Bronx Bullpen the Best in the Bigs: The Reason Why the Yankees Are in First Place
It is July 22, and The New York Yankees are in first place for the first time since June 8.
The Bronx Bombers being the current Kings of the AL East is due to a combination of many factors, the most important being a five game winning streak.
The second most important being a four game slide from Boston.
In a close third, comes the Yankees' bullpen and the focal point of this article.
Here is a list of reasons why the Yankees not only have the best bullpen in baseball, but can use their talented relievers to continue to stay in first place.
If your team is down by one run or more and Joe Girardi makes a call to the bullpen, good luck.
At the beginning of the 2009 season, the Yankees' weakness was believed to be their bullpen.
Tune into any New York sports radio show, or ESPN to see what the Yankee analysts are talking about now.
According to ESPN, the main concern for the Yankees is the back-end of the rotation, which they might address before the trade deadline.
As of late, the Yankee bullpen has received either no attention or some praise, but ultimately not described as horrific, as some stated at the beginning of this season.
The surprising performance of the bullpen has left the front office with one less part of the team to worry about, and helps the Yankees build a better, playoff ready team.
Who thought that the names Tomko, Bruney, and Veras would be non-existent and the bullpen would be this good in July?
Winning Close Games
The last five games the Yankees have played; have been victories by two runs or less.
Most of these games have been back and forth games, in which one mistake can change the entire outcome of the game.
Late innings, with the game on the line, and the team depending on your getting the job done, is the situations the Yankee relievers must do well in this season.
Sounds to me like a playoff type atmosphere in July, just what the Yankee bullpen needs for experience.
Since the All-Star break last week, the Yankee bullpen has been perfect in every game, keeping the score low, and not allowing opponents to score.
Not to mention the first series against Detroit, who has one of the best offensive lineups in baseball.
Keeping Joba in the Rotation
As much as I like to silence the "Joba to the bullpen" Yankee fans with his stats in Yankee victories, and the fact that he is in the back of the rotation, and that he is still young, I love seeing the Yankee bullpen silence them with sheer dominant performances.
You just can't send Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen if his talents aren't needed there.
Why send a guy to do a job that someone else is doing better?
The argument of sending Chamberlain to the bullpen becomes null in void when the bullpen is showing absolute dominance.
Chamberlain is able to work through his less-than-acceptable starts, and is given the chance to show us the stuff he is really capable of.
You know, the seven-to-eight inning, one-to-three hit, performances he has put up this season.
The less the words "bad" and "Yankee bullpen" appear in the same sentence, the more the words "Joba" and "starter" will.
An Ace He Has Been, the Ace of the Bullpen That Is
All throughout the 2009 season, Alfredo Aceves has been the go-to guy in the Yankee bullpen.
At times, he has been absolutely brilliant, and has shown signs of being fully capable of starting at the major league level.
Make no mistake; Aceves will be a starter for a major league team at some point in his career, and hopefully for the Yankees.
But, after giving him a spot start in the place of Chien-Ming Wang, the Yankees have realized that he is way too valuable in the bullpen over multiple games, to be used in just one.
Aceves has a 2.53 ERA and was the original beacon of light, when the Yankee bullpen criticism was at its height.
Phil's Doin' Work
What can be said about the Yankee duo of Phil Coke and Phil Hughes?
Well, it has to start with questions, because both were just that at the beginning of 2009.
Hughes was a question mark as a starter and questioned again on his move to the rotation.
Coke was a question as a Major League reliever, as shaky pitching in the beginning of the season led to much criticism.
Luckily for the Yankees, both Coke and Hughes have resoundingly answered the questions and have become go-to-guys at certain times in the game.
What we can say about Coke's performance includes two words: electrifying outs.
Coke has become a lefty-specialist, sometimes only pitching one or two outs in a game.
Those outs can come in a variety of ways: from amazing plays at the plate, to astonishing strike outs.
Hughes has provided us with two words of his own: lights-out.
The work done by Hughes out of the bullpen has been absolutely magical to watch.
If you thought Joba out of the bullpen was fun to watch, whenever Phil Hughes trots out to the mound, fireworks are in large supply.
Maybe the only thing that has to be said about Hughes is that he hasn't given up a run since June 10.
The Phillies aren't the only Phil's who are "doin' work" this season.
The Sandman Cometh
If you thought Mariano Rivera was over-the-hill, I think you were sadly mistaken.
It can't feel good when you are part of an opposing lineup who has to face guys who are throwing the way Aceves, Coke, and Hughes are.
But, on top of that, to have to go up against the greatest closer of all-time, must leave a large lump in your throat.
"The Sand Man" has been stunning this season, collecting 27 saves.
Rivera is once again making batters look silly in the ninth inning, striking out 44, and popping the glove with his famous cutter.
Rivera is the night cap on a bullpen that is, hands down, the best in baseball right now.