Thursday, May 27, 2010

Girardi Bends The Rules, Probably Didn't Have To

Good morning, Fackers. One of the details I didn't cover in last night's recap (which I will attribute to the combination of the extreme heat and my lack of an air conditioner) was that the Yankees tried to pull a bit of a fast one to begin the bottom of the ninth inning.

Since Nick Swisher's go-ahead home run came with two outs in the top half of the inning and Mark Teixeira made an out three pitches later trying to leg out a double, Mariano Rivera had barely any time to warm up before he came in to protect the one run lead.

With the lefty Justin Morneau up and Andy Pettitte having thrown only 94 pitches, it seemed plausible that Girardi would let Andy stay in for at least one more batter. However, he let Pettitte take the mound and throw his warm up pitches only to remove him without facing a batter when the inning was about to resume, thereby securing an extra eight or so pitches for Rivera.

When it happened last night, Matt voiced his objections on The Twitters, saying:
This is a pet peeve of mine. If a pitcher takes the mound at the start of an inning, he should have to face 1 batter unless there's a PH.
It turns out that Ron Gardenhire is of the same opinon (via BBTF):
Asked if he ever thought Pettitte actually would throw a pitch in the ninth, Gardenhire said, "No, he wasn't going to throw a pitch. That was kind of tired, to tell you the truth. You don't know normally get that long between innings to do all that, but we know what's going on there."

"That's a situation Major League Baseball needs to take care of when stuff like that happens. You don't have a guy ready in the bullpen, if your starter goes out there, he should have to face a hitter. That's just the way it should be. If you don't get a guy up, that's the way it should be, unless the other team makes a change."
"But that's not what lost the game for us. That's stuff that just gets old right there."
This is somewhat similar to the issue that Joe Girardi protested the game against the Red Sox about. The difference is that Girardi was taking advantage of a loophole in the rules whereas the Sox didn't have any ulterior motives but made a slight procedural error.

I think this transaction speaks to a larger issue, though. The one of Girardi feeling like he absolutely needed Rivera for all three outs despite the fact that he pitched earlier in the day. Would it have been the worst thing in the world if Pettitte, who had pitched pretty damn well and was still very effective in the inning before, faced one left handed batter and gave Mo the appropriate amount of time to get ready?

I often struggle to understand Girardi's moves as a manager but I've found one tendency that he is incredibly consistent in displaying. If the game is tight, he will exert every ounce of control over it that he can. Like in the seventh inning of the game Javy Vazquez started against the Mets when Joe went through three pitchers before they got two outs despite the fact that there were still two more innings left to pitch. Just yesterday, he didn't want to announce who would be pitching when the first game resumed because then the Twins could have... um... I don't know, done something with that information, maybe?

Honestly, part of the reason that this kind of stuff frustrates me is that I hate commercial breaks and Girardi makes so damn many mid-inning pitching changes it's like he has a clause in his contract that gives him a percentage of the ad revenue. Those are usually the times when the game is on the line and we all have to sit through two minutes and thirty seconds of shitty advertising because the other team's backup catcher is left handed.

Clearly his bullpen management has been one of Girardi's strengths in his time with the Yankees but that's partially because he has Rivera as a rock at the end of it. What's going to happen when someone less trustworthy is responsible for nailing down saves? Will he still sit on his hands and watch things unfold?

During that game against the Mets I likened Girardi with a slim lead to a kid holding a pet rabbit. He holds it like a vise grip because he doesn't want to let it get away. But sometimes he ends up strangling it in the process. You want your manager to do what he can to win every single game, but was it necessary to rush Rivera and make sure that he was in there for all three outs given that he had pitched earlier in the day? If there's any chance that he's nursing an injury or could have hurt himself as a result, the answer is obviously "no".


  1. Girardi as Lenny. Me like.

    Like Matt, I lobbied for Pettitte to at least face the lefty (Morneau) with just 94 pitches thrown. However, this was just gamesmanship.

    Guys have become overly sensitive. (Yeah I riffed on this today, too)

  2. I don't necessarily disagree with the decision to go to Mo, it was more that everyone knew Pettitte wasn't going to pitch but they went through the motions anyway. It appeared that Pettitte was going to pitch the ninth had the game remained tied; I don't see why couldn't go another batter to give Mo time.

    If a relief pitcher has to face at least one hitter upon entering the game, then the same should hold if a pitcher takes the mound for the start of an inning. This is an easy way to address the pace of the game issues that MLB is concerned about.

  3. I am not a big Girardi fan, but I don't think he deserves any blame for operating within the rules. If MLB wants to prevent managers from buying time, then they should pass an appropriate rule. What Girardi did was not uncommon, nor is it any different from a number of other similar tactics, namely throwing over to first base to buy more time. Girardi would not be doing his job if he didn’t use every avenue within the rules to help his team win.

    Also, I don’t see the parallel to the Red Sox protest because Beckett showed no sign of an injury, yet Delcarmen was allowed an unlimited number of pitches to warm up.

    Finally, I am not sure if it is worth passing a rule to prevent this kind of situation because it could limit legitimate strategy. For example, let’s say a team sends a lefty out to start an inning hoping the other team will pinch hit with a righty, after which a righty reliever would be brought into the game. Now, the manager may have decided to go with the righty anyway, but he still wants to force the other manager’s hand into giving him a more favorable matchup. Such a scenario represents a legitimate reason for allowing a pitcher to take the mound despite having no intention of having him pitch.

  4. When Joe went to Mo,I expected J Kubel to pinch hit, because he hit the slam off Mo.

  5. If you want to require a pitcher to pitch to a batter if he warms up, then you should require a batter to bat if he's announced into a game. But we've seen batters announced followed by pitching changes, followed by yet another batter announced to get a better matchup. True, the first pinch-hitter is now unavailable, but this kind of gamesmanship also wastes time.

  6. @ Will

    It's definitely within the rules. I suppose my problem is with the rule itself. If MLB truly wants to address pace of play issues, this is low hanging fruit. Granted, the pitching change still would have been made after one batter, but I'd rather that than commercial break, warm up tosses, mound visit, pitching change, commercial break.

    @Will & @pjb

    As for the rule change, if you look at the current rules as it relates to pinch hitters and relief pitchers, the rule favors the offense. The PH can be immediately removed, but the pitcher has to stay upon entering. I think it should be the same here. If a pitcher comes out to start an inning, he has to face a batter unless there's a PH for the leadoff hitter. Lifting a pinch hitter for another pinch hitter doesn't necessitate another commercial break; lifting a pitcher does.