There’s very little doubt that the Yankees bullpen was an integral part of their success in 2012. Despite an injury to God that would have had most teams reeling, the Yankees’ bullpen overcame the loss of its best asset to finish 9th in WAR (Fangraphs version) for MLB. This same bullpen also checked for 6th in xFIP, indicating that Yankee relievers weren’t luck-boxing their way into a strong year and that overall skill played a part in the results. Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Boone Logan logged the highest respective inning totals for the Yankees and led the bullpen in WAR.

Everyone knows that God’s cutter is the stuff of legends and is integral to his success, but this post will attempt to explore what made each of these three 2012 bullpen anchors successful over the past year. Since strikeouts are the definitive way for a reliever to add the most value late in the game, it’s perhaps unsurprising that each of the below checked in with an above-average strikeout rate for 2012. However, what led to this strikeout success (and therefore late-inning value)? Did each have his own “go-to” pitch that was able to generate skill-based results beyond the broader pack? Let’s see what the 2012 data says. The Untucker has departed for grass fed err greener pastures, but we’ll still include him in this analysis.

Rafael Soriano 

Pitch with Highest Whiff Percentage: Fastball, 10.71% whiff rate and 51% of Soriano’s offerings
Pitch value per 100 offerings: +1.60 | Major League Average: +0.33 | Soriano added value: +1.27

David Robertson

Pitch with Highest Whiff Percentage: Curveball, 20.94% whiff rate and 18% of Robertson’s offerings
Pitch value per 100 offerings: +1.06 | Major League Average: +0.46| Robertson added value: +0.60

Boone Logan

Pitch with Highest Whiff Percentage: Slider, 20.44% whiff rate and 52% of Logan’s offerings
Pitch value per 100 offerings: +1.14| Major League Average: 0.82 | Logan added value: +0.32

The data confirms that each of the Yankees best relievers had a unique pitch for inducing whiffs: Soriano’s cheese, Robertson’s hammer of doom and Boone’s slider. Moreover, each pitch was above-average relative to the league standards for 2012, indicating a measure of true shutdown skill potential in excess of the broader league that partly shows what drove their respective successes in 2012. Drilling down into this root cause of value add should provide added reason for optimism about the late innings in the Bronx, especially with Rivera returning. Now, if only there were someone of skill behind the plate tocatch the ball…

Data from Brooks Baseball and Fangraphs

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