Thursday, August 6, 2009

Questionable Decisions

Good morning Fackers. Well, all in all that wasn't a bad road trip: 5-4, which after losing three straight against the ChiSox didn't seem like a realistic possibility. Sure, that was an ugly three game stretch last Thursday through Saturday, and the loss in Tampa was brutal all around. But after starting 2-4, the Yanks closed out with a nice three game winning streak, including a two game sweep of the Jays despite having Roy Halladay pitching against them in one game and Sergio Mitre pitching for them in the other. I'll sign up for that every time, thanks. With the Sox loss, the Yanks enter the big four game set with a 2.5 game lead.

Last night's game sure had some head scratching decisions though. Both Jay and I have been critical of Joe Girardi in the past. I've even been accused of having a bias against him. I'll fully admit that I was only able to watch and listen to parts of last night's game. That said, I think there were some poor decisions made.

My second guessing began as first guessing. As soon as the line up was posted, I sent Jay a message expressing my displeasure with it. Despite having DH'd Sunday and then enjoying the Monday off day, Alex Rodriguez was back in the DH spot. Now I'd prefer he be getting regular rest for his hip rather than being ridden into the ground as he was earlier this year. And I can understand the reasoning behind trying to save him from the Rogers Centre turf for a night. However, by any definition, A-Rod was already well rested having played just two games in the last three days, and one of them being at DH.

Meanwhile, the fact that Sergio Mitre was taking the mound prompted the Yankees go back to the ludicrous 13 man bullpen. If ever there is a reason to carry that 13th pitcher, having Sergio Mitre on the mound the night before a huge four game set against the Sox would be it. At the very least, Anthony Claggett's presence last night was a security measure against burning the pen on the eve of the big showdown.

As a result of Claggett's recall, Cody Ransom was designated for assignment. For last night at least, I don't have an issue with this move (more on this later). However, this move left Jerry Hairston Jr. as the primary back-up at 3B, SS, 2B, LF, and CF for last night. But rather than keep his supersub on the bench, Girardi chose to start him at third and give A-Rod yet another half night off as the DH.

The LaRussa-philes of the world would say that this move was good in that it got Hideki Matsui out of the line up against a lefty starter, except Godzilla is destroying left handed pitching this year to the tune of a .576 SLG, and .913 OPS, both marks better than his numbers against righties. He has 8 HRs against both types of pitchers, but only 85 ABs against lefties as opposed to 200 ABs against righties. In short, there's is absolutely no reason to sit Matsui against soutpaws.

Complicating matters, Jorge Posada was given the night off as well, leaving the bottom of the order as Cabrera-Hairston-Molina, far less dangerous than the usual Cano-Swisher-Cabrera or even a Cano-Cabrera-Molina.

This fact came to the fore in the seventh inning. With the score tied at three, and Robinson Cano on second base, Hairston's spot came around. With one out, two weak hitters due, and the go-ahead run in scoring position, Girardi called on Hideki Matsui to pinch hit. The moved paid an immediate dividend, as Matsui drove Cano home and kept the line moving for two more runs to score. However, had Girardi began the evening with a more conventional line up, the move likely wouldn't have been necessary.

As a result of the move, in the bottom of the inning the Yankees needed a new third baseman. Despite having a three run lead, Girardi wasn't comfortable placing defensively-challenged one-time third baseman Eric Hinske at the hot corner. Instead, he opted to sacrifice his DH spot and move A-Rod to third, thereby turning his half day off into a third of a day off which in turn kind of defeats the purpose of trying to give him time off at all.

The eighth spot in the order was now occupied by the pitcher, and it came around again in the top of the eighth. The Yankees led 6-4, with one out and a runner on third. Of course, Phil Coke wasn't going to hit here. So Girardi called on - who else - Eric Hinske. Boggles the mind. If he was going to use Hinske in that spot anyway (rather than say Posada), why not role the dice with him for one defensive inning?!?! Even if he didn't want Hinske in the field long term, he could have saved his DH spot for an additional inning, giving A-Rod additional rest. He still would have had the option to place A-Rod at third for the eighth and/or ninth, when it was no longer a certainty that the #8 spot would come around again.

The Yanks didn't get burned by the move and wound up winning 8-4. But it could have been a disastrous few decisions. The 13 man pitching staff left the Yanks with a 3 man bench for the night. Starting Hairston immediately limited the bench's flexibility. Pinch hitting for him crippled it. Dropping the DH killed it. At game's end Jorge Posada was the only man on the bench, and as the back-up catcher it was no sure thing that he would have been used. What if Toronto had tied the game at some point from the seventh on? What if the game had gone to extras? The Yanks presumably would have been sending pitchers up to hit at some point.

In the end it didn't matter. For a guy who is supposed to be well educated, baseball savvy, and forward thinking, Joe Girardi makes a ton of moves that seem to be done just for the hell of it.

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