Cody Eppley has been a pleasant surprise and a welcome addition to a bullpen that’s been weakened by injuries. The side-arming “ROOGY” was claimed off waivers from Texas in April without much fanfare. It’s not hard to see why the Rangers gave up on him. He was a 26-year-old AAA pitcher with a fastball velocity in the mid to high 80’s. Although he dominated the low minors a few years ago, he was nothing special in AAA and got lit up in a brief stint with the Rangers last year. After injuries to Rivera and Robertson in May,Eppley was given a chance to throw some meaningful innings (or parts of innings at least). Overall, Eppley has not disappointed. He’s sporting a solid ERA of 2.93 and has given Joe Girardi a new weapon to get right handed hitters out. However it’s still a small sample size and it remains to be seen what he’ll bring to the table in the future.
Looking past his shiny ERA, things are not quite as pretty. He possesses a 5.53 K/9 and a 3.90 BB/9. While neither of these numbers are huge red flags, they’re both below average. However, Eppley has been getting people out by inducing lots of ground balls. His GB% currently sits at 61.6% which is well above the league average of 45.2%. He’s only allowed 1 home run in 27.2 IP (0.33 HR/9) which is similar to what he did in the minors (0.43 HR/9). While he’s likely gotten a little lucky on fly balls, his HR/FB% of 6.3% isn’t outrageously low.
His FIP (3.62), xFIP (4.00), and SIERA (3.87) all indicate that Eppley has gotten somewhat lucky and he’s bound to regress a bit. Nonetheless, they indicate that Eppley has not been a complete flash in the pan and has at least performed like a serviceable pitcher. ZiPS projects a less generous 4.30 ERA for the rest of the season due to his unimpressive 2011.
One caveat to carrying an “OOGY” like Eppley is that it tends to limit roster flexibility. A side-arming righty like Eppley really should never be facing a lefty in any meaningful spot and therefore is usually unable to provide any sort of length. Having someone like this on the roster can potentially wear down the bullpen, lead to subpar relievers seeing too many high leverage innings, or force the team to carry an extra bullpen arm in place of a hitter. This is especially an issue for the Yankees since they also have 2 “LOOGYs” in Boone Logan and Clay Rapada on the roster.
Snagging Cody Eppley off the scrap heap was a smart move by the Yankees and has really helped their bullpen remain a strong point despite a rash of injuries. However, he’s likely playing over his head a bit and would probably be exposed with more innings. With any luck, Joba returns to form and Eppley won’t need to see any meaningful time in the post season. Either way, its under-the-radar moves like this that provide crucial replacement pieces when the injury bug bites.
Photo By Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons