Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Conspiracy Of Fate...

  • ...and managerial conundrums:

It's a subtle change from a year ago, but the ceasing of the practice of extra days off in the championship series is playing as much of a part in the Yankees teetering on the brink of extinction as anything else.

Is there any question that if the format was the same as last year----with an extra day off inserted between games 4 and 5----that the Yankees would have bypassed A.J. Burnett in game 4 and gone with the same template as last year and used three starters, C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte?

The alteration adds a strategic element and concern over short-term and long-term effectiveness upon whom the practice of pitching on three days rest is implemented. The Yankees started Burnett because they felt they had no other choice and Burnett came through for the most part until circumstances sullied his solid start.

Again it was the book of statistics (Girardi's Binder) that led the way; in addition, they only have one lefty in the bullpen. This left the manager with a choice: let Burnett pitch to David Murphy, or walk Murphy to pitch to Bengie Molina. (For those suggesting that Boone Logan should've been called upon to pitch to Murphy, Murphy is 3 for 4 in his career vs Logan with 2 doubles.)

There was Joe Girardi's dilemma with a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning. Have Burnett pitch to Murphy (who was 5 for 17 with a homer vs Burnett in his career); or let Burnett or another reliever pitch to Molina. Molina was 1 for 5 in his career vs Burnett with a single; he'd never faced David Robertson; and was 0 for 1 vs Joba Chamberlain.

You can't quibble with leaving Burnett it, what you can do is question why Girardi didn't take Burnett's five innings and run with them, handing it over to a bullpen that has been mostly good this post-season (especially Chamberlain) and hope to hold the lead. Molina has crafted a reputation along the lines of Dave Henderson, Jim Leyritz, Len Dykstra and Eric Hinske in that he basks in the post-season spotlight and accumulates big hits; in Molina's case, it's a regular occurrence against the Yankees.

In retrospect, you can't say that Sabathia would've pitched better than Burnett did last night despite Burnett taking the loss and seeing his respectable game line diminished to what would be considered a "bad" start even though it wasn't.

It appeared that Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland pushed their luck with Burnett and it wound up torching them; it's a judgment call that would've looked great had Burnett retired Molina; but he didn't.

Now the Yankees are staring at the abyss with the knowledge that if they manage to win the next two games and get the series to a game seven, the Stone Cold Killer, Cliff Lee is waiting with a knowing smirk, disquieting calm and a ticket to the World Series in his left hand.

As for the decisions to bench Jorge Posada and use Sergio Mitre in the ninth inning, I'll leave you to scratch your collective heads.

The Posada benching was justified by Burnett's decent start, but Posada should've been in the lineup as the DH if he wasn't going to catch (and I'd have caught Posada anyway).

With Mitre, Girardi's love affair with him is no longer a running joke, it's a detriment to the team and blew the game out of reach last night. It's a viable question as to what the manager was thinking as they saved Mariano Rivera on Monday so he'd be fresh from Tuesday and Wednesday and saw the Rangers blow both games open in the ninth inning without using Rivera at all.

This was a case of nuance. Even if the Yankees didn't have a chance to score against Lee in the bottom of the ninth inning (and as much as I admire the Killer, I don't adhere to the thought process that they were easy pickings for Lee in the ninth), they could've held the score at 2-0, possibly gotten a runner on base and maybe----maybe----Rangers manager Ron Washington would've pulled Lee. Worst case scenario, you treat it like a "means-to-an-end" of weakening an opponent like it's a prize fight by forcing Lee to throw another 15-20 pitches to perhaps compromise him for game 7.

Now Rivera's rested alright; and he's going to be resting for the winter if the Yankees lose one more game.

I like Ted Lilly as a pitcher, but the Dodgers have not learned from past mistakes with older, veteran pitchers who've had injury issues.

In 2006, the Dodgers singed the 34-year-old Jason Schmidt to a 3-year, $47 million contract despite warnings that Schmidt's shoulder was a huge risk. Schmidt pitched in 10 games over the life of the contract.

Ted Lilly, a prospective free agent, was re-signed to a 3-year, $33 million deal to remain in Los Angeles. 35 in January, Lilly has had knee problems hindering him in recent years; he pitched very well for the Dodgers after they acquired him from the Cubs at the trading deadline, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Lilly appeared to be getting by with guile and the fact that he's left-handed; his velocity was puttering in the low-80s (tops) and his overall stuff had receded to a worrisome degree.

Lilly's always been more guts than stuff and if he's able to get out on the mound regularly, he'll be a good influence on young pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley that they don't have to blow people away to win, but I question whether he's going to live up to the contract in 2011 at age 35; never mind the subsequent two years at 36-37.

I think the Dodgers have made another very expensive mistake.

  • Viewer Mail 10.20.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Michael Kay:

Why do you even bother listening to Michael Kay if he annoys you so much!!!!!

Don't come at me with logic, Jane. You know better than that.

I actually don't listen to him. The only use I have for him is when he makes an idiot of himself by saying such insipid things; it's not my fault this tends to happen every time he opens his mouth!

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes Michael Kay:

If only Michael Kay's knowledge were as voluminous as his noggin. Pfft.

TLR back in the 'Lou? Like you say, 2011 is a do-or-die year. I'm betting on die right now.

And FINALLY Jim Hendry does something that makes sense. I'm hearing the Twilight Zone music, dude...

Such pessimism from you with the Cardinals, Jeff. I'm surprised. That's usually reserved (rightfully) for Mets and Cubs fans.

Although I like what Quade did in his 37 game trial, it's still a risk to give him the full-time job based on that and simultaneously anger a club icon in Ryne Sandberg. We'll see if it works.

Max Stevens writes RE Michael Kay and the Yankees:

I'm getting a great deal of pleasure in reading your posts on Michael Kay, whom I can't stand, but even more pleasure in watching the Rangers take it to the Yanks. It kills me that they're not up 3-0 in this thing, but I give them a lot of credit for bouncing back from the Game 1 meltdown.

Fighting through the temptation to take such a devastating loss as an omen has been the key to their lead in the series. It's somewhat silly to attack Kay since he doesn't know anything about baseball to begin with, but for someone in his position to say something like that is beyond embarrassing indicates an arrogance so vast that it's an invitation to disaster, and that disaster is unfolding before our very eyes.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Friday talking about the LCS and managerial stuff. Click here for Sal's site or here to listen directly.

My predictions are looking better and better and better and better with each passing day.


She-Fan said...

I agree that Girardi pushed it with AJ. Five good innings should have been plenty for a guy who hadn't pitched in what seemed like decades. And Mo sitting on the sidelines during this series is like having a beautiful piece of jewelry that sits in the drawer, never worn.

Jeff said...

Jason Schmidt. Good grief. Whatever happened to that guy? In my own little fantasyland he's sitting at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere with a forty in one hand and Kevin Brown's throat in the other.

Gabriel said...

I'm amazed at how Cano is ripping the ball off. He bats anything. One thing is to know that he's good like that and another to watch it.