Death by the tiered bullpen is the most agonizing death of all

So here’s last night’s situation: two outs, bottom of the sixth, Angels have the bases loaded with a 6-5 lead and Kendrys Morales at the plate. Morales is a very dangerous hitter, to be sure, but he’s also got a pretty severe platoon split, and is much weaker from the right side of the plate than the left, boasting a career wRC+ of 73 against southpaws, compared to 129 against right-handed pitchers. Joe Girardi had called on right handed specialist Cody Eppley to pitch to the top of the Angels’ lineup three batters prior and, after retiring Mike Trout, Eppley allowed a two out infield single by Maicer Izturis before walking Albert Pujols to load the bases for Morales. Sensibly not wanting Eppley to face a left-handed batting Morales in that situation, and looking dead in the eye of a spot seemingly tailor made for his best left-handed reliever, Girardi called on…David Phelps to pitch to Morales. Predictably enough Morales doubled in a couple of insurance runs to push the Angels lead to 8-5, a fact that would prove incredibly consequential when the Yankees scored three runs in the next inning.

So, you ask, what was Girardi’s logic in going against the binder in that situation? ““If I was going to turn him around I was going to do it with Boonie, and Boonie’s one of the guys I use in the seventh and the eighth now,” is honest-to-goodness how Girardi explained it. “So I just felt it was too early.” Thankfully, he did find occasion to use Logan against Morales eventually; with two outs and no one on in the eighth inning. Logan struck Morales out on a slider to record the only out he’d be asked to get on the night, just before Cory Wade gave up Mark Trumbo‘s walk off home run to lead off the ninth.But hey, the Yankees did hold the Angels scoreless in the seventh and eighth innings which completely negated the two runs that scored in the sixth inning, right?

Whoops, I promised myself I wouldn’t be snarky or sarcastic in this post. Oh well, I don’t have the patience for earnest commentary on this topic anymore. If someone can’t understand why you don’t want the other team to come out ahead in the game’s biggest moments because you’re more worried about making sure your best reliever is available to pitch a relatively meaningless out two innings later, I honestly don’t know what to do other than make fun of them. If that person happens to be the manager of a Major League Baseball franchise, then his team deserves to lose, and he deserves all of the second guessing he gets after the fact (and just think, I haven’t even mentioned the runs you could arguably attribute to Girardi’s decision to squeeze as many innings as possible out of Phil Hughes even after it was obvious that the starter didn’t have his stuff last night). I can understand, appreciate even, that relievers like to have some defined sense of what their role is, but defining that role on the basis of what inning it happens to be is senseless, especially where left-handed relievers are concerned.

Bottom line, the Yankees lost a game they should have won last night, and a completely indefensible decision by the manager stands as one of the most direct reasons why. You can draw the conclusions you want to draw from that.

*Girardi’s decision to make Eric Chavez an everyday player against right-handed starters with Brett Gardner still on the disabled list, even though it means making Raul Ibanez a regular outfielder, has proved to be pretty close to inspired, as Chavez is hitting well and Ibanez isn’t threatening the existence of the game itself in the field. It would have been easy to take the path of least resistance and stick Dewayne Wise out there in place of Gardner, but Girardi instead has found what’s probably his ideal lineup at the moment. Kudos.



About Brien Jackson

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.

3 thoughts on “Death by the tiered bullpen is the most agonizing death of all

  1. Ibanez is looking fine; glad, if surprised, to see you acknowledging that.

    Only one tiny comment – if Joe had pulled Phil as soon as it was apparent that "the starter didn't have his stuff last night." – both starters would have been long gone by the 2nd inning. I actually thought Phil got it together a little in the 4th; why not see if he improved or stayed the same in the 5th?

    OTOH, absolutely right – nfi why he brought Phelps in – have to think the only guy who DIDN'T see that ending badly was Joe.

  2. Very disappointed in bullpen decisions. No way to resist writing this article.