This is the eleventh installment of the Red Sox and Yankee rivalry. Today, we are going to look at the middle relief for both clubs. The Yankees will carry over four of their relievers from 2010 (Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Boone Logan) while the Red Sox only bring back Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard. The Yankees welcome lefty specialist, Pedro Feliciano to the madness while the Red Sox have brought in Dan Wheeler and Alfredo Aceves. Who holds the advantage at middle relief entering the 2011 season?

Middle Relief

Red Sox (2010 statistics):

  • Daniel Bard: 1.93 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9.2 K/9 (73 appearances)
  • Hideki Okajima: 4.50 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 6.5 K/9 (56 app)
  • Dan Wheeler: 3.35 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 (64 app)
  • Alfredo Aceves: 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 1.5 K/9 (10 app w/NYY)
  • Team: 4.24 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 7.6 K/9

Yankees (2010)

  • David Robertson: 3.82 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10.4 K/9 (64 app)
  • Pedro Feliciano: 3.30 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 8.0 K/9 (92 app w/ NYM)
  • Joba Chamberlain: 4.40 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 (73 app)
  • Boone Logan: 2.93 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8/6 K/9 (51 app)
  • Team: 3.47 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 7.7 K/9

After the Red Sox agreed to terms with ex-White Sox closer, Bobby Jenks rumors began to swirl about Jonathan Papelbon’s future and Daniel Bard’s role for 2011 and beyond. Entering the season, Papelbon is slotted to close games while Jenks will set him up. That relegates Bard and his 100 MPH fastball to the seventh inning. The Red Sox may even opt to use Bard earlier if the team gets into a jam. Since being promoted to the Majors in 2009, Bard has posted an eye-opening 10.1 K/9 and 6.2 H/9. Given his high velocity and high strikeout rate, Bard has the makings of a future closer.

Overall, the Red Sox bullpen was a point of weakness last season. To sure up the bullpen, the Red Sox brought in righty, Dan Wheeler from Tampa Bay. As a member of the Rays last season, Wheeler posted a career high 8.6 K/9 while yielding the fewest hitters allowed (36). Wheeler held opposing hitters to a .207 average.

Lefty specialist Hideki Okajima had a tough 2010 season. He missed virtually all of August with a stiff lower back. Righties hit .340 while lefties hit .280 against him. Not exactly what you want from your lefty-specialist when he has held lefties to a .214 career batting average against.

After going 11-1 as a reliever, many Yankee fans thought that Alfredo Aceves would be a main stay on this list for the forseeable future. However, a bad back held Aceves to only ten appearances in 2010. The Yankees were not willing to offer Ace more than a minor league deal, which opened the door for other clubs. The Red Sox, who needed a long-man out of the bullpen, offered Aceves a Major League contract. When Aceves is healthy, he’s very reliable. He has posted a 3.20 career ERA and has a very low 2.1 BB/9.

The Yankee bullpen was one of the best last season, posting a 3.47 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. The Yankees feature an array of power arms in the middle part of their bullpen. Led by K/9 king David Robertson, the Yankee bullpen came in and got a lot of big strikeouts in tight jams. In particular, Robertson has filled up the strikeout column. Not known for his overpower velocity, Robertson hides his pitches extremely well. Over the past three seasons, he has posted 10.7, 13.0, and 10.4 K/9s respectively. If the Yanks need a big strikeout, Robertson is the man.

This off-season, the Yankees signed lefty, Pedro Feliciano to a two-year, $8 million deal. Feliciano has led the league in appearances over the last three years with 86, 88, and 92 appearances, respectively. Feliciano held lefty hitters to a .211 batting average. More impressively, Feliciano allowed only one home run last season (righty hitter). Granted, Feliciano played in the spacious Citi Field for half of the season, but his overall effectiveness against lefties is impressive considering he will have to get David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford out on a consistent basis.

Over the last five years, Joba Chamberlain has been the most scrutinized Yankee. After he burst onto the scene in 2007, New Yorkers began to rave about the young flamethrower. However, Yankee management mismanaged Joba so badly that his initial allure has faded away. However, strikeouts have never been an issue for Joba, posting at least 9.7 K/9 in every season as a reliever. Joba has a career 3.6 BB/9 which he must lower this season. His velocity has been around 94-95 during Spring Training, but I doubt we’ll ever see the 98 MPH+ from Joba again.

Finally, lefty Boone Logan appeared basically out of nowhere last season. After essentially being a throw-in with Javier Vazquez, Logan assumed the vital lefty role in the bullpen. Being without Damaso Marte left a huge void in the bullpen and Logan filled the void. Logan held lefties to a .190 batting average without yielding a home run. Logan’s velocity topped out at 98 MPH last year and he’ll be another strong option out of the Yankee pen in 2011.

Verdict

Edge: Yankees

Daniel Bard is the best of the bunch, but the Yankees relievers top every other Boston arm. The Yankee relievers will post high strikeout numbers and give the team consistency. Feliciano’s high appearance numbers over the last three seasons are definitely a cause for concern, but don’t expect the Yankees to use him nearly as frequently as the Mets did. Essentially, the Yankees have built an extremely strong bullpen to off-set their deficiencies in the starting rotation.

Yankees 8
Red Sox 8

Check back tomorrow as I analyze the back ends of each bullpen.