The Blue Jays will be in tough against the New York Yankees in 2016, and their Monday addition of Aroldis Chapman
will further shorten ball games
The Blue Jays AL East rivals from New York are undergoing an interesting shift in philosophy this offseason. They’ve shifted away from large contracts2 to aging bats, instead choosing to target youth like Starlin Castro, but their Monday addition of Reds closer Aroldis Chapman has them following a new trend in the MLB: gluttonous bullpen stocking.
Known as the “Kansas City Royals model” after the first team in league history to field a successful bullpen and succeed (I think), you’ll also see this in Boston with the addition of Craig Kimbrel. Now in New York, a back end of Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances represents somewhat of a trump card from the 7th inning onwards.
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In the movie ‘300’, a leader in the Persian army tells Stelios (played by Michael Fassbender) “A thousand nations of the Persian empire will descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!”. Stelios, unflinching, responds: “Then we will fight in the shade.” That’s where your Toronto Blue Jays now stand against the Yankees, fighting in the shade of innings one through six.
Chapman earned his fourth consecutive All Star nod in 2015, posting a 1.63 ERA and striking out 15.7 batters per nine innings. That also marked his fourth consecutive season with a K/9 above 15.0, which is regrettably not a typo. The potential of a suspension could remain, however, as Chapman is under investigation for serious allegations of domestic abuse, the importance of which far exceeds the numbers and depth charts that we spend our days blathering about.
Betances has given the Yankees a cumulative ERA of 1.45 with a 13.8 K/9 over the past two seasons, and perhaps the arrival of Chapman will allow New York to scale back his workload just slightly to maximize his impact. Andrew Miller picked up 36 saves in his first pinstriped season, earning a 2.04 ERA with 14.6 K/9. In one year of hindsight, his four-year, $36 million contract is a fantastic value play.
So where does this leave the Blue Jays? The Yankees have strengthened a strength, though questions in their starting rotation and an aging lineup remain. Much like Toronto or Boston, the Yankees are a “very good ball club, but…”. Perhaps Toronto steals one game from this back-end trio in 2016, but clearly, their bats will need to do early work.
This past season, Toronto was 1-2 in games against New York decided by one run. In games decided by just two runs, the Blue Jays were 4-1. Even if Toronto sees that 5-3 record drop to 3-5, their cumulative record against New York on the season drops from 13-6 to 11-8. Still fine, especially considering they outscored New York 85-56 across the 19 games.
Breezing past this addition as a non-problem, though, is as convincing as Ross Geller telling you “I’m fine”. If anything, this addition to the back end gives the Yankees a fairly simple equation against the Blue Jays. A good outing from the starting pitcher equals a win, with a much greater certainty than any other club can say. For Toronto, their bats just need to arrive a bit earlier to the party.