Lose The Binder, Joe

May 19, 2011 – 12:21 pm

Being a Joe Girardi fan is getting more and more trying every day.  And his pulling Bartolo Colon after eight innings last night may have pushed me over the edge in giving him the benefit of the doubt.  Now I find all the arguments back and forth about his love affair with the bunt to be interesting as that most of the time I can at least see where he’s coming from, although I typically don’t like the call.  And often his management of the bullpen is questionable at best, but again there’s at least some, albeit small, dose of common sense in what he does.  But last night, I’m sorry — there’s no explaining at all yanking Colon after eight innings.  He’s completely dominated the Orioles, throwing a 3-hit shutout.  His control has been near-perfect, striking out seven while walking just one batter.  Heck, he’d only been in a 3-ball count twice all night.  His pitch count is at 87, so he’s nowhere near any kind of limit there.  And to top it all off, he just struck out the side in the eighth inning with his fastball hitting 97 MPH!  If anything, the guy is getting stronger as the game progresses.  I don’t care who you’ve got as your closer, you send Colon out to finish the game in the ninth.  Period.  This is as close to a no-brainer as you get.

And yet Girardi went to Rivera, and sure enough, Rivera blows the save.  Now nothing against Mo here — he looks as strong as he ever has this year, and there’s no denying he’s pretty much the best closer the game has ever seen.  But this has nothing to do with Rivera.  It’s all about Colon and the way he was pitching.  As high a probability that you might have that Mo will close it out fine, the probability that Colon will do the same, based on how he’s pitched the first eight innings, is literally ten times higher.

And this is the problem with Girardi.  He’s always playing the percentages, doing what “the binder” tells him to do.  He never ever seems to stop and think things through, and see that “the binder” just doesn’t apply in a lot of situations.  And more and more, his bad decisions are hurting the team.  My take on “the binder” approach is that IF you have more talent than the other team, then over the long haul sticking to the percentages when making decisions is probably the thing to do.  After all, if you are THE best overall team in the league, you want the so-called “percentages” to play out, and if they do, then you will win in the end.  And looking back, that’s exactly what happened in 2009 when the Yankees won the World Series.  They had the best team overall, Girardi consistently played the percentages, and everything worked out.  But alas, that’s no longer the case.  Over the last couple of years, Boston and the entire rest of the division has improved significantly.  We saw this last year when the Yankees played sub-.500 ball over the last two months of the season.  I wondered if that was an aberration or not, but one fourth of the way through this season, I think it’s pretty clear that this is no longer the dominant team of two years ago.  So in order to compete with the likes of Boston and Tampa Bay you’ve got to manage smart, not “by the binder”.  And Girardi’s total inability to do that could well be the downfall of this team.

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