I wrote at length about Zach Britton when the Yankees acquired him last July and 25 innings in pinstripes from then until last October wouldn’t do much to change my opinion one way or the other. But the fact that his 25 innings with the Yankees from July through October were similar to his 15 innings with Baltimore prior to July of ’18 means I’m not going to say anything too much different today.
That being said…
The dilemma, for me anyway, with Britton is that he is one of those players that makes it very difficult to separate the eye test from the performance. At the risk of sounding like the old ex-jocks we typically hear on broadcasts, his stuff is nasty. I mean seriously nasty. Like, pull out your thesaurus and find another word for nasty because nasty doesn’t do his stuff justice. He’s the kind of pitcher that makes you put the numbers away because he is just damn fun to watch.
The kind of nasty that makes me chuckle when announcers condescendingly ask “Why doesn’t the batter just hit the ball the opposite way against the shift?” Ha…right. Good luck to all not named Gwynn or Boggs.
But here’s the Britton reality: His actual performance hasn’t been very good for a while now.
Among 88 American League relief pitchers with a minimum of 40 innings last season, Britton ranked 83rd in K%-BB%.
Among that same group, he was 56th out of 88 in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).
Again, I mentioned it last time so I won’t rehash, but I’m hoping there’s something to the theory that pitchers need some time when returning from a stretch of injury-riddled play. But to be blunt, I gave Brian Cashman that doubt benefit last season and it didn’t really work out.
Another unpleasant reality is that Britton is 31 years old and plays a role that history suggests these guys won’t be around long. To add irony to the curious situation is the Yankees chose not to re-sign David Robertson, who is one of the biggest exceptions to the relievers don’t last long rule.
When I have my hypothetical GM hat on, this is a contract I would not have green-lighted. I hope I’m wrong. Britton, along with Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman compromise what may be the “nastiest stuff” bullpen I’ve ever seen.
But the reality suggests we be prepared for disappointment.
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