There he stands, a giant on top of a little hill that could very well be a mountain. For he is so massive that he makes the moderately sized look small, and the small look miniscule. He stares in at his catcher. Then, he begins to move. And all hell breaks loose.
This is the experience of presuming to stand in against Dellin Betances. There are some pitchers that intimidate with pure ability. Some intimidate with velocity and physical presence. There was Andy Pettite glaring in over his glove from under the brim of his cap, promising death and pestilence. There is Craig Kimbrel leaning in and spreading his wings, then coming set and utilizing a beautifully smooth delivery to the plate.
Betances is terror personified. 98 miles per hour of fire scream from his right hand whenever he so desires, and when he doesn't, he can unleash a curve that shatters kneecaps and hope. Abandon all hope, ye who enter the batter's box. This could be you.
Jose Bautista fell victim to the Betances curve on Tuesday night, may he rest in peace. It wasn't your time to go, but then again, it usually never is. Betances has had many victims since his breakout 2014 season. He struck out 266 of the 673 batters he faced over that time. That's 39.5 percent. 39.5 percent of these batters never got to even put the ball in play between the white lines of the diamond. Brutality in pitching form.
It's a brutality that doesn't end. Betances threw the most innings of any reliever between 2014 and 2015, a whopping 174. Because he can sometimes be used for multiple innings in a single outing, Betances offers the kind of flexibility that many other relievers lack. He isn't a long reliever in the Adam Warren/Yusmeiro Petit mold by any stretch of the imagination. He's a two-inning tactical nuke.
It's quite a development for a former top prospect who many assumed would never be anything of note. Betances was one third of the Killer B's, a trio of Yankees pitching prospects that were supposed to rule the world. Andrew Brackman is now out of baseball, and Manny Banuelos exists on the outer fringes of the Braves' pitching plans. Betances simply didn't have the control to make it as a starter. The move to the bullpen clearly suited him.
When Aroldis Chapman returns from his suspension, Betances will be the 7th-inning man. Not the closer, not the setup man. The 7th-inning man. Even Wade Davis was never seen outside of the 8th. The Betances-Chapman-Andrew Miller troika is so potent that it doesn't truly matter which man pitches in which inning. Regardless of who is on the mound, it will be an unpleasant experience for the batter. But Betances may very well be the best of the bunch, and he's going to be pitching relatively early in the game.
By never making Betances the closer, the Yankees have been able to use him whenever they like. The addition of Chapman only makes that process easier. Betances can now be the first man into the fire if he needs to be. He is the modern bullpen at its fullest realization, a high-leverage weapon not restricted to the confines of the ninth inning and the save statistic. He may be the greatest reliever in baseball. He is fire and the sinking sensation of dread.