This is not how to use a 41-year-old closer

2011 Draft: Damaged Goods
The RAB Radio Show: April 20, 2011
(Kathy Willens/AP)

What do you do if you have one reliable starter and a bunch of question marks behind him? Build a better bullpen. Heading into the season, it appeared that the Yankees had assembled its best group of relief arms, at least to start a season, in many years. With a closer in the setup role, two setup men in lesser roles, two lefties, and a flexible long man spot, the Yankees had created a backup plan should some of their starters falter. Yet something did not seem right about it.

In his Expanded Horizons column last week, Baseball Prospectus’s Tommy Bennett tackled the issue (subscriber only, sorry). Teams that hand a lot of innings to their bullpens, even good bullpens, don’t have a long track record of success. This makes plenty of sense. Using the Yankees as an example, they have four reliable relievers: Rivera, Soriano, Robertson, Chamberlain. If their starters are going six or fewer innings most starts, that leaves them with three innings to cover. Eventually one of two things will happen. Either Girardi has to start using the other guys in the pen, or else those four get burned out. Last night we might have seen a bit of the latter.

The off-days early in the season have helped lessen the workloads on the Yanks relievers. Though they’ve played 15 games, that has covered 20 days, giving the bullpen some free rest. But that doesn’t make them immune from overuse. In fact, it appears that overuse is just what is currently happening.

Mariano Rivera might seem superhuman at times, but behind the myth is a 41-year-old man. He has kept himself in pristine physical condition, and so can do things that other 41-year-olds cannot. But even he has limitations. WIth last night’s appearance he has now thrown in five of the team’s last six games, which is five of the last seven days. That’s a heavy workload for any reliever, never mind one who is busy fending off the ravages of age. Yes, he has been in a position to get a save or a win in each of his 10 appearances — 10 in 15 games — but that doesn’t excuse the overuse. Girardi simply cannot let something like that happen to such an important pitcher.

The overuse doesn’t end with Rivera. Joba Chamberlain has also appeared in 10 of 15 games and has pitched in four of the last six. Soriano has appeared in just eight of 15 games, though even that seems like a lot. That’s an 86-game pace, which would be nine more than Soriano’s previous career high. David Robertson has seven appearances, but as Mike wrote yesterday, he has warmed up in just about every game. We can’t be sure what kind of physical toll this takes on him, but it can’t be good for him to be taking some to the mitt every single game.

Eventually this will have to change. The Yankees will not have the advantage of five days off in a 20-day span. They are, in fact, headed for a 17-game streak from late April into early May, and things don’t get easier from there. The top four relievers will need to sit out sometimes when the team has a small lead late in a game. This could come into play as early as tonight. Maybe Girardi would go back to Soriano, and there’s a chance he’d use Chamberlain. But can he really justify using Mo yet again — for the sixth time in eight days, for the 11th time in 16 games? That would be quite irresponsible.

Unless the starters can start pitching into the seventh inning, this is going to be a year-long issue. No bullpen is stocked with reliable relievers. Even the best in the league has its weak points. Eventually, the Yankees will have to use those weaker arms in relatively tight spots. If they don’t, they’re going to burn out the reliable ones — which, in turn, means they’ll have to rely on those weaker arms in relatively tight spots. It’s a tough spot for the team, but eventually something will have to change. This usage pattern simply cannot last all season.

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2011 Draft: Damaged Goods
The RAB Radio Show: April 20, 2011
  • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Matt Imbrogno

    I would like to have seen Girardi go to Rivera in the sixth when Burnett came out. Obviously, Robertson did a fine job, but in a perfect world, that’s where your best reliever comes in. But, that’s an issue for another day and it’s a pipe dream at this point.

    • mac1

      Isn’t there really too much game left to bring in your closer\best reliever in the with 11 outs to go? If its the 7th and you have a chance to prevent the lineup from turning over again, that makes more sense – kill the rally with the closer and let your other relievers close out the game – especially a team like the Yanks that have quality guys beyond the closer.

      Just asking…

      • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Matt Imbrogno

        No, I see that side. But my point is that’s when the game was at its most vulnerable point for the Yankees: one out, tying/go ahead runs on, etc. Ideally, your best reliever comes in to pitch in that spot and you work out the rest with the other good arms.

        Really the save rule is to blame for all of this.

        • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

          I wonder what life would be like without the save rule?

          • mac1

            Relievers would make alot less money (for one). Or maybe K per 9 or other stats would take precendence in determining value and usage (which would probably be much better for the game).

            • Ted Nelson

              Leverage would still be a factor.

        • mac1

          I see what you are saying also, and not disagreeing with it, what I can’t compltely get my head around (in this situation) is that we have the benefit of hindsight – i.e. the game was at its most vulnerable with 11 outs to go. Hypothetically, Mo comes in there throws 3 pitches gets out of the inning. Next inning, Reliever X for the Yanks comes in and gives up 5 runs.

          What I’m trying to say is there may be a point where there is too much game left to play to use the best reliever because you really don’t know where the most vulnerable point of the game will be.

          Oddly enough, maybe if Mo came in in the 6th at that point (with his off night) he gives up alot more…or he doesn’t its all conjecture, we can’t know.

          Lets take another scenario, make it an inning sooner, 14 outs to go, do you go to your “closer”? Again, just asking…

    • Ted Nelson

      It’s ideal in a video game to be able to bring in your relievers as the situation dictates, in real life the pitchers have to actually warm up. A mid-inning situation develops really quickly in most cases. In a matter of one pitch the game can become runs closer and/or it can go from no-one-on to a runner on 2nd. If Mo warmed up every time the game had a chance of being close in the 6th or 7th inning… he’d rarely actually get into games. What’s happening to Robertson right now. I’d rather that happen to Robertson than Mo.

      Girardi might love to bring Mo in earlier in games occasionally, but part of the reason he doesn’t is practicality. You put your guys on a fairly set schedule and they know when they need to be ready to go.

  • squishy jello person

    Agree with everything here.

  • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

    I also think the Yankees are playing close games at an unsustainable rate. The Yankees have 9 wins and Mariano has saved 7 of them. He’s not going to end up saving 70+ games. I don’t think anyone questioned Joe bringing in Mariano, especially after an off-day. It’ll balance out in time, and you know at some point this year we’ll note that Mariano hasn’t pitched in over a week.

    • JohnnyC

      This. It’s obvious that the starters have not given the team enough innings (next to last in innings per start) but, hand in hand, it’s been the inability of the offense to exploit its plentiful scoring opportunities especially later in games that’s forced the overuse of Girardi’s top 4 relievers.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      Is it unsustainable? They’re scoring runs at a better pace than last year. This is a pitching problem more than an offense problem.

      • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

        What I mean is, the score of the game has been close enough entering the 9th inning for Mariano to enter 2 out of every 3 games. I don’t think that’s going to continue.

        • MannyGeee

          I agree with this. we are due for blowouts in either direction. Noesi/Pendleton/Millwood/Silva will get some work in at some point.

  • Beamish

    Time for someone – anyone – to start trying to earn 3-inning Saves.

    “Joba is my 7th Inning Guy” is going to destroy that bullpen before the All-Star Break, especially if they are burning Robertson to close out the sixth.

    Alternately, some starter is going to take some lumps always pitching through the 7th and into the 8th just to take the burden off the pen. That is the recipe for losing winnable games.

    • JohnnyC

      Modern day relievers are built to go through a line-up once, not multiple times. 1 or 2 pitch pitchers (and starters like Nova)get their asses handed to them the second or third time around. If a reliever could reliably navigate 3 inning stints, he’d be a starter. The days of Sparky Lyle and Rollie Fingers are over. The only solution for the Yankees’ current dilemma is to establish 1 or 2 more reliable relievers…which may be rather difficult unless Girardi begins to trust call-ups like Pendleton and Noesi.

      • Ted Nelson

        The Pendleton’s and Noesi’s will get their chances to earn Girardi’s trust. It’s really early in the season and people are overreacting to a stretch where just about ever game has been tight.

  • paul

    time to get noesi, pendleton and other guys work. bottom line. lots of learning to do with these youngsters. The SP is just not world series caliber. sucks to say it, but truth. RP’s-time for some others to step forward…get the bus ready from scranton to nyc…and back…

    • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Matt Imbrogno

      I think Noesi gets work tonight since Colon is starting.

    • Gonzo

      I kind of agree, but losing a tight game because you have kids on the mound would be tough for Yankee fans to swallow.

      • MannyGeee

        not as hard to swallow as Joba and Soriano splitting a cab to Dr. Andrews office…

        • DCBX

          Cosign!

        • toad

          Yes.

          And not only that.

          There comes a point when the only way for a young pitcher to get better is to pitch in the majors. Anyone who’s ever played any game seriously knows you have to go up against tough opponents to improve.

  • Gonzo

    Maybe the plan is to get to July somehow then start cashing in those trade chips.

  • Pat D

    Well this is a fairly doom and gloom article.

    I mean, it’s absolutely right and I don’t disagree with your conclusions. Coming after last night it feels like this is obvious.

    Also, don’t other teams have these problems?

    • Mike HC

      “Also, don’t other teams have these problems”

      Exactly. Which is the problem.

    • Ted Nelson

      There are dozens of other relievers who are shouldering the workloads the Yankee relievers are… but somehow this is a unique problem of overuse…

      • JobaWockeeZ

        I fail to see where Joe said this was a Yankee only problem. I also fail to see why if every other team has this problem it’s okay.

        • Ted Nelson

          My point is that Joe has failed to establish that there is any problem at all. Perhaps there is, but you would have to provide a context before concluding that there is. In order to establish that the Yankees are overusing their relievers, it is first necessarily to define and quantify under-, normal-, and over-use. This is what Joe has failed to do, and this is where looking around the league is a proxy for seeing if guys have been overused. That Joba and Mo will not and should not make 108 appearances this season (which they are on track to) is hardly newsworthy, in my opinion. (If you wanted to argue that they should… then I think it’s newsworthy since it’s bucking conventional wisdom.)

          • Ted Nelson

            Basically, my contention is that Joe may be overreacting to a small sample. I have not done the work to say that for sure. It’s just a theory. Basically… there have been a lot of days off, almost no long starts, a lot of close games, and a lack of other proven options which have formed a perfect storm of overuse in a small sample. Again I don’t know how likely those factors are to change as the season goes on, but I just don’t think the Yankees turning to their top relievers 100+ times is a realistic option worth discussing.

  • Epy0n

    I want to see some Peddleton and Noesi tonight.

    • MannyGeee

      lies.

      no one ‘wants’ to see a situation where Pendleton and Noesi get some innings…

      that situation typically has you sitting on the wrong side of a 14-6 score…

      • Accent Shallow

        Or the right side of an 11-2 one.

  • BKLYN

    I do not envy Girardi’s job at all. If a move he makes fails, he gets the blame. If a move he makes works out, the player gets the credit. At the same time, he’s got all of the media and bloggers commenting as if they can do a better job than he…

    The starting pitchers are putting him in a terrible position such that no matter what move he makes (whether you think its right or wrong), if it fails, would have the same people (including myself at times) complaining about the move, just with a different argument.

    Seriously, being the manager of the yankees must be one of the toughest jobs in sports. Just look at how much gray hair Girardi has grown within the past several years. Looks like he aged 10 yrs in 3 yrs time.

    • MannyGeee

      can you really blame Girardi though? he has one consistent pitcher, 2 GIANT question marks, a rookie and two up to four retreads.

      oh and a stacked bullpen. what else is he supposed to do???

      • Tank the Frank

        Overuse the stacked bullpen and run them into the ground before we’re out of April. That’s obviously the answer.

        • RL

          But if the move worked and Mariano was his normal self, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

          • Tank the Frank

            Yes we would. The bullpen has been overused. That’s the point of this post. And it’s despite Mo’s blown save last night.

            • RL

              It would most likely get swept under the rug, as he made “the right call” in going with Mo for the save. After all, he had 5 days off prior to this strecth of 5 games in 7 days.

        • MannyGeee

          not particularly disagreeing with you, but its not like Mo has been getting work in 6 run wins…

          you trusting Noesi winning by one facing the heart of the Rangers order in the 9th? how bout facing Mauer/Morneau/Span? Crawford/Youk/aGon?

          me neither

          • Tank the Frank

            That’s the reality with a 41 year old closer IMO.

  • Mike HC

    Quite a realistically depressing article. There is no managerial moves that can give you a better starting rotation. Either Cashman is the man to blame for this dilemma (and he didn’t even want to add Soriano to the pen, which would have made us even thinner there), or you have to just blame a couple of different factors coming together, creating an almost perfect storm (CC preventing it from being “perfect”).

    Our top pitching prospects that were supposed to fill this gap have not developed (Joba is a reliever, Hughes is on the DL throwing 87, and Kennedy is an ok pitcher in the NL West). The top free agent was a not so closet Yankee hater (cliff lee) and our legend, rock just retired (Pettitte). Maybe only a superhuman genius could have overcome all that to still put together a strong rotation, but it just might not have been realistic.

    • Tank the Frank

      Yeah, bar none, the pitchers have to start going deeper into games. Girardi has had a quick hook with Nova and with AJ. At some point he has to let them get stretched out and let them get out of their own mess, and get deeper into games. If that means taking a loss then so be it.

      I think that’s why Cashman signed the pitchers he did. I like how he threw numbers at the problem (Garcia, Colon, Millwood, Silva). Low cost veterans that should be able to get you deep into a game… and you hope someone sticks. They may give up four or five runs in the process, but that’s our starting pitching reality right now.

      The offense has to carry the team and you hope to keep your head above water until better options become available, or even better, one or more of your current options exceeds expectations. But burning out your bullpen so early in the season isn’t the answer, IMO. You gotta look long-term.

  • Tank the Frank

    I think DRob, Joba and Mo should all be unavailable tonight. One of the arguments I’ve heard from Girardi defenders is that he’s willing to sacrifice the present in order to preserve the future. That has not been the case so far this season. I simply don’t see any reason for this amount of overuse from key bullpen guys in April. There comes a time when you have to trust the other pitchers on your roster to get outs in order to preserve the long-term health of other key contributors.

    I hope that starts tonight with Noesi shadowing Colon no matter what the outcome. Perhaps Soriano can be used in a save situation. But Joe can’t continue to turn what is a strength of this team into a weakness, no matter what the starting pitchers are giving you.

    • Ted Nelson

      There are dozens of other relievers being used as much as these guys… is every manager in the league an idiot or just Girardi?

      • Tank the Frank

        Actually, shockingly, you’re wrong. The Yankees bullpen is behind only KC in the AL in bullpen innings pitched with one less game played. KC isn’t a team that is expected to compete long-term. As Joe mentioned, it’s an unsustainable pace that can’t continue.

        And I didn’t call Joe an idiot so don’t put words in my mouth. But I don’t see how anyone can call him anything more than an average manager. Not good, not terrible.

        • Tank the Frank

          And, again, I realize the lion’s share of the blame falls with the starting pitching. But that’s just the reality for the Yankees right now. And I’m of the opinion that it would be a mistake by compounding that problem by burning out the bullpen for the sake of short-term gains. The bullpen is a strength. Keep them a strength by keeping them fresh for the duration of the season.

          Then again, the bullpen hasn’t shown that they’re any worse for the wear yet. Like you said in a post below, you can’t assign overuse as the cause of any particular meltdown just yet. But it’s something worth looking at.

          • Mike HC

            On the flip side, Soriano may be gone after this year, Joba is still one of our top trade pieces, and Mo only has another year left before he retires. So the Yanks constantly protecting and limiting their usage to keep them fresh a year or two from now, to the detriment of getting actual wins in the here and now, might not be the best move either.

            • Mike HC

              Plus, Joba and Soriano are both injury prone with just regular usage. Maybe it is a good idea to get what you can out of them when they are actually healthy.

              I do clearly see the other side of the argument as well, but I don’t think it is as cut and dry as being overworked is bad no matter what.

              • Ted Nelson

                I think there’s a balance. You don’t coddle your relievers, but you don’t overuse them. It’s not easy to determine where those lines lie, but my problem with this discussion as a whole is that people don’t really seem to be attempting to define optimal usage… Just basically looking at a 7 day stretch and 15 game stretch without even providing context of what 7 day and 15 game stretches normally do and should (which is obviously not well defined and debatable) look like. Instead it’s just: they’re overusing them. One could simply show a table of their usage so far and how that projects over a 162 game season to get across the same point a whole lot quicker.

                • Mike HC

                  Definitely a balance. But I think what is best for an individual’s player career and long term health, is not necessarily best for the team. And what is best for the team comes first.

        • Ted Nelson

          Colon amounts for a good chunk of the Yankees BP innings, though, and isn’t a one inning guy.

          I’m referring to overusing individual relievers, though, not the bullpen as a whole. Mo is really old, but if Joba is being overused… so are Soria, Houston Street, Mark Melancon, Ramon Ramirez, Kameron Loe, Tyler Clippard…

          Maybe Joba’s not being overused, or maybe overuse is a problem basically throughout the league. If there is a general trend, maybe there is some sort of groupthink behind it in terms of early season strategy or reliever durability that is worth analyzing. Or maybe there’s just a trend of managers being short-sighted nincompoops.

          And I know it’s unsustainable. I don’t think pointing out that Mo and Joba will not make 108 appearances this season was worth all the fuss, though. Could have been said much more succinctly than Joe does. Could have been framed in a positive light of how will it change going forward–between # of high leverage relief innings and allocation of those innings–rather than basically implying that the Yankees are incompetent.

          I feel like the idiot part is implied in suggesting that he doesn’t realize the extent to which he’s using each member of the bullpen. If he doesn’t realize that, then he is in fact an idiot. I think Mo probably is unavailable tonight, though obviously I have no idea. I feel like suggesting Girardi thinks differently is sort of calling him an idiot, and maybe he will fit himself for that title tonight.

          I think it’s pretty hard to judge managers. Most people sort of say in evaluating Girardi… well, he has such talent to work with that he doesn’t have to do much. As a result I think they often criticize him for everything that goes wrong and credit the players for everything that goes right… He makes a change/decision and the player blows it, Girardi made a mistake. He makes a change and the player performs, hey that’s a great player.

          The only managerial evaluation criteria I’d be at all interested in looking at would be an objective, scientific one. Otherwise, we’re falling into the same trap with managers that we accuse others of falling into with players in terms of subjective evaluation.

        • Tim

          And, shockingly, you’re wrong. Or at least misleading. 12 of the 57+ IP that the Yankees have gotten from their bullpen have come from two guys in their starting rotation – Colon (11.1 IP) and Nova’s 0.2 last night. Remove those innings and the bullpen as it currently stands has thrown the fourth FEWEST innings in the AL.

          The Yankees have had a ridiculously high number of two things so far this season – off days (both planned and weather-related) and close games. Yes, Mo has pitched in 10 games this year, leading all relievers (with a passle of others at 10). But in not one of his previous 9 appearances had he thrown more than 16 pitches or faced more than 4 batters. He hasn’t been stretched out, and last night’s performance was not necessarily because he was tired/over-worked/pitching for the fifth time in the past 7 days. You can conjecture that, as Joe did in his Op-Ed piece which comes off as a bit of factual news. But that doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s just a guess.

          By the way, last year and the year before, he pitched 4 times in 5 games twice. One of the ’09 times, it was actually 5 times in 6 games. No ill effects. No crapping the bed in the last outing. And no calls of “overuse” from paranoid bloggers.

          • Mike HC

            Considering the state of the Yankees rotation, and the current pace of the relievers, you don’t see any reason to speculate on the possible overuse of the bullpen? It is not like Joe made it a slam dunk case. He was bringing up a possible area of concern.

    • BKLYN

      You don’t see a reason for overuse of the bullpen??? Maybe because our starters average less than 6 innings? And what would the bloggers be saying if we lost many of those games (and arent in first place) because he brought in lesser pitchers in those key situations? We’d all be here complaining 10x worse than presently.

      • Tank the Frank

        No I don’t. Not this early in the season. It doesn’t matter what your starters are giving you. You don’t compound that problem by creating another problem. Period.

        This is a team that has to look long term. A team that’s expected to play postseason baseball. You can’t say that about every team.

        The point is that the Yankees have won their share of games by using “the formula” and they’re ahead of the game. You absolutely have to take your foot off the pedal at some point and give the bullpen a rest, for the sake of your long-term goals. I think that’s what this post is all about.

        • Mike HC

          Long term for this team might just be making the playoffs. I don’t see the Yanks as a guaranteed playoff team where we don’t have to really worry about the regular season. That is not to say we should go all out this year to the detriment of the team and players. But there is a balance, and this year maybe more than others, getting to playoffs should be the goal, and worry about the rest once you are there.

          • Tank the Frank

            Agreed. The postseason is what I mean. What happens after that is a crapshoot. And I’m hoping some better starting pitching options become available later on.

            • Mike HC

              Yea. We need “some better starting pitching options,” and fast.

        • Ted Nelson

          As a fan, I think you have to take your own advice and look long-term… The usage will naturally change. The Yankees are not going to use Mo and Joba in 108 games this season. I try not to make definitive statements about what others are going to do or not do… but what are the chances Mo makes 108 appearances all of a sudden this season? After using these sorts of guy more like 60-70 games for years?

        • Rookie

          Exactamundo.

        • Rookie

          You nailed it, Tank. No matter what the reason, whether it’s starters giving you too few innings or an unusually dense schedule or lots of extra inning games, you don’t compound the problem by burning out your bullpen – unless you want to dramatically reduce your odds of winning in the postseason and go down as Joe Torre revisited.

          • Mike HC

            But while you are worrying about going down in the postseason in April, another team is out there scraping for every win, and you end up watching the postseason on the couch.

  • Ted Nelson

    This will take care of itself. The occasional 8 inning start, 10 run win, 10 run loss… these things are bound to happen more often.

    Robertson needs to be used a bit more in high leverage spots, and the others a bit less. The end of the bullpen–Logan, Pendleton, and Noesi right now–needs to start to sort itself out in lower-leverage innings. Once it does, there’s a good chance someone will emerge as a higher leverage guy than the others and pick up some meaningful innings.

    There are dozens of relievers around the league logging as many innings in 8, 9, 10 appearances as Mo and Joba and Soriano… so I’m not sure why you pinpoint the Yankees as overusing their bullpen and not the league as a whole.

    The only one I really think is being overused is Mo, and mostly because of his age.

    I don’t think it’s really a good idea to assign the correlation between Mo’s melt down and his use as the causation of the meltdown… It could be, but even the best pitchers do give up runs and have poor innings regardless of rest. Halladay got rocked last night too, and I don’t think Phillies fans are runnings around blaming it on the irresponsible use of a 5 man rotation rather than a 6 or 7 man…

    • Ted Nelson

      Also, way to not mention that Mo had 5 days off before being used 5 in 7… Nice little strawman you’ve built by ignoring context as far as how often other relievers are used and how often these guys have rested.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

        You wanna be an asshole about this? Point me to the passage where I assign any correlation to workload and meltdown.

        And I don’t think the five days off comes into play here. Five in seven is tough for any reliever. It’s just a lot of work. That’s my view of it. It might not be your view, but don’t accuse me of ignoring context.

        • bonestock94

          lol twitter sent me here

        • The209

          I think I found it:

          “Either Girardi has to start using the other guys in the pen, or else those four get burned out. Last night we might have seen a bit of the latter.”

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

            Damn. “In the past five games” would have worked better. Oh well.

          • Ted Nelson

            Thanks, remembered seeing that but couldn’t find it when I scanned back for it. Guess I’m not the asshole, that’s good.

            • Gonzo

              Whoa! Hold on a second. You still may be an a-hole. It’s just that you aren’t an a-hole for this reason.

              • Ted Nelson

                Yeah, that’s what I mean… “the asshole” in this situation.

                • Gonzo

                  I know, I just had to throw it in there.

        • Ted Nelson

          Come on. Mo doesn’t meltdown last night and you still write this article prominently featuring Mo’s picture? The timing is pretty suspect, and the image it conjures of last night’s lost was pretty easily foreseen. The impact of inciting commenters to bash Girardi for “overusing the bullpen” was pretty easily foreseen.
          Sorry if I erred in accusing you of that, but I still feel it was a poor article and totally lacked context.

          Personal insults aside, you did ignore context. You didn’t talk at all about how often other relievers around the league are used. That’s a huge part of the context of this article. Overuse is a 100% relative concept. You have to define what normal use is in order to even begin discussing over-use.

          “But can he really justify using Mo yet again — for the sixth time in eight days, for the 11th time in 16 games? That would be quite irresponsible.”

          You’re getting way ahead of yourself here, which is I think the general problem with the article. Mo hasn’t been used 3 straight days yet this season, yet you’re already speculating about it. You don’t bother to point out that he hasn’t been used 3 straight (nor has Joba), just that Girardi might do it and be irresponsible. The irresponsible one here, in my opinion, is you for banting about criticism with no context. How often are relievers generally used 3 straight days? How normal is it to have this many close games? This is the sort of factual context you have to establish before discussing the relative over-use of a bullpen.

          Making 10 appearances in 15 games does not mean that you’re going to make 108 appearances. You think Girardi is really so dumb that he doesn’t realize Mo and Joba are on 108 game paces that can’t be sustained? He’s really that stupid? If no one in the Yankee organization is capable of simple arithmetic, any bullpen problem is a minor footnote to total organizational incompetence.

          You also ignored that Mo was well rested coming into the 5 in 7. If he had one day off before the 5 in 7 and it was really 6 in 9 or 7 in 10 or 7 in 11, that is different from being completely rested going into the 7. I’m not going to go so far as to say it was 5 in 12 (which obviously it was) because that ignores the distribution, but it does matter that he was rested before the 7. If you choose to ignore reality there, that’s your prerogative.

          You also ignored the rate of close games the Yankees have been in. You talk about the rotation needing to go longer into games (which would be great), but ignore that if it’s a 4, 5, 7, 10 run lead in either direction after 6 innings, you can bring in your mop-up guy. I don’t know how common it is for teams to have a bunch of close games, but that context is essential for critically analyzing this situation. Without that context it’s just crap journalism of jumping to conclusions like a reactionary MSM hack.

          You point to the number of games they’ve been used out of the total Yankee games as sort of the telling stat for how they’re overused, but without calculating the off days and close games this lacks context. How often over the course of a season have these guys been used 10 of 15 days in previous seasons? I again have no idea, but that is necessary context. Overreacting to the 15 games happening to be at the beginning of the season is not responsible journalism.

          When you haven’t used your closer in 5 days and choose to get him some work in a 3 run game, you don’t know that the next night will be a one run game. There is certainly such a thing as overuse, but it’s a pretty amorphous line and if Girardi continues to cross it… we have an issue. I wouldn’t take any one week or 15 game stretch and project that on the whole season.

          I think there is room to analyze Girardi’s bullpen use, and question how it’ll progress as the season goes on. I thought your article was poorly written and overly accusatory/reactionary. I don’t really care if you choose to get defensive about it and call me names. That’s your choice.

          Your conclusion that something has to change is pretty obvious to anyone, I just didn’t think the reactionary stuff about 10 games in 15 days with no context provided made for a strong article. Relievers (besides Feliciano…) don’t pitch 108 games in a season. The Yankees are already on record saying the Mets overused Feliciano and that led to his current injury in their opinion. You think they’re so dumb as to give their relievers 100 appearances in a season? These guys will all get 60-70 appearances in the season, though. 70 appearances means you’re being used every 2.3 games. Right now Mo and Joba are being used every 1.5 games. To balance that out to 70 appearances on the season, Joe only has to limit them to 2.45 games between appearances… a marginal increase from 2.3. Between more games in more days, more games without high leverage relief situations, and maybe the emergence of another option or two (and/or just dry-humping D-Rob more) this problem should naturally take care of itself. Girardi is not going to give Mo or Joba 108 appearances this season (nor is Cashman).

          • Mike HC

            Joe’s secondary point though, was that when the Yanks inevitably have to stop using these guys so much either because of injury or choice, what is the alternative? So while you think the fear is overstated, the Yanks are either going to continue to use their bullpen more this year compared to other years (call it overuse if you want), or they are going to watch shitty pitchers get lit up while maybe our 2nd, 3rd and 4th best pitchers sit and watch. The point of the article was, that the Yanks are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Not sure if you caught that?

            • Ted Nelson

              But the issue to me is how likely it is that the situations where the Yankees would use these guys will keep arising so regularly.

              If this keeps happening about as often (the Yankees play almost all close games all season), then I absolutely agree you don’t use Mo and Joba 108 times. I think the first option is to start alternating the 4 in there instead of the set D-Rob warms up then 7, 8, 9 way things have gone. One or more guys is unavailable for a game (or a last resort at least) and the other guys pick up the slack. Beyond that I hope/think that one of the younger options steps up as a reliable reliever. Ayala got into 3 games for 5 IP in 8 days, and I think at some point Noesi, Pendleton, etc. gets that kind of a role. Mostly low-ish leverage, but some meaningful innings. If they do well in the low-leverage, they might pick up the occasional high-leverage spot. Logan also probably gets some more medium-leverage spots, and either works his way back into the high-leverage LOOGY role or is eventually replaced.

              I think there will not be a need every night for high-leverage relief innings, though between the occasional longer start and larger score margins (not even necessarily 10 run leads, but more 3 and 4 and 5 run leads and deficits).

              And when they don’t arise you still have to keep these guys sharp, which can lead to a situation where you use them when you didn’t have to to get them work only to really want to use them several games in a row after that… So, another thing I’m wondering is how often these short spurts of overuse arise in a normal season. Is it normal for appearances to be distributed fairly evenly throughout the season or to move in fits and starts?

              • Mike HC

                Nobody can predict how the rest of the season is going to play out. Maybe the Yanks play a fewer than average amount of close games from here on out. Or maybe greater than average, or maybe average? But so far, without the ability to tell the future, the Yanks bullpen has been used a lot. If the statistical gods have the Yanks play another spat of tight games for the next 15 days, does Girardi continue to use bullpen as he has been doing? Or does he keep his starter in even while he is getting hit? Does he go to a lesser, unproven reliever? It seems as if none of the solutions are good.

                Of course, maybe the next 15 are all big leads one way or the other, and everything is cool. Then a possible issue will have been luckily averted.

                • Ted Nelson

                  Yeah, no one knows. Someone with the relevant info and time can predict how likely it is, though. And if you end up being an extreme case or an outlier, you adjust as time goes on. Without quantifying the likelihood of certain things, it’s hard to really discuss them.

                  “does Girardi continue to use bullpen as he has been doing? Or does he keep his starter in even while he is getting hit? Does he go to a lesser, unproven reliever? It seems as if none of the solutions are good.”

                  I think this is the interesting question, and what the article should have been about.

                  I’d say a mix of 2 and 3. You’re not quite as quick with your starters (which may also happen naturally as their stamina builds), and you give Pendleton, Logan, etc. some more chances (preferably medium-leverage and low-leverage…). Pendleton responded in his first outing. I didn’t expect much from him, but you never know when a reliever will put it together and have a nice stretch. Especially a LOOGY like Logan who could face one or two batters at a time.

                  I don’t think he keeps overusing guys. Not only that it’s the wrong thing to do, but that I don’t think Girardi is that dense. And if he is, I don’t think everyone else in the org. is dense enough not to stop him. That’s why I keep saying that I think this is noise in a small sample, and not something to really worry about. No pitcher has made more than 92 appearances the past two seasons… is Girardi really going to keep these guys on a 108 game pace? Cashman?

                  • Mike HC

                    But the article was about the lack of options Girardi has if he clearly isn’t going to keep up the current pace of the bullpen. Sure, agreed that it was not exactly a solutions oriented post, more of just sounding the alert siren.

                    • The209

                      Average Ted Nelson post

                      + a little whimsy

                      – a little anger

                      = next weekend writer?

          • Greg

            “…the Mets overused Feliciano and that led to his current injury in their opinion. You think they’re so dumb as to give their relievers 100 appearances in a season?..”

            Cashman was certainly dumb enough to have this opinion and then go ahead and sign Feliciano anyways…

      • JCK

        There are dozens of relievers around the league logging as many innings in 8, 9, 10 appearances as Mo and Joba and Soriano… so I’m not sure why you pinpoint the Yankees as overusing their bullpen and not the league as a whole.

        Because this is a Yankees blog? Context, my man, context…

        • Ted Nelson

          To talk about overuse, you have to first define normal use. If the Yankees use of their bullpen so far is in-line with the league as a whole… either the Yankees are not overusing their bullpen or we have an issue that is larger than just the Yankees.

    • Gonzo

      Phils fans are blaming the complete game 123 pitch game before last night’s. Seriously, I have a friend who said that to me. Though, he is the same guy that said you can do that with Roy Halladay in April because of his age, ease of delivery, and studliness.

      I guess it’s all in the narrative.

  • Klemy

    Even though we only have one pitcher (CC) who we can assume will go deep in to games, I still do think this pace is unsustainable. We can’t keep playing so many close games. Something will eventually give, even if it’s getting blown out ourselves.

    This does have to stop at some point though, even if it means forcing lesser pitchers in to games. We need to get other guys involved. The farther we go depending on only 4 guys, the less prepared the others will be when they finally do get in to games. How sharp can the rest of the bullpen be, if they haven’t pitched in 7+ days?

  • It’sATarp

    I said this before…we need another work horse…we can’t burn out the pen everytime someone other than CC starts

    • Gonzo

      The trade chips are there. It’s just a matter of a team falling out of contention and/or willing to deal.

  • Yank the Frank

    The games you win in April are the ones you don’t have to worry about in September.
    The starters not going deep in games is causing the overused bullpen. We knew the rotation wasn’t great going into the season and it’s panning out. Until the starteres are able to go deeper into games, we may need to use a PA. shuttle to give the bullpen a breather.

  • Big Apple

    the key inning for the starters is the 6th…if they can get through that inning and into the 7th it really helps the bullpen. AJ gives up that leadoff double and you can just see things unravelling. AJ needs to last longer, especially since the backend of the rotation will be lucky to get through 5.

  • Mike HC

    Another reason why the extra work might not be doomsday in the beginning of the season is because even though Brackman, Banuelos and Betances may not be ready to start this year, come September, they may be able to handle some bullpen innings. Thus giving Joba, Sori, and Mo a rest before the playoffs, presuming we are in.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      That still covers from April-August. They need a couple of dependable starters fast. Either someone steps up or they need a seller fast.

      And sellers don’t typically sell until June.

      • Ted Nelson

        I don’t think we need to panic. This is not out of line with where we thought the rotation might be. AJ and Hughes basically reversing roles.

        CC has actually pitched 3 innings less than you’d expect based on last season’s IP/GS. He gets a CG and a 7, 8 IP start back to back and that relieves some pressure.

        The offense torching someone for 8+ runs relieves some pressure.

        Not ideal, but a started getting torched for 8+ runs is going to give the high-leverage guys a day off.

        A Lance Pendleton or Logan stringing together some good appearances relievers pressure.

        It’s not really a secret that the rotation is iffy, but it wasn’t a secret entering the season either. If the Yankees wanted to make a panic move, it should have been signing Pavano to a 2-year deal. Not overpaying for starters their own teams probably don’t want in April.

  • Rookie

    I haven’t read every post in this thread. But I hope somebody is giving credit to Mike Axisa for pointing out this issue last night — before the game and before Mo’s meltdown — and in a game time thread the prior game about Joba’s overuse before he gave up the lead in the game a couple of nights earlier.

  • http://. Greg

    In my head, this all comes back to the fact that the Yankees inr ecent years have been unable to develop young quality starting pitching. Pitchers like Lincecum, Lester, King Felix, Price, Jered Weaver, Hamels, Jimenez etc.
    The Yankees have been forced to buy quality starting pitching (CC) or trade for it (Vasquez) which is not at all fullproof. Now, the Killer B’s might be the beginning of a new wave and I hope the Yankees hang on to them or else it will be a pretty rough decade.

    • Zack

      The problem is the Yankees aren’t willing to give their SP’s a chance. You don’t do well, it’s to the bullpen for you or a trade.
      New York has the theory you either do well NOW or get out.
      The Killer B’s are going to be gone. No way we get a SP of decent quality from another team without giving one of them up.

      • Ted Nelson

        “You don’t do well, it’s to the bullpen for you or a trade.”

        This is a false narrative. Hughes didn’t do well, went to the bullpen, and was put back in the rotation.

        IPK was traded for Curtis Granderson, they didn’t give him away or give up on him. He’s a solid starter, but not someone to cry about losing.

        “New York has the theory you either do well NOW or get out.”

        Totally false. What big market playoff contender is marching out bad starting pitchers to develop them? Did Phillies say, “you know we like Cliff Lee but we really need to get crappy Kyle Kendrick some starts so that he’ll develop?” Did they say, “you know Halladay is amazing but let’s just develop Kyle Drabek instead?”

        “The Killer B’s are going to be gone. No way we get a SP of decent quality from another team without giving one of them up.”

        How did you jump from trading one of them to trading 3 of them? And you don’t think Jesus or Sanchez could fetch a decent starting pitcher? Interesting.

    • Ted Nelson

      All the guys you list weren’t that bad when they were acquired. It’s not all about “developing” pitchers. It’s also about drafting them, signing them, and

      All the American players besides Lester who list were drafted well before the Yankees had a chance to pick them. Price (1), Tim (10), Weaver (12), Hamels (17) were all high first round picks. The only way for the Yankees to get those guys would be to miss the post-season. If the Yankees failure to have a bad season is what you’re complaining about, you may want to re-think your argument.

      And you list a total of 7 pitchers… there are 30 teams. 75% aren’t able to “develop” young pitchers by your criteria. And… are the Mariners winning with Felix? Did the Phillies “develop” Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee?

      “Now, the Killer B’s might be the beginning of a new wave and I hope the Yankees hang on to them or else it will be a pretty rough decade.”

      They hung onto Hughes and Joba… how’s that working out. There is no rule that you should always hold onto prospects and never acquire veteran pitchers.

      • Ted Nelson

        And even Lester went before the Yankees had a pick, since they sacrificed the #24 pick to sign Giambi.

        • http://. Greg

          Exactly. How did that work out? The Yankees have to cocentrate on drafting even more so because as you say they always finish in the postseason. They did hang on to Hughes and Joba and won the WS in 2009 with them. They traded for and signed starters like Randy JOhnson, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Kevin Brown, and Mike Mussina and they didn’t win a series with any of them

          • bexy on another computer

            Correlation isn’t causation. Not Moose’s fault Mo blew Game 7 in 2001, and it’s certainly not Moose’s fault the Yankees lost the 2003 World Series (in fact, he outdueled the MVP of that series). Joba and Hughes contributed to the 2009 World Series, but they are not the reason they won. They also failed to win the World Series in 2007, 2008, and 2010 with them, by your logic.

            • Ted Nelson

              This. I can see a point in what Greg’s saying, but it’s really presented in an extreme and illogical way. Of course drafting well and developing players is important, but it’s just not any more important than being savvy in free agency and trades… in fact player development often feeds directly into good trades.

              And the Giambi signing worked out well compared to the average draft pick anyway. 24.4 fWAR for the Yankees. The Yankees might have draft Lester in that spot (he didn’t go till #57, so it’s not particularly likely he was the one guy they were keying in on) and have 19.2 fWAR in the books with the promise for many more, but they might also have drafted one of dozens of guys who were potential picks at that spot who will never make any positive impact in the majors.

  • Tim

    This doesn’t seem to me to be a starting pitching problem at all. In games where the starter is terrible and gone early, Mo probably isn’t going to pitch, anyway. In games where the starter is good and goes deep into the game, if the game is close late Mo is going to pitch no matter what (unless it is a CG opportunity).

    You know how you keep the number of Mo appearances down? You tack on a few runs against the terrible middle relievers of the opponent so that it isn’t a one or two run game into the ninth, like it has been for this entire season it seems. And you tack on a few runs by manufacturing them. If Garnder could get down a bunt last night in the fifth, the Yankees win. It’s that simple.

    • Nogomo

      Gardner is also to blame for the bad economy and the Japanese earthquake.

      • Tim

        No. Only for his inability to lay down a bunt last night. And any night, for that matter.

        • Mike HC

          So, you honestly don’t think that the lack of starting pitching is the real problem on this team, but it is instead the team’s lack of bunting ability?

      • Mike HC

        It always comes back to not bunting well enough, ie, not enough “grit” on the team.

        • http://. Greg

          Its choosing the spots to bunt. Gardner was struggling let him contribute

  • Nogomo

    All the Girardi-bashing here is getting tired, however, I do think it would’ve been more imaginative for Joe to give the 9th inning to Noesi or Pendleton, but then if one of those guys blew it he’d be even MORE vilified. I really don’t comprehend how anyone would be so sure that they know a pitcher’s capacity and where the line of abusing him is better than him and his manager. It’s only one inning he pitches. I know you need something to write about but this is tired. Also, do you think it’s any big news that it’s far from ideal to rely on the bullpen? Didn’t you see Cashman trying his best to improve the starting rotation, and still doing so? Have you forgotten that he was against the Soriano hire?

    Sorry, guys, this is not one of your finer moments.

  • daddy

    where are all the fanboys who werent in favor of trading montero + banuelos for king felix? liking your starting rotation yet? idiots.

    • JerseyDutch

      Most people when faced with the option of being a loud-mouth simpleton or taking the high road would choose the latter. Congratulations on being original.

      • daddy

        someone from jersey talking about taking the high road. THAT’S original.

        • JerseyDutch

          The only thing wrong with that opinion is that you chose to express it.

    • crapmaster general

      I’m in favor of me banging loads of supermodels. however, that doesn’t mean the idea is in the realm of possibility whatsoever. if that’s not making sense to you, try this: I highly doubt people on message boards favoring a fantasy trade have any bearing on it happening in real life.

    • bexy on another computer

      This was….. not a real trade proposal, yes.

  • Rookie

    I haven’t read every post in this thread. But I hope somebody is giving credit to Mike Axisa for pointing out this issue last night — before the game and before Mo’s meltdown — and in a game time thread the prior game about Joba’s overuse before he gave up the lead in the game.