Girardi making it hard to trust his judgment

Let’s run down the problems with the scenario. First of all, bunting a runner to second with no outs decreases your likelihood of scoring a run in a vacuum. That’s not to say that means it’s always a bad decision, but you also had a pretty good hitter on the bench in Posada, and a good base stealer in Gardner on first (in the hypotehtical, that is). That means there’s actual options. You can have Posada pinch hit, or you can have Gardner attempt to steal second. The latter would be the best course of action, as you could then set Posada up to drive in the tying run, or even to have Nunez bunt him to third with one out, which would increase the team’s chances of scoring the run. Bunt having Nunez bunt Gardner to 2nd, with Derek Jeter on deck no less, is basically the worst possible thing you could have done.

Of course, that’s not the way it played out last night, and the Yankees won, so I assume there’s going to be a lot of “no harm no foul” sentiment. But stepping back and looking at the bigger picture for a moment, this is another damning indictment of Joe Girardi’s decision making process this year, and that worries me. For all the hoopla over Girardi’s binder and fondness for numbers, he’s suddenly managing a lot like a crusty old National League guy. Or Dusty Baker (ok, maybe not that bad.) It feels a little silly to suggest it, but I really hope the media narrative about the binder and the Yankees aversion to playing small ball hasn’t gotten to Girardi. Joe’s a professional, so I assume he’s got the ability to ignore all of the nonsense, but at this point I don’t really have a better explanation for what seems like a really sudden shift in the manager. Do you?

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

23 thoughts on “Girardi making it hard to trust his judgment

  1. jay_robertson

    but what to do? Sadly, a number of them also have a very hard time HITTING.

  2. Mike

    After I heard this, I was so glad Gardy got out. If Nunez had bunted him over, I seriously would have put my bat through the TV and then thrown it off the balcony out in the hailstorm that was going on outside. Ugh. It won't be so bad if Joe manages them down to the wild card when they could have [possibly] won the division. But heaven forbid he manages them out of the wild card…

  3. not Montero's dad

    The only one I want bunting is Tex down the 3rd base line for an easy single every now and then, especially when the Yans are down a bunch of runs and need baserunners.

  4. LarryAtIIATMS

    My rational guide says that bunting with a man on first and none out is generally the wrong move and requires justification. One justification is when the guy at the plate is your number 9 hitter. The AL charts say that with a man on first, none out and the number 9 hitter at the plate, the team's chances of scoring are at 42.3%. But with a runner on second, one out and the number 1 hitter at the plate, the team's chances of scoring are at 43.6%. Not much of a difference, I'll admit, but it at least makes the sacrifice a strategy to consider at that point.

    The ACTUAL AL success of bunts in this situation is a little better: with a runner on first, none out and the number 9 hitter at the plate, the bunt attempt raises the chance of scoring 1 run from 42.3% to 44.0%. If the sacrifice succeeds, the chances increase a little bit more, to 45.4%. So again, this remains a strategy worth considering.

    The factors working against the strategy include those mentioned by Brien: Nunez may not be much of a bunter, the defense would have expected the bunt, Jeter (the hitter following Nunez) was struggling all night, a Gardner steal of second would raise the chances of scoring a run to something like 66%, there's the hit-and-run to consider, Nunez's speed makes his hitting into a double play less likely (he's yet to hit into one this year), etc. The only factor I see in favor of a bunt is that Gardner's speed increases the chance that the sacrifice would have succeeded. So considering all of the factors, I agree with Brien, but I would not have condemned a bunt decision with his vehemence.

    • Ted Nelson

      Strong point, I will reconsider reading your articles.

      You also have to consider that Jeter is a dead-ground-ball hitter, and if Nunez/Posada gets out (which they're going to do something like 65-70% of the time) and leaves a runner (Gardner/Nunez/Dickerson) on 1st… Jeter comes up one double-play away from ending the game.

      I don't know the exact right answer (think more than the general run expectancies are necessary), but I like the thought process and the moderation in your opinion…

      Brien calls out Girardi for the bunt idea and then says that the obvious move was to have Gardner steal in a spot where the defense knew he wanted to steal and would do what it could to stop the tying run from moving into scoring position… this against a C who is throwing out a solid 27% of runners overall… let alone in a situation where they know the runner wants to go. With a runner on who is 8/14 in SB attempts this season… in part I think because teams know he wants to steal and some of his attempts are way too predictable.

      • BrienJackson

        "this against a C who is throwing out a solid 27% of runners overall"

        You enjoy inadvertently bolstering counter-arguments, don't you?

        • Ted Nelson

          27% is solid for an MLB catcher. That's overall, though, not when the tying run is trying to steal 2nd in the 9th. It was also followed directly by Gardner's 8 for 14 on SB attempts this season (I believe partially because when he runs everyone knows he's running). You enjoy conveniently ignoring the facts when it suits your argument, don't you?

          You took that out of context, instead of actually responding to my point that your strategy of stealing a base when the whole stadium knows you want to steal the base leads to almost the same run expectancy as

          I'm not saying that you are even wrong. I want to be clear here since your reading comprehension seems to be lacking (I am not just being a dick there, I really think that). My point is that you are insulting Girardi's intelligence over a marginal difference in run expectancy between his *possible* bunting strategy and your base-stealing strategy. There is no obvious answer here. A lot of it is situational and we're getting down to marginal differences in run expectancy. Rather than acknowledging that, you choose to take Girardi to task. Please argue against my actual point, and not some made up point I never made that you invent.

    • BrienJackson

      As a one off I wouldn't be so vehement, but at this point it's more a matter of the aggregate amount of poor decisions to bunt so far this season.

      • BrienJackson

        Actually I probably would have. I despise bunting runners like Gardner to 2nd.

        • Ted Nelson

          Runners with a 57% success rate of stealing bases on the season should just steal the base 57% of the time and make the out 43% of the time instead? Based on average run expectancies this season and Gardner's SB success this season (I believe he's better than that… but not in a situation where the other team knows he's running and he represents the tie run getting to 2nd with no outs in the 9th…)… the new run expectancy is .697462… or right in line with the .6437 run expectancy you're slamming Girardi for considering going for.

          I would be more receptive to an argument to hit-and-run with a contact hitter like Nunez up (k% this season is 8.3, was low teens in the minors)… but for a guy who has been caught almost 1/2 the time to try stealing when he represents the tying run in the 9th and everyone in the stadium knows he wants to run? That's why you are so vehemently against Girardi's hypothetical strategy to the point of insulting his intelligence? Based on a non-existent *situational* run-expectancy you did not calculate, and your belief that Gardner would not have made the out when the Jays knew he was running?

          It's not easy to be an MLB manager. And while you call him ignorant for not using run expectancies, he might actually have better run expectancy charts in that binder tailored to the situation… which would in the end make you the ignorant one. He might not, but I'm pretty sure the entire Yankee org is not ignorant as to what a run expectancy chart is. If they're unhappy with Girardi, I'm sure they'll let him know.

          • Eddie Smith

            As I was reading through this post about yesterday’s game, I was watching the tail end of today’s Texas-CWS game. Interestingly, the situation was nearly identical, except it was the 8th instead of the 9th inning. Texas ahead 2-1, top of the 8th, CWS runner on 1st, no outs. What did Ozzie choose to do? Bunt the runner to second. The run never scored (that’s beside the point). Ozzie also chose the 1 out runner at 2nd senerio, rather than swing away with 0 outs, runner at first. I am not argueing that either strategy is right or wrong. My point is that it seems to be fairly SOP amoung AL managers’ and not just “crusty old NL guy’s” or Dusty Baker types. Ozzie has probably never been labelled as a “conservative” type of manager.

            However I think Girardi was going to be in for a fair amount criticism anyway, if the game had gone into the 10th. After Gardener grounded out, Posada comes up to hit for Nunez, who is the starting SS. We all know what happened, Posada got a hit, was pitch run for, this run scoring to tie the game. So far so good. But what if that one run is all the Yankees’ get in the 9th? Who is coming out to play SS? Obviously Jeter. Only Jones and Cervelli are left on the bench. Now Girardi lost his DH. Also probably not standard AL managerial practice. Probably not a huge hit if the game runs say just 10 or 11 innings. But what if this thing goes 14 or 15? It would have been interesting to hear Girardi’s post-game presser if say the Jays’ had won in 14.

            In the situation you describe (Gardener on 1st, no outs, do you bunt Nunez or PH with Posada?), I think there may have been a third option. You might also bunt Nunez, then PH Posada for Jeter with Gardener on 2nd. (Let the local’s howl.) In this way, Nunez is still in the game at SS and you do not loose your DH. Of course, I am aware that things like PH for Derek Jeter are just NOT done, so this is purely hypothetical. But it too would have made for “interesting” post-game discussion.

          • LarryAtIIATMS

            Eddie, great comment! Yes, I was watching that White Sox game, too, took note of the bunt and rolled my eyes. It succeeded in putting Pierzynski on second with one out, a guy too slow to score when Beckham singled (not sure who could have scored on that particular single). Of course, Texas bunted its way out of the bottom of the 8th, so maybe the bunting gods were trying to even things up.

            My own personal point of view, not widely shared, is that we tend to beat up Girardi because the manager makes decisions that can be second-guessed, and second-guessing is the lifeblood of sports reporting. It's hard to beat up on A-Rod for not swinging at a fast ball down the middle, because the ball is traveling at 93 MPH and that's a "blink" kind of decision. I personally am not saying that Girardi is better or worse than anyone else (I'm a Joe Madden fan, but you can blame Jonah Keri and his book for that). I try to focus on the strategy, not the manager ("hate the game, not the player").

            VERY good point about losing the DH if the game had gone into extra innings. The decision worked, but I winced at it at the time — Nunez is not a bad hitter, he may be a better hitter than Posada at this point. But even with the DH lost, the Yanks could still pinch-hit for the pitcher using Jones and Cervelli, so I don't think someone like Joba was going to have to bat.

            The bunt Nunez decision could swing in favor of bunting if we had a terrific hitting option to follow the bunt. The numbers I cited in my comment above are applicable with all other things equal, including a league-average leadoff hitter. At the moment, it's my guess that our leadoff hitter is not league average … so if (for example) Curtis Granderson was available to pinch-hit for Jeter, that might swing things in favor of a Nunez bunt. I'm not convinced that Posada (who we were close to DFAing 10 days ago) is enough of an upgrade over Jeter to justify the sacrifice bunt choice.

            If you're really a Jeter-hater, you might have had Nunez swing away, and he failed, asked Jeter to bunt Gardner to second. The book would be against you, but you'd have Grandy at the plate with the tying run on second and two out, which is where things ended up anyway.

            Good rational analysis on your part, if you don't mind my saying so. Though there's a part of me thinking that Posada took the risk and stretched his single into a double in the hope we wouldn't have to talk about bunting today!

          • Eddie Smith

            Thanks Larry. I was just wondering how many people watching the game actually realized that Girardi had lost his DH the minute he PH Posada for Nunez, since I had not read a word about it on any of the blogs today.

            Your idea of 'what if Granderson had been available to PH for Jeter' is interesting. In that situation (Granderson's day off), you can not both PH Posada for Nunez and PH Granderson for Jeter, because there are no middle infielders available to play SS in the 10th. I wonder what the outcome (all hypothetical) would be if, say, Chavez was on the bench and not the DL? Would Girardi have the nerve to PH for both Nunez and Jeter in this situation? Granderson would become the new DH, hitting in the #1 hole. Chavez for Posada in Nunez's original 9th spot. Chavez has to play 3B, A-Rod slides over to SS. I would haved loved to have seen it. (Of course you also could simply PH Chavez for Nunez and leave Posada on the bench). Makes you wonder sometimes how Girardi would handle some of these situations. He nearly had to yesterday.

          • LarryAtIIATMS

            I caught the loss of the DH after Dickerson was beaned in Baltimore, but I admit that I missed it in last night's excitement. You can forgive me, my being in shock over the comeback win and the balls refusing to leave the park.

            I wasn't trying to set up the pinch hitting for Jeter as a real-life example, but I was talking a wild hypothetical where Nunez hit for himself and bunted, then someone batted for Jeter. I was doing this mostly to make a point about bunting with a guy on first and no one out, which is that you need a really good hitter on deck for this to make sense. If the team has concluded that you pinch-hit for Jeter in these situations, then the team is not batting him leadoff. (Please, no one use my last sentence as an invitation to discuss who should bat where in the lineup!)

          • BrienJackson

            Actually I think Ozzie is the worst offender in the A.L. at bunting runners to 2nd (incidentally, I think Ozzie is a pretty terrible in-game tactician). I believe it was Neyer who, last season, noted how insanely often Ozzie was calling for a bunt with Juan Pierre on 1st base, even though Pierre wound up stealing 68 bases in 86 attempts.

          • Ted Nelson

            "However I think Girardi was going to be in for a fair amount criticism anyway, if the game had gone into the 10th. After Gardener grounded out, Posada comes up to hit for Nunez, who is the starting SS."

            Would you be more critical of him if he doesn't PH for Nunez and they lose the game, or if they tie the game and go into extras without a DH? Especially when you can usually PH for the pitcher with ease. If they don't score in that situation the Yankees lose, so I think getting a run there is paramount not worrying about what you'll do if you get that run.

    • piratechef

      Hey Larry… just wanted to say thanks for providing some of the actual probabilities of different situations for us. While i'm not doubting Brien, it is nice to see real numbers so that we can have an informed discussion here. When we are talking about such small margins in increased success people need to know, otherwise it comes off as "it's a no brainer dummy".

      Cheers.

      pirate

  5. Matt

    How on earth does the FO think Girardi is a good manager??

    • not Montero's dad

      They compare him to Torre.

      • jay_robertson

        using the same decision making prowess that got sorry Soriano a contract

    • piratechef

      How on earth will there ever be a manager in NY that doesn't get crucified for blowing his nose the wrong way?

      Answer: Never. No matter how good they are it won't matter. They will always eat **** for any marginal move they make. Welcome to NY baseball kiddies.

  6. Evilhubie

    Another day, another IIATMS post whining about Girardi bunting. This time, Girardi didn't even call for a bunt, he postulated that he might bunt in a hypothetical situation that never happened.

    OK, we get it. You guys think that the numbers dictate that Girardi should not be bunting in a number of situations where he actually bunts (or even thinks about it). Can you just note these as GPBDs (Girardi Poor Bunting Decisions) and dedicate your considerable writing talents to more enlightening or entertaining topics?

    • groundhogday

      i'm assuming that the bulk of the people here are not just fans but fanatics and i know how much we appreciate stats. what i propose is that we come up with a statistical analysis on how many of brien's posts are related to a.) derek jeter and b.) bunting. my guess is it would put him in the "holy heil will you give it a rest" HOF.

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