Major league management of closers makes me angry. Anyone who has watched a baseball game with me has probably seen me throw things when managers make the same mistake again and again. What is that mistake? Not using your closer in the highest-leverage situation in the game.
In the 7th inning, A.J. Burnett allowed two baserunners without getting an out. With a two run lead, this situation was the highest-leverage situation that the Yankees can reasonable expect to have (they can’t just expect the bases to be loaded in the 8th or 9th, and that wouldn’t necessarily even be higher-leverage). This is a situation that calls for Mariano Rivera, Girardi’s best reliever. Instead, Phil Hughes and Damaso Marte blew the game, and the Yankees lost.
Joe Girardi made the move that every major league manager today would make, and its still the wrong move. He was holding Mariano for a theoretical situation that may or may not happen (and he did end up using Rivera in a lower-leverage situation) , or because Mariano’s defined role involves the end of the game except in a tie.
“Closer” is a title, but “Best Reliever” is a fact. The best reliever should pitch in the toughest situation once the starter comes out, be it the 8th, 9th, or 5th inning. Had Rivera come in for the 7th, the likelihood is that he would have pitched a scoreless 9th, and some combination of Coke, Marte, Hughes, and Robertson could have pitched the 9th inning. My theory has always been that your best reliever should almost never come in without men on base. But they don’t give out saves for, you know, being a valuable baseball player.
On to game 6.
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