Anyone who has followed the Yankees this year knows that there have been more than a fair share of heartbreaking losses.
If I tried to count the number of times that has happened with my hands, there is a chance I would not have enough fingers to do that. Bullpen collapses have been the main culprit in many of those games.

I would not have changed the strategy; sometimes, your best reliever gets beat. Even Mariano Rivera blew saves.

The Yankees have many relievers that should be considered very good or have the potential to be good.

I will categorize the pitchers into those two areas below.

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Very good:

  • Aroldis Chapman
  • Jonathan Loaisiga
  • Chad Green
  • Lucas Luetge

Potential to be good:

  • Clay Holmes
  • Wandy Peralta
  • Joely Rodriguez

There are also pitchers like Albert Abreu and Stephen Ridings, who are not on the roster right now but can be good. Guys like Domingo German and Luis Severino will likely be inserted into the bullpen if they return at this point in the season.

First, let’s address the “very good” category. Jonathan Loaisiga has been the best reliever for the Yankees this year despite a handful of bad games. It should be used in the Andrew Miller-type role, which would entail them using him in the highest leverage innings regardless of inning.

Chapman’s struggles have been well documented. If Chapman is pitching to his capabilities, he will be used in the 9th inning as he is most comfortable doing. He recently made some mechanical changes that could give optimism for his performance down the stretch. Chapman has pitched well over his last two appearances with that change. During his struggles, he was resistant to throwing the fastball, which is his best pitch.

So for me to be comfortable with him consistently closing games, he has to be willing to throw his fastball.

Chad Green is still a very good pitcher, and I still consider him the second-best reliever in the bullpen based on his track record combined with his performance this year. His fastball is still very good, but he can be prone to hang the curveball. This year he has been prone to giving up the home run with a 1.46 HR/9. So he is another guy who could use a good September to build confidence in him before the playoffs.

I think some of that is pitch selection. Like Chapman, I would like to see him more willing to throw his fastball in certain spots.

For example, in his blown save against the Chicago White Sox, he chose to throw a curveball to Jose Abreu in a full count instead of his best pitch in a fastball, and he hung it over the middle of the play. It resulted in a tie game.

Luetge is a diamond in the rough the Yankees were fortunate to find with the signings of Justin Wilson and Darren O’Day not working out. He pitches to soft contact and strikes out batters at a decent rate as well. Luetge is firmly behind the previous three I listed, but he is someone who has shown the ability to go multiple innings as well. I have him in very good because he has been here the whole season and has been good overall. The next two names are guys I think could potentially join the very good group.

Those two players are Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta. Holmes was recently acquired from the Pirates, and he is a ground ball machine with a 71.3 ground ball percentage this year. The Yankees and pitching coach Matt Blake have changed the usage of his pitches since coming to the Bronx. He has upped his sinker usage with the hope of becoming what Zack Britton was at his best. Peralta has been excellent since coming back from the COVID-19 IL. He was suitable for a while, right after the Yankees acquired him early in the season before struggling for a bit.

Both of these guys are in the potential to be a good category because I would like to see them perform for longer before I do that. Joely Rodriguez is someone that I view as a lefty specialist. When the Angels came to the Bronx for a makeup game, Rodriguez made Shohei Ohtani look lost at the plate.

He is a very situational reliever that I would never put that high up on the totem pole, but someone who could neutralize lefty hitters like that could be significant in a playoff run.

Fans around for the 2009 championship run will remember how important lefty reliever Damaso Marte was in neutralizing Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in essential spots. I envision Rodriguez potentially playing a similar role.

Overall an ideal bullpen operation for the Yankees in October would like like this. Loaisiga and Green are predominantly used in the high-leverage innings anywhere between the 4th and 8th innings. Chapman is throwing well and is the closer.

Luetge, Peralta, and Holmes are the next tier of guys to go to when you need them, depending on the matchup and who is performing best at the time. Rodriguez is inserted into the game for a critical matchup against a lefty. Then maybe guys like Abreu, German, and Severino are also available for use.

The picture of how the Yankees bullpen would look for October is not clear, and the way everyone pitches over the next month will determine Aaron Boone’s bullpen usage.

Featured Image: Wendell Cruz/USA Today
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