Friend of the blog Will C. has taken the reign here, guestblogging for CYC while I get my bearings about the demise of a season... MANY thanks, Will. Where the Yanks failed in clutch, you certainly made up for. More on my own thoughts to come in the next few hours... I need a little more than 24 hours to regroup on this. Sigh. Thanks again, Will....
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Like most die-hard Yankee fans, the wound is still fresh and the bitterness of no fall classic in the Bronx has not yet transferred into acceptance. While all Yankee seasons that do not end in a championship are disappointing, I found this season particularly frustrating based upon a series of poor decisions which were made throughout the ALCS. As a fan, the only thing more frustrating than poor hitting, pitching and fielding is poor managerial decision making. Here are a few decisions that stand out:
Not starting Andy Petitte Game 2:
Andy Pettite has 19 career postseason wins, a Major League Baseball record. He is arguably one of the best big game pitchers in the history of the most successful franchise in sports. As Yankee fans, we love Phil Hughes. He is young with a great future ahead of him. However, his postseason resume consists of two wins and a 5.86 ERA.
Phil Hughes is not Andy Pettite – not yet at least. The time to play match-ups is from April through September. Not October. The sight of Andy Pettite, THE WINNINGEST PITCHER IN POSTSEASON HISTORY, scratching his head in the dugout as the fate of the 2010 Yankees was left to a 24 year old kid was gut wrenching. Hughes’ ERA exceeded 4.00 in his last eight starts of the season and was not hot.
Yes, he looked good in April and May, but let’s not let a few early starts in Arlington be the reason he is getting two starts in the ALCS and not Pettite. Above all else, the Yankees finally returned to their winning ways against Minnesota, where Hughes looked great in the game 3 home start.
The formula worked with CC and Pettite on the road and Hughes at home. We had an incredible come from behind win against Texas in Game 1, and at that point all the momentum, and then we alter that recipe based on statistics. What statistics? Did anyone check out Pettite’s postseason statistics?
These are only numbers that should truly matter. Also, if you are in the camp of a lefty pitching at Yankee Stadium to shut down Hamilton and the other left handers, you were thrilled for 2/3 of an inning until Josh went deep in the top of the first inning and all but ended the game with an unhittable Cliff Lee on the mound. And a great start from Pettite in Game 3 – wasted.
He makes that start in Game 2, Yankees are likely up 2-0, have won five postseason games in a row, and well on our way to 28.
Walk Murphy, Pitch to Molina:
Scenario: Yankees up 3-2, top of the 6th 2 outs. A.J. looking normal for the first time in months. What to do, what to do? Here’s a brilliant idea let’s walk David Murphy (who?) to face a historic Yankee killer. Joe, for a manager who essentially manages the game from a computer or a match-up chart, did you think to look at Bengie Molina’s career postseason numbers vs. the Yankees?
Here are some figures from the 2005 ALDS when Molina last faced the Yankees: 444 AVG, 3 HR, 5 RBI’s, 17 TB. Not too shabby. I don’t care what the book says or what the recent figures may dictate, be wary of Yankee killers. Ortiz, Guerrero, MOLINA – they are scary – certainly don’t walk David Murphy to face a Yankee killer.
Maybe Josh Hamilton but not David Murphy. Murphy, in the 2010 ALDS, his FIRST career postseason series, was a solid 1 for 7, a 143 AVG with 0 RBI’s. Please can someone tell me what numbers support an IBB to face a Yankee postseason killer?
Don’t give me the righty on righty nonsense. Take Burnett out of the game and bring in Boone Logan, your lefty specialist, to face Murphy. The 3 run homerun is not on you A.J. but incompetent mismanagement. Logan retires Murphy, Kerry Wood and Mariano lurking in the pen, I like those chances. Yankees win 7-2 on Wednesday afternoon, go back to Texas with a 3-2 lead and the whole psyche of the team is vastly different.
Bring in Robertson with the season on the line:
Scenario: Rangers 3-1, runner on second, two outs. This is the save situation, not only for the game but the season. Give up a homerun and the season is all but over – the chance of another multi-run late inning rally is not impossible but highly improbable.
What does Joe do, bring in Robertson who relinquishes that back breaking homerun. Season over with CC, Wood and Rivera sitting in the pen waiting to be used next year, I can only guess. I never understand when play-off elimination games are managed like regular season games or play-off games where there is a next game.
There is no tomorrow if Robertson gives up a homerun there so why not win or lose with the best on the mound. Bring in the best, being CC or Wood for two innings and then Mariano for an inning or two. Keep the game at a manageable 3-1 deficit and every runner that reaches base will provide an opportunity to tie the game with one swing.
For a team with the homerun capabilities of the Yankees this is not too great an obstacle to overcome. Further, the 2010 Yankees have not had the best at-bats in big holes (of course there are exceptions). Everyone from ARod to Cano and Swisher starts trying to win the game with one swing, instead of working the count, reaching base and moving the line along with singles and doubles.
Robertson, like Hughes, is a great young pitcher and this is not a personal attack on him. Let’s not forget his bases loaded, no out, Houdini act against the Halos in the ALCS last year. But I’m sure he would agree, that he is not CC and has not had the recent relief success of Kerry Wood, and thus, did not provide the highest percentage option to keep the game at 3-1.
The Bats Were Not Hot:
This is more of a commentary than a decision, but certainly influenced by the above three decisions. I understand the bats weren’t sizzling, and have heard this from many Yankee fans, and here is the story. Bats are seldom hot in the playoffs. Cano and Hamilton this year, ARod last year – yes there are exceptions – but for the most part good hitters are cold in the postseason.
Why? Because good pitching trumps good hitting any day of the week and the postseason consists of predominantly good pitching. Hitting is also a very psychological and momentum based process. We were hot coming into the series, with a 3 game sweep of the Twinkies, and had an electrifying, red hot 5 run 8th inning in Arlington Game 1.
Getting back to point 1 of this summary, pitch your second ace, Andy Pettite in game 2, and keep the momentum flowing. Bats respond to good pitching not early deficits. I will concede that the clutch hits were not there in bundles as they were in 2009, and the Yankees certainly saved a pretty penny on walk-off whip cream canisters in 2010, but poor management decisions can inhibit offensive output.
In October, put your best product on the field for a seven game series. CC, Andy, Phil, A.J., CC, Andy and Phil. That is the best Yankee product, and had this been the rotation, I would most likely not be writing this.
I like Joe Girardi as a person and while I am grateful to him for winning a 27th championship in the new house, I have trouble looking past a few of his recent decisions - most notably - the Pettite fiasco.
I have been watching Andy Petitte dominate postseason play for 15 years and he has earned the right to have two starts in the first six games of a seven game series over a non-proven Phil Hughes. I fear that with the core unit of Rivera, Jeter, Posada and Pettite showing some age, this season was an opportunity lost. Not too say I will not enjoy some rebuilding years and watching the next generation come into form.
I grew up in the Donny baseball era, with zero play-off appearances and nothing but history to lean upon. I still loved the Yankees and cherish my childhood memories at the stadium, as sparse as the crowd may have been.
As a true fan, it is not always about winning but, when you are in a position to win, make the right decisions.
Oh well, we will be back.
God bless the Yankees.
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My own analysis on its way, as soon as I can think about it without getting upset.