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New York Yankees: Why Their Bullpen Will Be MLB's Best in 2012

Joe AcampadoCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2012

New York Yankees: Why Their Bullpen Will Be MLB's Best in 2012

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    The New York Yankees have the best bullpen because of Mariano Rivera.  

    End of story. Thanks for reading folks.

    In all seriousness, Rivera gives any bullpen that has him the edge. Combine him with the bullpen the Yankees have now and it's kind of unfair really.

    The bullpen has been one of the Yankees' weak points in recent years. Last year, finally, the bullpen took a leap forward and will continue to improve this season.

    The Yankees have one of the best setup/closer combos with Mo and David Robertson. Then they have Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain once he gets back. Most bullpens rely on one guy, whereas the Yankees have many guys to count on.

    This article will look at the strengths of the bullpen as a whole, as well as the strengths of the individual pieces. Here are the 10 reasons why the Yankees bullpen will be the best in 2012.

It Just Keeps Getting Deeper, Getting Deeper All the Time

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    When it comes to depth, many teams take pride in their starting rotation depth, not the depth of their bullpen. Some call it having options, but I consider that another category.

    You can have a bunch of options in the bullpen, but that doesn't mean it's deep.

    But anyway, the New York Yankees bullpen is deep because it has three guys who could potentially close for other teams: Mariano Rivera (duh), David Robertson and Rafael Soriano.

    Soriano closed for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Atlanta Braves. He did a pretty good job of it, too. Robertson is in the mix to eventually take over the closer job for the Yankees. He's currently the setup man to Mo and is doing that job rather well.

    Outside of them, there's Cory Wade, who surprised everyone with his numbers last season; and Boone Logan, who's settled nicely into his role as the lefty of the bullpen.

    From there, the Yankees will likely add another lefty or a long reliever, which means Cesar Cabral or Freddy Garcia could be in the 'pen, depending on what manager Joe Girardi decides to do with the rotation.

    Then the Yankees also have the Seattle Mariners ex-closer, David Aardsma, and Joe Torre's former bullpen staple, Scott Proctor. There's also Joba Chamberlain, who's looking to bounce back from injuries.

    To me, that's a pretty deep bullpen.

Options, Options Everywhere

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    By options, I mean New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi has a number of pitchers with different styles, approaches and pitches to choose from. They're all not just hard throwers who throw fastball after fastball after fastball.

    Outside of Mariano Rivera and his cutter is David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. Robertson has two breaking balls and throws low in the zone. He goes for strikeouts and barely gives up any homers. Soriano is a strikeout pitcher who utilizes his cutter and slider for effectively. He also turns to his sinking changeup for lefty batters.

    Boone Logan is your typical lefty reliever with a hard fastball/slider combo to get left-handed batters out. Cory Wade has an excellent 12-to-6 curve that fools most hitters.

    If Freddy Garcia ends up in the bullpen as the long man, he throws all types of pitches to keep hitters off balance. And everyone knows Joba Chamberlain's killer fastball/slider combo and hopefully he can get it back to his 2007-08 form.

    That's a lot of options for Girardi. He can keep the opposing lineup guessing, since those pitchers aren't exactly carbon copies of each other. That gives the Yankees an advantage over other bullpens.

Look at All the Strikeouts

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    The following numbers consist of stats from Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan and Cory Wade. They're the guys who were vital last season and will pitch again this season most likely.

    New York Yankees Bullpen 2011 Inning Totals: 246.8 innings

    New York Yankees Bullpen 2011 Strikeout Totals: 272 strikeouts

    That's more than a strikeout per inning. Granted, a lot of those strikeouts came from Robertson, who's a strikeout machine. Either way, that's a lot of strikeouts for a bullpen. There will likely be more, depending on who Girardi puts in the bullpen and if Joba Chamberlain can get back to form.

    Strikeouts are important because there's less chance for an error if the pitcher strikes out the batter. Ground balls can get past the fielder, fly balls can carry and become a home run or get dropped and there's always bloopers and line drives that just go where there's no fielder.

    The more successful the bullpen is at striking out the opposing lineup, the better that bullpen is. According to that lineup, the New York Yankees bullpen is one of the best around.

You Want Outs, They've Got Them

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    The New York Yankees have one of the most clutch bullpens in the majors. Bullpens are all about holding leads and stopping runs. If your bullpen can do that, then you've got yourself a pretty good bullpen.

    The closer is the head of the bullpen, as he's the one who saves the games. Mariano Rivera is the best there is when it comes to closing out games. He's the all-time saves leader and consistently gets hitters out no matter what the situation is.

    David Robertson strikes opposing hitters out, thus keeping the runners off base. Yankees manager Joe Girardi can always count on him to get a strikeout.

    Rafael Soriano was a closer for the Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta Braves, so he knows what it means to get an out when it matters. Sure, there were some times when he was a Yankee when it seemed like he would be giving up hits like he was paid to do it, but he got better as the year went on.

    The number one job for any pitcher, whether he's a reliever or a starter, is to get outs. The Yankees bullpen is great at that, making them a feared bullpen around the league.

The Bullpen's Intimidation Lowers the Batter's Attack!

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    There's a video game reference in there for you geeky types, but the point is a bullpen's intimidation can shake a hitter's confidence.

    The greatest hitters in the game would much rather face a pitcher who's just been called up than Mariano Rivera. Add David Robertson and his affinity for strikeouts and you have one of the deadliest, if not the deadliest setup/closer combo in the league.

    Hitters will say that they don't let anything affect them once in they're in the batter's box and that's true for some hitters some of the time. However, you just need to see John Kruk's at-bat versus Randy Johnson in the 1993 All-Star Game to witness what a feared pitcher can do to a hitter.

    Even the most calm and stoic hitters know in the back of their heads they're facing Mariano Rivera. His name alone is enough to strike fear into batter's hearts. Then there's his cutter, which can and probably will break your bat.

    You have to admit that that'll make most hitters uneasy when they step in to face him.

The Up-and-Comers

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    Despite the depth of the bullpen and all of the options manager Joe Girardi has, injuries will still occur during the course of the season. Luckily, the New York Yankees have a couple of guys in the minors who could fill in.

    Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances both figure to be starters in the majors, but the Yankees could definitely call them up and let them get a taste while coming out of the bullpen. That's what they did with Joba Chamberlain and they did that with Betances last season.

    Both of those pitchers are still young and aren't ready for a starting gig in the majors just yet. Letting them come out of the bullpen will let them gain experience and show the Yankees what they can do at the major league level.

    Both of those guys have dominated the minors, but still need some more seasoning before being truly ready for the majors. Depending on how their seasons in the minors go, they could easily become this year's Joba Chamberlain.

The Return of Joba Chamberlain

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    Joba Chamberlain has battled the "Joba Rules," injuries, being a reliever, Lake Erie's gnats, a trampoline and being a starter to finally get on track to coming back and being a dominant reliever.

    It's been a while seen we've seen the old Chamberlain, but he started showing it last year before injuries. He still has a while to get back, but once he's finally healthy, he'll be able to get back to his 2007-08 form.

    No more making him a starter. No more tinkering with his repertoire. Joba Chamberlain is ready to get back to that deadly fastball/slider combo that made him unhittable.

    When he's at his best, Chamberlain has a fastball that sits at in the mid to upper 90s. He pairs that with a slider with one of the nastiest bites I've ever seen.

    Should Chamberlain be able to get back to form, then he'll help make the Yankees bullpen that much better. 

Introducing Mr. Cory Wade

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    Cory Wade was a no-name when he joined the New York Yankees bullpen last season. He pitched well for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 but was dreadful in 2009.  

    Then he underwent shoulder surgery and was in the minors until the Yankees signed him to a minor league deal. They called him up and he became one of their most effective pitchers out of the bullpen.

    Wade doesn't throw very hard unless you're comparing his fastball to Tim Wakefield's—in which case, he throws hard. He has above-average control, however, which works in his favor.

    His curveball is one of the better ones in the Yankees bullpen. The curveball has a 12-to-6 drop that most bats will miss. He also has a solid changeup to mix in there with his other two pitches.

    Wade is not known as a strikeout hitter, but he has excellent control and a good strikeout-to-walk ratio, which makes him an effective part of the Yankees bullpen.

The Double Setup Threat of Rafael Soriano and David Robertson

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    Last year, Rafael Soriano was the seventh-inning guy and David Robertson was the setup and that worked wonders for the New York Yankees. This year, they'll likely go with the same for those two, but either one of them could set up.

    They're both strikeout pitchers with strong cutters. Robertson mixes in a strong breaking curveball and a slider to strikeout hitters. He also doesn't give up many homers, which is always a plus when coming out of the bullpen. You don't want the pitcher coming into a bases-loaded jam to give up a grand slam.

    Soriano relies on his cutter (a la Mariano Rivera), but still throws a slider every now and then. He also has the makeup of a closer and could easily slide into the eighth- or ninth-inning role should Rivera or Robertson get hurt.

    These two make both the starting pitchers' and Joe Girardi's job easier. They make the game shorter since the starter only has to go six or seven innings before Soriano and Robertson can take over.

    Once they do, it's an automatic bridge to Mariano Rivera, which, as we all know by now, means "game over."

Show's over Folks, Mo's Here

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    Mariano Rivera.

    As I stated earlier, he alone gives the New York Yankees one of the best bullpens in the majors. Combine him with the bullpen he's in now and the Yankees undoubtedly have the best bullpen in baseball.

    He's been closing games for the Yankees as long as I can remember. All right, sure I still remember when John Wetteland was closing games, but that was just briefly before Rivera came onto the scene.

    His cutter is still the same and is still getting hitters out all these years. Rivera can repeatedly throw his cutter for strikes, which is why he's been so successful. Then there's the fact that he's the all-time leader in saves.

    There's really not much more anyone can say about Mo. It's a shame that he's going to retire soon, but when he does, he'll leave the New York Yankees bullpen in good hands.

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