For the Yankees, the bullpen was a strong suit this past season and it will continue to be a strength in 2012. With a Hall of Fame closer and two set-up men who themselves could be closing, part of the Yankees success in 2011 was their ability to shorten games down to six innings.
Here’s a look at the key components of the Yankees bullpen:
Mariano Rivera (2011: 1-2, 1.91 ERA, 44 saves) — What is there left to say about the Sandman? Rivera, who will soon turn 42, shows no signs of stopping. In the final year of his contract, Rivera became the all-time saves leader passing Trevor Hoffman with 603. He had a few blown saves this season (what closer doesn’t?) and, at times, it feels like the hated Red Sox have his number, but he is still dominant at his position. Since 1997, there was always one key ingredient to a Yankees victory: get the ball to Mo. Yankees fans can’t imagine the team without him and for another year at least, they won’t have to.
David Robertson (2011: 4-0, 1.08 ERA, 40 holds) — Robertson emerged as the eighth-inning guy and could one day be heir apparent to Rivera. With a 100 strikeouts in 66 innings, Robertson is a true Houdini with an ability to pitch out of jams (sometimes of his own making). He has a fastball that tops out at around 93 mph, but the key to Robertson’s success is his long stride and reach which make his fastball seem even faster. The eighth inning will be his again in 2012.
Rafael Soriano (2011: 2-3, 4.12 ERA, 33 holds) — Soriano was the Yankees biggest free-agent signing last year and one that Brian Cashman did not endorse. Soriano was Tampa’s closer and was supposed to be the eighth-inning guy, but he got off to a shaky start and went down with an elbow injury in May. When he came back in late July he was effective. His prickly personality and inconsistency have not endeared him to Yankees fans. However, if he performs as advertised next year, all will be forgiven
Joba Chamberlain (2011: 2-0, 2.83 ERA, 23 holds) — Joba was off to a good start and very ably filling the shoes of the injured Soriano when it was discovered that he had a torn ligament in his throwing arm. Chamberlain underwent Tommy John surgery in June and will probably not be ready to join the team until a few weeks past opening day. If he comes back strong and throwing hard the “Joba should be a starter” debate will be even louder than usual.
Cory Wade (2011: 6-1, 2.04 ERA, 33 holds) — Wade was signed to a minor-league deal by the Yankees in June after the bullpen was depleted by injuries. Wade had a great rookie season with the Dodgers in 2008 with a 2.27 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in 55 relief appearances, but struggled the next year after purported overuse by then-Dodgers-manager Joe Torre. Wade provided great relief for the Yankees when he was called up. His success, coupled with the fact that Yankees have team control of the reliever, means he should be back in the pen again.
Boone Logan (2011: 5-3, 3.46 ERA, 43 holds) — Logan was the sole lefty in the Yankee bullpen. Pedro Feliciano was signed last offseason to be the key left-handed reliever, but he never made it out of spring training, going down the entire season with a torn shoulder capsule. Logan’s first half was a nightmare and his appearances on the mound made most fans groan; however, he had a good second half. No matter, with Feliciano still injured, the Yankees will be looking to improve on Logan and get another southpaw for the pen.