JABO: Exercising Patience with Dellin Betances

Last year, Dellin Betances was one of baseball’s elite relievers, throwing 90 dominant innings out of the Yankees bullpen. He was a young bright spot on a team full of old disappointments, flashing the kind of stuff and command that gave the Yankees confidence to let David Robertson leave via free agency. With a 97 mph fastball and a nearly unhittable breaking ball coming from a 6’8 guy, it was pretty easy to imagine Betances becoming the next great Yankee closer.

But right now, Dellin Betances is a mess. In his first three appearances of 2015, he’s walked six batters, only two fewer than his entire total from the second half of 2014. The control problems could be attributable to a larger problem, however, as his fastball is down under 95 mph, and his curveball is off last year’s mark by the same amount. He’s simply not throwing the same stuff now that he was a year ago, and he’s certainly not locating what he is throwing, giving hitters an easy plan when he’s on the mound: don’t swing.

Among pitchers who have faced at least 10 batters this year, no pitcher has seen opponents swing less often than they have against Betances; they’ve only gone after 24 of his 81 pitches, a 29.6% swing rate. Opponents have recognized that Betances doesn’t know where the ball is going, and they’re letting him dig his own grave. So far, he’s done just that.

This isn’t just an April problem, either; Betances struggled to find the strike zone in Spring Training, walking six batters in just 8 1/3 innings during the month of March. Clearly, opponents noticed his Grapefruit League troubles, and they’ve now carried over to the start of the regular season. So, how concerned should the Yankees be about their young former-flamethrower?

Maybe less than you’d think.

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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9 years ago

Shocker given the Dusty Baker treatment last season.

9 years ago
Reply to  southie

He threw the same number of innings in 2013, and significantly more in 2012 and years prior. He came up as a starter. I doubt 90 innings was an unbearable burden.

Capt. Clutch
9 years ago
Reply to  bdhudson

You’re comparing apples to oranges. You cannot compare innings thrown as a starter with innings thrown as a reliever. Starter innings are usually not max effort and come in bulk with much more rest in between outing. 90 innings of relief work is a very substantial workload.