Perhaps Dellin Betances in 2014 could be what Mariano Rivera was in 1996 a year the Yankees finished 9th in AL scoring but won with a bullpen formula-Joel Sherman
"Now that Dellin Betances and Adam Warren have established they can pitch in the majors, temptation will rise to consider them for the rotation. Particularly with the Yankees starters going through a Masahiro Tanaka and the Pips phase.
But if the 2014 Yankees are going to be special, it is going to be because a deep, talented bullpen compensates for that rotation. Their winning formula is to grab a lead and dominate late. If they need a road map, we suggest checking 1996.
Some myth has formed around that 1996 squad since it triggered a dynasty. In reality, that club was ordinary in many ways. It finished ninth in the AL in scoring, fifth in ERA and 10th in defensive efficiency (the number of balls put into play registered into outs).
In a vacuum, that defines, at best, a borderline wild-card contender. Not a division winner, much less a World Series champ.
What those ’96 championship Yankees had, though, was a great endgame. Their closer, John Wetteland, was exceptional and their setup man, Mariano Rivera, should have won the AL MVP — because there simply was no one more valuable.
Rivera began that season as a mop-up man and the Yankees were 1-5 the first six times he pitched. But Joe Torre recognized the excellence and began using Rivera in high-leverage situations, often for multiple innings, and the Yanks were 46-9 when he pitched thereafter.
That historically feels like the year in which illegal-performance enhancers reached a critical mass.
The 2,742 homers hit in the AL in 1996 and the .795 OPS remain league records despite all the runaway offense that would follow. Rivera held the AL to a .486 OPS — that was 64 points better than any pitcher who threw 100 innings and yielded one homer in 107 2/3 innings. Yep, he threw 107 2/3 innings [regular season], averaging more than five outs per appearance.
Those Yankees, like this current group with Tanaka, had just one sturdy, excellent starter in Andy Pettitte. Rivera, working exclusively in relief, was fifth in innings. David Cone — like CC Sabathia now — missed considerable time. So did Jimmy Key (whose arm was flagging like that of Hiroki Kuroda). The ’96 Yanks needed 12 starters, tied for the third most in the AL (the current Yanks have used eight, tied for third most in the AL).
The 2014 Yankees — harkening to their ’96 predecessors — rank seventh in runs in the AL, eighth in ERA and 11th in defensive efficiency. Again, that should mean barely contending. But these Yankees lead the AL East. That reflects, yes, the flawed competition. But also the terrific work of the pen. The Yankees are one of two AL teams with three relievers (10 appearances minimum) with ERAs under 2.00 (Betances, Warren and David Robertson).
They hope Shawn Kelley (back) returns from the DL next week. At that point, Warren could be moved to the rotation. Brian Cashman said the front office has engaged in many conversations about using Warren to start. The lure is understandable — a starter always feels more valuable than a reliever.
But Warren — even if successful — becomes like everyone but Tanaka in the rotation, which is to say a five- or six-inning starter. It underscores that the Yankees don’t just need a strong pen, but a deep one to cover a bunch of innings in a quality way and avert burnout.
One of Joe Girardi’s strengths has been his bullpen orchestration (the 3.60 ERA since he took over in 2008 is third best in the AL). So the front office has faith he could get the best out of what he is given and in Danny Burawa, Jose Ramirez, Diego Moreno and Branden Pinder, the organization feels it has four Triple-A candidates who are major league relief possibilities.
But that is guesswork. The Yankees know Warren, Betances and Robertson are as strong a final three as there is. Cashman did say Betances is not under consideration to start, since the organization has come to believe he is a big man who cannot maintain his delivery well for 100 or so pitches.
And with or without Warren remaining in relief, Betances has become vital. He is offering a pen dominance not seen by the Yankees since Joba Chamberlain’s 2007 breakout. Even in a year of mass strikeouts, Betances’ 15.5 Ks per nine innings are two more than anyone else (minimum 20 innings).
But there are no restrictive Joba Rules. Betances has been used to get at least six outs in each of his last three outings and more than three outs in 11-of-17 overall. In 1996, Rivera pitched at least two innings in 35 of his 61 appearances— and the Yankees were 28-7 in those games.
Rivera was 26 then, a failed starter who found the role of his life. Betances, a failed starter, is 26 and began this year doing mop-up."
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