Second-guessing the manager

Less than a day after writing a post absolving Joe Girardi of any wrongdoing in the Yankees’ 8-7 win, last night came another tough one-run loss featuring a handful of moves — or really, non-moves — by Girardi that were questionable.

This time the primary issue revolved around pinch-hitting, or the lack thereof. In the eighth, Girardi elected to pinch-hit for Lance Berkman, who would’ve been forced to turn around and bat from his far inferior right side, for Marcus Thames. As bad as Berkman is from the right side (.247 wOBA), and as unexpectedly good as Thames has been against righties (.398 wOBA), lifting Berkman in this situation made zero sense considering that the utterly useless Austin Kearns and Colin Curtis — who, as noted in the recap, combined to go 3-21 against Tampa, including 1-8 last night with five stranded baserunners (and in reality it was actually 10 when you add up their cumulative stranded baserunner total) — would each be coming to the plate one hitter later.

Given the non-performances of Kearns (.250 wOBA) and Curtis (.058 wOBA) in September, quite simply Joe has to save Thames for Kearns, and if Curtis’ turn to bat still came up, you have to pinch-hit Juan Miranda there. You have to. I don’t care if it compromises the defense somewhat — put Greg Golson in right, who’s actually something of an asset in the field, and Ramiro Pena in left if you have to.

I know it seems crazy to keep harping on the Yankees’ 8-9 lineup slots — I’m sure fans of opposing teams would say “well, you shouldn’t have to rely on those batters in the first place when you have guys like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez et. al. in your lineup” — but the fact is Kearns and Curtis kept coming up in key situations because the Yankees’ big bats did get on base, and the duo doublehandedly slaughtered several Yankee rallies. Bottom line, neither should have been allowed to bat for themselves in the eighth inning trailing by one.

Bronx Baseball Daily notes via LoHud that one more September call-up could be on the way, but unfortunately it’s looking like a pitcher. Then again, it’s not like the Yankees have any productive bats stashed in Scranton at the moment, so I suppose a new pitcher is better than nothing, especially given how the Yankees have been bullpened to death by September’s expanded rosters.

Oh, and I’d also like to add something for the nervous nellies out there: If the Yankees can’t keep the Red Sox at bay with a six-game lead and 16 games left, then quite frankly they don’t deserve a postseason berth. I know the Yankees have been playing like garbage, but we’re talking a pretty epic, New York Metropolitans-style collapse here. Not saying it’s impossible, since we’ve seen it happen before, but if it somehow were to happen, then the Yankees clearly shouldn’t even be in the postseason field.

4 thoughts on “Second-guessing the manager

  1. Anonymous

    I agree that if the Yankees cant hold a 6 game lead with 16 left, then they don't deserve a playoff berth.
    However, that wouldn't be the end of the story… the question is how Gerardi continues to get the least out of the talent he has. How his player moves seem bizarre and disconnected from the actual games, as if a computer were managing the club. how he routinely fails to be connected to the momentum of the players, and the game.
    Why does Cervelli start so many games? Why does Pena play so often, and is allowed come up in big spots?
    Why does Gerardi pull the hot pitcher continuously, for Gaudin/Mitre etc? I mean how does a team hanging onto a 1 game Division lead in September lose two games out of three by pitching Chad Gaudin in key spots, and another to Sergio Mitre? Managerial mismanagement, that's how.
    I watched in horror as he was actually out-managed by Ron Washington, another over-manager last weekend.
    To the fans whose only response to the situation is "well, he won the World Series last year", I respond that the team wins despite their manager, not because of him. The recent spate of lost,late-inning one-run games proves the point. Gerardi is a sub-par manager who is hurting the Yankees chances.

  2. Anonymous – The one thing I can say in response to putting Mitre or Gaudin into the game is that Joe Girardi is privy to vast amounts of information that we are not. As it turned out, other pitchers weren't available the other night resulting in fairly limited selection.

    Granted, he has made some curious calls of recent (in terms of pinch hitting / pinch running / bunting, etc), but he knows the state of his players much better than we do. Just consider Mark Teixeira. We all found out a day ago that he was playing with a broken toe. I'm sure Joe was well aware of the state of his first baseman.

    If sacraficing the short term means a more well rested / healed squad for the playoffs, his decision making might be considered wise in hindsight.

    It's easy to press the panic button after each call. Afterall, we're not ones managing a multi-billion dollar franchise.

  3. Hi anonymous,

    Not to pick fights here, but if you're going to lambaste the manager, you should at least spell his last name right.

  4. Anonymous

    Interesting responses:
    1) Manager knows best.
    2) Incorrect spelling

    I think its a baseball fan's job to question managing decisions, especially when they are so consistently puzzling. As far as the other pitcher's being "not available", that is only because he deemed them so. they were completely available – and should have been used in a key September situation.
    Girardi manages like a player's Association rep.
    Good for players, bad for winning.
    Perhaps the Chicago media can learn to spell Girardi, you know, for next year.
    And by the way, its not "panicking" to play to win. Its the reason the game is played.

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