Maybe we should have seen this coming.
Dellin Betances’ season line from 2013 appears uninspiring at first glance: in six games he posted a 10.80 ERA, allowing six earned runs and nine hits in five innings. But five of those hits and four of those runs came during a single game, his first major league action of the season on Aug. 13 against the Angels.
That day he was plain awful.
Afterwards? That’s a different story.
Betances pitched in five September games for a Yankees team that would miss the playoffs for just the second time since 1995. In 4.1 innings, he allowed four hits, walked one and struck out eight, providing a glimpse of the dominance he would unleash on the rest of baseball this season.
By any measure, Betances hasn’t been just one of the best relievers on the Yankees, one of the best relievers in the American League or one of the best relievers in the majors: Put plainly, he’s one of the best pitchers in MLB this season. Period. Full stop.
In 30 games, Betances has pitched 41.2 innings, allowing 19 hits and 11 walks for a microscopic 0.72 WHIP. He has struck out an amazing 70 batters, 45.4 percent of all batters he’s faced.
He’s second among all rookie pitchers in Fangraphs’ measure of Wins Above Replacement with 1.7. The only man leading him is Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka (2.9 WAR).
Of the 563 pitchers who have taken the mound for a team this season, Betances’ 1.7 WAR is tied for 28th overall with Jose Fernandez, Cliff Lee, Michael Wacha and Aaron Harang. He’s just outpaced by Cole Hamels and Sonny Gray, who each have 1.8 WAR.
He leads all major league relievers in WAR, beating Braves closer Craig Kimbrel and A’s closer Sean Doolittle, each of whom have had stellar seasons with 1.6 WAR.
A quick search on Fangraphs ranks 23,478 relief seasons, ordered by WAR. In less than three months of work, Betances’ 2014 already ranks tied for 483rd on the list.
Here’s how Betances’ stats through June 19 compare to the 10 greatest relief seasons ever (as determined by Fangraphs WAR) through the same date:
|1. Bruce Sutter||1977||Cubs||59.2||32||72||7||2||0.75||0.65|
|2. Mark Eichhorn||1986||Blue Jays||58.2||27||64||18||3||1.07||0.76|
|3. Bruce Sutter||1979||Cubs||39||23||40||10||2||1.15||0.84|
|4. Jim Kern||1979||Rangers||64||49||60||25||1||1.69||1.15|
|5. Goose Gossage||1975||White Sox||67.1||45||56||32||2||1.74||1.14|
|6. Eric Gagne||2003||Dodgers||37||15||67||8||1||1.70||0.62|
|7. Mariano Rivera||1996||Yankees||46.2||27||51||15||0||1.54||0.90|
|8. Rob Dibble||1990||Reds||38.2||27||62||14||1||1.40||1.06|
|9. Goose Gossage||1977||Pirates||56.1||35||65||22||3||1.44||1.01|
|10. Duane Ward||1991||Blue Jays||42.1||32||47||14||2||2.98||1.08|
When Yankees reliever David Robertson successfully made the All-Star team in 2011 as a set-up man, his stats through June 19 read like this: 29.1 innings, 47 strikeouts, 20 walks, a 1.39 WHIP.
Betances already has outperformed him.
Is he an All-Star?
He should be. The only real question is whether this is just a brilliant season or the start of a brilliant career.