Next up in our Pinch Hitters series is Gil Teitelbaum, a computer programer who lives in Israel with his wife and four kids. Gil is a longtime Yankees fan, who says he’s hoping baseball will eventually become as popular in Israel as it is in the United States. He took a statistical look at the Yankees bench and bullpen from 1996 through 2010, trying to determine what kind of role those reserve players might have played in the Yankees successes and failures of the past decade and a half.
The Yankees won the World Series four times over the 1996-2000 seasons. In the ten years since, the Yankees have won the World Series only once. Were those great teams built to better succeed in the playoffs?
I have had the impression that over the last ten years, the Yankees have sacrificed the bench and bullpen strength in favor of having an all star caliber player at each position. I wanted to take a look and see if the quality of the bench and bullpen really has declined over the last ten years.
I wanted to find statistics that could convey both the quality and the quantity of the bench and bullpen. Bench players and bullpen pitchers don’t play every day – I chose to look at ERA and OPS since those numbers aren’t affected by at bats or innings pitched. Players who do not perform well during the regular season are rarely going to play in the playoffs – so I didn’t want to look at team totals for reliever ERA or OPS.
|Year||ERA Below 3||ERA Below 4
(but above 3)
|ERA Below 5
(but above 4)
Hitters: Bench players with OPS exceeding certain percentages:
|Year||OPS above .700 (but below .800)||OPS above .800 (but below .900)||OPS above .900||Total|
Given that anything can happen over a short playoff series, I didn’t want to analyze the results on a year to year basis because this can be misleading. I wanted to look at a range of years to see how the makeup of a team over a span of several years affected winning in the playoffs.
After taking a look at the numbers I saw that:
• The Yankees had a strong bullpen from 1996 to 2001 and from 2006 to 2010.
• The Yankees had a strong bench from 1996 to 2000 and from 2003 to 2005
• There is rarely a time over the last ten years that the Yankees have had both a great bench and a great bullpen (Except in 2009)
• There weren’t any relievers that performed consistently well for the Yankees for any span of time longer than two years (with the exception of Mariano Rivera of course) over the last 10 years. This is in contrast crew of Rivera, Nelson, Stanton, Mendoza and Lloyd who were together in the late-90s and mostly performed well for a good number of years.
• My starting assumption was that the Yankees had a good lineup and rotation between 1996 and 2010 and that the major variable was bullpen and bench strength and depth. This was not entirely the case – between 2004 and 2008 was rather shaky. It was clear that the bullpen and bench depth were not the worst shortcomings of the 2004-2005 teams.
Associated Press photo of Rivera