Monday, April 13, 2009

A season in an inning?

That terrible ACK ACK sound you heard yesterday afternoon was the Yankees bonking an eighth inning lead by allowing three two-out runs to the woeful Royals (eight runs in previous five games). And the loss is ultimately Girardi's fault -- too much tinkering at the margins.

Girardi put Brian Bruney in for the 7th inning. Bruney is now being counted upon as a bridge to Rivera, and he responded with an easy 14-pitch inning. Then Girardi put Damaso Marte in for three lefties in the 8th. When the Royals pinch hit with two outs, Girardi lifted Marte.

And that's where the Yanks lost the game. Marte is getting serious money (> 15M/3 years) to pitch 60-70 innings a year and he has the experience and capability of getting righties out. That said, the otherwise underwhelming Billy Butler does hit lefties hard (.983 OPS v. lefty, .649 OPS v. righty). Once Girardi lifted Marte, he brought in Jose Veras. Veras walked Butler. That's inexcusable. But it's not reason to lift Veras to bring in the less experienced Phil Coke against a switch-hitter. Coke is a lefty-specialist; Veras was a general reliever who has a sufficiently effective breaking ball to get lefties out. And Veras has more experience both as a reliever and a major leaguer (Coke was primarily a starter in the minors). Bad move.

The Mess lost nearly 30 games last year that they led in the 7th and 8th innings because their bullpen stank. The Yanks cannot win the most competitive division by over-thinking the matchups against a stiff team.

Ultimately, there will be two repercussions -- more Joba-should-set-up nonsense from the fans, and more questioning of Girardi's handling of the bullpen (which had its own issues last year).

The possible solution is in Scranton -- Mark Melancon. He tore through A, AA and AAA ball last year and is a candidate to take over for Rivera in 2011. He throws hard, and is a career reliever, not a starter who can be converted like Joba. He'll be with the big club before June, especially if Veras and Coke can't find the plate.

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