Second-guessing Girardi

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
5:12
AM ET
In the wake of the Yankees' loss (and the Angels' win), Jason Rosenberg was angry. Among his reasons: the bottom of the (decisive) 11th inning ...
    * Robertson in after [Francisco] Cervelli's weak hacks. Quickly sets down the first two batters. Did you know that Robertson led the league in K/9IP (with 13.0 K/9) this year? I mention this as it seems that Girardi forgot. My yelling through the TV didn't make it to Anaheim in time. So rather than let him continue ... after all, it was extra innings, the pitcher was doing quite fine, thank you very much... and four other relievers had already been burned ... Girardi decides that Alf Aceves would be a better option here...* So Girardi retreated to his fortress of managerial suckitude and pulled Robertson for no darn good reason. None! Guessing that Dave Eiland likes his job too much to stand up to Joe.

    * Aceves promptly gives up a single followed by a game-winning double.
Look, I'm perfectly happy to question Girardi's play-calling in this one. I was thrilled to see him use Mariano Rivera in a non-save situation, and Rivera did throw 17 pitches. But Girardi used left-hander Damaso Marte for one pitch, and replaced him with another left-hander, who was allowed to throw three pitches. Later, Dave Robertson threw only 11 pitches before giving way for Aceves.

In a game like this one, the manager has to balance two competing impulses. He's got to treat every batter as a potential game-changer, but at the same time he's got to worry about the game continuing indefinitely. Because the great majority of close games do end before the 12th inning, we may forgive a manager for running through his relievers quickly. Particularly when he's employing a three-man rotation and so has more spare pitchers than usual.

Why, specifically, did Girardi replace Robertson with Aceves? We know it's not because of any specific history, because Robertson had faced Howie Kendrick only twice before Monday, and Aceves not at all. Girardi simply mentioned "matchups," suggesting that his charts showed Kendrick faring worse against pitchers like Aceves than against pitchers like Robertson.

As for Robertson's strikeout rate ... yeah, it's incredibly impressive. But getting to the heart of the thing, which is actually retiring hitters, Robertson's and Aceves' ERA's were essentially the same this season, and Aceves' strikeout-to-walk ratio -- thanks to his low walk rate and Robertson's high walk rate -- was significantly better than Robertson's.

In retrospect, it seems like an odd move for two reasons: 1) Robertson had thrown so few pitches; and 2) Girardi was running out of, if not relief pitchers per se, then reliable relief pitchers. But Girardi wasn't playing some wild hunch; he seems to have based his decision on some actual information, the sort of information that's stood him in good stead all season long. It just didn't work out this time.

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