Monday, October 19, 2009

Joe's own worst enemy -- is he in the mirror?

Here's The Monk's question of the day: Is Joe Girardi his own worst enemy?

The Yanks have a 2-0 lead in the ALCS, which they've achieved four times in 8 ALCS since 1996 (1999, 2001, 2004, 2009). In 1999 and 2001, they won in five games after losing game 3. We don't discuss 2004 here.

In the ALDS, Girardi established a pattern with his pitchers: have the starter pitch 6 or more, use Coke for the first lefty in the 7th, use Joba for righties in the 7th, use Hughes in the 8th, use Rivera in the 9th. Problems: Hughes was ineffective, so Rivera entered in the 8th; Coke and Joba were erratic even though they worked out of trouble.

In game 2 of the ALCS, Girardi reverted to that same formula. Burnett pitched 6.1 and left after Cano's error put a runner on, Coke issued a walk and got a strikeout, Joba gave up an infield single hit and struck out Guerrero in a 15-minute at bat with about 10 conferences between Joba and catcher Jose Molina. Even though it was a tie game and Joba could have pitched another inning, Girardi again used Hughes in the 8th and again for 2/3 of an inning (although Hughes would have pitched the full 8th if Jeter hadn't bonked a double play ball). Then, on came Rivera for 2.1 IP.

I'm unsure which of this is what Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan called Girardi's misuse of the bullpen. I thought it was when Girardi actually used Damaso Marte . . . but Joey G. got away with it. Maybe Passan didn't like the use of Rivera . . . but this is the playoffs and winning managers don't leave the closer in the bullpen just because it violates a "Rule" in "The Book."

My concern going forward is what Joe is going to do if presented with the same situation he had in games 2 and 3 of the ALDS: a starter with plenty of gas left (Burnett was at 95 pitches, Pettitte at 81) and game in the 7th inning. I'll take Pettitte for another 25-30 tosses, Burnett for another 10-15 (I have no problem with Girardi giving him the hook on Saturday, Burnett was at 115). Girardi went to the 'pen early and often. I hope that doesn't turn out wrong later in this, or another, series.

P.S. -- The MLB Network's breakdown show seems pretty good. I watched for about 10-15 minutes after Saturday night's/Sunday morning's game and was impressed by Wild Thing Mitch Williams' breakdown of Burnett showing why A.J.'s balance and breaking ball is so much better when he pitches from a full wind-up than from the stretch and discussing the importance of a good balance/gather point for a tall lanky pitcher like Burnett. Williams' co-analyst (didn't get his identity) also rightly observed that when A.J. throws a wild pitch, he misses left or right, not short or high.

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