The combo of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller out of the bullpen has been crucial to the New York Yankees success this year. They have been able to shut down opponents and keep tight leads late in games. But has skipper Joe Girardi been overusing them? Some people believe this will hurt the Yankees later on in this year and even next year. With the rising concern of Tommy John surgery amongst young fire ballers, should the Yankees reduce the workload of these two pitchers?
Hitters go up to the plate against Miller or Betances and are back in the dugout before they know what hit them, which is why Girardi continues to call upon them. Betances and Miller have combined for 122 1/3 of the Yankees 452 1/3 innings out of the bullpen this year, with Betances accounting for 71 of those. The 6’8’’ right-hander has been the go-to guy in tough situations for Girardi. While he is normally the set up man, he has come in as early as the 6th inning. Miller has been primarily used in the closer role this year, but we have seen him come into the ballgame in the 8th inning to finish off some games. With pitchers arms at the most vulnerable state ever, the threat of Tommy John is in the back of every pitcher’s mind.
Tommy John surgery has given pitchers a second and even third chance at continuing their careers. But the common trend that most of the players who get the surgery is that they are mostly young, hard throwing guys who achieve early success and then are overused as a result. These young pitchers don’t know how to properly take care of their arms and bodies, and as a result they end up tearing their UCL. In recent years, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez, two of baseball’s best young power pitchers recently underwent the procedure and have retuned. While this is great for their careers, not all pitchers are fortunate to recover fully.
Some of baseballs best and hardest throwing arms have had Tommy John surgery have had the procedure and have either got rocked when trying to comeback or retired. Eric Gagne, Joba Chamberlain, Joel Zumaya, and Brian Wilson are just some of the names on this very unfortunate list. These are all relievers who were throwing 95-plus, and have seen their careers dwindle down after receiving the surgery. While Betances and Miller both fit this category, could they be next?
While Betances and Miller both throw hard, I don’t believe they will be the next victims of Tommy John surgery. If Girardi can get a 3rd key bullpen guy, like the 2014 Royals had with Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland, and Wade Davis, then that would help save both arms of Miller and Betances. While Justin Wilson is leading the bullpen in appearances with 64, his 50.2 innings are 4th out of the bullpen. Wilson is used mainly as a lefty matchup guy when he is in the ball game.
The Yankees bullpen has been one of the reasons that the Bronx Bombers are still in contention for not only a playoff spot, but the AL East crown as well. The back end of that bullpen, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances consistently lock the door down when they need a victory. But with they innings that both are throwing getting a little too high for comfort, many are skeptical about if their arms will be protected. They are critical for the Yankees success, but the though of Tommy John is terrifying for Yankees fans. In the offseason, Brian Cashman should look for another hard throwing reliever to help reduce the innings for Betances, and also make the Yankees bullpen that much more powerful.