Second guessing Joe Girardi’s decision

Joe Girardi is the best manager in the league at managing his bullpen. A bold statement, yes, however not so far fetched if you consider the way his teams have performed. As is always the case with baseball, however, even the best players and best managers make mistakes from time to time. Also, no one has accused Girardi of being a great manager of starting pitchers. Last nights decision to take out Phil Hughes lies somewhere in the middle of bullpen and starting pitcher management.

Looking at past history, or reading his binder may have pointed Joe Girardi in the direction he chose to go last night. Many would agree with his decision to bring in the lefty to face Denard Span, and on the surface it looks like a no brainer. Bases loaded, two outs, tying run on second. They were one out away from getting to the 8th inning, and their best relievers. This is what LOOGYs were made for.

A manager must not only consider what has happened in the past though. He must also consider what is happening in the present. In this case, Phil Hughes was in the midst of a gem. He had thrown just 99 pitches, which is more than reasonable given his performance lately and ability to go deeper into games. Coming to the plate was Denard Span, who was 0/3 against Hughes on the game. Hughes had loaded the bases one batter before with one out. It’s worth mentioning that the bases were loaded on a ground ball that would have resulted in a double play had it been placed more favorably for the Yankees.

Most importantly, Hughes was just coming off the biggest out of the game, a one out strikeout with the bases loaded. Pedro Florimon is no whiz with the bat, but any out in that spot was huge. Then, after the biggest strikeout of the game, Girardi sprints out of the dugout to remove Phil from the game without even giving him one shot at getting out of the jam he created. Instead it was left to Boone Logan.

No one will ever know what would have happened if Hughes was left in this game. A major argument can be made that Girardi made the right call. Personally, I believe that game was Phil Hughes’ to lose, not Boone Logan. It is beyond frustrating that Hughes has to get the loss in this game. Worse yet, he was taken out before allowing a single run in the inning, before his pitch count was reached, against a batter who was hitless against him all game, directly following a huge, momentum swinging strikeout.

Make no mistake about it, Joe Girardi is still an excellent bullpen manager, maybe even the best. He made a mistake last night in one of the most important games of the year, but this does not remotely make him a bad coach. He deserves a ton of credit for all that he has done with the Yankees’ bullpen over the past three seasons, and I have faith that his binder will have even more successes in the future and in the playoffs this season.

It is important for Joe to learn from his mistakes. There are times when removing a starting pitcher with the bases loaded before their pitch count is up is appropriate. This was not one of them. In the future I would like to see coach Girardi give his starting pitchers a little bit more credit than he did tonight, and not just CC Sabathia.

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12 Responses to Second guessing Joe Girardi’s decision

  1. Michael Pimentel says:

    I do not agree with Girardi's decision to take out Hughes for Logan last night. I think that it not only is a bad decision is was a terrible decision. Managers must remember that just because they have a LOOGY and there is a lefty at the plate in the late innings that they HAVE to go to the bullpen. Hughes was pitching a good game and had just retired the previous batter by strikeout. Phil Hughes was at 99 pitches at that point and he is better that Logan in any situation, so why take Hughes out? Because it has become the thing to do? Because managers nowadays HAVE to use the situational pitchers? What has happened to baseball? I think as baseball fans is going to get to the point where something must be done. As a fan i can honestly tell you that as I watched Girardi walk toward the mound I was screaming at the TV. Not my proudest moment but it was not Girardi's best either. One will never know what would happen in the future and the outcome of a game is always in doubt. The job of a manager is to use the guys on the roster that give the team the best chance to win. I think Girardi failed to do that last night.

  2. Olie says:

    Easy to second guess Girardi now so I might as well take my shot. Hughes should have been taken out before pitching to left handed hitting Florimon. I realize Hughes struck him out but why not go to the pen sooner they pay Logan just for that spot!

    • Greg Corcoran says:

      Good point. If you were going to bring in Logan, why wait until the 2nd lefty comes up?

    • stoogazzo says:

      Excellent comment Olie. I agree with you entirely. I was waiting for Hughes to give up another home run throughout the entire game. He got away with a lot of pitches that were up. The guy has given up 34 home runs to date and still counting. If the Yankees reach the playoffs, he should not even be considered to start.

  3. Michael Pimentel says:

    Just because you pay a guy to be use in situations does not mean you have to use him every time that situation arises. If Hughes is still pitching effective then why take him out for a guy who is not even your best bullpen arm? At one point starters need to be trusted to pitch themselves out of trouble.

  4. Kerouac says:

    Girardi learned this trick from Torre. Take Hughes out on a high note, after he gets a big out. It was supposed to be a confidence move, instead it showed a lack of confidence in Phil.

    • stoogazzo says:

      I don't know what you consider a high note. Hughes has given up 34 home runs and counting to date. I have no confidence in Hughes. He should have been pulled after he walked the batter and put runners on first and second. Other than that, I have no problem with Girardi bringing in Logan, who blew the game. No matter how highly the fans talk about Hughes, how can any fan have confidence in a pitcher who has given up 34 home runs. What a joke?

      • Greg Corcoran says:

        In this situation I had more confidence in Hughes than Logan, especially after reading Eric's comment below. He has let up an absurd amount of homeruns, but he is still putting together a respectable season. Unfortunately, with Nova pitching as poorly as he has, I think Hughes is going to be the 4th starter in the post season. He has pitched extremely well lately though, so I have confidence that he can be an effective 4th playoff starter. It's not like he's being asked to be the ace.

        Homeruns allowed is one stat. There are many others, in fact almost all of the other stats, that Hughes excels at. It's actually pretty shocking that this many balls have left the park against him, because his numbers look pretty damn good otherwise. I have confidence in Hughes, although not to be an ace. I am confident that he can be what he's been for the past two months, which is a very solid 4th starter. That said, I had confidence that in the situation two nights ago Hughes would have come through.

        • stoogazzo says:

          Greg, I respect your reasoning. However, don't you think that Hughes' pitches were up in that seventh inning? He threw a couple of cookies in the sixth that he got away with. After he walked the second batter to set up first and second, I would have definitely pulled him with lefties coming up. Believe me, I am not a Girardi fan, especially when he plays musical chairs with the relief pitchers. But I could envision Hughes being kept in, and giving up his 35th home run, which would have been a grand slam.

          • Greg Corcoran says:

            I think if you were going to take him out, the time would have been before he faced Florimon. In that respect, I agree with you. He threw some pitches up in the zone in the 6th, but every pitcher makes a few mistakes every game. Usually they get away with a few of them too. Hughes has not gotten away with much this season. He also pitched well to the last two batters he faced (ground ball and strike out)

  5. Eric says:

    Great post. Agree 100%. You didn't mention it, but the fact that Logan had pitched 5 times in 6 days (including both ends of a the DH) has a lot to do with why he should have left in Hughes. I frequently say the same thing — that Girardi is at his best when managing the bullpen — but he blew that one. Logan was exhausted and should not have been in the game. In contrast, Hughes was fired up and rested. As for confidence…that argument is ludicrous. Nothing gives a pitcher more confidence than coming back, getting out of his own jam and getting the win. It was Hughes' game to win or lose, but Girardi botched the decision.