Friday, October 23, 2009

Don't Kill The Manager

Morning Fackers. Last night sucked. There's no way around it. But what sucks even more is that we are going to have to listen to people second guess every managerial move made last night for two days before Game 6.

I'm not going to name names, but there were a lot of people on Twitter last night who couldn't possibly understand why Mike Scioscia took John Lackey out with 104 pitches with the bases loaded in the top of the 7th (you know, after the Yanks scored all their runs). Interestingly, they were also conveniently outraged that Joe Girardi let A.J. Burnett come out for the 7th inning with 80 pitches (but only after Burnett allowed two men to reach base, of course). And what was pretty much the only thing that those two moves had in common? Neither worked out.

I'm sure they weren't just on Twitter. These Monday morning quarterbacks were probably in the bars and living rooms where you guys were watching the game as well. These people know who they are. Actually, they probably don't because they only deal in hindsight and therefore always agree with the decisions that work out and can't possibly believe what the manager was thinking when one goes wrong.

First, the Lackey move. Don't forget that two batters before he was pulled, Lackey showed up home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth by waving his arms and yelling at him after a called ball four. He then walked Derek Jeter on 4 pitches and left a ball fat and over the plate that Johnny Damon luckily didn't do much with. Lackey had lost his composure and lost his strike zone and I doubt Culbreth was dying to give him any close pitches. While it was a debatable decision, I can see why Scioscia went to his bullpen. Whether it should have been Darren Oliver is another issue.

As for Burnett, he had given up all four of his runs in the first inning before he even recorded an out. Therefore, he had just pitched 6 consecutive scoreless innings leading up to that point and needed only 68 pitches to do so. What would you have thought about leaving him in if he hadn't allowed those runs in the first? Because what happened in that inning was not nearly as relevant as how he had been throwing the ball since then.

Sure, Girardi could have gone to the bullpen, but the people who are smugly second guessing that decision are the same ones who have been crying about "overmanaging" throughout this postseason mostly because it's become the in vogue thing to say.

Perhaps Girardi could have pulled Burnett after the lead-off single to Mathis. But the only right handed reliever who was ready at that point was Joba, and I think we can agree that he didn't have his best stuff last night. Perhaps he should have had Hughes warming up, but the same thing applies to him. So Burnett gave up the single to Mathis. Is it Girardi's fault that the Angels' back up cather has decided to turn into Josh Gibson during this series? He's literally a career .200 hitter - on the nose.

Does anyone remember how the Yankees got the two outs in that inning? It was Damaso Marte, who Girardi chose over Phil Coke to face Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu, but I don't hear anyone acknowledging the fact that decision worked out well for him.

The reality is that no matter how the Yankees blew the lead - if Girardi had brought in Joba, Hughes, Robertson, Coke, Aceves, Marte or Rivera in any order - he would be taking shit for it this morning. For instance, if he brought in Hughes and he coughed up the lead, people would be exasperated that Girardi had pulled Burnett after only 80 pitches. Ergo, at a certain point, the blame goes to the players.

Although the offense scored 6 runs, they were useless for 8 innings. The black hole in the bottom of the line-up known as "Nick Swisher" made the Yankees 32.3% less likely to win this game with his offensive contributions (or lack thereof). Johnny Damon wasn't helping either (-11.9%).

Phil Hughes needed to get one out in the 7th inning and the Yankees would have held onto the lead. One out and no one would have been talking about Girardi's bullpen management this morning.

Instead, Hughes issued a pass to Torii Hunter that I'm sure anyone reading this blog could have worked since none of the four balls even sniffed the strike zone. Next, he had Vlad Guerrero right where he wanted him - in a 1-2 count after an ugly swing and miss. Jorge Posada called for a pitch up in the zone, momentarily standing up from his crouch to indicate it, but Hughes served a belt-high meatball along with some spaghetti, Bolognese sauce, grated Pecorino Romano and some delicious garlic bread. He's lucky Vlad is half the man he used to be or else that would have probably been a grand slam instead of a bobbling single up the middle.

The least defensible move that Girardi made, which hardly anyone is talking about because it didn't end up mattering, was the decision to pinch run for A-Rod in the 9th inning. The game almost equally likely to be tied up at that point with A-Rod or Guzman running the bases, as Dave Cameron from FanGraphs demonstrated. Cameron estimates that the marginal gain of putting in Guzman is something like 1%. Girardi traded that in for having his best hitter (and a solid defender) on the bench in extra innings should the Yankees have tied the game. Imagine the uproar if A-Rod's line up slot had come up again.

I understand that Girardi has made his bed by executing a ton of agressive moves this postseason, most of which have worked out but some of which have not. He's exerted too much control over the games too many times, so now people are all too willing to critique every move he makes. He's made the game too much about himself as opposed to the players which is why people are so open with their complaints. But save your breath. As Cameron said in the linked post above, we're tilting at windmills. You can assign blame 'til you're blue in the face, but it's not going to put the Yankees in the World Series. They're going to have to do that themselves sometime this weekend.


  1. I honestly did question the Lackey move immediately, mostly because of bringing in Darren Oliver who is not very good.

    As for the Girardi's move the only one I did question or think he made the wrong decision on, was the Guzman move. At the very least if you bring in Guzman he has to be moving there right, if not what was the point? Sacrificing your best hitter for maybe 3 steps on a gapper?

    The rest I was fine with. Burnett hadn't given up a run in 5 innings, so what was the logic outside of "long inning" to take him out. Damaso did his job, he got two outs and left it to Hughes. The only argument you can make against bringing in Hughes is bringing in Mo and they obviously weren't going to do that in the 9th.

    Also, it looked as if Hughes shook off Posada and wanted to throw a fastball, his location was about 2 feet too low.

    Anyway, Andy shall get it done on Saturday and make my Game 7 tickets refundable.

  2. Also, I heard people complaining that he brought in Damaso, which is hilarious because he actually did his job. And I'm not exactly a Dumbassho supporter.

  3. "We're tilting at windmills" says the guy who's attacking a strawman.

    Lackey hadn't given up a run all game and Burnett had sat on the bench for a half hour while the Yankees scored those 6 runs. Both bad decisions that deserved to fail.

  4. Thanks for writing this! I wrote something similar for The Faster Times today:

    To me, the goats were Hughes, Swisher, and A.J. Whether he starts an inning or not, it doesn't matter - Hughes has been terrible this postseason. Swisher either needs to bat ninth or be benched. And A.J. didn't bear down when he needed to.

  5. I usually agree with your commentary, and am a regular reader of the site. That said, I think your comments here about Girardi are misguided and condescending.

    With regards to Burnett, I was one of those people who were "smugly" questioning Girardi's decision to bring him back out in the 7th. FWIW, I'm a full-season ticket holder, and went to somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 games this season, including every postseason game at home so far. There is no question in my mind (nor most, if not all of my fellow season ticket holder friends) that Girardi is the most egregious overmanager I've ever seen. This isn't just about the postseason - it's been happening all season. I've been saying it for months - this team wins in spite of Girardi. He clearly believes that the more moves you make, the better manager you are.

    Instead of asking people what they would have thought of running Burnett out for the 7th if he hadn't given up those 4 runs in the 1st - which is an absolutely ridiculous proposition, BTW - why not analyze how he'd been pitching SINCE the 1st? Sure, he'd only thrown 80 pitches, but he was pitching to contact (read: throwing meatballs at the middle of the plate) all game, and had been extremely fortunate to come through unscathed. Additionally, Girardi had a fully-rested bullpen that had been a primary team strength all season thanks to CC's dominant performance on Tuesday night. At the risk of "second guessing," wouldn't it have been better to use Hughes to start an inning? Hell, even Joba would have been fine in that situation. In fact, during the commercial break before the start of the inning, that's who I was telling folks around me to get ready to see.

    Speaking of Joba, you justify staying with Burnett after the first single by employing hindsight yourself ("I think we can agree he didn't have his best stuff last night."). Really? You're usually not this much of a flip-flopper. He hasn't had his best stuff for a few games now, which makes using him in the 8th all the more inexplicable. That eventually forced Girardi to have to bring in Mo, who would have had to pitch Yet Another 2-inning outing if we'd tied the game in the 9th.

    As for the Guzman move, it was awful, horrendous, inexplicable and stupid, regardless of the fact that it didn't end up mattering. You take out the best player on either team, meaning you're going to have to use Jerry Freakin' Hairston at third if you tie, and in a situation where Guzman can't run anyway!? There were two outs - so what, you bring in Guzman to maybe get an extra step on a base hit? A-Rod has run well all season, and better as of late. This was yet another move for the sake of making a move.

    Sure, we're all pissed about the loss. We all want the Yankees to win. I thought Girardi was the best man for the job when they hired him. However, win or lose, he makes a LOT of terrible decisions, and it's within every Yankees fan's right to question those. We're not allowed to be bothered by Girardi's overmanaging because "it's not going to put the Yankees in the World Series"? Please. Without Yankee fans giving a shit like they do, blogs like this one (and IIATMS, and IIHIIFIIC, and RAB, and Bronx Banter, and...) would have no readership at all.

    By the way, I went back and looked at what you wrote about Game 2. Since it was a win, I'm sure you weren't looking to second-guess Girardi's vast overmanagement in that game (although you did mention using 3 pitchers in the 12th inning of a tie game - WTF!). REGARDLESS of the fact that we won, Girardi used 21 of 25 players in that game - just crazy, irresponsible and sad. I'm not even going to talk about using Mariano for 7 outs.

    I'll continue to support the Yanks like I always have, and I'll also continue to question bad decisions, win or lose, thank you very much.

  6. Bullpen looks great guys! Hughes and Chamberlain combine for 2/3rds of an inning and 4 hits! Looks like Choketober all over again!

  7. Lenny - I think what you think is condescending is probably what Anon refers to as me "attacking a strawman". I'm talking about certain people who only second guess based on results and not the circumstances of the situation at the time.

    You have a right to disagree with moves that Girardi makes, but I think there are a lot of fans who are a little to anxious to jump on him as soon as something doesn't work out.

    As for Burnett, after his implosion in the first inning, he had given up 4 baserunners and no runs while recording 18 outs, 3 via strikeout and 10 on the ground. He had retired 11 of the last 13 he faced. To call that "throwing meatballs at the middle of the plate" is beyond ridiculous.

    I'm fighting hindsight with hindsight with the Hughes and Joba comments. It could have gone much differently if they'd be put in earlier but I think it's pretty foolish to assume so in retrospect.

    If you read my game recaps (like the one for game 2) I hardly editorialize in them at all. I save that for posts like this. If you are a regular reader then you should know that both Matt and I have been on Girardi for overmanaging during the season.

    But the postseason (especially this one with all the off days, like you mentioned) allows him to be very aggressive with the bullpen. I'd rather see a manager stick with guys for longer than Girardi has, but for the most part, it's worked out.

    My point aside from the fact that the players are far more culpable than Girardi, is that unless he gets it right, he's going to have to take a ton of shit for it and way more that is warranted.

    If you questioned the moves before they happened and can back them up with logic, that's great. But to act like Girardi is some sort of imbecile because he doesn't make every move you think he should (which I see and hear a lot of people do) is a lot more condescending and misguided than anything I wrote in this post.

  8. Hey Anon, the only way it could be any worse is if we had Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard! Thanks for checking in.

  9. Jay, thanks for responding. It's nice to be able to disagree without name-calling, like on some other blogs.

    With regards to Burnett, I'll admit that the results looked pretty good on a stat sheet. Still, my point was that he was finding the middle of the plate A LOT - not the corners, mind you, the fat part. Burnett has often been extremely wild, but last night he was just missing his spots. I'd challenge you to go back and watch a few innings and see how many times Molina or Posada's targets moved (and often, the movement was drastic). When Burnett is on, he's striking guys out; last night, not so much. They got the bat on balls, regardless of the fact that they ended up grounding out a lot. I'm saying he was very lucky.

    On Girardi, specifically to your point about him taking a ton of shit when he gets it wrong, is this - he's taking far less shit than he normally would because even when he gets it wrong (which is a lot), he's often picked up by this team, and when you win, a lot of mistakes get swept under the rug. Yeah, it sucks to have every move you make scrutinized, but has anyone forgotten where we live? This is New York. You make the big bucks and in return, your entire life is under a microscope, let alone your career.

    I'll leave you with one more thought about Girardi... maybe more of an anecdote than a thought. I have a lot of friends who watch a LOT of baseball - far too much, some people might think. My wife goes to most of the games with me and is an ardent Yankee zealot. That said, what I find curious is that many times this season - moreso in the playoffs, I'll admit, but still, reguarly throughout - I've gotten texts during games about moves Girardi has made from fans of other teams, and sometimes even from people who don't really watch baseball that much at all. Folks just assume (rightly) that I'm either at the game or watching, and so they reach out to commisserate. What I'm getting at is *even people that don't care as much as we do* see the foolishness in some of these moves. You don't have to be Peter Gammons to question Girardi's body of work this season, and particularly this postseason.

  10. No problem, Lenny. We usually save the name calling for anonymous commenters.

    I think we can agree to disagree about Burnett. My impression at the time was that we was pitching well despite not striking guys out. You saw a guy getting lucky while making bad pitches.

    New York does produce a lot of scrutiny and that is part of the job description. Part of what I have to do to write this blog is reading a whole shitload of it and I get pretty annoyed with hearing the same things over and over again. That typically produces a contrarian viewpoint, which is usually a good thing but not always.

    I agree that Girardi has made more questionable moves than ever this year, especially with the bullpen. But after a rocky start, it's been a real strength for the team. You can look at that and say that the team is succeeding in spite of him or notice the correlation between the increased amount of tinkering and a greater degree of success.

    I don't like the fact that he makes so many moves either, but I'm willing to accept the possibility that it's actually one of the things that has contributed to this team's success this year.

  11. It seems to me that you guys are right on with the constructive criticism of last nights missed opportunity. I'd only like to add a few quick thoughts...

    I have no problem with giving Burnet a chance in the 7th. I would have understood pulling him at the beginning, since a half-hour break in between innings might be enough to throw off a rythym. Maybe not though. My issue is more of why NOT leave Damaso in the finish the inning? He was pitching just fine, you got 2 outs and I know the Lefty/Righty matchups seem to rule the land, but c'mon here. You bring in Phil Hughes (who deserves chances to pitch even if he hasn't been his normal self..the guy pitched great in the bullpen all season)for one out and we know full well that would have been his only out. Joba was coming in next, or someone other than Mo. A Similar thing happened with Girardi pulling Robertson after he got 2 outs (I know it was not for a Righty/Lefty matchup). It drives me up the wall (not literally) when we have these excellent pitchers of ours pitching to 2 guys, or for 1 out. I mean, I get WHY its done, but its too much. I refuse to blame these guys who come into situations and blow them, because its like they are pitching with a sort of fear. One mistake and I'm gone. I think when Phil knew what exactly when he was coming into the game (8th Inning setup) he was more relaxed. Same with Joba. Maybe he didnt have his stuff, but can you blame the guy? Reliever, starter, reliever, starter, closer, setup, reliever. I'm amazed he doesn't HATE NY. Joe does all this tinkering with the bullpen and I rarely hear anyone ask.. "Hey what about the fragile mind of a pitcher?" Aside from Mo, who the hells knows when they are s'posed to pitch? And of course this is New York and we eat people alive (and I love it). (Sorry, that turned into a rant of sorts)

    Next, I'm glad you pointed out the worst move was PRing for ARod. Obviously, they wanted Guzman to score from 1st on Hideki's gapper (which didn't happen), but ARod has been the best baserunner on the team. PRs are for the guys who run like Don Mattingly. If a guy can steal 30 bases, hes plenty fast. Of course we would have gone apeshit if we tied and had no ARod to get a big hit in extras.

    Also, I respect Swisher for how he's played this season, but he IS in a slump and is there anything wrong with giving Gardner a shot in the field? Hell, we bring him into the game to run or for defense anyways.

    The last thing is Girardi isn't the only overmanager. Torre did it the same way. Yeah, maybe he knew how to handle his players better (I think its gotta be immensely hard to coach former teammates). Torre was significantly older than the players and I think that really did help. Can you imagine being Jorge, who replaced Girardi and now taking orders? So Girardi is putting it totgether, albeit slower than wed like, of course. But Torre used to pull his pitchers after 1 batter and all that crap too.

    Bottom line is last night was not a huge deal to me. I wanted the win, of course, but look how close the Angels came to blowing their game-long lead. It took a huge emotional effort for them to save their season. NY didn't NEED to win that game. They knew they were comin' home for 2 more. We saw the best the Angels had to offer last night. I loved that when Lackey came out, the game was tied like 4 minutes later. they didn't win that game as much as the Yankees lost it. We are in the driver's seat, boys. Make no mistake. And here comes Andy Pettitte Saturday at the Stadium. This isnt the Yankee team that wilted against the Tigers a few years back. We can hit just fine. We can pitch just fine. No lead against us is safe. When we have a lead late, we can hold onto it, regardless of last night or game 3. Tell me I'm wrong.

  12. It's good to see people disagree with each other without being obnoxious and still supportive of the Pinstripes. It's sad that seems to be more the exception than the norm.

    I'm in the camp of looking at Girardi, Hughes and Swisher for this loss. With respect to Girardi, he seems to have no feel for the game. I know everyone skewered him for taking Pettite out after 80 or so pitches in the ALDS, but this was completely different:

    - AJ is feast or famine. He got us back in the game by not causing any more damage after the 1st inning.
    - The bullpen was rested (except for Mo) since Monday's game because CC was awesome on Tuesday for 8 innings.
    - Robertson has been awesome. Why hasn't he moved up the food chain? Go with the hot hand (see: Jeff Mathis).
    - Hughes has been struggling, so at least let him have the whole inning to see what he has as opposed to bringing in a guy who has limited confidence at this point with runners on.
    - Let's not even talk about Joba.

    All that said, Girardi gets points for going to Rivera sooner than I would have expected. And I also expect all of this crap with AJ pitching to Molina to stop, if we finish this properly with a win this weekend. It appears AJ can pitch like crap to either catcher when he's "right".

    No team has really "held" their momentum in this series other than the Yanks taking the 1st 2 games. I am hoping that continues with a game 6 win.

    And for all of the pundits who are saying the pressure is on the Yanks (i.e., 2004 and all of that other crap), they all pretty much picked the series to go 6 or 7 games. So here we are.


  13. first off, let's remember: Anaheim's taken 2-of-3 at home from american league teams lots of times during this regular season. they play 27 hard outs and they expect that out of themselves - and guess what, they took 2-of-3 at home this week so it should not come as a shock.

    no surprise, no biggie. that's my point.

    if i were Girardi, I too would have put AJB back on the mound in the 7th. knowing myself and how much i acknowledge the mental part of baseball, I probably would've chuckled and said "Alright, time to twist the knife, AJ" So it would've been my move too