The American League may be the best league in the history of baseball at this point in time in terms of offensive play, with so many explosive teams all playing at the same time. That means that teams have to have their pitching staffs in order, which is something that the New York Yankees are working on. Their latest move to get themselves ready for the season on the mound was to sign set-up man Adam Ottavino.
Ottavino had a great year with the Colorado Rockies last year, prompting his signing by the Yankees. He was among the top relievers in baseball in strikeouts in 2018, and held batters to an average of under .160 during his appearances. For the Yankees, he’ll fit in well as a bridge from the rest of the pitching staff to flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman, effectively shortening games against the Yankees to seven innings on most nights.
Of course, Ottavino made several headlines last year when he said that he could strike Babe Ruth out everytime. His point was that baseball today features faster pitches and would have been more difficult than the game that Ruth had to face back in his day. And that point might be a valid one, but it was the delivery of that point that drew raised eyebrows given Ruth’s status as one of the best players to ever play the game.
But in terms of his ability to help the Yankees win, there is no denying that Ottavino could be just the right piece to push the Yankees over the top. Given how full of offensively gifted teams there are in the league right now, you can’t have enough arms in the bullpen. With better offenses come shorter starts for starting pitchers, which means that depth in relief is essential. The Yankees already had a strong bullpen, but can now turn to yet another high-quality arm late in games.
The Yankees now have David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Ottavino, and Chapman in their bullpen. This allows the Yankees to either use them each for an inning when needed, requiring just five innings from a starter to get the ball to them, or for the team to rest their relievers and rotate them as if they were starters. Either way, the pitching staff won’t be as strained as it would have been before this signing.
And the signing has helped the Yankees’ championship odds move in a favourable direction. World Series MLB odds on bet365 shifted from 7/1 to 6/1, with the move to bring in Ottavino playing a role in strengthening the Yankees roster to make them a more attractive choice. With the Red Sox and Astros able to hurt teams in so many ways offensively, this move was clearly designed with the Yankees’ main competition in mind.
The key now for the Yankees will be to find a role for everyone in their bullpen that keeps everyone engaged throughout the season. If they can do so successfully, the best bullpen in Major League Baseball could reside in New York.