Dellin Betances Spring Struggles A Cause For Concern For New York Yankees


Last season, Dellin Betances was a revelation for the New York Yankees. He dominated as the set-up man in front of closer David Robertson, becoming a weapon for manager Joe Girardi to deploy in many different situations and times in the game. He pitched so well, and the Yankees’ confidence in him swelled so much, they allowed Robertson to leave this offseason as a free agent, opting instead for the duo of Betances and the newly signed Andrew Miller. Could this be something the Yankees will soon be regretting?

The 2014 season that Betances had came out of nowhere, but was extremely impressive. Anyone who had watched him in spring though could have had an inkling that the regular season would bring some success, as a dominant 2014 spring training was carried over to the regular season when games count.

He made 70 appearances, throwing 90 innings. In those 90 innings, Betances pitched to a 1.40 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, allowing only 46 hits, 15 runs, 14 of which were earned, to go with only 24 walks. He blew away hitters, striking out 135 while racking up one save with 22 holds, good enough for a 3.7 WAR. The fact he had a war that high yet wasn’t a closer speaks volumes for just how valuable a piece Betances was last season.

With stats like that, it is understandable that the Yankees had such confidence heading into the 2015 season. That confidence could be waning though, as Betances has looked more like the failed top starting pitching prospect than dominant reliever.

The 2015 spring is essentially a polar opposite of the 2014 version for Betances. After firing off a 0.73 ERA and WHIP in 2014 with 11 strikeouts and four walks in 12 ⅓ innings, Betances has badly regressed this time around.

In only 7 ⅓ innings thus far, Betances has already given up more hits, walks and runs, while seeing his strikeouts dwindle. He has already surrendered eight hits, five walks and five earned runs, equaling a 6.14 ERA, 1.77 WHIP and .286 batting average against. Those kind of numbers would normally land a player back in the minor leagues, but with the lofty expectations, and spot in the bullpen Betances had entering camp, he will make the major league roster, but with plenty of question marks.

The numbers are not good, but people will say it is only spring training, so you cannot look much into the stats. If that was the case, there is a very good chance last season doesn’t happen for Betances, as the bust label placed on him looked as if it would stick until he made the team as a reliever. Even looking beyond the stats, there are still some more troubling things Betances is facing this spring.

For one, he had five consecutive appearances in which he gave up a run. That happened a total of zero times during the 2014 regular season against much tougher competition. That is troubling because Betances isn’t starting games, which means he is more often than not facing backups and minor leaguers later in games. If he did that during the regular season, you could bet the house on him having been sent in for only mop duty. As an expected closer this season, that could equal five blown saves and losses for a Yankees team that cannot afford many slip ups if they wish to contend for the playoffs this season.

Mar 25, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Andrew Miller (48) throws a pitch against the New York Mets at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What is most troubling though is the velocity that Betances has been showing. At this point in spring training, regulars should be kicking it into high gear and rounding into shape for the regular season. Betances seems to be nowhere near that, as he topped out at 92 MPH in his last appearance, more often than not sitting around 90 MPH. That will not cut it in the spring training, let alone in the regular season in high pressure situations as a closer. That kind of speed will look like live batting practice for everyday major leaguers.

The only thing working in Betances’ favor right now is that Miller is not exactly lighting it up either this spring. But Miller’s 2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and eight strikeouts in 7 innings is light-years better than what Betances has been putting forth.

At this juncture, it would be smart for the Yankees to let Miller roll as the closer in the early going, allowing Betances some more time to figure things out in middle relief. The Yankees can afford that because they have Miller in addition to David Carpenter and Justin Wilson to mix and match at the end of games while Betances works out the kinks in his game.

More from New York Yankees

Betances is scheduled to make one more appearance this spring, Saturday against the Washington Nationals. It would be hard to envision Betances opening the season as the closer, but pitching well Saturday would do wonders for his confidence heading into the season.

Last season he was able to ride a hot spring into a strong season. The Yankees are hoping for more of the same Saturday, as Betances is a big part of the Yankees plans this season if they are to have any success.

Next: Who is the best Yankee of all-time?

More from Empire Writes Back