New York Daily News
YANKS PEN A DIFFERENT ENDING
With Chapman gone, closer role is Holmes’ alone as new era begins in Bomber bullpen
stretch last summer when the wheels fell off prior to him landing on the IL, Holmes walked four batters and hit another while allowing seven earned runs in four innings, good for a 15.75 ERA. In 45 innings up to that point, he had only walked 12 guys and owned a 1.20 ERA that did in fact prove too good to be true.
Each of the three blown saves that sounded the alarm bells and put Holmes on the shelf included at least one walk, the tell tale sign that this strike thrower was not operating correctly. The same problem reared its ugly head in the Cleveland series, when walks in Games 2 and Game 4 made Holmes’ outings much more tense than the Yankees would have asked for. It also led to Wandy Peralta, not Holmes, getting the save in the all-important
Game 4, a game that could have eliminated the Yankees before they got back to the Bronx.
With all of this fresh in their memory, the Yankees understand that they have several capable ninth-inning mercenaries should Holmes falter again. A fully healthy Michael King might actually be the best person for that role, but if the Yankees get the Holmes who rattled off 31.1 straight scoreless innings last year (breaking Rivera’s franchise record), they can deploy King as a fireman again in what would be one of the league’s deepest bullpens. Holmes cracking, though, puts pressure on the rest of a group that, while effective, is still fairly unproven. King has thrown fewer than 145 innings in his big-league career. Peralta, like Holmes, was a no-name for years until the Yankees got their hands on him in 2021. Jonathan Loaisiga may have the best pure stuff of any Yankee reliever, but he has even less MLB experience than Holmes.
This bullpen is still going to be very, very solid so long as everybody shows up. This isn’t exactly a house of cards, it’s got much more stability than that. It’s more like a Jenga tower, impenetrable when fully intact, easy to keep upright when all of the pieces are in place. But if pieces are removed (King getting injured) or get asked to hold too much weight (Peralta threw more innings last year than he had in any year since 2017), the integrity of the whole thing can quickly come into question. The structure can easily topple if foundational blocks like Holmes and Peralta aren’t up to the task, and with relievers it’s almost impossible to know if they will be until you see things actually play out. Just ask Loaisiga, who went from a 2.17 ERA and 2.4 WAR in 2021 to 4.12 and 0.4 last year, respectively.
A year of good Holmes will have a positive trickle down effect on the entire relief corps, though. It all starts with him, ironically the guy the Yankees hope will also be ending things on most nights. If they can count on Holmes every time a save situation rolls around — just like the Mets have with Edwin Diaz — he both shortens the game and allows his teammates to settle into a defined role as well, something every relief pitcher will tell you is crucial to their success.
Holmes in the ninth, Loaisiga in the eighth, King in the seventh and Peralta in the sixth is not something an opposing team wants to see when all of those guys are at the top of their games. But Holmes struggling would reconfigure the whole plan, as then they’d have to find a different closer from a roster where Lou Trivino is the only other person with real closer experience.
Luckily for the Yankees, the bullpen has not been an area of true concern in quite some time. Getting Chapman out of their hair only helps in that respect. But removing Chapman does remove one important thing: someone who knows how to get the 27th out. That duty now goes to Holmes and his modest career total of 20 saves, all from last year. While he’s shown that he can be elite, that was only for about half a season, and this team needs someone who can close out games from April all the way to the final night of the postseason.