Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wasted Opportunity

Given that the Rays last 10 games are against Baltimore, Seattle, and Kansas City, there has been a lot of chatter about the Yankees needing to be out in front heading into that last stretch to win this division. While anything can obviously happen, that seems very likely. The Yankees have a much tougher schedule the rest of the season. In addition to the head-to-heads with Tampa, the best time for them to create some space on paper was this 10 game homestand against Oakland, Toronto, and Baltimore. The consensus seemed to be that you'd be happy with 7-3 and really would like to see 8-2.

The Yankees looked to be in great shape at the start. The carried the momentum of winning the last two games in Chicago into the homestand, winning their first six games. All they had to do was go 1-3 to get to 7-3, 2-2 to go 8-2. It was an ideal situation. Split four games at home with Toronto and Baltimore and have an awesome homestand to start a closely contested stretch run.

Since then they have lost 3-0 and are asking a rookie making his fourth Major League start to avoid making it 6-4. 6-4 would have been slightly disappointing before the stand started. Considering that they won the first six, it would be a complete waste.

What compounds this is the way the Yankees have played. Coming off the eight game winning streak where they played great baseball, they took a nosedive and started playing miserable baseball overnight. No transition period, no easing into it. Great baseball 180'd into awful baseball. Not getting runners in from third with less than two outs (something that, in fairness, happens all the time even when they win big they are so bad at it), giving up 0-2 hits like it's in every pitcher's contract that they had to do so, giving up 2 out runs like it is similarly contractually mandated, letting the other team score the half inning immediately after scoring themselves, putting runners on second base with no outs and not being able to get them in, everything like that. They caught a lot of bad breaks tonight while the Orioles seem to catch every break, which will happen, but they just did not play well. And haven't for three games. Normally this would just be part of the flow of the season. And in reality it still probably is. But it shouldn't be. Not in September, not against these teams, not in this kind of race for the division.

What makes it even worse is that Girardi has decided to go into one of his little slumps at the exact same time the team isn't playing well. This also happens. Sometimes you push the right buttons, sometimes you don't. But the inconsistency with which he pushes these buttons will just drive you crazy. Last Friday he masterfully handles the bullpen, pulling Nova after just 4.2 innings to let Logan go get a lefty against a team in Toronto that is one of the best in the Majors against righties and one of the worst against lefties in total. When asked about this move after the game Girardi correctly points out how sometimes the biggest spot in the game is not at the end of the game, and you have to go to your best relievers based on situation not just inning. Something like that. Beautiful stuff. THE VERY NEXT DAY THE EXACT SAME SITUATION PRESENTS ITSELF. Two outs in the 5th, 2 run lead, 2 runners on. Lefty at the plate (who this time had already homered earlier in the game). Does Girardi go to Logan again employing the same philosophy he used and explained the day before? Of course not. He goes to right-handed long-man Dustin Moseley, who gives up a game tying double on the first pitch. This is really the height of confusion for me with Girardi. Not just does he do something, he talks about how and why it works. Then he does something different the next day. I understand circumstances change. Maybe Logan wasn't available or something. But there are other relievers he could go to before Dustin Moseley in such a high leverage spot.

Same thing with bunting. Monday he bunts Brett Gardner, who at .392 has the 7th highest OBP in the AL, down multiple runs, with Derek Jeter, who is having a terrible season, on deck. Today he won't bunt Curtis Granderson, down multiple runs, with Alex Rodriguez ready to pinch hit (which he did). Granderson isn't as productive as Gardner this year, and Rodriguez is more likely to do damage than Jeter. It makes no sense. Now I understand down multiple runs it makes sense not to bunt Granderson because he has an ability to hit one out, so you're giving yourself an extra chance at a three run homer. I'm not lamenting this move, it was the right one. I'm lamenting doing it one day and not the next, because it didn't make sense the day before either. Gardner is one of the biggest on-base threats in the game this year, and is also not a very good bunter. Down one run or in a tie game, okay. But down multiple runs, let him try to get on in front of the big run producers in the order. It's the inconsistency that gets me.

Hopefully the team goes back to playing well and the manager goes back to managing well all in one swoop tomorrow. What's done is done, they wasted an opportunity to really have a bigtime homestand. Now they need to make sure they save 7-3 so that the homestand isn't a wasted opportunity in total. Getting swept at home by Baltimore in September is really not a very good option.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

I wish that Red Sox fans had the some complaints that Yankee fans have. Instead, we get to watch guys like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jonathan Papelbon slam the door on our season.

Just so we can clear up any confusion about whether or not Daisuke is untradable--the Sox spent 103 million dollars on him. His ERA+ the last two years are 82 and 93. By comparison, John Lackey has been absolutely terrible and his ERA+ is 98. If this weren't a family-friendly blog I would have exploded with enough expletives to fit right in with the cast of Bad Boys II.

As for the Yankees? PF, the Yankees may have been a little sloppy of late and pissed away some games against weak teams. They are still the favorites to win the division, the pennant, and the World Series. And their future is as bright as ever. There is nothing else that needs to be said.

Lastly, I was moving my youngest sister into her dorm room the other day (she lives in Dana) and afterward we went downstairs for lunch. Hanging on the wall in the lower section of the dining hall, among other framed jerseys, is a Colby Men's basketball jersey. The number? 41. The legend of Jon Bandi lives on.

--the Gunn

TimC said...

Gunn,

Sounds like you have a beef with ERA+! But that's OK, sabermetrics was declared dead in this space several months ago. In all seriousness, though, ERA+ is biased against Dice and favors a guy like Lackey because Dice is hurt by non-adjustable factors like the strikezone (WALKS), length of basepath (WALKS), and 600-foot missiles. Lackey gives up hit after hit after hit and these are the things that I believe are taken into account with ERA+.

That said, your point about Dice not quite being ready to be the #3 starter for a playoff team is well taken. He will need to improve for next season.

Plus, we DO have some of the same complaints as Yankees fans. The maddening inconsistency of Dice is as infuriating to me as Girardi's is to PF. How can he keep firing fastballs to a lineup that is clearly adjusting from "wait" to "swing" mode after the first time through? Is it him or the catcher? Who knows, who cares. As inconsistent as Girardi is, Dice's ups and downs are far more infuriating.

Now, about the Yankees, based on this post I would be cautious about labeling them World Series favorites. Not getting runners in from third, giving up 2-out hits, and managerial brain farts are the types of things that Billy Beane would lump into the "crapshoot" category. However, crapshoot or not, these things also determine post-season series and I think if it is really a pattern for the Yankees they may be in for some frustrating losses come October.