Yankees Lead After 6? Good Night.
Baseball’s last great dynasty possessed a trio of pitchers at the back end of its bullpen that were integral parts of three consecutive World Series championships. But with apologies to Mariano Rivera, that group may pale in comparison to who the New York Yankees have at the ready for 2016.
For as dominant as the Kansas City Royals have been over the past two seasons with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, it may no longer be the most dangerous three-headed bullpen monster in the American League following the Yankees’ acquisition of four-time All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman.
From 1997 to 2000, the Bronx Bombers boasted of Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson and Rivera for the final three-plus innings of ballgames, and when New York found itself ahead after six, they rarely lost. With the Yankees’ new triumvirate, it presented the question — how do they match up statistically with the previous powerhouse pen?
Though New York didn’t win the World Series in 1997 (the only season from 1996 to 2000 that the franchise failed to do so), it was the best statistical season for the group.
Stanton, Nelson and Rivera combined to log 214.1 innings, with a 2.43 earned run average, 1.14 walks and hits to innings pitched and 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Devastating to be sure, but wait until you see what Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman did in 2015.
While Chapman hurled in Cincinnati and Betances and Miller performed in pinstripes, the trio were frighteningly good, posting a 1.69 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 14.7 strikeouts per nine over 212 frames.
That is preeminent pitching that borders on terrifying. One could even make the argument that it should be against the law.
True, the Yankees made the playoffs last season, but the reality is that they lack the everyday lineup of those great teams of the late nineties and early 2000s, but with Betances, Miller and Chapman looming late, that may not matter. Pitching wins championships, and in today’s game, bullpen matters most of all.
That fact spells doom for New York opponents, because if the Yankees find themselves ahead as they wade into the seventh inning? Game over.