Monday, July 12, 2010

Girardi's Damages Credibility With Choice Of Konerko

On Wednesday, Justin Morneau suffered a concussion after taking a knee to the head trying to break up a double play against the Blue Jays. The Twins' slugger has a history of concussions and as a result, he hasn't played since, so the injury opened up a slot at first base on the All-Star team. In this situation, the manger of the American League squad is responsible for picking a player to replace the injured one. And Joe Girardi chose Paul Konerko over Kevin Youkilis, who just barely lost to Nick Swisher in the Final Vote.

The first reaction that many have had is that the Yankees skipper didn't want to take a player from the enemy Red Sox. Girardi's justification? The numbers:
I’m looking at the numbers, the numbers are close and one guy’s numbers are a little bit better. I took the guy whose numbers are a little bit better.
But did he?

Konerko has a slight lead in the three most popular (and flawed) metrics - batting average, homers and RBIs - but Youk has him beat by a mile in on-base percentage and has outslugged him by a fair bit as well. And this is before you account for fielding, which isn't even a contest between the two - Konerko is marginal at best while Youk is one of the better defenders at first base in the league and is capable of playing third base as well.

I'm not going to shed any tears over Youk not being named an All-Star this year and I don't think that Girardi avoided picking him because he's on the Red Sox. As Joe Posnanski put it:
Now, look, Joe Girardi is not some 12-year-old looking at the back of 1978 baseball cards. He’s the manager of the New York Yankees, the defending World Series champion, the $200 million super team and the biggest brand in American sports. And you’re telling me he really looks at the numbers of Paul Konerko and Kevin Youkilis’ numbers and thinks Konerko’s are “a little bit better?” This is beyond ludicrous.
Later in that same article, Poz also points out that one of these guys is a complete creation of the home park they play in, and it's not Youkilis.

Joe Girardi, Northwestern Grad, Man of Many Binders, Certified Mananger By The Numbers®
either didn't bother to or can't do some extremely basic and fundamental comparative analysis. Seriously?

You don't have to get into WAR and wOBA to see that Youk is having a better year than Konerko - just look at their on-base percentages. Plus, Girardi sees Youk on a fairly regular basis, so you'd think he'd have more respect for how tough of an out he is and what he is capable of defensively.

It's not up for debate. If you know anything about objective baseball analysis, you can determine within about 30 seconds at either B-Ref or FanGraphs, conclusively, that Paul Konerko is not having as good of a year as Kevin Youkilis.

Lots of times, when Girardi makes a pitching change late in the game or calls for a maneuver that I disagree with, I'll think to myself "Okay, maybe he just has more (and better) information than I do. Perhaps he knows something that I don't". Well, in this case at least, it's the other way around.


  1. ok time the change the name of the blog site i guess

  2. Captain_Mick7/12/10, 8:43 AM

    I guess Girardi really facked Youk! Hiyooo!

    Seriously though, I'm not so sure Girardi really buys that Konerko is having "a little bit better" year. Girardi's no dummy.

  3. You're right, Anon. Because of the tongue-in-cheek blog name I picked like two years ago, I should rejoice in the fact that our manager still looks at baseball statistics like it's fucking 1932. Good call.

  4. For all these media and blog folks who consider the All-Star Game to be such a joke, they sure do get their collective panties in a twist when something like this happens.

  5. Maybe Girardi was just doing Terry Francona a favor and letting Youkilis rest his wonky ankle for a few days. Really, Joe Posnanski wrote 8,000 words about THE THIRD STRING AL FIRST BASEMAN? It's not like Girardi took Mark Teixeira over Youk.

  6. Maybe Girardi knows that Youklis is the better player, but after years of watching him be a whiny little bitch every time he plays the Yankees, doesn't want him on the team, so went with Konerko based on his "better numbers".

  7. None of the criticisms voiced here in the comments address Jay's point. Jay's point, to my eye, is that Girardi said he picked the best guy by the numbers, but that the numbers definitely do not support his choice. This post is about Girardi's understanding of baseball, not the third string first baseman for the AL in the All-Star game, or even about the All-Star game at all.

  8. Exactly, Damian. I wish Youk wasn't at the center of this because he obscures the point.

    Girardi should be picking the best team possible because there's a pretty good chance that his team will be the one affected by who ends up with HFA in the WS, but he took the inferior player. As much as we'd like to think that the people in baseball hate each other as much as we hate them, it just isn't the case (just look at Pedroia and Jeter palling around at the WBC).

    Bad decision, plain and simple. And if Joe G. can fuck this one up so blatantly, I think he burned up some of the benefit of the doubt that we tend to give him.

  9. Does everything have to be analyzed and critiqued to death? Baseball is supposed to be fun, and we're supposed to be Yankee fans. If you don't hate the Yook-stah, you're doing something wrong. And if you really need to get into the numbers, do you honestly believe 1 AB and one inning in the field by a 3rd string replacement and the potential loss of home-field advantage is going to mean the difference between winning and losing the WS (who gives a $hi+ about the ASG)? Take 4 days off, lighten up and come back on Friday ready to hate Boston again.

  10. Dude. The point. You're still missing it.

    This is about Joe Girardi failing Baseball Analysis 101, not about Youkilis or the All-Star Game or hating Boston.

  11. You're missing his point as well Jay. I get that Youk is probably more deserving. But to take a little quote from Girardi and analyze it to the nth degree and conclude that his managerial instincts are now flawed is pretty far fetched.

  12. Jay,

    It's your site, so far be it for me to take issue with whatever you choose to write about. I think there are many other things Giradi has done that would be more weighty in questioning his decision-making ability (recent bullpen situations for example). I also hope you understand that most of your readers are Yanks fans and even if Youk had a 200 point OPS advantage no one here will cosign his inclusion to the ASG. Indeed players/managers don't take the rivalry personal or seriously but we as fans certainly do. On that note it is quite possible that Francona asked Girardi on the low to let Youk rest and since Konerko has slightly higher counting stats they used that as the excuse. But I do get what you're saying.

  13. I personally don't give a shit what criteria girardi uses to determine the all all star game roster. It's dumb in every aspect. Girardi's job is to help the Yankees win games and considering they are the defending champs and have the best record in baseball I don't think he failed in anything. Do you really care that he didn't compare two players advanced stats when determining the final spot on the al roster?

  14. I think there is more to it than what meets the eye. Cleary it was not just konerko's "stats being a little bit better." Girardi is no dummy. He clearly knows the value of advanced metrics. Why is the boston media not making a big deal of this? Perhaps they know that Francona quietly asked Girardi to keep Youk (aka "Soda Popinsky" from Punchout) off the team due to injury. Last time I checked, Girardi won a WS for us last year, so to question his managerial skills over someting like this is a little ridiculous.

    Also, I dare anyone to say Youk does not look like Soda Popinsky

  15. Maybe Francona asked Girardi to keep Youk out of the lineup, but unless that's actually established, Girardi should be held to his stated reason for choosing Konerko over Youk: that the stats weigh a little more in favor of Konerko.

    This isn't the end of Girardi's credibility as a manager, but it actually should make us question whether he understands advanced statistics or not. Sometimes, baseball people actually don't (see Zack Greinke's comments last year about pitching to improve his FIP). And I think that's all Jay is suggesting in this post: that if we take Girardi at his word, then he loses a little bit of the benefit of the doubt with respect to some of his stats-based decision making. Is that so bad?