Wednesday, October 20, 2010


As bad as the Yankees have played for most of this series, Joe Girardi has not given them a chance. And there have been situations when they could have had a chance, but he put them in a worse position. When the team is playing like this, you need your manager to do just the opposite. You need him to manage near flawlessly (this is required), and then hope he pushes some of the right buttons (this is more difficult and an aspiration). Girardi has done neither in this series.

In Game 2 he left Phil Hughes in long enough to give up 7 runs. 7. 7. I really can't imagine a scenario where that makes sense. Gave the offense no chance to get right back in the game. In Game 3 he didn't go to Mariano to keep the Yankees in "bloop and blast" territory down 2-0. This is the least egregious of his offenses, especially in comparison to tonight, because the bullpen had been lights out thus far in the playoffs. At the same time, this is the playoffs. Mariano is going to be available three days in a row if necessary. I'm quite positive Girardi held him out because he was thinking about the POSSIBILITY of needing him big in Games 4 and 5. The reason I disagree with that is because when he isn't needed the next night (like tonight), you didn't give yourself a chance. I think you have to manage slightly more in the present in the playoffs than you would in the regular season, when you would rarely ever use him in that spot, and rightfully so. But fine, you don't use him. THEN WHY IS ANDY PETTITTE COMING OUT OF THE GAME AFTER THE 7TH?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Yes he was at 110 pitches, but he had allowed just three hits and no walks in his last 6 innings. He was right there with Cliff Lee. Again, in the regular season no way. In October, if you aren't going to Mariano down, I think you have to stay with Pettitte for the 8th (against the bottom of the order no less) to save Wood for the 9th.

Tonight puts all of that to shame, and it was a microcosm of Girardi's biggest weaknesses managing the pitching across his first three seasons in a Yankees uniform. First, he puts entirely too much weight into what his starter is doing that particular night, and loses sight of the big picture of "who that pitcher generally is over a bigger sample size". If you had told Yankees fans before the game that A.J. Burnett was going to go 5.2 innings and give up 2 runs we would have been DROOLING. No doubt about it, Burnett was awesome through 5 tonight. He gave up two nickel and dime runs and outside of that was locked in. But he is still a guy that was so poor over most of the last 4 months of the season that it was debatable whether he'd even get a postseason start. Which means that every pitch could be the one where he loses it. Just because he looked good earlier in the game doesn't change that. As long as he keeps cruising, sure, stay with him. If Molina had hit that homer with 2 out and nobody on in the 6th I would not be writing this. But there is nothing on the record in recent times outside of the way he pitched in the first 5 innings tonight that says Burnett should be staying in with the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the 6th inning of a 1 run game with 2 outs. Especially with a guy at the plate who has crushed the Yankees in the playoffs for the better part of a decade. Especially when you are 1 out away from taking a lead to the 7th, where it could have been Wood to Rivera. Staying with A.J. there is greedy, unnecessary, and short-sighted. Just as Girardi used to stay with Darrell Rasner (no offense to him) time after time because he was good through 5-6, no matter how many times before he had given it up in 6 or 7. Burnett hadn't pitched in nearly 3 weeks and was in the mid-90's in pitches. You get him out there and try to drop the hammer, and then they have to worry about Mariano looming. Girardi has taken the threat of Mariano mostly out of this series.

Second, he goes by his book too much. It seems like he plays that book no matter what. I have no problem, obviously, with being informed of all the numbers and playing the averages. But sometimes you have to go with a little more feel. Especially in October. Walking David Murphy to get to Molina may very well have been the percentage play there. But you do not walk the go-ahead run on base one out away from the 7th inning with a guy who has beaten the Yankees like Molina on deck. Not when it's David Murphy. You pitch to him. Right before Molina hit it TBS showed the highlights of Molina crushing the Yankees in the playoffs over the years. The immediate question I asked was does Girardi have those highlights? Thinking back now, his book doesn't have video capability as far as I know, so he probably doesn't. You go to Logan there and don't worry about saving him for Hamilton. You go to Wood. I'd even be more amendable to Burnett staying in that spot as opposed to facing Molina, because there is one less run at risk and when Burnett is on like that, he can actually be tougher on lefties than righties because of the way that fastball tails. Especially at Yankee Stadium where they have to take those fastballs away to the big part of the park more often than not. Whatever you do you face David Murphy. But Murphy has had some success off Burnett so Girardi played the numbers and walked him. That cost the Yankees this game in large part.

Third, he does not understand the concept that every time you make a pitching change with a reliever, you increase the chances that you are going to run into a reliever on a bad day. This is very much related to point #2. He is so obsessed with playing matchups that he seemingly ignores what is happening right before his very eyes with a reliever that is having a good day. Relievers are the opposite of starters in that you can somewhat ignore what they have been over a larger sample and ride a hot hand, because it is only for one inning, or at least a shorter burst. If a guy looks sharp, you are often better off sticking with him for an extra out or two than making a change to get the matchup that looks better on paper. Better to have a hot reliever in a less favorable matchup on the aggregate than a potentially cold reliever in a more favorable situation on the aggregate. David Robertson got lit in Game 3. Tonight you could tell right away that he was sharp as could be. He struck out Adrus on a perfectly located front-door cutter and then got Young to hit a soft liner to first. Made easy work of them on 8 pitches. At 5-3 with three offensive innings left, the Yankees were still right there. With nobody on and a hot hitter at the plate, sticking with the hot hand makes some good sense. But Girardi played his matchups (even though Hamilton had already homered off Sabathia and Pettitte already this series, both far superior lefties to Logan...and he had doubled off of Logan the night before), bringing in Logan and upping the chances that he would run into a cold reliever. Not only did he run into a cold reliever in Logan, he ran into a cold reliever in Joba and then another one in Mitre. Before you knew it a 5-3 game was a 10-3 game. Obviously some of this is the relievers not doing their job. But some of this is Girardi starting the reliever merry-go-round in a pretty non-threatening situation with 2 out and nobody on. This is something he does all too often.

Now the Yankees have their back to the wall. This should make a lot of decisions easier for Girardi, but given the way he's managed this series so far I would say there are few guarantees. From the Yankees perspective, they have to take the angle that they can put all of the pressure on the Rangers to close this thing out by winning tomorrow. A win tomorrow would force Texas to think about missing an opportunity to close it out over an off day. Then you just have to win one game to force a Game 7. Yes they will have Cliff Lee on the mound, but not only can anything happen, but the pressure is always on the team that has squandered opportunities to close the series earlier. The feel of these series change by the game, and a win tomorrow makes things interesting. Texas will not play with any tightness tomorrow, so it is on C.C. Sabathia to deliver the baseball to Mariano Rivera, and it is on this offense to get it going. It is also on Joe Girardi to make some things happen. We'll start with batting Granderson 2nd despite a lefty starting for Texas. The Yankees need a shake-up, Granderson has been better than Swisher against righties and lefties this postseason, and with Teixeira out they should bat Cano 3rd and Swisher 5th in more of an RBI spot. We'll see if Girardi tries anything to get this team going.


Anonymous said...


All of your points about Girardi managing are well-taken and accurate. But the truth is that the Yankees just haven't played well. They should have been swept already. They've only played well in one inning (and that's why they have their win) and their best pitcher hasn't shown up yet in these playoffs.

But what nobody is talking about is the Yankee offense. Sure, the bullpen could have been used more efficiently, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway because the Yankees haven't scored enough runs to come back from any of the deficits they've been in. Teixeira and ARod are 2-29. And for some reason this isn't news. But that's the real story.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

i disagree. even if game 1 ended up a loss, the yankees should still be playing today down 3-1, because they should have won last night. they haven't played well for only one inning, they played well, and outplayed the rangers, for 5.2 innings last night. in what was very close to a must-win game, they were 4 ours from rivera and one out from kerry wood (who has given up 2 runs in a yankee uniform in 30 innings pitched for them since he came over from the indians. that's ~0.60 ERA.). forget that, they were zero outs from kerry wood. in a game of that magnitude, in a spot of that magnitude, with a one run lead, you have to go to one of your best relievers. too early for rivera, not too early for wood. you also had the option of not walking murphy, and having logan pitch to him to get out of the inning and get to wood. murphy had a .696 ops against lefties this year, which is actually up from a .690 career ops against lefties. that was the game right there in all likelihood. if the yankees get out of that inning the odds slant very much in their favor the way wood has pitched and rivera being rivera. the one thing you don't do there is have burnett walk a guy intentionally and then let him pitch to another guy who owns the yankees in the playoffs. sometimes you have to win games 3-2 by pitching, and often times pitching means managing the pitching well. since they didn't lose game 1, better managing would have had them at 2-2 today. there were all of these nerves about burnett pitching, just because he got through 5.2 pretty strong girardi decided to let him pitch in that spot. if he's someone you trust in that spot, there shouldn't have been so much hoopla about him starting a game. it's easy to say they didn't play well last night but the reality is they did until girardi flushed the game.

i'm not sure where you are getting your news, but everyone is talking about the yankees hitting, and has been since after game 2. since tuesday, the offense is being talked about more than the pitching.

Patrick said...

to use an example close to home for you, the red sox didn't play any differently than the yankees did last night in games 4 and 5 of the 2004 alcs. i think they played well in those two games and were fighting to scratch wins in a series they had not played well in to date. you think they did not play well (if you think the yankees didn't play well last night). either way, those games were toss ups, just like last night was a toss up. and the red sox won those games, more than any steal or clutch hitting, because francona pushed the envelope with his two best pitchers. he went to timlin with out out in the 6th in game 4 and got 3.2 innings from he and foulke. in game 5 he went to timlin to start the 6th and got 3 innings from he and foulke. they aren't in a position to do any of the things they did if francona wasn't as aggressive with his pen as he was (yes timlin gave up a run in game 4, but this worked out anyway and it is the ideology as much as anything we are interested in here), and this actually doesn't get talked about enough. yes, they were in actual must-win games. but this is still a similar situation girardi faced last night. francona let his best relievers decide the game when he needed wins. girardi let a pitcher who hadn't pitched in almost 3 weeks and was skipped in the alds decide the game when he pretty much needed a win. this is the story from last night's game.

Patrick said...

*two best relievers.

Patrick said...

*to start the 7th in game 5.

Patrick said...

i'm usually on the same page with joel sherman, and i was pretty sure he's write something like this today. spot on. girardi is incredible to say that if he pulls aj and the bullpen gives it up that people would second guess why he pulled aj. good for sherman to point out how untrue that is. shows girardi really is out of touch with reality sometimes.

the gm at work said...

Angry Pat,

It's unbelievably great to see you back. I'll call the milk companies and tell them to take your face off the back of their cartons.

I can't possibly address everything you guys have already talked about. But sticking with the starter in that spot was definitely not a good idea. What Girardi said about getting crushed for pulling his pitcher is asinine, because here's the reason to pull Burnett:

HE WASN'T PITCHING WELL. HE WAS IN BIG TROUBLE. Even when he was pitching well, he was pitching Matsuzaka-well, which is to say he was getting himself into all kinds of trouble before getting himself out of the jam. To his credit. Around here, we call that being a bulldog.

But at some point, especially if you're one to play the numbers, bad luck is going to catch up to you. And that's what happened to Burnett.

You are right about the Yankees outplaying the Rangers for the first half of this game.

The offense is definitely news, especially those two players Gunn mentioned. I wish I had saved your text messages from when you were celebrating last year's World Series victory.

It's October, so I might have to bury your post this afternoon because I had things to say last night, too.

Patrick said...

another example that i didn't think of until just now was ron washington last night. talk about getting outmanaged. tommy hunter was lifted in the 4th even though he had only given up 2 runs when he was lifted because the bases were loaded. that's what we call managing aggressively and to win in the playoffs.

TimC said...

I think baseball managers need a smack upside the head with my graphing calculator. 'Playing the percentages' is, as PF points out, ridiculous with relief pitchers. In addition to his no-BS, common sense explanation, from my math side I'll say this; if you are playing the matchups based on a sample size of around 5, that's like saying a coin is stacked on heads because you got heads 3 out of 5 times. It is flawed, flawed, FLAWED use of the numbers and why I am flabbergasted as to how much credit people give baseball for crunching the numbers.

I'm all for the math, but I am not for such use of it that makes JD Drew a $14 million a year player.

Anonymous said...


I had a feeling you would go down this route if things went sour: The Yankees are the best team but Girardi's messing it up. The best team isn't winning due to managing.

I agree with the Gunn. The managing hasn't been great but the Yankees players aren't getting the job done in this series. The Rangers really look like the better team right now.