Joe Girardi Strikes Again

October 19, 2010

Hi, my name is Kevin, and I think Joe Girardi is an idiot.

No, this is not a blog for recovering baseball manager haters, although I understand how you might have gotten that impression. I’m simply introducing myself because my dashboard is telling me that I am getting many, many new readers tonight. I know why that is, of course. During tonight’s Rangers-Yankees game, Robinson Cano hit a high fly ball to right field. Nelson Cruz went back for the catch, but got his glove entangled with the outstretched arms of three fans. The TBS broadcasters floated the idea of fan interference, and just like that, my hits went through the roof. I love when that happens.

But back to the main point, which is that Joe Girardi is a horrible manager. My regular readers will tell you newcomers that this is a hot button for me, and they are absolutely right. The man is a disaster. Before getting into the specifics, you need to know that I know the following:

  • the Yankees lost tonight because AJ Burnett is a crappy pitcher
  • the Yankees are behind in the series because their offense has vanished
  • the Texas Rangers are a good team

So, to be clear: it is not all Joe Girardi’s fault. But he does have control over several aspects of his team, and it is in those areas that he routinely and disastrously errs.  Read the rest of this entry »


Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

October 19, 2010

I’m going to try and make this quick, because it’s my birthday and I have more important things to do, like play Fallout: New Vegas for the next seven hours.

Last night’s Rangers-Yankees game featured some unforgivably stupid bullpen management, courtesy of both Joe Girardi and Ron Washington. Let’s start with Girardi, who has generally done a good job so far, due to his suppression of his manic, Coffee Joe alter ego. With the Yankees down 2-0 entering the top of the 9th inning, Girardi put in lefty specialist Boone Logan to face Josh Hamilton. This was a defensible decision, as Logan’s job is to get out tough lefties and Hamilton is the only tough lefty the Rangers have. Unfortunately, Hamilton doubled and the bullpen merry-go-round began. Girardi called on David Robertson, who blew the game wide open in an uncharacteristically horrendous appearance. Sergio Mitre mopped up the inning, but the damage was done: 8-0 Rangers, ballgame over.

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

How on earth did Girardi not use Rivera at any point in the inning? The Yankees were down 2-0. The heart of the order was due up in the bottom of the 9th. Cliff Lee’s night was over. The Yankees had a chance to win the game. Once Hamilton doubles, Girardi has to use Rivera to hold the line. Moreover, AJ Burnett was (and is) due to pitch the next game, which made going for broke in last night’s game even more obvious of a decision. You could argue – convincingly, I think – that the Yankees’ season was on the line with Hamilton on second and nobody out. And Girardi left the greatest reliever of all-time on the bench because it wasn’t a save situation (even though a save situation was impossible in last night’s game), because he doesn’t understand that being down by two is often a higher leverage situation than being up by three, and because “if you bring in Mo, you may not have him available for multiple innings tomorrow if you want to use him.” Of course, the only scenario in which Rivera will pitch multiple innings is if tonight’s game is tied late or if there’s a slim lead late, neither of which is likely with Burnett pitching. If Rivera doesn’t get into tonight’s game at all, I’m going to break something.

Not to be outdone, Ron Washington had his own gaffe. With the Rangers up 8-0, Washington used closer Neftali Feliz to finish the game. That’s right, the same Neftali Feliz who sat on the bench in Game 1 as Washington shuffled through reliever after reliever after reliever to stop the Yankees’ rally. So apparently being up by eight in the 9th is a good spot for Feliz, but watching a four-run lead dwindle in the 8th is simply the wrong time to use your best reliever. Fittingly, the Yankees were patient with Feliz, forcing him to throw 20 pitches in his single inning of work, so it’s possible that he’ll be unavailable tonight. And if he pitches tonight, he’ll certainly be unavailable tomorrow. Well done, Ron Washington.

I’m sorry, but most managers simply aren’t that bright.

The Invincible Pettitte and Lee

October 18, 2010

If you hate me or my writing, my anti-traditionalism or my affinity for newfangled statistics, you should be happy to know that at eight o’clock tonight I will be one of the most miserable people in New York. Because the majority of my grad school classes run from 7-9pm, I will be missing the first hour of Games 3 and 4 in the ALCS. I have two strategies to combat this horrific coincidence, neither of which will make anything better at all. First, I will look around the classroom for other students whose faces are just as contorted in displeasure as mine will be. Surely I will find someone with whom to exchange a despairing wince (I won’t, because my school is something like 98% female. Maybe that makes me a pig, but I’m pretty sure there are no serious baseball fans in my classes). When that fails, I will pull out my BlackBerry and hit “refresh” one thousand times until class ends, when I will scamper to the nearest television for what will probably be disappointing news.

Yes, “disappointing.” The Yankees face Cliff Lee tonight, a man who has transformed himself into one of the elite pitchers in baseball. He will probably pitch very well. But he is not invincible, as most of the newspapers and radio shows would have you believe. Lee pitched terribly in August and has occasionally pitched poorly in other months. Because pitching is, you know, difficult and unpredictable. If Roy Halladay can give up four runs to the Giants after no-hitting the Reds a week earlier, that means Lee can be beaten too, even if we are being told he is unbeatable.

More perplexing than the “Lee is unbeatable” narrative is its “Andy Pettitte is the clutchiest thing to ever walk the earth” counterpart. Lee has called Pettitte “the best postseason pitcher of all-time“, an errant notion that I can condone because Lee a professional baseball player and not a professional analyst. But it’s not just Lee who thinks this. Much of the local sports media – likely on account of Pettitte’s 19 playoff wins and his modest, likable personality – is echoing the idea that October is under his dominion.

Lost in this mythologizing is the fact that Pettitte pitches almost exactly the same in the playoffs as he does in the regular season. His postseason ERA is one one-hundredth of a run lower than his regular season ERA. He has allowed hits at exactly the same rate. His playoff home run rate is higher than his regular season’s. He strikes out fewer batters in October but walks fewer too, making his K/BB ratio almost exactly the same as in the regular season. Look at the numbers for yourself. Pettitte doesn’t step it up in October. It’s a myth.

Tonight, one of these myths will probably be crushed. I’m rooting for Lee’s, but even as a Yankee fan, the debunking of Pettitte’s playoff invincibility would be an acceptable silver lining in the long term.


Feeling Thankful

October 16, 2010

I am thankful for many things today. Obviously, I am thankful for the Yankees’ stunning comeback in the eighth inning of last night’s game. But I am thankful for things within that specific game as well.

I am thankful for Dustin Moseley, who somehow managed to not be terrible in his two innings of long relief, allowing the Yankees a real shot to get back in it. Anyone who says they saw that coming is lying to you.

I am thankful for Ron Washington, who reminded me that Joe Girardi is not the only manager who steadfastly refuses to use his closer/best reliever unless it’s a save situation. Thanks to Washington, Neftali Feliz stayed glued to the bullpen bench while a steady stream of his ineffective peers were called upon to stop the bleeding. Washington explained the non-move to reporters after the game, saying that Feliz “has never done anything like [a six-out save]” – even though Feliz has done it three times this season. The real reason, as you and I both know, is that it wasn’t a save situation.

I am thankful that I am not a Rangers fan. I am always thankful for this on some constant, minimum level, because being a Rangers fan undoubtedly means I am from or grew up in Texas, but I am especially thankful because last night’s loss would have destroyed me. Blowing a five-run lead in that manner is bad enough, but Washington’s bullpen management would have sent me into a stratosphere of fury that I have probably never experienced before.

But most of all, I am thankful for the Nolan Ryan Face… :

… which instantly joins the Tim Tebow Crying Face, the Tyler Hansbrough Mouth Agape Face, and the Jerry Jones Death Stare Face in my quartet of greatest faces. Fantastic.

Hold On To Your Butts

October 11, 2010

AJ Burnett will be getting the start in Game 4 of the ALCS.

You heard the man.

On To The ALCS

October 10, 2010

I was wrong. Hopefully, I can keep it up.

Here We Go

October 6, 2010

At 8:37 tonight, the Yankees begin their run at World Series victory number 28. There are several reasons I don’t think the Yankees will make it. Joe Girardi’s even more Type A, even more meddlesome alter ego Coffee Joe will surely emerge at some point and with disastrous results. The Yankees still don’t have any starting pitching beyond CC Sabathia (even if Sabathia himself isn’t all that concerned). Girardi chose Hughes to start Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, even though his home run problems vanish on the road. And most importantly, my girlfriend – the good luck charm who was the key to last year’s ultimate success – will not be watching Game 1 with me tonight. For my money, all of that is just too much to overcome.

But none of that will stop me from hoping and rooting as hard as I can. Let’s go Yankees.