In Defense Of Girardi

August 26, 2009 – 2:04 pm

Joe GirardiIt seems like Joe Girardi is catching a lot of flack about a couple of decisions in last night’s loss to the Rangers, which I have a hard time understanding. First off was the decision to bring in Chad Gaudin in the fifth inning, even though it was just a 2-run game that was still easily winnable. You see this type of tunnel-vision criticism a lot, where nothing is considered but the results of today’s game. And that’s not the way you manage in baseball, particularly not if you are managing the Yankees. The ultimate goal is winning the World Series, not winning the most regular season games. And to that end, quite often you make decisions that may not lead to optimal short-run results (i.e., winning today’s game) but that do put you in a position to win it all. And I suspect that’s exactly what Girardi was doing here. Right now the team is in excellent position to make the post-season — so winning any given game is not all that important. But evaluating the pitching and setting it up for the post-season is a major issue. Right now, the starting rotation I have to believe is pretty much set (Sabathia-Burnett-Pettitte), and the back end of the bullpen likewise (Coke-Hughes-Rivera). But in between is one big mystery. If you have to use a fourth starter or need someone for long relief, who is it going to be? That’s a very open question right now, and one that Girardi needs to be getting answers to. So when the need for long-relief came up last night, why not take a look at Gaudin? Yes, he could have brought in Robertson — but Robertson is a fairly well-known commodity at this point. He’s had 37 appearances and has been pretty much consistent all year. Girardi is probably pretty confident of how he can use him in the post-season. But Gaudin? Joe’s only seen him three times. So why not take a good, long look at him? Yes, if your only goal is to win that one game it’s a bad call. But that’s not what Girardi is thinking about right now, and in the big picture it was the right call.

Then the other criticism is one of my all-time favorites — Girardi choosing to play “small ball” in the ninth with Swisher up, no outs, and the tying run at second. Why wouldn’t you want Swisher bunting in that situation? He’s got a .245 BA — that means the probability of him making an out is OVER 75%. On the other hand, he’s successfully put down three sac bunts already this year. If he gets one down here, you have the tying run on third, the winning run on second, and Cabrera and Jeter coming up. And no, Cabrera is not in a slump — he’s 7 of his last 24, and Jeter, well he’s almost an automatic base hit these days. Plus, even if you come out of it with only a tie game and extra innings, you clearly have the advantage since Texas has now burned through all their late inning relievers and the Yankees haven’t used any of their top relievers. So bottom line, bunting Swisher makes all the sense in the world. How can anyone not see that? Every time something like this comes up, I’m amazed at how many people who seem to know a lot about the game just can’t grasp the concept of using small ball in the right situation. “Outs are too valuable to give away” is the mantra. That’s silly. You win games by scoring runs, not by not giving away outs. The idea is to score as many runs as you can with the three outs per inning that you have. So ultimately the best strategy is to turn outs in to runs, which is what small ball is all about.

Photo: NY Post

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