Inside the Boone Logan decision

Bullpen falters as offense can't recover in 5-4 loss
The Sabathia - Posada connection

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.

Bullpen falters as offense can't recover in 5-4 loss
The Sabathia - Posada connection
  • Steve H

    If this move were in August I might be a little more perturbed, but Girardi is still getting to know his pen, especially the new guys. If he throws Logan out there a few times in April/May and he doesn’t work out, he won’t send him out there later in the year. Not that the games are less important in the grand scheme of things, but you want to have your best possible 25 man roster, and maneuvering of it in August/September.

    • The Three Amigos

      Fair enough, but Logan probably won’t be in the pen in August. Yes, Robertson gave up the game, but I think you have to go to him in that spot. His number against lefties and righties are very good (albeit not in this years small sample).

      Frankly, the decision to let Hughes start the 6th worked out, but I would not have been surprised to see Aceves start the 6th and hopefully bridge the gap till the 8th or 9th. It is what I expected.

      The interesting thing is (I believe) Aceves was warming up and then Girardi sat him down and brought up Robertson and Logan. The one thing I think that is plaguing Girardi early this year is indecisiveness, he has got to make a decision and go with it.

      • Jose

        Girardi wasn’t being indecisive. He had Aceves warming in case Hughes couldn’t get anyone out when he went out in the 6th. He then had Logan warming because he knew of lefty matchup. If anything Girardi had a plan clearly defined in this game. He only had to get Aceves back up because of bullpen failure.

        • The Three Amigos

          So, his plan was to bring in his second worst reliever into a 1 run game, when Aceves and Robertson have proven they can both get lefties out?

          The mixing and matching is ridiculous sometimes. Hughes was gassed, taking him out was a no brainer after two hard hit balls. Last night, despite countless screw ups, was a winnable game and Logan and Mitre should only be used in blowouts or when all our other relievers have pitched. We have great options in the pen. I understand it is early and Girardi is figuring things out, but I don’t know… losing games like we did last night to the lowly Orioles hurts.

          • Jose

            Yes, he executed his plan. I have no way of knowing his thought process, but I assure he wasn’t just flying by the seat of his pants.

            That is fine to disagree with his mixing and matching. Or whether he should ever use Mitre or Logan in close game. But I do think it is unfair to say Girardi was being indecisive.

      • Steve H

        Totally agree with you on Aceves. When you get a short outing out of your starter (in a still winnable game), I’d rather try to get extra innings out of one guy. The more relievers you use in a game, the better chance you run into one who’s just having an off night.


      agreed – and if Logan can’t succeed in this situation,then he doesn’t have a place in the bullpen. personally, i dont feel that the Yankees need 2 lefties in the pen.

  • OldYanksFan

    While Joba has not been great, to me, that is the perfect situation to bring Joba in and see if he can give us 2.33 IP. As far are Girardi goes, Joe is good at spreading the innings around, so based on that, ya gotta see Mitre and Logan sometime….

    • Steve H

      Unfortunately now that Joba has been deemed “the 8th inning guy”, I don’t see Joba pitching in that spot. Baseball managers, as a whole, still haven’t grasped leverage. They pigeon hole guys into roles and go with that.

      • Jose

        Just to clarify, when Boone first came in it was a low leverage situation. It is understandable Girardi didn’t want to use Joba that early in a low leverage situation.

        • Steve H

          Agreed. I should have been clearer in my response, but if Joba already hadn’t been pigeon holed into a role, I could see using him for a couple of innings there (though I’d prefer Aceves). If that was an extremely high leverage spot, Girardi wouldn’t go to “leverage chart” he’d go to a “role chart”. Not a shot at Girardi either, it’s the status quo of MLB managers, and overall I think Girardi does a great job of handling the pen. Look no further than Torre.

          • Jose

            Gotcha. In the eyes of most managers “role of pitcher” >> “leverage of situation”

  • Jose

    “Last night, the move didn’t work out for the Yanks, but all things considered, it wasn’t a bad one at the time.”

    Perfectly put. The bullpen failed last night. Logan, Robertson, and Aceves. I don’t have much against Girardi after this game. It is still early in the year and the bullpen is still fluid. He is figuring out what he has to work with, while trying to win games.

    • Steve H

      Agreed. Logan, Robertson, and Aceves are on the roster and have jobs to do. They didn’t get it done. Can’t fault Girardi for their failure.

      If Girardi brought in Boone Logan to face Albert Pujols, then you can blame him, but Logan’s job is to retire lefties, and he didn’t get it done.

  • Dirty Pena

    Does Logan have an option left or was that used when he got sent down to start the year?

    • Chris

      He can still be sent down for the remainder of the season. It’s hard to justify sending him down when it was Robertson that allowed a HBP and 3 hits before getting an out.

      • Dirty Pena

        I’m not saying he should be sent down. I’m just curious what the possibilities are if he struggles.

  • Mike HC

    I think Girardi wanted to use Logan and see what he had while still on the roster. It was the perfect spot to use him in. I highly doubt he puts Logan in there if it was Game 7 of the WS. During the regular season it is a balance between winning, using your entire roster to rest the regulars and evaluating the youngsters. Girardi does an excellent job of that as we saw last year.

  • Joebrah

    I was annoyed by Girardi playing the match-up game, too. I don’t know, I knew from about the third inning that Hughes was’t going to pitch 7 innings, but I was praying that Girardi would yank him at the appropriate time and just put in Aceves or Mitre to eat up 2 innings.

    I just personally hate seeing the match-up game in the 6th inning. That being said, his guys couldn’t get it done. Maybe it looks like the right moves if they perform, but it just seems far too similar to the tactic deployed on Opening Day, and Chan-Ho’s ass aside, it didn’t seem to work then either.

  • Rose

    I’ll never understand it when lefties come in with one simple job…and walk the guy. At the very least challenge the guy…you’re in there for a reason. A righty could have unsuccessfully attempted to nibble corners too…but they put you, specifically, in there to do something else.

    Now, against Scott or with a similar guy up at the plate (who can hit lefties just as well or whatever) it may not matter…but either way. It’s frustrating to watch.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      Frustrating yes, but even good relievers aren’t going to get everyone out.

      My least favorite part: after throwing nothing but fastballs, Logan throws a 3-2 slider and misses. I love me some 3-2 breaking pitches, but you absolutely have to throw it for a strike. Otherwise, stick with ol’ No. 1.

  • Hobbes

    Just watching, and not looking at advanced statistics, I thought that Robertson’s outing was influenced by a lot of bad luck last night. Hitting Wigginton (sp?) was tough luck, he was blowing him away, and the first two hits weren’t scalded. One was a bloop, and the other was a grounder to the wrong spot. Combined with the bad luck the Yanks had hitting balls right at the orioles, I am just chalking this one up to a bad luck night.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      I covered this in the recap. Hughes and Reimold seemed to hit pretty good pitches. It happens.

  • Johnny O

    It may not have bene a perfect decision, but hindsight is 20/20. As mentioned, Hughes was lucky to get through 5.2 IP with 1 run and he was gassed. FB was only 91 on the YES gun in the 6th. If Boone gets Scott or if Robertson does his job then Girardi made a great decision. Can’t fault him on this one, it’s on the players.

    A potential downside of the stellar starting pitching this April is a lack of work for the bullpen? A lot of these guys haven’t gotten a ton of work yet. I’d rather have that problem due to CC and crew pitching well, but still it might take some time for the pen to come around.

  • DF

    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.

    Does Leverage Index take into account the quality of the batter faced? Per the Fangraphs description, it doesn’t seem to. Doesn’t that make the stat a lot less useful? I’m just skeptical that it has any kind of predictive value for how a player will perform. Maybe Logan has faced better hitters in his high leverage situations, or just abnormally poor hitters in his medium leverage situations, and that’s skewing his performance levels. We’re not talking about very large samples here. I guess what I’m saying is that looking at a situation’s LI and restricting your choice of reliever to pitchers who have good numbers in situations with similar LI’s, is not a helpful way to choose a reliever.

    Which is not to say I have a problem with going to Logan there. Just quibbling with some of the reasoning in the post.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      Selecting a reliever based on his performance in leveraged situations might not be great, but selecting your reliever based on leverage — using your best guys in high leverage situations and your fringe guys in low leverage situations — makes sense.

      It doesn’t make the stat less useful. It’s just context-neutral. Obviously, you adjust based on who’s coming up.

      • DF

        Yeah, I agree with that. Use your best relievers in the situations that are most important. No disagreement there.

  • Rose

    ESPN write up on last nights debacle…

    Opening line may be a tad much for some:

    It wasn’t as if Phil Hughes gave the bullpen a hard task. He handed them a one-run lead with two outs and nobody on in the sixth.

    Oh, and it was against the worst team in baseball and the bottom of arguably the worst order in baseball. Easy stuff, right? Wrong.

    Boone Logan spilled the gas, David Robertson lit the match and Hughes’ victory went up in flames. After the 5-4 loss to the Orioles, the Yankees have lost four of their last five games and there suddenly is an issue with this team.

    But a lot of it is unfortunately true (for now anyway).

    • DF

      That is certainly a bit much. Phil Hughes wasn’t exactly lights out. It’s not like he pitched brilliantly and the bullpen ruined it. He pitched pretty poorly and got lucky.

      Bullpens blow games a lot, even good ones. They have to give up runs sometimes. This is a game to shrug off and forget. They happen.

      • Rose

        Yeah, in the article he touches upon Hughes in a little bit more detail.

        My point of posting this was to show how, while most people agree it was a combined effort of Logan and Robertson, they place more of the blame on Robertson. Either way you look at it…either one of them did their job and the end result compensated them for it.

        • Rose


          Either way you look at it…neither one of them did their job and the end result compensated them for it.

  • yankthemike

    I had no problem bringing in logan. and yeah scott should have been able to neutralize- it’s the BB that bothers me. relievers that won’t attack hitters – what really is disturbing is Robertson this year. I know he’s barely had a chance to do anything this year, but he’s not helping his cause. maybe it might be time to give Melancon a shot soon. when do you guys think he might be brought up?

  • A.D.

    After game one, who would have thought we’d be missing ChOP

    • Rose

      I’d certainly take him over Nick Johnson thus far…