Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It Should Be Interesting...

...to see how long Girardi sticks with Soriano in the 8th inning just because he is "the 8th inning guy" and without regard to any other circumstance such as how poorly Soriano is pitching. It's not like there aren't other options. David Robertson, who has been a key piece of this bullpen since Soriano was in Atlanta, has a 0.00 ERA. As in he hasn't allowed any runs.

I understand the small sample size. We are talking about 10 innings or so for each player. I also understand the need to not lose Soriano's confidence this early in the season. The public fallout from yanking a high profile guy from his role this early in the season in this city can be more detrimental than helpful long-term.

At the same time, at some point you have to consider the short-term. The Yankees are flat out wasting dominant starts, and more importantly are just giving games away. They've saved 8 and blown 5 games already this year. That's a terrible save/blown save ratio. How much more of that can you take without shaking things up, especially when there are clearly alternatives?

I probably would be more in favor of being patient with Soriano if I wasn't so bothered by the general premise. Forget the players involved here, I can't stand the idea of locking guys into innings (besides closer, obviously) and just sticking to it regardless of circumstance. It's okay to have a general formula, or a group of guys that pitch in hold/save situations, but being overly structured in your ways can create problems. You have to be flexible with the bullpen. Ride hot hands and minimize cold ones. When you get to locked in with certain guys in certain spots, you end up absorbing too many cold streaks and underutilizing too many hot ones. That's exactly what is going on right now. Girardi was masterful with managing this exact situation in his first two years. He has slowly regressed. I'm not sure if this is a roster thing or a philosophy thing or just how things are going. But it stinks.

On that point, I also don't like the idea that because a guy is brought in at big money he is given an advantage over a guy who makes less money. Performance should be evaluated evenly across the board based on performance and performance alone. Soriano shouldn't have an edge on Robertson because he makes more money. I fear that isn't the case.

The two catches that kid made back-to-back on Rodriguez and Cano to end the game were absurd. Two spectacular plays. It was just uncanny - and extremely frustrating - to see that happen with the tying run on 2nd and the winning run on 1st for the last two outs of the game. Very rare. Compounded the bullpen issues nicely.


the gm said...


So glad the Knicks are done so you can return to critiquing the Yankees' bullpen management. Not even being sarcastic.

I'm thinking about your philosophy regarding shuffing the bullpen (except for the closer) and trying to draw a parallel to shuffling a lineup. Trying to figure out if you'd be inconsistent if you were to say you want the same lineup frequently but are okay with shuffling a bullpen. I'd say no, and that's only because bullpen arms, inherently, are so volatile. You get the hot hand and cold hand going on something crazy. But you also have ego management and whining prevention. You frequently knock Girardi on his bullpen management, and sometimes that's rightfully so. With this philosophy, you might be in a tough spot no matter what.

At least you gotta think the Yankees are better than 28th in the league in winning percentage against lefty starters...or can hit rookies fresh out of AAA.

Patrick said...

you nailed it in the middle of your second paragraph. first, i'm not fundamentally opposed to shuffling a lineup. i think it's the same general idea. you want to have some sort of consistency for your main guys, but outside of that guys have to be ready to be moved around based on matchups and how people are performing. girardi is actually outstanding in this regard. he goes to totally different lineups against lefties and righties, batting the same guys in drastically different spots based on how they hit them (granderson bats 2nd vs. righties and 9th vs. lefties...swisher 2nd vs. lefties and 6th vs. righties). he's not afraid to use guys in extremely different roles.

getting back to you hitting it on the screws, if an offense can be effectively shuffled, bullpen arms should be even more prepared to be shuffled based on their volatility. it's just the nature of the position. guys have good stretches and bad stretches, good years and bad years. pitching a guy in the same capacity in a good year and a bad year makes no sense. none. that's just a lack of willingness to adjust to the present reality, rather basing things on general perception. if you're basing bullpen evaluations (again non-closers) on macro as opposed to micro evaluations, you're doing it wrong.

the yankees are a little different in that they have more individual talent in their bullpen than most. they've had an inordinate amount of notable failures early, but entering this series they had the lowest bullpen FIP in the american league. chances are things will even out a little bit as the sample size grows if the peripherals stay as dominant as they have been. if soriano, whose stuff has looked increasingly top-shelf despite the lack of success, starts rattling off clean 8th after clean 8th you probably won't hear me complaining much about him being the structured 8th inning guy.

but that sort of goes back to my main point. instead of a hard and fast rule (inning a + score b = reliever c, inning x + score y = reliever z), it should be more flexible. if soriano is struggling and someone else is lights out, ride the hot hand for a little while allowing soriano to get a few less-pressurized 3 and 4 run 8th or 9th innings. it's not technically a "demotion", you're just shifting things slightly until they normalize again. you won't totally be able to get away with this in new york, but everyone will understand.

so far this year it has been a math equation. with a tie or a close lead, joba pitches the 7th, soriano pitches the 8th, mariano pitches the 9th, and robertson comes in to relieve the starter in the middle of an inning. unless someone is unavailable, it's been like clockwork. this formula has not been working, as they've blown 5 saves in 13 tries, a staggering figure. when a formula isn't working, you alter it. then you can go back to it if it starts working again. if you don't, you are putting too much faith in reliever's big-picture history. you have to isolate things more with relievers not named mariano.

Anonymous said...


Just from looking at those time stamps, I hope school isn't keeping you up that late. And if it's not school, I hope it's not the Yankees bullpen.

In all seriousness though, there is nothing more frustrating than watching the bullpen piss away a late game lead. It is painful to watch as a fan and has to be demoralizing for the players.

The issue the Yankees have is the one you pointed out--they don't want to ruin Soriano's confidence. The guy has a proven track record. I remember all the way back when he was with Seattle and he was throwing darts. He's obviously talented and he can be a huge part of the Yankee bullpen. It's just very, very frustrating to watch a guy struggle with so much on the line, especially when there are alternatives out there.

Here's my question, and it's not designed to rile you up--I was watching MLB network during the late innings of the Yankees/Jays game last week. It was the one where Rivera blew the save. He was throwing like 90, 91. Was that an aberration? Or is his velocity down? And if so, is anybody concerned?

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

gunn -

unfortunately, i worry that the yankees do have to worry about soriano's confidence. too early to tell, but we see guys all the time that can do the job in smaller markets but can't in bigger markets. this is especially true of late-inning bullpen guys who pitch in a pressurized situation almost every time out. this is something we now have to watch with soriano and see how he responds.

if i was going to guess, i would have said it was either 2008 or 2009 that rivera started operating in the 90, 91, 92, even 89 range. i went to check and it was 2009. from 2004-2008 his cutter averaged 93, 93, 93.2, 93.2, and 92.8. he was working 92-94, getting it up to 95-96 probably. in 2009 he dropped to 91.3, then 91.1, and 90.3 so far this year. that 0.8 drop from last year is probably a product of the early season and sample size. even if it isn't, he's been working 89-92 for three years now, getting it up to 93-94 (something we've seen him do already this year). but that is mostly a "when he wants/needs to". he doesn't really rely on velocity anymore, with his genius being location and movement.

the gm at work said...

Pat also mentioned to me offline about how late April/early May Mariano has historically had a case of dead arm, similar to the trials and tribulations Hughes is experiencing right now.

Regarding the time stamps, I don't know what the story is, but it's like we're in college again.

Patrick said...

mariano has blown back to back save opportunities 8 or 9 times in his career. 5 of them have come in march/april. he usually goes through one little blip in late april and another one in august. other than that we know the story, lockdown. until he shows differently i just roll with it. he's amazing.