With two outs in the eighth inning last night, Joe Girardi gave way too much respect to a bad hitter. It was a lot like calling on Phil Coke to face Brayan Pena back in April, except this time he got away with it.
There were two outs and a man on first base, and the pitcher on the mound was a converted starter, clearly capable of throwing more than 13 pitches in an outing. Instead he went to his 39 year old closer to get yet another four out save.
I'll tell you why. Ron Gardenhire made a managerial move and Joe Girardi was too scared to stand pat in response. This is the epitome of overmanaging. Making a move for the sake of making a move.
Jose Morales has good numbers in the Majors, but before he got called up, he was hitting .273/.362/.327 in AAA. He has only four extra base hits in 70 MLB plate appearances this year, none of which are home runs. As a matter of fact, he's hit just 6 homers in his last 746 minor league PA's, and 0 in 127 this year. Not exactly a threating presence at the plate.
I love the fact that Rivera isn't coddled like Trevor Hoffman and can get saves that require more than three outs. But let's conserve those for when they are actually needed, not when the opposing manager summons a guy with a career .373 minor league slugging percentage to pinch hit. Girardi has brought Mo into the 8th inning three times in his last 7 outings. Easy there Joe, it's only July.
Notice that I didn't question the move to bring in Phil Coke, which made sense but didn't work out. I'm questioning removing Hughes, which was overkill, and worked out anyway. Hindsight is irrelevant, optimal decision making is about using the information at hand to choose the best alternative at the time. This was unnecessary.
After the game Girardi hinted that Hughes might stay in the bullpen for the rest of the year. how about letting him build up some confidence, instead of essentially telling him you don't think he's capable of getting a big out?
Hughes has pitched 50 1/3 innings to date this season, between starting and coming out of the bullpen. If he stays in the 'pen being used how he is now, how many innings could he possibly pitch? 80? 90? 100 max?
What happens next year if they want to put him back in the starting rotation? The Yanks are going to be in the same spot they were at the beginning of this season; miles away from a reasonable innings limit for a starter.
The way things are going, Chien Ming Wang is far from a lock to hold down one of the spots. Andy Pettitte wanted to pitch in the New Stadium, but as rough as it has been on him so far, it's beginning to look more and more like he isn't going to want to come back. We'd all like to think Joba Chamberlain will get things figured out, but that's not a guarantee either. That leaves the Yanks with two starting pitchers, A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia, both of whom are fairly significant injury risks.
Do I think having Hughes in the bullpen gives the Yanks the best chance to win in the short term? Sure, but so does calling up J.P. Ricciardi tomorrow and offering him Hughes, Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero for Roy Halladay. The organization has stated multiple times that they see Hughes as a future component of the Yankees' rotation. Why don't they start acting like it?