Everyone agrees the Yankees have built a formidable back end of the bullpen with the trio of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
Comparisons to the “Nasty Boys” from the 1990 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds are inevitable and were immediate.
The Reds under manager Lou Piniella (and bullpen coach Larry Rothschild, now the Yankees’ pitching coach) had a lefthanded closer in former Met Randy Myers, a righthanded setup man in Rob Dibble and a lefthanded setup man in Norm Charlton.
All three threw hard, just like the lefthanded Chapman and Miller and the righthanded Betances. But the Yankees’ trio lacks a catchy nickname and a World Series ring. The latter quest begins on April 4.
So which trio would you rather have? We asked one of the Nasty Boys.
“If I have to pick one, I’ll pick them,” said Dibble, the host of “The Rob Dibble Show” on ESPN-97.9 in Hartford, Connecticut. “Because first of all, they throw harder than we did. They’re younger than we were. And now we’re in our 50s!”
Actually, the Nasty Boys were younger than the Yankees’ relievers are now. Dibble was 26 and Myers and Charlton were in their age-27 seasons. Chapman turns 28 on Sunday, Betances turns 28 on March 23 and Miller is 30.
“The bullpen was already strong,” Dibble said. “You add Chapman, and just from an entertainment standpoint, it gives people something. You’ve sat through 21⁄2 hours of a close game and now just the thought of having Miller, Betances and Chapman come in games, it reminds me growing up and watching Ron Davis and Goose Gossage or Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage come into games. It just makes it exciting so you’re on the edge of your seat. It makes your entertainment and adrenaline go up.”
It certainly did at Riverfront Stadium in 1990 as the Reds swept the heavily favored Oakland A’s in the World Series.
Reputations (and nicknames that last more than a quarter-century) are made in the postseason. The Reds beat the Pirates in six games in the NLCS before beating the defending World Series champions, who featured the pre-taint Bash Brothers (Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire).
In the postseason, the Nasty Boys were a combined 2-1 with five saves, one earned run allowed and 27 strikeouts in 241⁄3 innings.
Dibble and Myers were named co-MVPs of the NLCS after Myers saved three wins and Dibble the other. Dibble threw five scoreless, hitless innings and struck out 10.
Hard to get nastier than that.
The Yankees are going to try.
“Once you put two lefties that throw 95 and a righty together, it’s fun,” Dibble said. “It’s fun to see the other team be deflated knowing that ‘we’re down two runs with nine outs to go, and nine out of 10 times, we’re not going to be able to accomplish anything against these guys.’ ”
In the regular season, Myers, who came over from the Mets in a trade for John Franco, went 4-6 with a 2.08 ERA and 31 saves and struck out 10.2 batters per nine innings. Dibble was 8-3 with a 1.74 ERA, 11 saves and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Charlton made 16 starts and 40 relief appearances. As a reliever, he was 6-4 with a 3.02 ERA, two saves and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
There’s zero chance of any of the Yankees’ big three making a start unless Joe Girardi really has something wacky up his sleeve. A repeat performance of their 2015 numbers would be just fine for Yankees fans. It might even cause some of the wine-and-cheese crowd behind home plate to stick around for the late innings, especially to see Chapman and his more-than-100-mph fastball.
Last season, Chapman went 4-4 with 33 saves, a 1.63 ERA and 15.7 strikeouts per nine innings for the Reds. Miller, now a deposed closer, won the Mariano Rivera AL reliever of the year award by going 3-2 with 36 saves, a 2.06 ERA and 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Betances was 6-4 with a 1.50 ERA, nine saves and 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings.
One legitimate question for the Yankees is how much better they will be with Chapman in and Justin Wilson out. Wilson, the seventh-inning guy last year, was traded to Detroit for two pitching prospects after going 5-0, 3.10 with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
According to baseball-reference.com, Chapman’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) was 2.7 and Wilson’s was 1.4. Baseball Prospectus has it even closer with their WARP: 1.8 for Chapman vs. 1.4 for Wilson.
As Miller put it recently: “I think Justin Wilson was pretty good last year . . . but Chapman’s a special arm. It helps us win games. Helps us get to the goal. It’s a good thing.”
If all goes well, the Yankees will be able to employ their trio deep into October. Maybe someone will even come up with a nickname for Chapman, Miller and Betances that still will be remembered in 2042.