Yankees now have baseball best bullpen, Dodgers rebound with Kazmir

The Kansas City Royals went on a two-year World Series run with their bullpen being their key asset. By acquiring flamethrower reliever Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Yankees have put together he most fearsome bullpen in the big leagues.

With Chapman joining incumbent closer Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, the Yankees are looking to shut down the final three innings of the game in spectacular fashion. They are the only trio in baseball with 100 strikeouts each. Chapman has struck out 15.4 batters per nine innings pitched in his career, the highest strikeout rate in Major League Baseball history (100 innings pitched minimum). Chapman led all pitcher with a strikeout rate of 42 percent. The crazy thing is that 2015 was a down season by Chapman’s standards. 42 percent was actually his lowest strikeout rate since 2011.

Watching Chapman strikeout the side in the All-Star Game made the entire trip to Cincinnati worth it. That, and Reds third baseman Todd Fraizer winning the most exciting home run derby in history in front of the hometown fans. The reason why Chapman is so dominant and spectacular is his fastball and how it breaks the radar gun. Of the 573 pitches thrown by pitchers last season that reached 100 miles per hour or more, 337 of them came from the long cannon of Chapman. Opposing batters have managed to hit only .121 against Chapman in at-bats that ended with a fastball that reached 100 miles per hour.

As a testament to how dominant Champman is, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera has 34 strikeouts on pitches that hit triple digits, good for the second highest total in baseball since 2010, Chapman’s debut season. Chapman has the most by 202.

The Boston Red Sox are elated by the acquisition of closer Craig Kimbrel earlier in the offseason. He is the only reliever who held opponents to a lower slugging percentage than Chapman since 2010. Chapman, however, has held opponents to a .154 batting average in his career, which is the lowest in baseball since.

Since 2010, Chapman ranks sixth in saves (146) and ninth in WHIP (1.02). His WHIP is his WHIP but the saves total are impressive considering he played on a team that reached the postseason half the time. Being on the Dodgers, who have reached the postseason in each of the last three seasons, had a bullpen ERA of 3.87 in 2015, which was good for 11th in the National League but the highest among NL postseason qualifiers. By they acquiring Chapman, the Yankees will be very hard to comeback on next year.

Chapman was originally supposed to go to the Los Angeles Dodgers but the trade fell through after the domestic violence investigation surfaced. The Dodgers also lost out on Hisashi Iwakuma after reportedly agreeing on a deal. They also lost Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks but rebounded with the signing of Scott Kazmir.

Kazmir is the most suitable replacement for Zack Greinke, who defected to the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier in the offseason. Last season with the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros, Kazmir posted a career-best 3.10 ERA while posting the second best WHIP, opponent batting average and opponent OPS.

This will be the first time in Kazmir’s career that he pitches in the National League. He was drafted by the New York Mets with the 15th overall pick in the 2002 first-year player draft but was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2004 for Victor Zambrano before making his big league debut.

Last season, Kazmir was the fourth-best left-handed starter in baseball according to Adjusted ERA (130), which compares a player’s ERA to the league average ERA (the average Adjusted ERA is 100) and adjusts for the effects of different ballparks, like the O.co Coliseum in Oakland and Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The three left-handed starters who’s Adjusted ERA was better than Kazmir’s last season (Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel and David Price) finished in the top three of Cy Young voting in their respective leagues. Had Kazmir pitched in the National League last sea on, his Adjusted ERA would’ve been second only to his new teammate, Kershaw (175).

What also makes Kazmir a suitable replacement to Greinke is his durability. A big deal considering Kazmir is a pitcher known for a high strikeout rate like Greinke. Since making his glorious comeback in 2012, Kazmir has averaged more than 177 innings pitched each season while also making at 30 starts for the second consecutive season. During that span, he is 10th among left-handed starters in strikeouts the past three seasons (481). In fact, he is a better strikeout pitcher in the second incarnation than before falling off the map in Anaheim.

With the signing of Scott Kazmir, the Los Angeles Dodgers have assembled an all left-handed starting rotation for the 2016 season. With the lone right-hander, Brandon McCarthy, recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers could start the season with a rotation comprising of Kazmir, Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood.

Thanks Getty Images!

 

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About: Tony Capobianco

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Sports Kave senior writer

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