When Joe Girardi walked to the mound to remove Phil Hughes last night after 5.2 less-than-efficient innings, I had a bad feeling about the eventual outcome. At the time, the Yanks were winning 2-1 but hadn’t made the most of their chances to score, and Girardi needed to get 10 outs from his relievers. Even with the best of bullpens, that’s not a comforting thought, and the Yanks’ relievers haven’t been on their game yet this year.
Boone Logan — depending upon your point of view — didn’t disappoint. He was brought in to get out the left-handed Luke Scott, and after running the count full, Scott drew a walk. There was no reason for Logan to pitch around Scott. The worst outcome would have been a tie game, and Scott hits dingers off of left-handed pitchers just once every 21.55 times to plate. That figure may be better than his 24.77 PA/HR mark against righties, but a home run wasn’t too likely.
What bothered me most about the Logan decision was that Joe Girardi was turning to what is arguably his worst non-Sergio Mitre reliever in a situation I thought didn’t warrant a lefty-lefty match-up. Had Chan Ho Park not been injured, Girardi wouldn’t have gotten overly cute with the match-ups in the 6th inning of a one-run game. But he did, and while David Robertson managed to blow it wide open after Logan left, I spent the rest of the game stewing over Logan’s inability to do his rather small job.
The more I thought about it, the less sense it made to go to Logan, but other Yankee fans had a different take on it. It was, they said, a low leverage situation, and the team has the luxury of two lefties in the bullpen. If not then, when else would be a proper time to use Boone Logan in a favorable match-up? So let’s use that one at-bat as a microcosm of a manager’s job and explore the various factors Joe Girardi must consider when heading to the pen.
First, Girardi decided to go get his pitcher Phil Hughes. The youngster didn’t have his best stuff tonight but gutted it out through 109 pitches. As the Orioles were seeing Hughes for the fourth time that evening, Girardi made the call to go to the pen as the pitch count total reached its max for the night. While Hughes seemed to find a groove in the sixth, Girardi’s move there isn’t indefensible.
The first aspect of the game that Girardi could have considered was the leverage situation. Per Fangraphs’ gamelog, the leverage index heading into the Scott at-bat was 0.76, clearly a low leverage situation. Most of Boone Logan’s appearances have come in low leverage situations, and 155 of the 415 hitters he’s faced in those situations have reached base. That’s a .373 on-base percentage. His xFIP in those situations is 4.55, and his K/9 and BB/9 are 6.88 and 4.04 respectively. He pitches slightly better in medium leverage situations and worse in high leverage appearances.
Despite Logan’s mediocre numbers, Girardi had the luxury of bringing him in to face a lefty. Of the 295 lefties Logan has faced, just 97 have reached for on OBP of .329. His K/9 IP spikes to 8.82, his walks decline to 3.53 and his xFIP against lefties is a very respectable 3.71. One factor working against Logan in this situation, though, was his lack of success in bases-empty situations. There, his walk rate goes from 2.61 with men on to 5.43. Perhaps he tries to be too careful with no one on base.
Countering Logan was Scott, and against lefties, his numbers suffer. He has hit lefties to the tune of .246/.326/.458 in his career vs. .268/.354/.503 against righties, and his wOBA .339 and .363 respectively. In low-leverage situations, Scott’s wOBA is .374, but it’s certainly reasonable to conclude that the Logan/Scott match-up favored the Yanks.
As we know, Boone Logan and the Yankees lost that match-up, and the team couldn’t get out of the inning. But this glimpse into one plate appearance during the course of a nine-inning game offers us a chance to see the various pushes and pulls a manager must consider as he manages. Joe Girardi has these various splits as his fingertips, and we see him consulting his book frequently once he has to turn the game over to the bullpen. Last night, the move didn’t work out for the Yanks, but all things considered, it wasn’t a bad one at the time. Even the best-laid plans often go awry.