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When Joe Girardi removed David Robertson for Damaso Marte after just one batter during last night’s contest, the cries of “overmanaging” that first surfaced early last season and peaked during the playoffs began to emanate from the Yankee faithful. As I noted on Twitter, I hate that reaction in part because it is often espoused in situations where the move is perfectly logical, and in part because it is generally stated while solely considering the game at hand, rather than in the context of an entire season. There are various reasons for a manager making a move that some fans might see as overmanaging but is actually simply good managing:
1) Platoon advantage: While Joe may make pitching changes to obtain the platoon advantage a bit too often, it is hard to argue with the thinking behind a move such as the one he made last night. He was poised to use Robertson against Ortiz IF he retired Youkilis, meaning Robertson was effectively going to serve as the 8th inning man unless Youkilis got on base. When Youkilis reached, a situation tailor-made for Marte presented itself. Ortiz has awful numbers against Damaso, and Joba was available to finish the inning. Obtaining the platoon advantage when you have a bullpen that can provide plenty of innings is not overmanaging. It is simply managing.
2) Determining roles: Girardi needs to begin sorting his relievers by figuring out a pecking order so that he can most efficiently utilize his bullpen. Rather than establish a hierarchy out of the gate and then have months pass before certain pitchers pitch in high-pressure situations, Joe is throwing everyone into the fire right away, and will likely continue doing so for much of April. While this process may cost the Yankees a game or two along the way, it is almost certain to provide long term dividends.
3) Keeping everyone involved: The Yankees play a very choppy early schedule, with 3 off days interspersed among the first 7 games. By utilizing all of his relievers in short stints, Joe is helping keep everyone involved and fresh. It would simply be poor managing to leave a number of relievers on the bench during this span and have them be ice cold when you need them later this month. Only long-man Sergio Mitre has yet to make an appearance, and a number of relievers have appeared in both games.
4) Spreading the workload: A related point is that Joe tends to try and spread the pitching workload among all of his relievers, rather than just ride a hot hand. It is for this reason that, in the past, you might have seen a guy like Brian Bruney pitching in a spot that made you a bit uncomfortable, or Phil Coke pitching in a spot where Phil Hughes belonged. While Robertson can obviously handle a greater workload than he has been given over the last two games, his usage makes sense in the context of the other factors listed here.
The fact of the matter is, at the end of the season we will likely look back, as we have at the end of the last two years, and note that Girardi did an excellent job managing the bullpen, utilizing his best arms in the most important situations and keeping everybody involved and healthy. As THCM states in this comment, we have gone through this before. Joe may make the occasional mistake and overmanage a bit at times, but for the most part, it seems that he has a defined plan regarding his bullpen that results in its optimization over the long season. It is time to stop the “overmanaging” calls each time Joe trots out of the dugout.
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