When a pitcher punches in at 6’8″, delivering 97mph darts and 90+ on his filthy slider, you might expect there to be some wear and tear as the long season moves along. So when Dellin Betances arrived in camp yesterday looking sleek and svelte, tremors were heard throughout the league at what is coming this season.
Despite periods of inconsistency (reference his splits), Dellin Betances had an outrageously good year in 2017. 100 strikeouts in 59.2 innings and WHIP of 1.2 confirms that, but guess how many hits the right-hander allowed in those innings. 65 will be a good guess if you are thinking of a good to better-than-average pitcher these days. Twenty-nine! Which is almost unheard of at this level. On the contrary side though, were the 44 walks Betances surrendered and the subsequent reason why then manager, Joe Girardi, appeared hesitant at times when given a choice between using Betances or another in the cache of Yankees relievers.
Anyone watching Yankees games late in the season could see that Dellin Betances was not quite himself, and seemed to be laboring and out of sync with his body. The ability to consistently throw strikes had all but disappeared and the slider aimed to be six inches off the plate for a swing and miss, was more often than not, twelve inches off the plate and taken for a ball.
Dellin Betances, though, using all of his (now) six years in the big leagues, must have noticed the same things. Because over the winter, with no apparent intervention from the Yankees, took it up himself to drop close to 25 pounds to achieve the endurance required to survive a full season with no lapses and without jeopardizing his nasty repertoire of stuff known to make hitters look silly at times.
This is not good news for American League hitters. For the Yankees, who at one time last season, reportedly, had Dellin Betances on the trade block when the Yankees were seeking a front-line starting pitcher, who later turned out to be Sonny Gray, Betances up and ready to go could not be any better feeling for Aaron Boone. Sorting out who does what and when in the team’s bullpen is going to be one of the biggest puzzles for Boone to solve. This becomes second only to how he’s going to fit five outfielders (Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Aaron Judge) into three holes without clogging up the DH spot.
On paper, Aroldis Chapman is the designated closer, but as with last season when he was temporarily demoted, it all depends on performance, and if Chapman falters, Betances is likely the man who will be asked to step in. Even more likely, though, is that Boone will govern his bullpen on a touch and feel basis for the first few months of the season, with the hot hand(s) getting the bulk of the work.
David Robertson, who was also rumored to be on the trade market when the Yankees were looking to clear salary to take on Yu Darvish (praise the Lord, that never happened), can do anything and in many ways, is likely to be the MVP of the bullpen due to his versatility.
But overall, if the Yankees bullpen is going to be the slam-dunk, yer outta here, group it can be, Dellin Betances is the key to making the difference. With that difference being one that propels the Yankees not only deep into the playoffs in 2018, but all the way to the 28th World Championship fans have been waiting for (now) for nine years.