Dellin Betances has gone from pariah to redeemer.
The struggles that plagued the Washington Heights native from the second half of the 2017 season through to the first month of the 2018 season have been washed away. He's rediscovered command of his devastating fastball/breaking ball combination; finally harnessed the immense potential imbued within a 6'8" frame that looms even larger atop the ten-inch high pitching mound.
His re-emergence as one of the game's elite relievers is as much as a testament to his own determination and perseverance just as much as the Yankees' newfound patience. Because the game is predicated on failure, a game that makes redemption stories into legends.
From then to now
The start to the 2017 season was as good as any for Betances. Heading into the All-Star break that year, his season ERA sat at 0.42. Throughout the entire month of May, he failed to give up a single earned run over 9.1 innings pitched, and over the first two-and-a-half months of 20.5 innings pitched, he struck out 41 batters.
But from the All-Star break to the end of the season, Betances grew increasingly erratic. Both June and July saw him post monthly ERA's over four, and July was rough as he walked 13 batters in 12.2 innings. August proved to be a return to form with an ERA of 1.50 for the month with six walks compared to 17 strikeouts in 12 innings, but September's accumulated 5.59 ERA with six earned runs in 9.2 innings on the back of seven walks were a serious concern as the Yankees zeroed in on the playoffs.
The 2017 season concluded with an unimpressive playoff performance where he gave up two runs in four innings with five walks. 2018 started the same way: three earned runs in the first three innings of his season, and a season ERA that didn't get below four until June 2nd against Baltimore. But these struggles, although similar to last year's, were different. His command wasn't as erratic; he didn't walk over four batters per month in April and May, but it seemed as if Betances had gotten away from fastball aggressiveness until the count demanded it. In April, hitters were batting .258 off of Betances as he gave up eight hits, three earned runs, and four walks (although 16 strikeouts) in eight innings.
And then, the changed occurred. Betances streamlined his delivery to be as efficient as he could be with his 6'8" frame. He still struggles with his command, but he's reestablished confidence in his fastball, which has made his breaking pitch even more deadly. Since May 12th, over 18 games and 19 innings, Betances has surrendered two hits, 11 walks, zero earned runs, and struck out 32 batters. Hitters are hitting .028, and his WHIP is almost just as low at 0.67.
Betances has always struggled with command. It's what happens with someone his size who throws the pitches he does. He is, by all meaning of the phrase, wild. But what we could see is Betances at the best he's ever been. His K/9 rate of 15.84 is the highest it's been since he sat at the 18 mark in 2013, and he's at a career-high strikeout percentage of 44%.
Much of Betances' rejuvenation has to do with an altered mindset just as much as tweaked mechanics. That change is detailed expertly in Marc Carig's article with the Athletic (subscription is required). It has allowed Betances to regain the eighth inning slot, freeing up the likes of David Robertson, Chad Green, and eventually Tommy Kahnle for earlier innings.
The Yankees might have never had a bullpen as good as this one. An entire article can be dedicated to how deadly they have been. Another could be dedicated to how Aroldis Chapman is maybe having the best year of his career.
But this is about Dellin Betances, whose redemption is nearly complete. He's the setup man to Chapman, again; the perfect counterpart to match the southpaw's blazing fastball with one of his own.
And as the race for the title of the Beast of the AL East continues to be as close as ever, it couldn't come at a better time.