Avoiding the big bats


(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Last night Jose Bautista almost singlehandedly beat the Yankees (his pitching staff helped), driving in all three Blue Jays runs with his two homeruns. The first one, a two-run shot on a hanging curveball in the 3rd inning is forgivable since there was still so much baseball left to be played, but the second homer … not so much.

It’s the 8th inning of a tie game with the baseball’s premier homerun hitter at the plate after he’d already gone deep earlier in the game AND was pissed off about alledgedly being thrown at, so why does that guy even get a chance to swing the bat? Sure, David Robertson absolutely missed his spot on the deciding homerun pitch, but that doesn’t excuse anything.

Rewind back to this past weekend and even to last week for that matter. The Mariners have one legitimate power hitter in their lineup, yet Russell Branyan was allowed to hit three homeruns in the three game set. The series before that featured an injury riddled Tigers’ lineup with MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera smack dab in the middle of it, and yet Miggy hit four homers in the four game set. Do you see the pattern here? The Yanks are allowing the one guy in the other team’s lineup, the guy your game plan says not to let beat you, beat them.

Of course this is just a very, very small sample. We’re talking about an eight game stretch during which time the Yanks actually won five of those games, but the point stands. These players who so obviously stick out from the rest of their lineup because of their offensive might are punishing the Yanks time and time again. The old school Michael Jordan Defense doesn’t work in baseball, you can’t let these guys hit their homers and concentrate on shutting everyone else down and hope to win.

I’m not saying they should blindly pitch around the other team’s big bats a la Barry Bonds in the early aughts (I’ll never forget watching a game a few years ago when the opposing team intentionally walked Barry with two outs and the bases empty in the 1st damn inning), but in high leverage spots like last night, don’t even give him a chance to make to you pay. Go after Vernon Wells and his .313 wOBA since May 10th. Forget Cabrera, let Brennan Boesch and his .197 wOBA since the break beat you. Let’s see if Jose Lopez’s .267 wOBA can made you regret avoiding Branyan.

Maybe this is just a knee-jerk reaction following last night’s loss because you never want to intentionally put the winning run on base in the late innings, but when you’re talking about hitters of that caliber, the winning run is already in scoring position when they come to the plate. They’re capable of driving themselves in with one swing, like Bautista did last night. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request for Joe Girardi and the rest of the Yanks’ decision makers to use their brain a little and not give the other team’s best hitters anything to hit in late inning, high leverage spots. There’s no shame in pitching around great hitters when they have a chance to do major damage to your win expectancy, we see it happen to the Yanks all the time.

We’re getting down to crunch time here with basically no wiggle room in the division race. Stop giving these great hitters a chance to beat you in the late innings. Just stop it.

Categories : Musings


  1. yankeesdrummer says:

    THANK YOU! thats what ive been saying. theres a reason why the rays walked miggy everytime he came up to the plate and i believe very little damage was done by whomever hit after him. just pure stupidity to let the same guy beat us time and time again.

  2. Carlosologist says:

    I agree completely. This should be a message relayed throughout the pitching staff. Don’t throw slop to the MLB leader in home runs. You’re going to get burned badly if you do that.

  3. Go after Vernon Wells and his .313 wOBA since May 10th.

    Wells since May 10th: .240/.288/.435. I knew he had cooled off, but I didn’t know he was Alpha-Phi-Alpha ice cold. Yeesh.

    What’s the opposite of the cream rising to the top? The curd falling to the bottom, perhaps?

  4. Stephen R. says:

    One way to pitch around Bautista would be to put one in between the numbers on his back. It’s not like he doesn’t have it coming.

  5. wow says:

    i’m good with an IBB to Bautista for the rest of the time we face him, actually.

  6. Tom Zig says:

    I’m not saying intentionally walk them, but damn, don’t put anything in the zone. Cabrera will take the walk. Bautista might expand the zone.

  7. Steve H says:

    I disagree. One run game in the 8th inning you can’t put on the lead runner. Bautista is having a good year, but D-Rob takes care of him more often than not. Too much can happen once a guy is on base. Put Bautista on you can have an error, passed ball, bloop hit, etc. More often than not good pitching beats good hitting, and the right pitcher was on the mound. If you got beat by Bautista with a worse pitcher you could argue with that, but Robertson just didn’t get the job done last night.

    • Tom Zig says:

      Good pitching usually beats good hitting, but good pitching beats bad hitting more often. Put the not fleet of foot Cabrera on base and take your chances with whoever else. The rest of the lineup around Bautista is pretty average too.

      • Steve H says:

        If you put the lead (or tying) runner on there is too much left up to chance. I can definitely see being more careful with Cabrera than Bautista too, he’s a much better hitter. If Bautista beats Robertson you tip your cap to him.

        • Tom Zig says:

          What you’re leaving up to chance is mostly in the hands of an inferior hitter. If you have a 2 or 1 run lead, or a tie game, why pitch to Bautista at all? Unless the pitcher is Mariano, don’t give him something to hit. Let the inferior hitter try and beat you.

          • Steve H says:

            You’re not just leaving it up to the inferior hitter though. With the runner on you now have much less margin for error when it comes to passed balls, wild pitches, stolen bases, errors, etc. With our catchers those things definitely come into play. Also the majority of pitchers perform worse with runners on, so you’ve (often) just weakened your own guy.

            • Tom Zig says:

              That’s a fair point. I’d just rather pitch around Bautista (or whoever the big bat is on the team we are playing) in a close game and take my chances with the next guy. Not every team is the Yankees and has 3-4 guys that can bat clean up on other teams.

              • Steve H says:

                I can see being careful, throwing more offspeed stuff (to a fastball hitter, etc.). That may have even been what they were doing, Robertson just badly missed his spot. If Joe had intentionally walked Bautista he would have rightly been killed for it. If he told him to be careful (not that he should need to) and Robertson missed his spot, that’s on the pitcher.

    • Bryan says:

      Depends… If one or two outs, walk the big hitter, if no outs you probably gotta go after him.

      • Tim says:

        Well, there was one out. No need to intentionally walk, but throw the guy slow stuff off the plate, for Mo’s sake. No fastballs – he’s a dead-red fastball hitter. Let him get himself out, especially when he’s all lathered up thinking the Yankee pitchers are throwing at him.

  8. Al says:

    Seems to me its our pitchers trying to strike-out their big guns instead of pitching smart

  9. larryf says:

    Agree with this. Bad managing. I will fight more for my players and not get beat by the opponent’s premier power hitter next year.


  10. Not Tank the Frank says:

    Like Mike said, this is a very small sample. IIRC, at least two of the homers came on good pitches, pitchers pitches. One was a slider from Joba down and off the plate away, the other was a curveball from Hughes in a 3-2 count when he had seen nothing but fastballs beating him in the entire count.

    Branyan’s homers came off of the two-headed pitching monstrosity known as AJ Burnett and Javy Vazquez.

    Bautista’s (big) homer came off of a pitch that really, really missed the target. They had a plan to get him out and didn’t execute.

    So, to me, this is a combination of the Yankees pitching not executing and – in Cabrera’s case – a good hitter beating you even when you try to make a pitcher’s pitch and pitch around him.

    • So, to me, this is a combination of the Yankees pitching not executing and – in Cabrera’s case – a good hitter beating you even when you try to make a pitcher’s pitch and pitch around him.

      I’m still trying to figure out how Cabrera hit that Joba pitch out. That was insane.

      • Not Tank the Frank says:

        Yankee Stadium helped…

      • theyankeewarrior says:

        Me too, but I hope Alex was taking notes. He needs to start thinking about that short porch with every single outside fastball he sees.

        Gone are the days where he hits 20+ HR’s over the 399 ft. fence in LCF. If he wants to hit HR’s here, he should learn from his October success of 2009 and hit them out to the right side.

  11. NYRob says:

    NO KIDDING! That was all I thought about during that Tigers series. and Branyan, why on Earth pitch to him with Ichiro being the only other offensive threat on that team?

    Bautista has proven to hurt you so LEARN from it and pitch around him.

    Sometimes I think this team wins in spite of the coaching staff.

    It’s not rocket science.

    • Not Tank the Frank says:

      See…this has turned into an indictment of the coaching staff and it shouldn’t be perceived that way. The coaches can go out there and give you a game plan but it’s up to the pitcher to execute it.

      • Ross in Jersey says:

        See…this has turned into an indictment of the coaching staff and it shouldn’t be perceived that way.

        Yes it should. It’s not Robertson or Cervelli’s decision to pitch around batters. That’s a coaching decision. Players are taught to be confident, they’re going to attack unless told otherwise. Given the situation and the way the game had gone last night, you COULD NOT let Bautista be the one to beat you. Tell Eiland to come out with a message to give him nothing to hit. Straight up IBB him. Whatever. If Vernon Wells beats you, so be it. When the lineup consists of one amazing hitter surrounded by mediocrity, that one player can’t be given the chance to win the game.

    • Steve H says:

      Branyan has been IBB’d 30 times in his life. He’s a career .234/.330/.489 hitter. He makes outs 67% of the time. He’s not a candidate to be intentionally walked unless the situation absolutely calls for it.

  12. Mr. Sparkle says:

    Stop giving these great hitters a chance to beat you in the late innings

    I agree with you 99.9%. It’s more Joe Girardi thinking he’s smarter than everyone else. Most won’t remember this, but back in May in a Saturday game vs. the ChiSox, he intentionally walked the go-ahead run to first base with TWO OUT and a one-run lead. The hitter was, I believe, Carlos Quentin who was hitting under .200 at the time. A.J. Pierzynski followed with a two run double and the Yankees lose, never even threatening again in the game.

    The point? Girardi thinks he’s smarter than everyone else which often results in really dopey and stubborn moves. He won’t learn and won’t change and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple more home runs, potentially killer ones, in this series from Bautista.

    The one thing I won’t agree on (the 0.01%)…that Jose Bautista is a “great” hitter.

    • Steve H says:

      There was a runner on 2nd base in the Quentin scenario and it was also the 7th inning. That’s a big difference from putting the winning run on base in the 8th inning, especially on the road. Also, at the time Robertson (who issued the walk) was pitching terribly. Robertson has been lights out for a while now. To think that he couldn’t get Bautista out is just ridiculously pessimistic. Robertson hadn’t given up a HR since April until last night.

  13. I forget whether it was Inside The Book or Fangraphs, but I remember reading an article that basically said intentionally walking a guy was almost always a bad idea. The numbers don’t really ever play out favorably so unless the guy happens to be Albert Pujols, it’s not such a good idea.

    With that being said, if you gave some of those guys garbage pitches that’d probably be smart. A loss is a loss, but it always stings a bit more when it was due to an annoying decision (like pitching to Miggy).

  14. Zack says:

    Cervelli set up for a fastball low and away- to a pull hitter who hit 29 of his 40 HR to LF (IIRC).

    Isn’t that pitching around him? DRob just messed up

  15. Zack says:

    And don’t forget Ichiro’s walk off last year, Girardi was so stupid for not having Mo IBB him.

    • Ross in Jersey says:

      I get what you’re trying to say. But in essence, you’re comparing Robertson to Mo, which is batshit crazy.

      • Zack says:

        Intentionally putting the winning run on base is batshit crazy too. If you’re going to do that, then why not just bring Mo in?

        We always talk about gameplan is more important than outcome, they gameplanned not to give him something he could pull- set up low and away- but DRob missed his spot.
        It’s no different when someone says “Why’d he strike out instead of hitting a sac fly?!” Again, just because the outcome was bad doesn’t mean the batter didin’t go up there trying to hit a sac fly.

        • Steve H says:

          Good point. If Bautista is the only guy who can hurt you, it makes a hell of a lot more sense to bring Mo into the 8th to pitch to him than put him on base.

          It’s not like Bautista beat Chan Ho Park last night. He beat a guy who had gone 42 straight innings without giving up a HR. Can’t blame the manager for that.

        • Ross in Jersey says:

          I’m sure he would have liked to bring in Mo, except he inexplicably used Mo for 4 outs against Seattle on Saturday with a 3 run lead that ended up turning into a blowout. I know hindsight is 20/20, but that was a retarded move that may have cost them a game last night.

          Normally, putting the winning run on base is crazy. But like Mike is arguing, how bout letting Vernon Wells try to beat you? If you have so much confidence in Robertson to get Bautista out, why does that confidence suddenly disappear if he’s facing Vernon Wells with a runner on first?

  16. southeryankeefan says:

    Robertson could have been trying to pitch around him and missed his spot. This happens. A good as he has been lately I haven’t lost any trust in Robertson.

    • Carlosologist says:

      This. Ten million times this.

    • theyankeewarrior says:

      Yes, but the idea here is that when you’re pitching around someone, you pitch so that you miss off the plate, not over the plate. This often results in walks, which are not directly worth one (or more) runs.

      • Zack says:

        But bad pitches do happen- balls get away from pitchers all the time, doesn’t mean DRob wasn’t trying to throw it down and out, it just didn’t go that way.

        • theyankeewarrior says:

          You’re also right. We have no way of knowing what Robertson’s intentions were with that pitch. But I’m willing to wager that he was trying to paint a corner. Or just do what he always does. If I’m right, then he made a bad choice.

  17. Brian says:

    First off you don’t walk the go ahead run especially when the guy is batting .258. If you can’t walk him then you have to pitch to him and hit your sports. DROB missed his spot by 10 inches and that cost the Yanks the game, it happens when you miss your spots and Bautista just happened to be up at the time when it happened so it looks worse. Anyone could have hit that pitch out as it was a terrible pitch. You simply can’t miss spots that badly in the late innings.

    • theyankeewarrior says:

      When the ML leader in HRs is hot (he is right now) and his teammates behind him suck (they do) you absolutely pitch around him and deal with a walk when a HR can lose the game for you in the late innings.

      Unless your name is Mariano Rivera.

    • Troll says:

      Anyone could have hit that pitch out as it was a terrible pitch.

      The bottom 1/3rd of our order last night would beg to differ. Not all mistakes get molested, we just happened to make the mistake to a guy who is court-ordered to not come within 300 feet of little mistake schoolyards.

    • First off you don’t walk the go ahead run especially when the guy is batting .258.

      Bautista since the ASB: .306/.391/.731 (.269 BABIP).

      I’m not saying he’s legitimately good or will be dynamite for the rest of his life, but right now, at this moment, he’s locked in. He’s in the zone. En fuego.

      You’re underselling Jose Bautista by calling him “a guy who’s batting .258″.

      • theyankeewarrior says:

        Thissss. Unfortunately, Bautista is some kind of freak this season. We can only hope he pops a couple of balls up that he normally gets a hold of over the next two days and then goes on the kill Tampa’s fastballs when they miss their spots.

      • Steve H says:

        I’m not saying he’s legitimately good or will be dynamite for the rest of his life, but right now, at this moment, he’s locked in. He’s in the zone. En fuego.

        Same can be said for David Robertson.

        • That’s a fair rebuttal. My rebuttal to your rebuttal:

          David Robertson v. Jose Bautista, career (before the homer last night):
          .200/.428/.200 in 7 PA (1 single, 2 walks, 2 K)

          David Robertson v. Vernon Wells, career (before the walk after the homer):
          .000/.000/.000 in 10 PA (2 K)

          • Steve H says:

            So if Bautista was only slugging .200 against Robertson than there’s no need to worry about him hitting a HR. Robertson’s odds (if we’re going to use those numbers) was still that he would likely get him out, and if not, Bautista would end up on 1B. I have no problem with pitching Bautista carefully, but I cannot wrap my head around intentionally putting the winning run on base (with the bases empty) when you have a guy on the mound who hasn’t given up a HR in 42 straight innings.

            • Troll says:

              The difference between pitching him carefully and intentionally walking him is that you can screw up pitching him carefully, and that’s just what happened.

              I fail to see how you’d have had no problem with the so-called “unintentional intentional walk”, but the real thing is just right-out to you.

              • Steve H says:

                But the odds were that Robertson was going to get the job done. Once you put a guy on 1st, you have a pitcher who doesn’t do a great job of holding runners, a catcher who has trouble throwing runners out, a catcher who has trouble fielding the ball, you’re playing on turf so more balls can get through.

                In that scenario I’d rather make the guy hit a HR against a pitcher who doesn’t give up many than put the game potentially in the hands of the defense or a bloop hit. Or even a HR or solid hit from Wells. Maybe I just have too much trust in Robertson. If it was Chan Ho Park I completely agree with walking him due to his insane HR rate. Robertson’s is insanely low.

      • That’s the second-highest second-half OPS in all of baseball, btw. Only Joe Mauer’s .416/.497/.632 line since the midsummer classic is better than Jose Bautista.

        Yes, Miguel Cabrera is third.

      • Troll says:

        Mark Teixeira = “a guy who’s batting .256″

        This is fun.

  18. MikeD says:

    They weren’t going to intentionally walk Bautista to put the winning run on base, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t plan to pitch him away and around him. The pitch was supposed to be low and away. Robertson missed. It was the first run D-Rob’s given up since before the Fourth of July, IIRC. That’s not Girardi’s fault. It’s baseball. Shit happens.

  19. Steve H says:

    Chase Utley 2009>>>>>>>Bautista 2010

    David Robertson 2010>>>>>>Damaso Marte 2009

    Shouldn’t the Yankees have just walked Utley every time last year?

    • Ross in Jersey says:

      Ryan Howard >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Vernon Wells


      • Troll says:

        And that was far too few “>” Ross.

      • Steve H says:

        I agree and was being facetious to a point.

        But if you face a team with a bunch of good guys, do you just pitch around them all? No, you let your capable pitchers pitch to them and get them out. For 42 straight innings Robertson didn’t give up a HR. You have to think that he can get Bautista out there.

        • Ross in Jersey says:

          This post isn’t talking about facing a lineup of good hitters though. Of course you’re not going to walk Ortiz to face Youkilis or something stupid like that. We’re talking about lineups where there is one guy having a killer season surrounded by mediocre players.

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