The KC Royals may no longer have the best bullpen in baseball after the New York Yankees acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds on Monday.
The deal creates a Kansas City Royals-like three-headed monster atop the Yankee pen consisting of setup man Andrew Miller and 2015 closer Dellin Betances. Where Chapman fits into the mix is an open question, but it doesn’t really matter. Whomever closes games in New York is going to intimidate.
“They’re taking this super-pen thing the Royals won with to another level,” an AL scout said on Monday to the New York Daily News.
The unnamed scout’s opinion is well-founded on fact. All three of the Yankee bullpen aces can throw over 100 mph and had K/9 rates over 14.0 last season. The KC Royals prospective top three of Wade Davis, Joakim Soria, and Kelvin Herrera don’t even come close to the Yankee trio when it comes to missing bats. Of the three, only Wade Davis punched out more than 10 batters per nine innings in 2015.
Pretty much the only way the Kansas City Royals can even get back in the conversation is for general manager Dayton Moore to re-sign Greg Holland and hope he recovers from Tommy John surgery in time for the playoffs.
Take a look at their 2015 statistical comparison:
YANKEES [table id=40 /]
ROYALS [table id=41 /]
The Yankee super-pen even figures to give the 2014 Royals HDH trio a run for their money:
HDH Trio [table id=42 /]
[Note: the data for the above tables comes from Fangraphs.com]
Before we write a eulogy to the Kansas City Royals “best bullpen in baseball” title, we still need to remember that the Yankee trio might not get better results than their Kansas City counterparts because the Yankees are putting their strikeout artists in front of a defense that figures to play aging players like Carlos Beltran in right field, Mark Teixeira at first base, and Jacoby Ellsbury in center.
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Meanwhile, the KC Royals again figure to enjoy a better than average defender at every position much like the last three seasons.
Not only do the Yankees lack the Kansas City Royals top-shelf defense, they don’t have the contact hitters that are the other half of KC’s late-inning comeback equation.
I suppose the Yankees will be a case study of whether a dominant bullpen alone is enough to emulate the KC Royals last two playoff runs, or if would-be imitators need both the defense and contact hitting offense as well.
I must confess, I will look forward to matching up with the Yankess in the post-season in 2016.