Aroldis Chapman has been officially named the new Yankees’ closer, replacing Andrew Miller, who just so happened to be last year’s top fireman in the American League. Of course, a strong argument could be made that Dellin Betances is the best of them all, which bodes well for a Bronx Bombers’ bullpen that will feature three of the most dominant relievers in the game today. Clearly, relief pitching will be a relative strength for the 2016 Yankees, but where does the team’s dynamic trio rank all time?
Before jumping into the exercise, it’s important to remember that the philosophy of bullpen usage has changed significantly over the years. Before the emergence of stoppers like Mike Marshall, Rich Gossage, and Rollie Fingers, it was rare for teams to have one dominant reliever, much less three. For that matter, many earlier teams didn’t even have three pitchers perform a regular relief role. So, having a dominant trio relievers is really a more modern phenomenon, and any ranking should be understood in that context.
Since 1901, there have been over 9,000 relief seasons of 30 or more innings, with nearly two-thirds coming during the division era (1969 to present). In the same time span, there have been 1,655 teams who have had at least three relievers meet the 30-inning threshold. It is from among these teams that the following rankings have been derived.
In order to put Chapman, Miller and Betances in historical context, it was first assumed that each reliever would replicate their 2015 performance. Then, the projected output was compared to the three best relievers on every team in terms of ERA, hits per nine innings (H/9) and strike outs per nine innings (K/9). The rankings for each category appear below.
Top-10 MLB Bullpen Trios, Ranked by ERA, 1901-2015
*2016 Yankees figures are based on 2015 performance of each pitcher. The cumulative ERA of 1.70 would rank 18th among all trios, as defined below.
Note: Includes all pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched in relief. Teams without three relievers meeting that threshold were excluded, even if their innings totals were comparable to those in the ranking. The top-three relievers for each team were based on ERA (i.e., the three relievers with the lowest ERA were included in the trio).
Source: Baseball-reference.com Continue Reading »