New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi knows a lot about baseball. With an engineering degree from Northwestern, it’s safe to say he knows a lot about a lot of things. It’s possible that the latter will continue to get him into trouble as a manager.
The final outcome of the 2017 season, Girardi’s ninth with New York, is critical to his future with the organization. This was true before the season started, but is especially true following the trade deadline. While the Yankees were in the hunt last year, general manager Brian Cashman opted to play for the future, trading key veterans to contenders for prospects. This season, management went for it, adding a few relievers and starting pitchers Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia to bolster the rotation. Now, it’s up to Girardi to get this group where it needs to be.
The Yankees were always a World Series-or-bust organization under the late George Steinbrenner and, while it may be a bit unrealistic, current ownership appears to have the same expectations for 2017. Should they fall short, Girardi may have to shoulder the blame. Considering his managerial style and track record, that may not be unwarranted.
Throughout his managerial career, Girardi has earned a reputation as an over-manager. While playing the match-ups is necessary in today’s game, there needs to be balance. Sometimes, you can’t mess with what’s working because the book says the numbers aren’t to your advantage. You have to be able to go with your gut.
This season, Girardi has tended to rely on the match-ups too often when the Yankees are on the mound. Just because there’s a stat that shows hitters’ averages against a starter jump in their third plate appearance doesn’t mean you pull your starter after five innings when he’s thrown just 65 pitches. That’s exactly what Girardi did on Aug. 5th, however, when Jordan Montgomery was dealing against the Indians. Instead of riding the sharp Montgomery, Girardi went to the bullpen early, explaining that the team’s identity is its deep pen.
“He was really, really good tonight,” Girardi admitted, about Montgmery. “I actually thought his stuff got better as he went along, which is always a good sign. It was a tough call to pull him, but this is how we’re built. We made a decision. He was brilliant.”
Girardi went on to add that the bullpen was fresh and needed work. That’s fine and dandy — except for the fact that the next game, the Yankees’ bullpen was limited because Girardi used three relievers for four innings of work when he probably didn’t need to. These decisions, while easy to second guess in hindsight, are the kind that can lose you a series in the playoffs.
There’s no denying Girardi’s capability as a manager. In the past few years, he’s managed to get the most out of Yankees teams that had no business contending for playoff spots. That said, how often he trusts himself down the stretch — rather than the numbers — will determine whether he’s wearing pinstripes next year.