Brain Dead Bullpen Management

May 31, 2009 – 5:17 pm

Cleveland 5, NYY 4. This one was a classic example of over-managing the bullpen, from both managers. Carl Pavano is cruising in the 8th inning with a 4-2 lead, dominating the Yankee hitters, and with a pitch count of only 89. And then Eric Wedge has this brilliant idea. Why not take out the guy who is retiring hitters with ease and bring in a guy with an ERA of 13.89? What in the world is he thinking? Well, the Yankees said thank you very much, and two batters later it’s a 4-4 tie and the Yankees by all rights should be well on their way to yet another win.

But Joe Girardi was not to be out-done — certainly he could one-up Wedge with over-managing blunders. He’s got Chien-Ming Wang throwing shut-out ball with great command, looking like the Old Wang with the sinker working like it was 2007. He’s only thrown 42 pitches, so he’s obviously good for another 2-3 innings and with the Yankees now deep in to the Cleveland bullpen this game is there for the taking. Just do nothing, let things run their course, and you’ve got another win. But nope, Girardi can’t leave well enough alone. He takes out Wang and turns the game over to a totally unpredictable bullpen and sure enough, he turns a sure win in to a loss. Incredible.

What are these guys thinking? This isn’t even a case of “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. It’s more like “two birds in the hand are obviously worth more than one in the bush”. You just don’t pull a pitcher who is pitching well and getting batters out. Seems so bloody obvious.

About the only other thing you can say about this game is that in an ironic kind of way it was filled with karma for Pavano and the Yankees. Pavano, of course, was the target of an incredible amount of hatred from Yankee fans during his tenure here — all of which was totally undeserved. Yes, he was a total waste of time and money when he was on the Yankee roster, but it was hardly anything he had control over. So now that he’s at long last gone from the Yankees, he’s come back to haunt them — in two starts so far this year he’s gone 13.1 innings, given up only 4 runs, and left both times with leads late in the game. But he didn’t get a W in either game. The baseball gods apparently decided that the just thing to do here was to give him the satisfaction of doing well against the Yankees, but to leave him with nothing to show for it. Which is exactly what the Yankees got from him — nothing.

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