Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Lesson in Overmanagement

Jay and I were both fairly busy last night, hence the lack of our usual in depth recap. I hit the road just as the first pitch was thrown and was driving for 2 hours of the 2 hour and 34 minute game. I tried to listen on the radio, but I just couldn't stomach a second straight day of Sterling and Waldman. I made it as far as the Teixeira home run, and was left with no choice but to bail out after Sterling launched into his absurd and self-serving "It's a Teix message. Oh you're on the mark, Teixeira!" call. Besides, I had some catching up to do with Jam_On on XM after it had been replaced by DMB radio for all of last week.

I did turn the game back on in the seventh, just in time to hear Hughes retire the side in order and in impressive fashion and then arrived at my New Jersey destination just in time to see that the Yankees Overmanager decided to remove him for eighth. Let's do a quick recap bullet point style:

  • The HRs continue to fly out of the park: Teix, Swish, Damon and Jeter for the Yanks, Kapler for the Rays, running the total to 105 through 29 games. By contrast, last year there were 160 in 81 Yankee Stadium games. Yes it's still early, but it's getting later by the day. This trend has yet to show any signs of slowing down.

  • Pettitte turned in what is becoming a characteristic performance for him. As Girardi like to say, he bent but didn't break. We don't know if his back has anything to do with it; there was a trainer's visit to the mound in the third. It could be though, that this is what we're going to see from Andy Pettitte at this point in his career - which isn't the worst thing in the world. He still eats up innings and generally gives them a chance to win. It isn't pretty, but he seems to do enough to get by. That's not the worst thing in the world from a back-end starter.

  • Hughes was impressive: a perfect inning on 11 pitches, 7 of them strikes. Facing the top of the order, he induced two groundball outs then blew away Mrs. Tony Parker on a 94 MPH fastball.

  • Inexplicably, Hughes did not return for the eighth. I'm furious about this. He's a soon-to-be 23 year-old starter who needs innings. As I've stated previously, I'm not opposed to him being in the pen, but he needs to be used. Otherwise he's going to lose arm strength and be at risk for yet another injury when they actually choose to use him again. I'd rather have him start in Scranton if he's just going to rot in the pen. It's June 9th; Hughes has thrown exactly 11 pitches this month.
  • I understand that the dangerous Carlos Pena was leading off the eighth in a one run game. I understand that Joe Girardi has a man crush on Phil Coke. I think Coke is a pretty decent pitcher. But I would have left Hughes in.

  • The only possible explanation I can think of is that they wanted to save Hughes in case they needed to piggy-back him on Wang Wednesday. But if you keep saving your bullets, eventually you're left with a loaded gun and a bunch of bullet holes in your chest. If the level of confidence in Wang is that low, it's only further evidence as to how badly his return was botched. And, I think Girardi has show that in the event a starter exits early, Aceves is his pitcher of choice.

  • Perhaps more curious than Hughes not getting the ball in the 8th was Mo getting the ball in the 9th for the third straight day. Now I didn't have a problem with Mo coming in Saturday, until it was revealed that he was sick. He had a very efficient ninth on Sunday (1-2-3, 10 pitches, 8 strikes) and was nearly as efficient yesterday: 1-2-3, 11 pitches, 7 strikes. I guess that puts to rest the rumors of his demise. Again. However, he's now thrown 42 pitches over three straight days and will likely not be available for tonight's opener in Boston. Great job Joe.


  1. I did not have a problem with either decision last night. I like the idea of having Hughes available in Fenway. If he would have pitched two innings he would have needed two days off, making him unavailable in Wang's start which I would not have liked at all.

    Also, I liked putting Mo in there for the 9th. Putting in anyone else would have put that game in bigger jeopardy. Get the win when you have the opportunity and your closer is available. NEVER save your closer for a series in early June just in case you might need him. If they hold him back last night, they might have lost the game and then possibly not needed him tonight. To me, that would have been classic overmanaging.

    It's no surprise I am siding with Girardi. That has been happening a lot lately. I am starting to think you are looking for reasons to knock him and your bias is beginning to show.

  2. Gripp - I have a lot of the same problems with Girardi that Matt does. A lot of his moves run counter to what conventional wisdom would dictate. Hughes hadn't pitched in over a week, you'd think they would want to get him some innings for all of the reasons Matt listed above. On the other hand, Mo could have used a rest.

    I don't think Matt or I are "biased" against Joe G any more than you are towards him. You can objectively disagree with someone on a consistent basis without being partial to the other side. Even if you disagree with the premise, I think you'd have to admit the criticisms of his bullpen management do have some merit.

  3. Nice post. I've thought Girardi has done quite a bit of overmanaging, too, although admittedly it's hard to be too upset when they're winning. My thoughts, in random order:

    1. I am more perturbed by his offensive strategic moves than the pitching moves. Bunting Jeter against Garza...running for Swisher in the 7th inning of a close game...there have been others.
    2. Girardi's handling of the 2008 Yankees' staff was at the Jedi Master level, so I am not comfortable questioning his pitching moves. But yeah, I agree with you that it seemed, to me anyway, "natural" to just let Hughes finish the Tampa game. He was rolling, and he needs the work. While I guess you can argue you need to "save" him for Boston, if Hughes finishes the game, you've got a fresher and more rested Coke/Rivera for the first Boston game.
    3. I think there are a fair number of baseball managers who would not be in serious running for, say, community college admission, and you see these guys slavishly adhere to current trends in managing, most obviously with pitching changes, platoon matchups, etc. I don't think Girardi is in that class; I think he's a smart manager who learns from his moves and is thinking not only about today's game, but also about things coming up tomorrow, next week, and next month. I'm not saying he's 'experimenting' with the team, but his strategic and roster moves, I think, will give him valuable insight on the team when they are gearing up for the stretch run.
    4. You're way too tough on John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. /sarcasm

  4. It is hard to be biased towards a guy you are not a big fan of. I may agree with some of these decisions, but that does not mean I necessarily have a bias. I know Matt very well, and he has clearly stated that he does not like Girardi. When that happens you tend to look for things to disagree with.

    You don't just get Hughes "some innings" just because. The situation did not call for it. Yes, he needs to go back to the minors, and the plan is for him to do so, so it really is not as critical as you are making it out to be.

    I don't know many managers who would hold back their closer in that situation. It just doesn't make sense.

    As far as moves that run counter to conventional wisdom. I like managers who don't always manage according to conventional wisdom. That is one of the biggest reasons why I loved Joe Torre. He certainly did not manage according to conventional wisdom. And as far as Girardi's bullpen management. I absolutely loved his management of the bullpen last year. It was leaps and bounds better than Torre's management of the bullpen. This year, I think he has done a great job with what he has been handed. Guys have not performed the way they did last year, and he certainly is not to blame for that. I have more of a problem with the roster management and the extent that he is in control of that, none of us really know. It is easy to disagree with bullpen management, but all things considered he is doing a pretty good job.

    It is very easy to be critical in this day and age.

  5. Gripp - I'll admit I've been critical of Girardi of late. However, I've gone on record here as saying I was in favor of his hiring and I'm in favor of his continued employment as the Yankees manager for the duration of the 2009 season. Though not publicly, I supported his removal of CC on Saturday - at least until I found out about Mo's stomach ailment. But that doesn't mean I always have to agree with what he does.

    Mo is 39 years old. He had off-season shoulder surgery. The team disclosed earlier this season that he was having issues with arm strength. Yet Girardi continues to use him in situations where it's not necessary to use him.

    Seven of Mo's 25 appearances this year have been in low leverage situations (<1.0 aLI). That's not
    exactly the best way to use your best reliever. A couple of those appearances can be chalked up to needing work, but others there was no reason for. Some of those appearances came on zero days rest. Two weeks ago he was left in to pitch the ninth inning of a seven run game against the O's.

    Last night the Yankees had a 2 run lead and TB had the 8 and 9 batters coming up. I agree that it's important to get the win when you can, but I don't think it was necessary to use Mo last night. He could have used last night off after pitching Sat and Sun. He entered last night in a 1.04 Leverage Index situation and his Win Probability Added was a whopping 0.08, tied for fifth lowest amongst his 14 saves this year. Someone else (Hughes or someone else) could have closed it out.

    I may be biased, but that doesn't change the fact that it was a borderline defensible move that wiped him out for the first game of the Sox series.

  6. Well now we figured out where we disagree. I do think it was necessary to use Mo last night. As much as it would have been nice to save him, not pitching him could have easily resulted in a loss. You can use the Leverage Index thing if you want, but we all know what happens to middle relievers when they need to close out a game in the 9th. I'll take the win and then take my chances in Fenway. No one knows what the situation will be in the 9th tonight, and I would not even be surprised if Mo is available. His workload was very, very light the last two nights. That being said, I wouldn't mind seeing Hughes or Aceves used in the 9th tonight either. It's a game against the Red Sox in June, not Game 7 of the ALCS.

  7. I can see you're point Gripp, but I don't agree with it. You're right in that it's not the 7th game of the ALCS - so why risk pitching Mo three days in a row in early June? I just don't think he was needed last night.

    As for my opinion on Girardi, I don't recall stating clearly or otherwise that I don't like him. There are decisions he routinely makes that I strongly disagree with, and this admittedly has altered my opinion of him. But saying I don't like him is still a bit premature at this point.

    At the end of the day "he wears his mission on his back" as the stupid YES commericals say. And what will make me most happy is getting that 27th World Series. I just don't always agree with how he chooses to go about it.

  8. Oh, well I didn't think pitching Mo three days in a row in early June is a risk at all. I believe a 2 run lead against the Rays is a definite time of need for a closer if he is available. I would pitch my closer if available basically any chance I get. It doesn't happen too often that a closer is needed and he is unavailable and because of that I would not save one just in case.

    I remembered you expressing your dislike of Girardi during the rain delay against the Sox. I guess when I say you dislike him, I mean more that you disagree with many, many things that he does to the point that you rarely say anything positive about him.

    One thing we should say here is that none of us would ever agree with everything a manager does. When you follow a team as closely as we do, you will actually disagree with many things over the course of a season. It is just the way baseball is. But saying you don't agree with a move is different than saying the move was wrong and hurt the team. Also, saying you don't agree with some moves is different than saying the guy isn't managing the team effectively. To me, I can disagree with a move, but acknowledge that the move wasn't wrong, just not one I would have went with.