Throughout Yankees history, they have always had powerful bullpens, such as the Goose Gossage and Sparky Lyle bullpens in the 1970s, and Mariano Rivera and John Wetteland in 1996.
This year’s group, led by Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, is making their case to be one of the best the franchise has ever boasted.
On Saturday, Yankees relievers made some history, as they set the American League single-season record for strikeouts with 573. They broke their own record of 571, set last season.
What makes these records even more remarkable is that they are the first two years without Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in history, anchoring the bullpen.
The Yankees are 16 strikeouts away from tying the 2012 Rockies bullpen that racked up 589 strikeouts.
Collectively, the Yankees bullpen has posted a 10.21 K/9.0 innings pitched ratio, with 573 K’s in 505 innings. This is the second-highest bullpen strikeout ratio in Major League Baseball history, behind the 2014 Yankees, which was 10.25/9.0 IP, 571 K/s in 501.1 IP.
Dellin Betances, the Yankees’ set up man, and closer Andrew Miller are a big part of the Yankees’ success, and that is reflected in the amount of K’s they have racked up this season.
Betances is first among major-league relievers with 124 strikeouts, and Miller is third with 97 K’s.
If Miller reaches 100 strikeouts, they would be just the sixth duo in Major League Baseball history to do it. The five tandems that have done it are Francisco Rodriguez (123) and Scot Shields (109) for the Angels in 2004, Armando Benitez (106) and Arthur Rhodes (102) for the 1997 Orioles, Duane Ward (122) and Tom Henke (116) for the 1989 Blue Jays, Mark Eicchorn (166) and Tom Henke (188) for the 1986 Blue Jays, and Mark Davis (128) and Scott Garrelts (106) for the 1989 Giants.
Betances is one of just six relievers all-time to record at least 124 strikeouts in multiple seasons, which was done three times by Dick Radatz (1962-64) and Rob Dibble (1989-91), and twice by Goose Gossage (1975 and 1977), John Hiller (1973-74), and Mike Marshall (1973-74).
Miller has already made some history, as he is the fourth different Yankees pitcher in the last four seasons to record at least 36 saves in a season. he joins Rafael Soriano, who had 42 in 2012, Rivera, who had 44 in 2013, his final season; and David Robertson, who had 39 last season.
Other power arms in the Yankees bullpen are lefties Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve, who each have 64 strikeouts. Wilson has come on strong the late part of this season, and his 64 K’s have come in 58 innings, while Shreve’s came in 57 2/3 innings.
The strength of this bullpen can also be seen in the fact that the Yankees have a 64-2 record when leading after six innings, the best in Major League Baseball. When they lead after seven, they have the American League’s best record, at 71-2.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said of the bullpen on Sunday morning, “I think it’s really important. I think the strikeouts are extremely important as well, especially as you get late in games and they’re close, a lot of times you need a strikeout in situations with a runner on third and less than two outs and you need a strikeout, and all three of those guys (Betances, Miller, and Justin Wilson) really have the ability to do that when you look at our last three guys.
“To set the record yesterday, I had no idea, and then someone said something to me, and we got a ball (to commemorate it). I know they have a chance to set the all-time record, 16 away. It’s a great accomplishment, and these guys have meant so much to our club. Get through six inning and turn it over to these guys, and they’ve been great,” said Girardi.
Rookie Branden Pinder has proven to be a power pitcher, as he has notched 25 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. In Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pinder had 36 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings.
Another rookie, Nick Rumbelow has just about a strikeout-per-inning in his time with the Yankees, as he has 15 K’s in 15 1/3 innings. At Scranton-Wilkes/Barre, he had 57 strikeouts inn 52 2/3 innings.
The Yankees have had issues establishing a seventh-inning reliever this season, and with numbers like this, Pinder and Rumbelow are making their case for that spot next season.
If the Yankees make the playoffs, the trio of Wilson, Betances, and Miller in the final three innings will be awfully hard to beat.