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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Girardi’

Joe Maddon and Kirk Gibson were named the AL and NL managers of the year, and, all things considered, they were probably the most deserving candidates for the award. Both managers overcame diminished pre-season expectations and led their relatively young teams to the playoffs, so it’s hard to argue with either selection, especially when you consider how intimately each team’s style of play has become entwined with the personality of their manager.

Not many people pay attention to who wins the Manager of the Year award, much less who finishes further down the ballot. However, the relatively poor showing of Joe Girardi is a little hard to figure. For the third straight year, the Yankees finished with one of the top-3 records in all of baseball, and yet their manager has finished third, sixth, and fifth in the balloting. Although all three of the managers selected since 2009 have been worthy choices, at what point will Girardi get more recognition?

Most MoY Winners, by Franchise (click to enlarge)
Source: mlb.com

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Before the Yankees’ adopted a six-man rotation at the end of July, the team’s starters had posted one of the lowest combined ERAs in the league. Since then, however, the Yankees’ rotation has ranked 9th in the league with a 4.85 ERA. Coincidence or correlation?

When Joe Girardi first decided to expand the rotation to six, it was presented as a temporary solution to the Yankees’ glut of starters. In reality, however, it was really a structure designed to keep the struggling A.J. Burnett in a starting role. Six weeks later, not only has Burnett continued to weigh on the team, but now it seems as if the efforts made to accommodate the erratic righty have brought the rest of the staff down with him.

Yankees’ Starters ERA vs. American League, by Defined Period (click to enlarge)


Note: Yankees began using six-man on July 30; August 1 used for comparison to league because of ease of calculation.
Source: fangraphs.com

Luckily, the Yankees’ offense produced at season-high levels during August and early September. As a result, the team’s winning percentage has actually been higher since the Yankees’ adopted the six-man rotation (.614 vs. .600). However, the end doesn’t justify the means. Not only could the Yankees have won even more games during this period, but the team now finds itself with a rotation in flux only two weeks before the start of the post season. The six-man rotation may have been designed to accomplish something, but it’s hard to figure out exactly what.

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Albert Einstein is widely believed to have said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. He must have had the Yankees’ handling of A.J. Burnett in mind when he made that observation.

Even Burnett has found it hard to look when he takes the mound (Photo: AP).

For two seasons, A.J. Burnett has been a terrible pitcher. Unless he can whittle his ERA below 5.00 before the end of the season, he will go down as the only Yankees pitcher in franchise history to have an ERA above that mark in two seasons of more than 110 innings. What’s more, among all pinstriped hurlers with at least 160 innings pitched, Burnett’s 2010 and 2011 each rank among the top-three worst seasons in terms of ERA. The anecdotes that illustrate Burnett’s futility are almost as limitless as the frustration he has inspired over the last two seasons, so it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the time has come to remove him from the rotation.

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have instead preferred to remain willfully ignorant. Not only have the Yankees’ brain trust shoe horned the struggling right hander into a six-man rotation, but they have taken every opportunity to defend his performance. If the Yankees had no other viable options, perhaps the decision to keep running Burnett out to the mound would make some sense, but the Yankees actually have too many starters, not to mention several minor league/bullpen options that would also provide a superior alternative.

Yankee Pitchers with an ERA of 5.00 or Higher (minimum 160 innings), Since 1901

Player Year ERA IP W L ERA+
A.J. Burnett 2011 5.31 161 9 11 ~79
Bump Hadley 1937 5.30 178.1 11 8 85
A.J. Burnett 2010 5.26 186.2 10 15 81
Roy Sherid 1930 5.23 184 12 13 83
Melido Perez 1993 5.19 163 6 14 80
Snake Wiltse 1902 5.10 164 7 11 74
Dwight Gooden 1996 5.01 170.2 11 7 100
Randy Johnson 2006 5.00 205 17 11 90
Richard Dotson 1988 5.00 171 12 9 80

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Joe Girardi’s personality exudes loyalty. In his three-plus years as manager, it’s hard to think of one instance in which he publicly criticized a player. In many ways, that’s an admirable trait, one that his players must surely appreciate. However, there is a difference between throwing a player under the bus and acknowledging his deficiencies. Unfortunately, at least with A.J. Burnett, Girardi has been unable to make that distinction.

AJ Burnett watches from the dugout after being pulled in the second inning (Photo: AP).

After surrendering four runs and loading the bases in the second inning, AJ Burnett received another early hook from Girardi. As he departed the mound, the right hander seemed to mouth something in his manager’s direction. Then, the YES cameras caught Girardi following Burnett into the clubhouse. Had there been a confrontation? With the score lopsided, the remaining innings became a formality leading up to the post game.

After the game, Girardi was livid. However, his anger wasn’t directed toward Burnett’s rampant ineffectiveness, nor was it inspired by the way in which the right hander expressed himself while leaving the mound. According to the Yankees’ manager, those events were much ado about nothing. Instead, what sparked Girardi’s post game tirade was the unfair way he believes the media has been treating Burnett.

I’m tired of people looking for something between me and A.J. Me and A.J. have mutual respect for each other. I cheer for this guy. He cheers for me, and we cheer for this team. I want the guy to do well.” – Joe Girardi, quoted by AP, August 20, 2011

Instead of taking the opportunity to hold his erratic right hander accountable for his actions and performance, Girardi choose to make him the victim. In some ways, that has become the organization’s party line. Just last week, Brian Cashman launched into a similarly impassioned defense of Burnett. According to the GM, Burnett’s struggles were as much a media creation as a reflection of reality. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t support the claim.

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Every time an umpire blows a significant call, there is the usual clamoring for instant replay. However, even that fail safe proved insufficient in the last night’s game between the Yankees and Royals.

Joe Girardi and Dana DeMuth discuss Billy Butler's disputed home run (Photo: Getty Images).

The controversy started in the bottom of the third inning when Royals’ DH Billy Butler lined a Bartolo Colon fastball off the top of the left field wall. However, the umpires signaled home run, which allowed Butler to circle the bases even as the ball was being thrown to third base. Almost immediately, Joe Girardi bolted from the dugout to ask for a replay review. The umpires, led by crew chief Dana DeMuth, obliged Girardi’s request, but, in spite of the clear visual evidence, still decided to uphold the original call (interestingly, on June 1, Butler was involved in a similar situation when he was incorrectly awarded with a walk-off home run despite replays clearly showing the ball did not go over the same left field wall).

After the game, Steve Palmero, the supervisor of umpires, was seen taking the game’s crew on a field trip to inspect the infamous fence, an action that immediately suggested DeMuth had misinterpreted the relevant ground rule. Although it should offer no consolation to the Yankees, Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of Baseball Operations, eventually confirmed that the umpires erred, telling the Daily News that “it was a missed call, but there was also a misunderstanding on the rule”.

As things turned out, Colon retired the next two batters in the inning, so, all else being equal, Butler would not have scored without the erroneous decision. The fact that the Yankees lost by one run only compounded the error, but even if the deficit had been a larger margin, the impact on the game would have been the same: the Royals were given a run they should not have had. Once the umpires decided to uphold their initial mistake, manager Joe Girardi could no longer contest the call, leaving him with only one option: lodge a formal protest.

The Yankees’ dugout was visibly upset after DeMuth refused to reverse the call. Even the stoic Mariano Rivera had to be restrained by Tony Pena. Despite this strong emotion, and the insistence of first base coach Mick Kelleher, who was present when the ground rules were reviewed, Girardi forfeited his only chance at vindication by deciding not to protest the game.

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During his tenure as Yankees’ manager, Joe Girardi has adopted a formulaic approach to using the bullpen. During the early part of the season, his equation for winning was based on three variables: Joba Chamberlain in the seventh, Rafael Soriano in the eighth and Mariano Rivera in the ninth. However, Soriano’s injury poked a hole in the formula, causing Girardi to rejigger the components.

Luis Ayala, not David Robertson, was called upon to get the Yankees out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth inning (Photo: AP).

In order to fix his broken equation, Girardi moved Chamberlain to the eighth and David Robertson to the seventh. By doing so, however, he created a much larger void earlier in the game. Last night’s loss to the Mariners was the first manifestation of this formulaic deficiency.

After five innings, A.J. Burnett was nursing a 3-2 lead, but had thrown 97 pitches. As a result, Girardi decided to go to his bullpen, citing Burnett’s five walks and the two runs scored by the Mariners in the fifth. Considering that four of the walks came in the first two innings, and the two runs scored on ground ball outs after a cue ball double by Ichiro, this reasoning seemed to ignore not only the context of the game, but the current state of the Yankees’ bullpen.

We just thought we’d go to Boone for one out, and then go to Ayala and try to set it up for Robertson, Chamberlain and Mo.But we didn’t get there.” Joe Girardi, quoted by the LoHud Yankees Blog, May 28, 2011

With Burnett lifted, Girardi turned to a combination of Boone Logan and Luis Ayala to face the bottom of the lineup. According to Girardi, he figured that the combination of the two relievers would be able to handle the weaker portion of the already anemic Mariners’ batting order. Of course, Burnett probably could have as well, but once you get past that decision, Girardi’s assumption is a fair one. However, once the duo loaded the bases with no outs, it was time to break from the formula. Unfortunately, Girardi did not.

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When Saturday night’s lineup was first posted, Jorge Posada was batting ninth. Then, he was scratched just before game time. As various rumors about his status circulated, including speculation about a possible retirement, Brian Cashman announced to FOX cameras that Posada had asked out of the lineup. Cashman also stated that no injury was involved. Soon thereafter, a torrent of tweets suggested that the Yankees’ catcher had thrown a fit and refused to play. That news was followed by reports about the Yankees placing a call to the commissioner’s office about possible disciplinary action. Not to be outdone by the one-sided flow of information, Posada’s wife Laura tweeted that her husband was suffering from a sore back. Meanwhile, the rest of the Yankees were busy losing another game by exhibiting the same brand of impotent offense and sloppy defense that has become a hallmark over the last three weeks.

The original lineup card with Posada batting ninth (Photo: Getty Images).

Before the game, the decision to drop Posada in the lineup seemed like more of historical footnote than a burgeoning soap opera. In retrospect, however, Girardi’s decision to drop Posada in such a high profile game on national television seems at least a little shortsighted. After all, what real benefit could be derived from moving Posada down from eighth to ninth? With Nick Swisher batting just as poorly, would anyone have batted an eye if he was slotted last? Considering Posada’s prideful reputation and Swisher’s happy-go-lucky personality, reversing those two players would have provided the path of least resistance.

Although Girardi shares some blame for the imprudent implementation of an otherwise justifiable decision, Posada also bears some blame. His emotional reaction to the slight is perfectly understandable. For years, he has been an instrumental part of the Yankees’ success, but now he finds himself watching the sands of time fall through the hourglass. It’s a long way from starting catcher to last man in the lineup, so if Posada needed a mental day off, what’s so wrong with that? Having said that, he should have been more honest with Girardi once he decided he could not play. By failing to do so, he contributed to the chaotic course of events that ensued.

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