The New York Yankees boast one of the best bullpens in baseball. They can beat you a number of different ways. The bullpen contains the best reliever of all-time (Rivera), young fireballer s(Chamberlain, Robertson), specialists (Marte, Aceves), and veterans that can go long in games (Park, Mitre). But the Yankees haven’t always had that luxury…

Going into the 2009 season, the Yankee bullpen was made up of Rivera, Marte, Anthony Claggett, Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, and Jon Albaledejo. Judging from that list, the Yankees made a 75% turnover of bullpen arms. Of course these players weren’t used all season. Injuries opened the door for Alfredo Aceves (10-1, 3.54 ERA) and Phil Hughes (1.40 ERA, 11.4 K/9).  Before the inclusion of Hughes (June) and Aceves (May) in the bullpen, the Yankees’ team ERA was a staggering, 5.79. The bullpen finished with a 3.91 ERA (5th in AL) while striking out out 487 hitters in 562 innings (8.7 K/9).

So what can we expect this season? Can the team yield better results? I say Yes.

The 2009 Yankees bullpen suffered from an abysmal April campaign. Veras, Albaledejo, Ramirez, Claggett, and Marte all had ERAs of 5+. What can we look for going forward?

Continued Improvement: David Robertson, Alfredo Aceves

In 43 innings last season, Robertson struck out 63 hitters, resulting in an impressive (13 K/9 Ratio). His 3.30 ERA was a vast improvement over his 5.34 ERA from 2008. Robertson has been complementing his heater with a devastating curve ball. Look for more strikeouts and appearances from Robertson in 2010.

Ever since getting called up in May 2009, Alfredo Aceves has impressed. Aceves posted a 3.54 ERA and 10-1 record out of the pen in 2009. The Yankees used him to spot start and to give them length during games. So far in Spring Training, Aceves has thrown 14 innings (tops upon Yankees) yielding only six runs while striking out seven. Look for Aceves to be the first man out of the pen on day when Yankee starters falter early.

Veteran Arms: Sergio Mitre, Chan Ho Park

Sergio Mitre won the “I hope I don’t get waived or traded” battle against Chad Gaudin. Mitre is cheap, viable option for the Yankee bullpen. So far in Spring Training, Mitre has logged 14 innings, recorded 14 strike outs while allowing only five earned runs and one walk. Like Aceves, Mitre can spot start for the Yankees and go long out of the bullpen.

Chan Ho Park was the Yankees lone free-agent pitching acquisition. Park, 36, spent last season with the NL Champion, Philadelphia Phillies. As a reliever for the Phillies, Park struck out 52 batters in 50 innings while posting a 2.52 ERA. Park’s main reason for coming to New York? He wants a ring. Park can fill any role that the Yankees need.

Others: Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte, and Joba Chamberlain

There really isn’t much else to say about Mariano Rivera. You know what to expect every season. 35+ saves, 2.10 ERA, 70+ Ks. The guy is as automatic as they come.

Lefty-specialist Damaso Marte battled injuries for the majority of the 2009 season. However, he did come up big for the Yankees late in the season. Marte did not give up a run during the playoffs. He had some big moments when he got Ryan Howard out. His post-season performance definitely negates his horrible regular season ERA of 9.45

Finally, Joba Chamberlain (this is based under the assumption that Hughes will start in the rotation). Since 2007, Joba has been the crowd jewel of the Yankees’ farm system. However, his starting and relieving splits are like night and day. As a reliever, Joba has posted a 1.50 ERA over 60 innings. Joba has an impressive K/9 ratio of 12 in relief. As a starter, Joba’s ERA balloons to 4.18. His career record of 12-7 over 43 games started tells us that he doesn’t go deep into games. Joba has had some control issues, walking 101 hitters in 220 innings as a starter.

Joba is tough to figure out. He has electric stuff coming out of the bullpen, but struggles to pitch five innings when he starts. Ultimately, The Yankees should just leave Joba in the bullpen. He needs a set goal in mind when he takes the mound. Coming in for nine pitches, hitting 100 MPH once or twice and striking three batters in a row isn’t too hard for him to do. He doesn’t have the mental capacity to masterfully orchestrate a game like the Sabathias, Lincecums, and Halladays do.

Overall, the Yankee bullpen should be a lot better than last season. There are more dynamic veteran arms in the mix this season. The combination of veterans and talented younger pitchers should make for bullpen ideal situation. It’s imperative for the team to get off to fast start this season (12-10 April 2009). That includes LoJack-type protection from the bullpen.

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