Girardi Was Right and Matt Was Wrong

After the lineups were posted yesterday and before the game started our very own Matt Imbrogno wrote an article criticizing a couple of the moves that Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to make in the lineup.

Now don’t get me wrong, Matt is a fine writer and Bronx Baseball Daily is lucky to have him, but in this case he was wrong and I’m calling him out on it.

I’m talking about Girardi’s decision to take play Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jose Molina in place of Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada last night. It was the right move in both cases and it did eventually work out as the Yankees beat the Phillies 3-1 to even the series at one.

Hairston in for Swisher: This one was probably the most obvious of the two moves. Swisher has been struggling, big time. He only got one hit against the Twins and only three against the Angels. Overall he was batting .114 with a .205 OBP, a .143 SLG, and a .348 OPS overall.

Obviously he’s working to try to fix that, but he again looked bad against the Phillies even though he had a few days between the ALCS and the World Series to work on things. I’m not saying that he should be benched for the rest of the series, but one day off to take some of the pressure away couldn’t hurt more than his presence in the lineup was.

Hairston also worked out to be the best choice. Sure Brett Gardner and Eric Hinske had their advantages too, but neither had a career line of .370 BA, .433 OBP, .519 SLG, .952 OPS against Pedro Martinez. For some reason Pedro just turns the guy into Alex Rodriguez.

The move worked out to some extent as well. We know that Hairston didn’t hit any dramatic home runs, but he did go 1-for-3 against a good Pedro who only allowed six hits. His one hit was a big one too, as it was a leadoff hit that eventually came around to score a very big insurance run.

Maybe Swisher would have done well too, but it isn’t very likely. He’s been so cold lately and he hasn’t had a lot of success or experience against Pedro going 0-for-2 lifetime against him. This was a move that certainly didn’t hurt the Yankees and probably helped them.

Molina in for Posada: Now this was a move that wasn’t as obvious, but also helped the Yankees. Before I get too far into this, there are numbers that back up this move, so let’s take a look at them:

Molina – Caught 11 games, 288 PA, 77 K, 29 BB, 2.66 K/BB, .221 BAA.
Posada – Caught 16 games, 434 PA, 79 K, 46 BB, 1.72 K/BB, .270 BAA.

So essentially Burnett’s walks totals are unaffected, but he strikes out many more batters pitching to Molina. Adjust these numbers and Burnett would have struck out 39 more batters over the same amount of plate appearances pitching to Molina than Posada, or about 2.43 more per game.

It’s not just the strikeouts though, Burnett becomes much more hittable with Posada behind the plate. About .050 percentage points more which is quite a difference.

Looking past the numbers though there was evidence in the game last night that Molina is better for Burnett. The Phillies did put a runner on base in the first two innings, but it wasn’t until the top of the 3rd when they had a stolen base treat in the form of Jimmy Rollins on first.

Now fast runners really distract Burnett and throw him off his game as we saw against the Angels. He pays too much attention to them and has never mastered the slide step. With Rollins on first last night Burnett went to the slide step for the first time and the immediate result was nearly a wild pitch, but Molina the pitching coach went out to the mound and quickly fixed a problem in Burnett’s delivery. Burnett then pulled himself together and got Shane Victorino on a weak grounder.

Molina continued to help the very next inning when he picked Jason Werth off of first base with a snap throw behind him. It was a big play at the time because Burnett already had a kind of long 2nd and 3rd inning. By nailing Werth there Molina helps Burnett to get out of the inning quickly and shortly after that he got himself on a roll.

Sure Posada certainly would have brought a better level of offense to the game had he been in the lineup, but he really only missed six innings, Pedro’s innings. And in Posada’s career he has not exactly turned Pedro into a pinata. His line against him: .183 BA, .290 OBP, .740 OPS.

Considering Molina only had one at bat and a walk and Posada’s numbers against Pedro, the extra offense Posada could have contributed might have been a little exaggerated.

See, Girardi is capable of making moves that work. As our reader Bob said, “Hope the crow is not too hard to digest.”

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