relief pitching.
The Yankees 4-0 win over the Astros May 1st comes to mind, in which 5 pitchers combined to shutout the defending champions after Jordan Montgomery left the game in the 1st inning with an injury. It was an impressive performance that overshadowed an equally fantastic effort by Justin Verlander, who stifled the Yankees offense through 8 innings before finally succombing to fatigue and pitch count.
But What About Starting Pitching?
Forget the obsessive need for a starting pitcher, or attempting to fix whatever is wrong with Sonny Gray. Gray will figure it out, as shown by his extreme difference in performance at home compared to on the road, a minor example being a .336 Opposing BA at home compared to .230 on the road (Fangraphs). Once he figures out how to handle the bright lights of New York, much like Giancarlo Stanton has increasingly learned to do, the calls to trade him will seem blasphemous, rather than reasonable. I get the calls for trading everyone for a top-of-the-line arm. Starting pitchers can only go so far in the game, though. 99 times out of 100, you are depending on your bullpen to close out those crucial September and October games.
If the bullpen is harmonious, then there is nothing stopping the Bronx Bombers from powering their way through the post-season. The Yankees relievers like to boast that they “Bring the Heat”, as shown in this hilarious spot for YES:
Have no fear, these guys are here to help 🔥 pic.twitter.com/OVNhkMQchK
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 20, 2018
If these guys can bring the heat and remain one of the best bullpens in baseball, they’re going to be bringingThe Commissioner’s Trophy through New York City for the 28th time.