Here’s what I like about Joe Girardi’s use of his bullpen: for the most part, he puts his guys in positions to succeed. He doesn’t overwork them. His predecessor, Joe Torre, as we all know wore out relievers like rented mules. But I would also get frustrated by Torre’s circle of trust; if you weren’t one of Torre’s guys (and let’s be honest – in the last years it seemed like, at times, that might only be Mariano Rivera), there was almost an expectation of failure. Brian Bruney is a great example: he went through a couple different periods where he was the best reliever on the team outside of Rivera. Yet he would voice his frustration because anytime he was used in a somewhat high leverage situation, as soon as he walked someone he’d be pulled. He couldn’t just go out and pitch; he was always looking over his shoulder.
Saturday’s 7-6 loss to the White Sox was undoubtedly one of the most frustrating of the season, primarily because Girardi made some questionable bullpen decisions. Any game recap will tell the story: 1-run lead, Paul Konerko on 2nd, Carlos Quentin batting, David Robertson pitching. Robertson, after 2 balls, intentionally walks Quentin and in comes Damaso Marte to face AJ Pierzynski.
Now, this is a confusing move on a few levels. 1 – Carlos Quentin is struggling (and I should know, I have him on my fantasy team). Sure, Robertson hasn’t been having a great year either, but despite the Konerko double, he appears to be throwing the ball pretty well. What I am getting at is this is a decent matchup for the Yankees. 2 – Marte has been struggling this year and now you’re putting him in a position where he has to get the out, because you’ve intentionally walked the go-ahead run on base. Girardi is now betting heavily one this one matchup, which, as we found out, is dangerous. 3 – Yes, Pierzynski hits righties better than lefties. But this is not like facing David Ortiz or Curtis Granderson or Ryan Howard, where going to the lefty is a major advantage. Certainly not major enough of an advantage where it’s worth putting that lead runner on base.
So again, what this comes down to is that I don’t think Girardi put his players in a position to succeed because he gave them so little margin for error. Like Torre pulling Bruney for any leadoff walk, you’re essentially telling your bullpen guys they have to be perfect. And as we know with relievers not named Rivera, they rarely are.