Joe Girardi may be the first manager to guide his team to 103 wins and the World Series to spend the entire time prior to the Series getting skewered by the press. First it was Jon Heyman:
Girardi apparently already has a dreary book of overwrought stats in the dugout, and he’s gone to it once or two or maybe even three times too many. Perhaps the worst call of all was removing the tough David Robertson (who hasn’t allowed a run in three extra-inning appearances this postseason) with two outs and nobody on in the 11th to bring in the immortal Alfredo Aceves. That book apparently suggested off-speed stuff against Howie Kendrick, who promptly singled against the soft-tossing Aceves, then scored the game-winning run on Jeff Mathis’ double. I’m not sure what book told Girardi to keep A.J. Burnett in the game too long. But burn it. Same goes for the one that suggested Girardi remove The Great A-Rod for speedy pinch runner Freddy Guzman in case a ball is hit into the gap. A-Rod has decent speed, he’s an excellent baserunner, and there was a greater chance the game was going to extra innings than Guzman’s extra step would make the difference.
If you have been paying much attention to the criticism of Girardi this week, most pundits have pointed to the same two moves, one of which (the A-Rod move) was not that egregious. Furthermore, if the pinch running move had worked, Heyman would have been first in line to laud Girardi for his gutsy call.
Next comes Tim Marchman, in a piece that is quite impossible to decipher:
And in this year’s playoffs, Girardi has done a fantastic job illustrating why baseball is a game for delinquents, not engineers……
The curious thing about these inane moves is that they don’t—at all—match up with Girardi’s reputation as a forward thinker steeped in statistical nuance. There’s nothing more old school than pinch running on a hunch or citing the chemistry between a pitcher and catcher as a reason to bench one of your best hitters. The Yankee manager’s overarching philosophy, then, seems to have less to do with statistics than with the notion that a manager needs to make slick maneuvers to win ballgames……
All these moves are the result of a search for edges that don’t exist. This isn’t the normal annoying tinkering we’ve all seen in 100 boring playoff games; it’s a compulsive effort to control randomness. The difference between Aceves and Robertson is about 12 runs per 500 batters faced, meaning that the lesser of the two gives up about .02 more runs per batter than the other. Neither player is more likely to get any particular hitter out—whatever differences there are in the speed or break of their pitches are utterly irrelevant next to the role of sheer random chance. An “intelligent” manager like La Russa or Girardi consults his color-coded charts as he thinks deeply about whether Howie Kendrick’s swing will work better against Robertson’s curve or Aceves’ cutter. A wise manager understands that there’s really no difference and there’s nothing he can do but call on a decent pitcher and cross his fingers.
So let’s decipher the argument here. Girardi has too many numbers, but he is not really using them. Rather he is going by feel and scouting reports. Oh, wait, those are not good either. Rather, the manager should just pick a “decent pitcher” and hope it all works out. Does this make any sense to anybody?
(Just as an aside, Howie Kendrick was sent down this year because he could not hit anything but fastballs. To suggest that no particular pitcher is more likely to get him out is silliness, and is entirely unrealted to any of the fundamental precepts of sabermetrics).
All managers make mistakes, and Joe Girardi is no different. Even Mike Scioscia has come under fire for some of his moves during the ALCS, yet Yankees fans are not even aware that Scioscia made any questionable calls. We overanalyze the moves made by our own manager while glossing over the overuse of Gary Matthews Jr. and the underuse of Jered Weaver, and suddenly we begin to believe that Girardi is a buffoon who has committed multiple fireable offenses. The fact of the matter is that every move he made in the ALCS had a legitimate reason and explanation. While some of those moves were probably a bit misguided, none were inexplicable or “fireable.” The club is in the World Series, and Joe has had a part in helping them there. It is time to just tip our caps to him and acknowledge a job well done.
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