Yankees have a dangerous bullpen piece, saving the day against Toronto

New York Yankees, Michael King

There is a reason to believe the New York Yankees may have the best bullpen in all of baseball. To start the year, the bullpen has done a tremendous job covering up some hiccups from the starting rotation, especially against the Boston Red Sox in the first series of the year.

Despite not having Zack Britton for virtually the entire 2022 season, the Yankees have pieced together an extremely effective group of relief pitchers, depending on youth a solid amount as well. They recently acquired flame-throw from the Mets, Miguel Castro, in exchange for Joely Rodriguez.

However, on Thursday night against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees entered the 9th inning with a 3–0 lead. Aroldis Chapman, the team’s top closer, immediately loaded the bases without recording a single out, forcing manager Aaron Boone to make a bullpen change.

In the most intense situation of the game, Boone called upon Michael King to close out the contest, which he did admirably in just five pitches.

In the five pitches that King tossed, all of them were strikes, recording a strikeout and a short pop fly to DJ LeMahieu at second base, which he quickly turned into a double play.

King has started the 2022 season on fire, recording a 1.59 ERA over 5.2 innings, picking up his first save of the year on Thursday. With an 11.12 strikeout per nine rate and 71.4% left on base rate, he’s already showcasing improvements compared to his 2021 season, which was also adequate.

Last year, King posted a 3.55 ERA over 63.1 innings, tallying a 45.3% ground ball percentage and 73.8% left on base rate. While opposing players recorded an average 88.7 exit velocity and a high of 117.2 max exit velocity, King has still managed to work around power hitters.

In fact, last year, he posted a 4.11 SIERA and 4.19 xFIP. Featuring a solid fastball, slider, curveball, and change-up, he has the pitch repertoire of a starter featuring in the bullpen. So far this season, he’s averaging out at nearly 95 mph with his fastball but hasn’t used his slider nearly as much as in previous years, leaning on his curveball more at 26% compared to 10% last year.

It is exciting to see his velocity up nearly a whole MPH and a shift in pitching strategy. Having him as a reliable arm on the back-end is exactly what the Yankees needed to help supplement any deficiencies with the starting rotation. If injuries bubble with the starters, I wouldn’t be surprised to see King get his opportunity in the rotation at some point this year.