Heading into the season, most people thought the Yankees would have an outstanding bullpen — and that has certainly been the case:

However, with the loss of the greatest reliever in history, will this premiere bullpen cease being top class? It’s a downgrade to the depth chart, for sure, but the Yankees should still maintain a solid pen.

First, the Yankees couldn’t be better positioned to absorb the loss of Mariano with David Robertson waiting in the wings. Remember, D-Rob was actually better than Mariano last year in ERA, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. For non-stat geeks, what this means is that Robertson was the better pitcher in 2011. In fact, since the start of 2011, D-Rob has arguably been the best reliever in all of baseball (Craig Kimbrel being the other case). As reliable and comforting it feels to have Mo back there, it’s hard to argue the Yankees lose much if God’s innings go to Robertson.

Of course, there’s a chain reaction in the earlier innings to consider. Rafael Soriano is obviously not in the same class as D-Rob. He’s had repeated health issues, and his xFIP since joining the Yankees is 4.25. He walks too many batters, and his extreme fly ball tendencies are scary in Yankee Stadium. Joe Girardi would do well to optimize his appearances on the road . After that, the bullpen is an open question.

Still, it’s a question that at least has potentially rosy answers. Corey Wade has put up some ridiculous peripherals in an ultra-small sample: 13.1 IP, 10.80 K/9, 1.35 BB/9, 51.4% groundball rate. He’s obviously not THAT good, but it might not be a total mirage. He’s more than doubled his slider usage and it has been very effective. As long as he doesn’t fall off the map, he’s at least a suitable setup/middle reliever.

Boone Logan and Clay Rapada are there to fill in against lefties in high leverage spots. The Yankees also have young guys who are candidates to eat up middle innings effectively, as we’ve seen with David Phelps. There’s obviously DJ Mitchell too, but don’t sleep on AAA reliever Chase Whitley who’s been speeding through the system.

And this is to say nothing of possible reinforcements coming off the DL in the final months of the season. Former closer David Aardsma could be back in August, and there’s an outside chance Joba Chamberlain could return, which is a potentially huge boost for the back end.

Joe Girardi has the pieces to patch over this wound and still have a top bullpen. It is imperative, now more than ever, that he avoid his past match-up folly and properly leverage his late inning guys. This includes tearing himself away from the “closer is reserved for save situations” rule. The Yankees have one pitcher who is clearly in a class of his own. If the Yankees find themselves in a very high leverage spot in the 8th, or even the 7th inning, Robertson needs to be in there.