This year has not been especially kind to Dellin Betances insofar as feeling respected by his club.
Yankees president Randy Levine lambasted Betances in public in February, after the right-handed reliever's arbitration hearing. Levine -- in a combative tone -- suggested that Betances was not a closer and shouldn't be paid like one.
Tuesday night, in the American League Wild Card game that featured the Yankees bullpen nailing down 26 of the 27 outs, Betances didn't get the call from Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
Betances' 2017 regular season numbers were eye-popping, but unfortunately from both sides of the productivity scale. Betances racked up 100 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings (15.1 K/9), however he was exceptionally wild, walking 44 batters (6.6 BB/9) and hitting 11 batters. The walk rate was a career high, as was the HBP count.
There was a point in the regular season that the Yankees might have floundered without Betances. With closer Aroldis Chapman on the disabled list, Betances slid comfortably into the role and was extremely productive. As the closer during the span, Betances nailed down six of six save opportunities, allowing one run (unearned) on four hits, striking out 19 with five walks in 10 innings (10 appearances).
Betances baffles because the hot and cold streaks come out of nowhere, like a stiff change in wind direction during a storm. Betances had an especially poor September (5.59 ERA) after a sensational August (1.50 ERA), which saw him removed from high-leverage consideration as the regular season wound down.
Betances' recent performance certainly had something to do with Girardi's decision to skip over Betances in the Wild Card game. I do wonder if Girardi missed out on getting Betances some outs and a needed confidence boost with a four-run lead in the eighth inning of Tuesday's game. In would have also alleviated Tommy Kahnle from being extended to a second inning of work.
One thought I had as Girardi bypassed Betances in the game was the manager knew he was going to need his big reliever in Game 1 of the ALDS. Green had been extended, Robertson threw 52 pitches and Kahnle looked as good as he has in pinstripes. Instead of following his bullpen manual, Girardi read the tea leaves in front of him and they said that the pitchers he had on the mound were completely on their game and there was no need to shift gears.
I'm not suggesting Girardi made a mistake, but it is worth noting that it will be six days since Betances pitched in a game with the availability of Chad Green, David Robertson and Kahnle in question. Betances pitching with that much time in between work would seem like a recipe for disaster, but he's actually fared well the last two seasons with five days of rest -- 7 G, 7 2/3 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB and 10 K.
Is there something to it? Betances has a reputation for performing poorly when not working every couple of days, but maybe significantly extended rest allows him to completely shake out the cobwebs?
More than most likely, we will find out tonight if a reset works. Girardi might be met with a situation in tonight's ALDS Game 1 affair in which he would have not hesitated to turn to Betances as recent as August. In October, Girardi could hear voices in his head telling him to bypass Betances, but there may not be another reliever to turn to.
Betances will either blow up or prosper whenever he takes the bump. The first batter he faces in ALDS could tell the tale for the rest of the postseason -- a knee-buckling curveball for a strikeout or four pitches nowhere near the plate. If he manages the former and a clean inning, it could propel Betances to a patented dominant streak. If that happens, the Yankees bullpen becomes even stronger than they proved to be Tuesday night.