As I see it, there are three obvious alternatives to how Girardi managed that inning, and all of them have obvious flaws of their own.
- He could have left A.J. Burnett in. I’m kind of sympathetic to the people arguing Girardi was too quick to pull his starter, but on the other hand Burnett was hardly at his best, throwing 97 pitches and walking a batter per inning through 5 innings against the Mariners and their inept offense. I can hardly blame Girardi for not wanting to push Burnett any further last night.
- He could have used David Robertson or Joba Chamberlain to start the 6th, but this seems like the worst kind of second-guessing to me. If you don’t think you can trust anyone but your best three relievers to start the 6th inning against the league’s worst offense, then you need to get rid of everyone else in your bullpen and start bringing up people from AAA, because you’re basically saying you think those guys are totally useless. And I have a feeling most of the people taking this position now would have been mocking Girardi for overreacting if he’d actually done this last night.
- Robertson could have come in with the bases loaded. This one probably makes the most sense given that Robertson is striking out more than 14 batters per nine innings and probably would have given the Yankees the best chance to get out of the inning with the lead in tact, but it has its drawbacks too. To wit, pulling Logan and Ayala after three batters faced and no outs would have pretty much forced Girardi to lean on D-Rob, Joba, and Mariano Rivera for 12 outs which, while doable, would have left him with a taxed bullpen for the next few games. Ultimately, this is the ultimate frustration of the 162 games schedule; your second tier relievers are simply going to have to get some important outs from time to time.
Ultimately, the real embarrassment of this game is that the Yankees allowed 6 hits and 6 walks to the worst offense in the American League (with a HBP thrown in for good measure), and the offense managed to get just 3 baserunners and no runs in 4 innings against the other team’s bullpen. When your players perform like that, it’s pretty hard for me to start the finger pointing with the manager.