From Joel Sherman:
This is not a Joe Girardi criticism. This is a criticism of all managers for continuing to let a statistic prevail over common sense. I only use the decision by Girardi on Sunday to highlight what I feel is total stupidity.
The score was 4-4 going to the bottom of the ninth in Cleveland and the Indians had just used their closer, Kerry Wood, to pitch to the top of the ninth. To preserve a tie and force extra innings, Girardi used first Phil Coke and then David Robertson and together those two conspired to yield the winning run. The Yankees lost without ever using their best reliever, Mariano Rivera. The theory goes that – on the road – you hold your closer until you have a save situation. And I have always found that to be ludicrous.
The Lawnmower Man download The first job of the visiting manager in that game is to force extra innings and the best chance of doing that is to use your best reliever. I believe you have to manage that game as if you are going to score several runs in extra innings and make it easier for any reliever to close the game. But even if you don’t, who cares?
In no other sport do you ignore the best person for a job in anticipation of rewarding that person with a statistic that may never become available. And why is pitching a sudden-death inning – the home team scores in a tie game that team wins – any less pressure packed then pitching with, say, a one-run lead in extra innings?
Personally, I do not think this strategy has much to do with the save statistic. It has a lot more to do with the irrational fear from managers of burning their best reliever in a spot that will not end the game. They ignore the fact that they could lose the game now, in the 9th, so that they might be able to hold onto their top bullpen guy for a situation where he can win the game for them. In the mind of a manager, the best thing that can happen in the bottom of the 9th is forcing extra innings, at which point he would need to use a lesser reliever anyhow. So while logic would dictate using your better reliever so as to get another chance at bat and possibly win the game, fear causes managers to save their closer for a possibly “more important” spot later. Joe Girardi has shown a willingness to break the mold of bullpen roles in his usage of Alfredo Aceves. Hopefully he figures out that not using Rivera in a tie game on the road is a poor strategic move, and decides to buck that trend as well.
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