Pondering a relief hook too quick

Cano showing patience -- on certain pitches
To gouge or to capture? That is the question

As it neared 1:45 a.m. earlier this morning and the Yanks and A’s continued to slog through their West Coast walk-fest, Joe Girardi brought in Damaso Marte to protect a four-run lead in the 9th. It wasn’t a save situation and wouldn’t be unless Marte imploded. At the time, the Yanks’ win expectancy stood at 98.2 percent, but that wasn’t good enough for the Yanks’ skipper.

Marte began the inning in an inauspicious fashion. Facing the right-handed Jake Fox, a career .245/.298/.443 hitter who had but one base on balls this season, Marte issued a five-pitch walk. The Yanks’ win expectancy dropped all the way to 95.8, and Joe Girardi bounded out of the dugout to summon Mariano Rivera. While the strains of “Enter Sandman” played in my head, Rivera jogged in to get three easy outs in a non-save situation. Game, set, match.

Yet, something about the way the game ended irked me. It wasn’t so much Marte’s unwillingness to throw strikes to a guy who can’t hit much as it was the quick hook. Girardi brought in a lefty to face a righty — not always the best of match-ups — and then pulled him with the game still in the pocket. Rivera had to both warm up and make his league-leading seventh appearance of the young season in a game the Yanks were going to win. Why bother with the quick hook? Why bother bringing in Marte in the first place?

For Girardi, though, this approach to the bullpen is nothing new. In fact, last week against the Angels, Girardi went through a similar sequence of events. He used Joba Chamberlain to get the last out in the 8th on Thursday, but then Joba ran into a spot of trouble in the 9th. After a walk and two outs, Erick Aybar hit a weak infield single, and the Angels had the tying run at the plate with two outs. Instead of letting Joba pitch to Bobby Abreu, Girardi brought in Rivera for a quick one-out save. Because Abreu is a lefty power bat, that move was more defensible, but it still seemed as though Joe overmanaged a bit.

In the early goings, my complaints over Mariano Rivera’s usage are but a nitpick. Rivera has appeared in a team-high seven games and has allowed two hits and a walk while striking out six. He needs to get some work in, and Girardi has made sure of it.

At the same time, I’d like to see Girardi trust his other relievers a bit more. Marte has appeared in six games and has recorded eight outs while facing just 12 batters. I don’t want to see him walk a weak-hitting pinch hitter to start the inning, but I wouldn’t mind giving him another batter or two.

Overall, though, Girardi has done a good job of managing the bullpen this year. His 33 calls to the pen – — all brought to you by AT&T — rank last in the AL and are a testament to the Yanks’ solid starting pitching (and one six-inning game). On average, Yanks’ relievers are raking up 3.1 outs per appearance, just a tad below the AL average of 3.2 and well within the early-season margin of error for that statistic. Hopefully, these positive trends will continue, but it wouldn’t kill Girarid to let his guys pitch out of a tough spot when the game isn’t really on the line.

Cano showing patience -- on certain pitches
To gouge or to capture? That is the question
  • CountryClub

    “While the strains of “Enter Sandman” played in my head, Rivera jogged in to get three easy outs in a non-save situation.”

    Why is it a save when you come in with a 3 run lead, nobody on base and no outs but not a save when you come in with a 4 run lead, a man on base and no outs? Shouldnt the man on base make up for the extra run lead? I never understood this.

    • Jeremy

      Because saves are an arbitrary statistic like wins.

      • CountryClub

        Not really true. While I don’t always agree with their formula, MLB does have one when it comes to determining a save.

        • Jeremy

          There is a save formula but the formula itself is arbitrary. Your question provides a good example of an arguably meaningless distinction between a save situation and a non-save situation.

    • http://www.yfsf.org AndrewYF

      Yeah, I always thought it was a save situation if the tying run is due up third in your appearance.

      • Thomas

        Rules of a save from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Save_%28baseball%29 :

        1. He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
        2. He is not the winning pitcher;
        3. He is credited with at least ? of an inning pitched; and
        4. He satisfies one of the following conditions:
        a. He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
        b. He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
        c. He pitches for at least three innings

        • CountryClub

          Yeah, I know the rule. I just dont understand why 4a is different than what Mo did last night. In both instances, the 3rd batter faced had the potential of being the tying run. Anyway, I’ll let it go.

          • Kevin

            It’s pretty simple.

            When the pitcher doesn’t pitch at least an inning or the lead is more than 3 runs, the only way for him to get the save is if the batter in the on-deck circle isn’t the potential tying/go-ahead run.

            In the case of Mariano last night, the on-deck circle batter only had the potential to cut the Yankees lead to 1 run. If Marte had given up another baserunner, then it would have been a save situation.

            • Kevin

              And that should obviously say “if the batter in the on-deck circle IS the potential tying/go-ahead run.”

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Tying run has to be on deck for a save, if the lead is more than three runs.

        • CountryClub

          Thanks. I understand the point you and Kevin make, I just don’t think it makes sense.

  • Tom

    Damo was brought in with a lefty coming up (can’t remember who)… Fox pinch hit.

    • Thomas

      Travis Buck was pinch hit for by Fox.

  • larryf

    It’s Girardi’s new approach to the season. Rest Mo more the second half of the season after we have an insurmountable lead? Mo is tougher on lefties of course but I agree that he could have been saved for another batter or two. Fun to nitpick on these ever so minor issues after a win…

  • bexarama

    I would have just kept Joba in there for the ninth. He was dealing last night and I don’t think his pitch count was very high.

  • A.D.

    Seems like Girardi is going with the “nail down wins now” mentality, and if guys start to get overworked because of this, he’ll deal with it then, instead of budgeting for innings that may never be thrown.

    With the early SP issues of the past 2 years of the Girardi era we’ve more seen just trying to not exhaust the pen early vs picking and choosing.

    • Evan NYC

      I think these situations where he is bringing Mariano in are also relatively easy. I would imagine all three (Joba, Marte and Mo) will all be available tonight. Sheets has not thrown more than 6 innings in any of his three starts this year, so maybe Joe knows this and anticipates an offensive night tonight for his club.

  • http://theyankeeu.com Moshe Mandel

    Honestly, I think he might have gotten a chance if he hadnt walked Fox (and given up a hit instead). Girardi and Long both looked extremely frustrated with Marte’s inability to throw strikes. I think it may have been more about sending a message to the pitchers than getting Mo in there. As for the previous time, with Joba, I agree.

    • Jose

      Interesting thought. The means by which Marte allowed the baserunner had an influence on his removal.

    • CS Yankee

      Why is Long looking extremely frustrated with a RP?

      I could understand Eiland, but Long?

      • http://theyankeeu.com Moshe Mandel

        Oops, I meant Eiland.

    • Neil

      I think you hit on the head. Does Joe have to wait until the post season for Marte to pitch the way he can? Just get on the mound, concentrate, focus and throw strikes against a .250 hitter!

  • pete c.

    Joe Girardi wants Sparky Anderson’s nickname: captain hook.

  • Mike HC

    I think you might have hit on something here. The Yanks get paid by AT&T for every call to the bullpen, and double for calls to the pen for Mo.

    But seriously, I have also noticed this. He gives the guy absolutely no leash. Perfect inning or they are immediately pulled. I don’t really get it, and am not a big fan of it, especially this early in the season. Lets see what these guys are made of early.

    • Neil

      He gave Boone Logan quite a long stint.

  • nathan

    I actually wanted Joe to leave Joba in … i still harbor thoughts of Joba getting multiple innings and getting 2 or 3 innings kinda like Chop rule… once Chop got injured…. making him hit 100+ innings… pipedream

    I think part of Joe’s quick trigger could have to do with these games being important, atleast the first 4 series were against potential playoff teams…

  • mko

    I disagree. If Marte had walked another guy and given up a homer (not that I believe he had) you would have said that Girardi leaves his pitchers in too long. As you have (with starters).

    The Yankees are winning these games, the bullpen is not giving up many runs, the pitchers are not overworked, so it seems to me like he’s doing everything right. It’s not like Rivera threw a lot of pitches in his appearances. And if the guys are not throwing many pitches one night they’re all available next night…

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      If Marte walks another guy, then it’s a legit save situation. If he gives up a home run, the Yanks still would have had a one-run lead with Rivera available. That would have been the worst-case scenario. I don’t see the need to go to Mo in that situation at all, hindsight or not.

      • mko

        OK you’re right, taking Marte out after just one batter was kinda overdoing it. But I still don’t agree that this is a general theme of taking bullpen pitchers out too early.

        My policy would be – two mistakes and you’re gone (of course other factors would come into play). Marte made just one…

  • Januz

    I found Girardi’s move extremely strange (Unless he saw something in Marte’s approach and (Or) delivery he did not like). If that is not the case, what you saw was Girardi wanting to get a large lead in the division and essentially have the team coast the 2nd half . Because of the fact that they have no West Coast trips after July 11th, and only one more trip to Boston after May 9th (The final weekend of the season) he may get away with it.

    • nathan

      i initially thought Marte hurt his shoulder… the hook was that quick

      • steve s

        My first thoughts were that the change seemed more to do with something being physically wrong with Marte. However, once Mo starts warming up they don’t ever waste him so it had to be pre-planned that Marte was going to face just one batter no matter what.

  • Count Zero

    This link may have been posted in an earlier thread, but I have to post it here because of the inherent implication that Girardi is over-managing. While I tend to agree, at least he isn’t Tony La Russa.

    • larryf

      Overmanaging is limited by the right arm of Mo. We can only get LaRussa-lite thankfully.

      • MattG

        Actually, I would argue that the presence of Mo makes over-managing all the more prevalent. In any tie game from the 8th inning on, Mo is my next pitcher. Anything else is over-managing.

    • A.D.

      Must have killed him to just let Wainwright throw a complete game the next day.

    • mko

      While I tend to agree, at least he isn’t Tony La Russa.
      LMAO – that article (or La Russa’s decision’s) is awesome!

  • MattG

    I think it is misleading to cite Rivera as the league-leader in appearances. While that may be true, it implies he has been worked hard. He has not. 6 innings, 2 hits and one walk. He’s pitched to far fewer batters, and thrown far fewer pitches, than league-leader in appearances might suggest.

    That said, I hope Girardi doesn’t suddenly have a Torre-esque doghouse for relievers. I wouldn’t want to think Marte was being punished for walking a batter. Even if Girardi felt Rivera needs work, pulling Marte after one batter is weird.

    Unless that was the plan all along. Maybe Girardi wanted Rivera to pitch the ninth, but also wanted to get Marte one hitter. The starters have been going deep–bullpen innings are hard to come by.

  • Jammy Jammers

    Girardi does get a little jumpy, but I’ll take him over Torre who would have pitched Robertson every single game for 2+ innings, whether he’s injured or not.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      Yeah, don’t want to see anyone get Proctor’d.


      • Jammy Jammers

        Tom Gordon’d
        Ron Villone’d
        Luis Vizcaino’d

  • JeffG

    I really like the way Giardi handles the bullpen, except for this one very thing. I think at times he is too fast to go to Mo, in situations where it is not called for (like last night). I worry about Rivera getting hurt.

    • Jammy Jammers

      The problem is that the Modell’s jingle is stuck in Girardi’s head!

      “Gotta go to Mo’s”

  • theyankeewarrior

    This is a good problem to have. It means the Yanks are winning a lot of games. But I hope Joe realizes that if this keeps up, he is going to have to let his set-up men close out games because Mo will need nights off.

    I understand that he is an almighty creature, but Mo is literally over the hill and he’s leading the league in appearances. Instead of pitching him until he NEEDS a day off, Joe needs to start trusting Joba & co. to close out a 4 run lead against atrocious lineups like the A’s.

  • dkidd

    the entire bullpen was rusty, so i was expecting some quick hooks, if only to get people work. boone logan is a (relatively) unknown quantity, so i understood girardi wanting to see if he could pitch his way out of trouble

  • BigBlueAL

    To me the biggest problem with removing Marte was if Im not mistake 3 of the next 4 hitters were all LH. So you get mad at Marte for walking a RHB but dont give him the chance to potentially face LHB’s which is the purpose of having him on the team yet Boone freakin Logan gets to pitch to 7 batters and allowed to load the bases and bring up the tying run to the plate in the 7th inning??