Who Has Been The Most Dominant Yankee Reliever This Century? Hint: It’s Not Who You’d Think

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: Mariano Rivera (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: Mariano Rivera (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The New York Yankees pride themselves on having a shutdown bullpen, but which reliever has been the most dominant for the Yankees since the turn of the century?

He was better than Dellin Betances. He was better than Aroldis Chapman. He even was better than Mariano Rivera.

Andrew Miller’s 2016 campaign was the most dominant by any Yankee reliever this century, and it’s not even close.

To assess the overall strength of relief pitchers, I created this metric–we’ll call it “Dominance” for now:


The Most Dominant Relievers (Minimum 25 IP)

SeasonNameSO/9WH/9 gmLlFielding %RA/9 Dominance
12016Andrew Miller15.371.711.0001.59 8.926415
22012Mariano Rivera9.861.941.0001.40 5.265714
32014Dellin Betances13.571.360.8571.50 5.050587
42015Dellin Betances14.09.11.671.0001.82 4.496154
52017Chad Green12. 4.229885
62011David Robertson13.510.11.670.8571.22 3.988562
72015Andrew Miller14.67.71.620.8002.34 3.821538
82016Aroldis Chapman12.681.901.0002.30 3.800000
92014David Robertson13. 2.519255
102017Dellin Betances16.211.61.411.0002.63 2.466160
112016Dellin Betances15.510.21.500.7693.82 1.600406
122009Mariano Rivera9.88.51.851.0001.90 1.265789
132005Mariano Rivera9.27.81.781.0002.07 1.203865
142004Tom Gordon9.67.91.630.9502.31 1.139589
152011Mariano Rivera8.87.71.951.0001.91 1.123037
162013David Robertson10.49.31.481.0002.04 0.798039
172017Aroldis Chapman12.911.21.581.0003.45 0.778551
182012David Robertson12.010.51.441.0002.82 0.765957
192007Mariano Rivera9.310.11.531.0003.15 -0.388571
202001Mariano Rivera9. -0.445187
212010Kerry Wood10.7111.271.0000.69 -0.552174
222010Mariano Rivera6.87.61.861.0002.10 -0.708571
232012Rafael Soriano9.210.51.640.8332.26 -0.785821
242003Mariano Rivera8.09.11.830.9051.91 -0.953804
252013Mariano Rivera7.69.51.861.0002.25 -1.570667
262006Mariano Rivera6.68.61.721.0001.92 -1.791667
272004Mariano Rivera7.69.71.820.9761.94 -1.922821


  • SO/9: Strikeouts per 9 innings.
  • WH/9: Walks and Hits per 9 innings.
  • gmLl: Game-Entering Leverage. Solely an analytic for relievers, this measures the strength of opposing hitters. The higher the number, the higher the pressure of the situation.
  • Fielding%: (Putouts + Assists) / (Putouts + Assists + Errors)
  • RA/9: Runs allowed per 9 innings. This is like ERA, but with unearned runs included.

All terms and analytics are provided by Baseball Reference.


Relief pitchers are relied on by managers to get their team out of a jam, which often implies entering a game with runners already on base. Being able to shut down a hitter with a strikeout while holding the runners at their bases can serve as a deadly weapon for any reliever. For the same reason, unnecessary walks and hits can become any pitcher’s worst nightmare.

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Game-Entering Leverage properly credits relievers for handling a stronger part of the order. Closers typically feature a higher gmLl just by the nature of their position, but any potential inflation in “Dominance” due to an increased gmLl would be counterbalanced by a proportional increase in RA/9.

Pitchers typically don’t make too many errors out on the mound, however, if they do, it can be extremely costly, and those who did were penalized accordingly.

The decision to factor in all runs allowed by a reliever, including those unearned, stems from the same notion that being able to strike out a hitter is extremely important. The goal is to hold the baserunners, especially those already on base.


Let me just start by saying that I agree with all of you that Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of our generation and no doubt a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but if you asked me right now to pick a reliever to get me out of a bases loaded situation with no outs, I’m putting the ball in Andrew Miller’s 2016 hands. The Cleveland Indians were clearly cognizant of that when they agreed to give up a haul of top prospects, centered around Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, in order to acquire him at last year’s trade deadline.

Mo does indeed have a high finish, most notably at No. 2, but what becomes suspect is that he does not crack the list again until all the way down at No. 12. Rivera then basically hugs the bottom until the end, while Dellin Betances cruised to two of the top four spots.

Statistically, maybe Mariano was not as great as we all praised him to be, but if you ask any hitter who has faced him, I am certain they will attest to the contrary.

And let’s not overlook how reliable Chad Green has been for the Yankees this season. He may be overshadowed by flashy names like Betances, Robertson, Kahnle, and Chapman, but he is quietly having a tremendous season, earning himself the fifth spot on a list of elite names.

Next: New York Yankees 40-Man Roster Series: 40-Man Locks

This list confirms for all of us just how dominant the Yankees’ pen has been of late. In the 17 seasons from which this list was compiled, seven of the top 11 spots were taken by relievers since 2015.