Tommy Bennett over at BP checks in with a look at bullpen usage through the first 13 games:
Given the workload they have been asked to bear and the skill with which they’ve borne it, it may not be surprising to learn that Padres relievers have thrown a higher percentage of their team’s innings than any other. At 42 percent through the first 11 games, the Padres featured one of just five bullpens to have thrown more than 40 percent of its team’s innings. The others—the Mets, the Yankees, the Royals, and the Orioles—all share the same characteristic asymmetry between the quality of the starters and the quality of the bullpen….
Let’s take the Yankees. Their search for a fourth and fifth starter has been very closely watched, and even their supposedly more dependable options have struggled of late. Beyond CC Sabathia, they have four guys who cannot be counted on to give them six innings every time out. By contrast, the Yankees spent much of the winter assembling a very expensive bullpen. They gave $8 million to Pedro Feliciano (now out indefinitely pending shoulder surgery), $30 million to Mariano Rivera, and $35 million to Rafael Soriano. If the contracts play, the Yankees will end up giving a lot of their innings, along with their dollars, to the bullpen, and that has not generally been a winning strategy.
Thus far this season, Yankees starters have only completed 6 innings in 6 of 13 starts, and only once have they completed 7. As Tommy notes in the excerpt, the Yankees have used their bullpen more than all but a handful of teams. The result of this inefficiency is that multiple relievers have been needed in every single game that the Yankees have played in.
Leaving aside the obvious statement this makes about the quality of the rotation, it could have a major impact on the effectiveness of the bullpen down the stretch. While Joe Girardi does an excellent job managing bullpen workloads, he might find it difficult to balance winning games with keeping his relievers fresh under these circumstances. If the Yankees rotation continues to falter, thus requiring 17+ innings from the bullpen on each turn through the rotation, the Yankees are likely to have a handful of relievers that are worn out by the time August rolls around.
This is a problem that can be solved if the Yankees can coax a bit more length out of 2 of the final 3 spots in the rotation. If 2 of Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia can give them a bit more length as the season progresses, the Yankees should be able to survive under Girardi’s deft bullpen workload management.