Bad decisions, not complacency, a problem for Yankees

And though they wouldn’t admit it in so many words (and there’s no guarantee you’ll even have to worry about it) I think that, deep down, faced with the prospect of an ALCS match up with Boston, everyone in the organization would much prefer to play the first two games in Yankee Stadium.

So on the whole, I do think the Yankees want to win the division, and they’re going to make every effort within reason to do that. And that’s really the qualifier here, because you want to strike a balance between playing to win now and optimizing your team for the postseason. Nick Swisher‘s elbow is uncomfortable? By all means, keep him out of the lineup until it feels better. Thinking of giving A-Rod a day off to avoid pushing his knee too hard? Not going to get any argument out of me. Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, or Mariano Rivera have pitched two games in a row? Don’t you dare think of even warming them up.

Not everyone agrees with that, of course, and it’s not hard to see why. A lot of fans don’t like the idea that the team isn’t trying to win every game. They don’t want to watch lineups that don’t have A-Rod or Swisher or Curtis Granderson in them. And writers don’t like it either. It makes life exceedingly dull for the beat guys, and coupled with the monotony of September call ups I don’t know how they make it through the month. And the rest of us would certainly much prefer to see an all-out race to the finish line between the two best teams in the American League. But those concerns notwithstanding, given the current structure of the postseason, it would be flat out irresponsible for Joe Girardi and the Yankees’ brain trust to do that.

And that brings me to last night. Now, there’s no two ways around it; it felt like Joe Girardi conceded that game in the bottom of the 9th. Through 8 innings, everything was going pretty well. Bartolo Colon pitched seven strong innings, and then D-Rob came in for the 8th. The offense struggled, to put it mildly, but the A-lineup was on the field (minus the aching Swisher, anyway), and they were facing a locked in Jered Weaver, so what are you going to do? But the wheels fell off the boat in the 9th inning.

It started when Girardi decided to pinch run Eduardo Nunez for A-Rod after Alex worked a walk. That drew a lot of ire, but I can’t say I really mind that sort of decision. Yes, you’re taking a superior bat out of the lineup if the game goes into extra innings, but when you’re on the road I think playing aggressively for the lead is acceptable. After all, A-Rod’s spot in the order never got back to the plate, so it was all immaterial. But allowing Nunez to attempt a steal on an 0-2 count against the Angels? Just dumb. Everyone knew a pitch out was coming in that spot. Well, everyone but Girardi and/or Nunez, anyway.

But the bottom of the ninth is what really irritated me. I mean…Aaron Laffey? Really? Not wanting to overwork Mariano is one thing, but does anyone think Mo wasn’t coming into the game if Nunez had scored? If he was available to pitch, he should have pitched. It’s that simple. If nothing else, he should have come into the game when Laffey was pulled, but instead we got Luis Ayala. Yippee. Hooray for waiting for save situations that never come!

But in any event, I don’t think last night was evidence that the Yankees aren’t trying to win or don’t care if they win or lose, it was just a mix of bad luck and some bad decisions. It’s frustrating, but it happens. And hey, I’d much rather lose that game than the one Boston lost.

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.

9 thoughts on “Bad decisions, not complacency, a problem for Yankees

  1. Travis

    Can't say I disagree with the Aaron Laffey argument, but Ayala has a sub 2.00 era. And you can't pitch Mo in the 9th on the road in a tie game because if the Yankees want to win the game there is going to be a save situation. Who would you have thrown instead of Ayala? The options were slim last night.

    • BrienJackson

      "And you can't pitch Mo in the 9th on the road in a tie game because if the Yankees want to win the game there is going to be a save situation. "

      False.

    • michael

      ERA can be very misleading especially over a collection of 48? innings facing as few as 2 batters at a time.

  2. Travis

    Ok not 100% of the time there is going to be a save situation. But chances are its going to be a 1-3 run game in extra innings. If Mo came in in the 9th got through the inning and then the Yankees score a run Girardi probably isn't sending him out there for the 10th, so my question to you is who are you sending in to pitch that inning? I'm just curious. You could have a better response than that one.

    True

    • Mooga

      The basic idea is that you always use your best relievers first when you're heading into the extra innings. Very few managers manage that way because the "closer" needs to get the "saves" but that's ludicrous. You have to try to get your offense as many chances as possible, because if you can take care of THIS inning you have no idea if your offense is gonna put up 4 runs next inning. In a tie game on the road, you have to put in the guy most likely to surrender 0 runs. If you're up by x, you want a pitcher who'll give up x or (preferably) less. Its not sensible to save your silver bullet for a situation that requires less good pitching.

  3. Hank

    There were 3 major fails over the last 2 games:
    1) the save the closer for the save situation on the road… virtually every manager does this and while annoying as heck, it's not like if there was another manager in there it would have been different. I know this is the "evervone does it so it's OK" argument, but it makes it less irritating knowing virtually every manager (or at least most) would have done the same thing.

    2) Using Laffey yesterday as the 2nd guy out of the pen in the 9th inning of a tie game….and using him to face a switch hitter. This was THE typical Girardi binder move…. he looked at Callaspo's #'s and saw he had an OPS 61points lower from the right side…. presto roboto…. turn him aroud by bringing in a lefty! Easy.. peasy…

    The "minor" issue with this of course is he forgot to factor in the pitchers…. Laffey vs righties – .928 OPS allowed (think Pujols), Ayala vs lefties .726 OPS allowed (think approx league average)…. so he turned around a hitter for 61 points of OPS and downgraded his pitcher by more than 3X of that!

    3) 7th inning yesterday…. lefty leading off (Logan already used, Robertson unavailable)…. obviously you go to your 2nd LOOGY for an out and bring in Wade to face the righties. Again, Robertson wasn't available so it was a piece it together inning but who has better #'s against lefty hitters? The right handed Wade or the lefty Laffey….and it's not even close… With a lefty hitter up Girardi actually chose the pitcher who performs worse against lefty hitters because he's been conditioned by the caveman logic of lefty hitter = lefty pitcher and the actual quality of the pitchers is more or less irrelevant (unless it's one of the big three)

    I figured out the flaw in the binder… it apparently contains no #'s on the Yankees bullpen performance and basically anyone after Mo, Robertson and Soriano is one giant pool where platoon effect and the handedness of the batter is the primary driver and far more important factor than their actual performance.

    • Hank

      sorry the 3rd item is from the Baltimore game, not yesterday.

  4. Gordon

    Brien, I understand your point in regard to Rivera, but couldn't it be argued in defense of Girardi not bringing Rivera in, that he wants to save bullets on his 41 year old closer? If you have no problem with him resting regulars who are banged up, then what is wrong with not using an older closer in a non save situation at this point in season? If it's postseason–you have extra pitches in that right arm and can use him as you suggest. That has to be considered as well. Completely agree about Laffey and add Proctor use in O's game day before, but I blame Cashman there (not a Cash hater by any means)–why are these stiffs on the team?

  5. Stink Butt

    The fact is David Robertson has pitched 60 1/3 innings so far this year, 1 IP off his career high. Rivera's at 56 1/3 innings, 4 less than his total last year (the smart money says he's going to eclipse last year's total, which isn't great news for a 41-year old closer.) And Soriano, while not pitching a ton of innings, hasn't been particularly healthy or lucky this year.

    If Girardi wants save those arms for the postseason I've got no problem with that – All the lesser chance any of those three guys develop an acute case of Joe Torre disease, (in particular I'm worried about Robertson at this point.) Oh, and in case you doubt the existence of Joe Torre disease, here's a list of guys who pitched over 80 innings for Joe Torre in the 2000's:

    2000 Jason Grimsley 79 IP (+17.1 as a starter)
    2001 Ramiro Mendoza 91 IP (+9.2 as a starter)
    2002 Ramiro Mendoza 91.2 IP
    2002 Steve Karsay 88.1 IP
    2004 Paul Quantrill 95.1
    2004 Tom Gordon 89.2
    2004 Honorable Mention: Mariano @ 78.1 IP
    2005 Tom Gordon 80.2
    2006 Scott Proctor 102.1 IP
    2006 Ron Villone 80.1 IP

    There's an awful lot of sad sad stories in there of guys who either due to injuries, ineffectiveness, or both, were never the same after.

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