Clay and King: Best Bullpen Duo in Baseball

As weird as it is to say it out loud, we are living in a world in which the New York Yankees’ strongest asset is the pitching. Even with Aaron Judge playing at an MVP level, and the rest of the offense being really solid most of the time, there is no denying that the pitchers have been the best part of the season so far. While Cortes has pitched like a CY Young so far, Cole has been more or less himself (albeit with a few clunkers), Severino hasn’t quite reached his old form but nonetheless is pitching really well, Montgomery is a rock solid starter who never gets run support, and Jameson Taillon has been quietly magnificent this year, we’re not here to talk about the starters today. The Yankees bullpen has been at the top or near the top of all the leaderboards so far this season, and their two best relievers have been nearly unhittable this year. 

Mike King

King has been waiting patiently for his shot for a few years. Coming up as a starter, King was expected to be a huge part of the Yankee rotation. However, the Yankees never put him there, instead electing to sign veterans like Corey Kluber to one-year contracts. While Kluber was part of the reason that King was blocked from the rotation, he also elevated King’s career when he taught him his breaking ball. Using the combination of the “Kluberball” and a deadly sinker, King has been brilliant this year. Recently he has had a couple not-so-great outings, but overall, as of May 28, has an ERA of 2.96, as well as an ERA+ of 127. His FIP is 1.97, and WHIP is 1.024. King has also struck out 12.5 batters per nine innings. King has given the Yankees a reliable long-relief option who can get batters out and eat up innings. If the Starter goes five innings, King is the perfect person to get from the starter to the new closer.

Clay Holmes

When the Yankees traded Hoy Park to the Pittsburgh Pirates at last year’s deadline for a reliever named Clay Holmes, nobody thought anything of it. However, the Yankees obviously knew what they were doing, as Holmes got to the Bronx and started shoving. In 2021 alone he went from a 4.93 ERA in Pittsburgh, immediately to a 1.61 ERA in New York. Credit Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, or credit the technology offered to him, or credit Holmes himself for figuring it all out in NY, but realistically all of them need a share of the credit. Holmes has been nothing short of dominant since arriving with the Yankees. He has allowed just one earned run in 24.2 innings pitched this season. That one run came in his first game of the season, as he hasn’t allowed a run in his last 24 innings pitched over a 22-game span. This is the longest such streak for the Yankees since David Robertson’s 26.1 scoreless innings in 26 games spanning from 2011-2012. Holmes’ stats are pretty ridiculous to even try to comprehend. He has a .36 ERA with an ERA+ of a staggering 1033. ERA+ is assuming the perfectly average major leaguer is a perfect 100. Whatever number above or below is what percentage someone is better or worse than the average. This means that Holmes is 933% better than average. His FIP is 1.40, and his WHIP is .689. He strikes out 9.5 batters per nine, while only walking .7 per nine, making his strikeout-to-walk ratio an even 13. All of Holmes’ numbers are so good that it’s no surprise that, while Aroldis Chapman continues to struggle, Holmes has earned the closer role for the Yankees.

King and Holmes have been so good for the Yankees this season, that everytime manager Aaron Boone hands them the ball, the game feels as good as won. While duos like Devin Williams and Josh Hader, or A.J. Minter and Kenley Jansen have been extremely good, nobody tops Mike King and Clay Holmes as the best bullpen duo in baseball so far in 2022.

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