July 4, 2009

Do Yankees need to designate a setup man?

The Yankees have had the luxury in recent years to possess more than one dominant reliever, which enabled them to finish close games at a high success rate. The 2009 Yankees bullpen lacks a guy like Tom Gordon or Joba Chamberlain, and it might do more harm than good to designate one reliever as the guy who pitches the eighth inning.

Brian Bruney was supposed to be the setup man heading into the season, but elbow injuries and inconsistent pitching has slowly removed him from that role. If the Yankees continue to try and force Bruney into this role, he may end up blowing more games than he holds.

The next best candidate in line for the job is probably Phil Hughes. The reason behind him would be his mid to upper 90s fastball and nasty breaking pitch. He also has the numbers out of the bullpen to back it up: 1.32 ERA and 16 K in 13-2/3 innings.

Last night, Joe Girardi played the matchups, and it worked out nicely. He brought on Phil Coke for the lefty, and then Hughes for the righties. I think playing the matchups on a nightly basis is the best option when there is no clear setup man. That doesn’t necessarily mean using two pitchers every eighth inning, but it would favor Coke with two or more lefties due up and Hughes with two or more righties due up. Those two have been the best out of the pen recently, so Girardi should just stick with the hot pitchers.

The Yankees bullpen has been very good all-around lately, as almost everyone seems trustworthy. Since June 1, they collectively have a 2.35 ERA and a 1.78 BAA (via WFAN, h/t Rebecca_Glass twitter). The addition of Chad Qualls, Huston Street, or another reliable reliever would solidify an already good bullpen.

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