The only thing better than the high tension and drama of baseball’s post-season is the second guessing and finger pointing. What’s better than drunkenly shouting advice towards the television, alerting everyone within earshot that you, not the man with a lifetime of experience in the game, know exactly what moves to make at any given moment.
The American League Championship series continues to provide amateur bench bosses (such as myself) with endless fodder for second-guessing and harsh judgment. From Ron Washington’s ongoing reluctance to use his best reliever with the game on the line to Joe Girardi’s “too little, too late” approach, both men leave themselves open to criticism.
While the biggest decision Girardi made last night was leaving Burnett in to face Bengie Molina (a defensible one, as Bengie Molina is terrible), it was Girardi’s decision to lift right-hander David Robertson in favor of Boone Logan with Josh Hamilton batting in a two-run game that was most suspect.
Robertson, victimized by some bad luck and one hard-hit ball during the previous night’s late game bullpen collapse, quickly struck out Elvis Andrus and retired Michael Young. Girardi then hopped up the dugout steps, hailing LOOGY Boone Logan to face left-handed wunderjunkie Josh Hamilton.
Of course, Logan promptly mainlined some sweet China White to Hamilton, who spiked the Rangers lead with a high drive to right field. No doubt the waves of euphoria splashed across Hamilton’s body as he rounded the bases and Logan crashed to Earth in excruciating pain.
Was Girardi right to yank Robertson? Hard to say. Boone Logan surrendered exactly zero home runs to left-handed batters during the regular season and Josh Hamilton’s lefty/righty splits go from “very good” against southpaws (.345 wOBA) to “absurd” versus normal humans who throw with their right hand (.490 wOBA.) Boone Logan is left-handed, but he’s also not very good.
David Robertson shows almost no platoon split, handling lefties and righties in nearly the identical fashion (3.69/3.52 left/right FIP split as per Fangraphs). Would leaving Robertson in to face or even walk Hamilton be the end of the world? The IBB isn’t a popular move but the Yankees showed a willingness to put people on base earlier in the game and know they’ll need to burn another pitcher after Logan anyway.
For me, the biggest issue I have with this series and the bullpen management is the difference of managing with a lead or when trailing. Girardi enjoys keeping his players in their set roles, even if it means using a less-effective reliever in a higher leveraged spot. Kerry Wood, a closer earlier this season in Cleveland and likely the save-complier on at least a dozen other teams in the league, is Joe G’s 8th inning guy, and that is that. Rivera comes in to hold the lead if the game is on the line.
In a late and close game, both managers underplayed the importance of keeping the game close while juggling the egos and predetermined roles of the arms at their disposal. Ron Washington and the Rangers were burned by questionable bullpen management in Game 1 but survived Game 4 (again leaving their best reliever Neftali Feliz on the bench with the tying run at the plate in the 8th inning.)
The Yankees now have their backs against the wall. Another poor outing by CC today and it won’t matter whom emerges from the bullpen when, they’re going home.