Joe Girardi faced heavy criticism in the ALCS for his bullpen management. After a season of mostly good moves, he made a few inexplicable ones this past round. They ran the gamut of possible errors: taking a guy out too soon, leaving a guy in too long, and using the wrong pitcher. Game 3 featured two such moves. First came when Girardi went to Joba Chamberlain with one out in the seventh. The other came when he removed David Robertson in the 11th.
Robertson is the connecting theme here. Girardi shouldn’t have taken him out in the 11th after he recorded two quick outs, but before that he should have used him in the seventh. It’s pretty clear that the move to the bullpen hasn’t magically turned Joba back into his 2007 version, and it’s equally clear that Robertson is the superior choice at this point. Yet not only did Girardi remove Robertson for a poor reason in Game 3, he refused to use him in Games 4, 5, and 6, despite having plenty of opportunities to do so.
What made Girardi’s decision to not use Robertson even more frustrating is that he continued to use Joba. In Games 2, 3, and 5, Joba recorded three outs but put five men on base. In Game 3 one of those hits led to the go-ahead run scoring on a sac fly. In Game 5 it forced Girardi to bring Mariano into a game where the team was trailing. All the while Robertson sat in the bullpen, wondering what he had to do for Girardi to bring him into the game.
This made Girardi’s decision to use Chamberlain with one on and one out in the seventh inning of Game 6 even more troubling. Again, Joba had faced eight batters in his previous three appearances and let five of them reach base. He ultimately succeeded in Game 6, but a bad bet that works out doesn’t suddenly turn into a good bet. It was a poor move, and Girardi got lucky that Chamberlain didn’t pull the same stunt he had in his previous ALCS appearances.
In his World Series preview, Keith Law advocates a heavier dosage of Robertson.
David Robertson should be the first righty out of the pen over Joba Chamberlain, Chad Gaudin and Alfredo Aceves; if Phil Hughes’ struggles are more than just a fluke, I’d give Robertson important outs in the eighth. In fact, I’m not sure where I’d deploy Joba at this point; his command is poor, and his stuff isn’t blowing guys away.
In Robertson’s tiny playoff sample he’s allowed two hits in three innings. He does have two walks, which make the numbers look far worse, but both were intentional. When he’s actually pitching to hitters he gets them out — 10 of the 12 batters he’s pitched to in total so far. But that doesn’t tell the story of Robertson’s role on this Yankees team.
He went from erratic mop-up guy earlier in the year to a viable setup man by August. His 4.7 per nine innings walk rate doesn’t speak well of him, but most of that damage came in the first half. From the All-Star Break on, he walked just seven in 21 innings, a 3.00 per nine rate. He also posted excellent strikeout numbers throughout the season, 13 per nine, and that didn’t slow down much in the second half.
Robertson’s greatest asset against the Phillies is his ability to neutralize lefties with his curveball. Lefties faced him 83 times and hit just .189/.277/.324, vs. righties who hit .237/.343/.409. He also strikes out lefties more frequently, about one every 2.8 plate appearances, vs. one every 3.3 appearances against righties. This means that Robertson could pitch a full inning or more, regardless of who is due up. This is in contrast to Phil Coke and Damaso Marte, the lefties in the pen, who will likely face only Ryan Howard. The other lefties in the Phils lineup, Raul Ibanez and Chase Utley, actually hit better against lefties than righties this season.
Phil Hughes might still have a lock on the eighth inning, but at any point before that, Robertson should be the go-to guy. Unfortunately, unless someone changed Girardi’s thinking, Joba will be the first righty out of the pen. That hurts the Yankees in many ways. Robertson is the better option at this point, and considering his strikeout rate and success against lefties, there’s no one better for the Yanks to deploy in the seventh inning.