Friday, October 7, 2011

The End Of The Road

Well, Yankees fans. Here we are again. The curtain has dropped on another season and unfortunately things didn't end up going our way. Mission 28 will have to wait another year.

As I was getting condolences today from friends and family members on the loss, I tried to explain that it actually wasn't that bad. Sure the loss hurts but it's a manageable pain. I think it's easy for me to get past the pain of the season ending because we've been here so many times before and we've been fortunate enough to walk away on top. I think winning has made the sting of losing easier to deal with, if that makes sense. Either way, it still sucks. I definitely wasn't ready for the season to end last night.

I spent much of last night and today digesting the loss. I read through a ton of Twitter comments and listened to a good amount of sports talk radio. I've come to a conclusion: There are a great deal of smart Yankees fans out there but Good Lord there are a lot of dumb ones. I have to wonder if I'm watching the same games as everyone else.

For starters, I saw and heard a lot of blame being thrown on Joe Girardi for over-managing last night, specifically with the use of the pitching staff. That couldn't be further from the truth. Let's take a look at his moves. Ivan Nova gets hurt and gets replaced by Phil Hughes. Logical move in my opinion. The team needed to eat some innings and who better to use than a starter turned reliever to do that. Hughes following Nova was the right call. Girardi lifted Hughes after throwing 21 pitches. That made sense to me as Hughes had only pitched a total of 3.2 innings since September 12th. Phil wasn't stretched out to throw much more. Boone Logan came in to face the lefty and lasted for 2 hitters, which is about what he normally does. I think here is where it got interesting. In came CC.

Using CC in that spot made perfect sense. Continuing with Logan made no sense and in an elimination game you want your best pitchers pitching, right? Other than Mariano Rivera, who's better than CC? Nobody. I understand the confusion because he was pitching on 2 days rest. I think a lot of people didn't get or didn't know that starting pitchers normally throw a bullpen session at this point during their rest. The bullpen sessions, as I understand them, usually lasts for about 40 pitches. It makes perfect sense to have CC get the preparation for his next start in during the game rather than before it, like the Tigers did with Verlander. CC's outing lasted 37 pitches by the way. He wasn't overused. I think many people also thought that since he pitched in game 5 of the ALDS he couldn't pitch in game 1 of the ALCS. I'm pretty sure had the Yankees won last night that we'd have seen CC start game 1. Like I said, it's not uncommon for a SP to throw 40 or so pitches at that point during his rest. It's actually the opposite. It's part of the prep work. What surprised me the most is that there were a lot of people that are supposed to be "in the know" (beat writers, Ken Rosenthal) who were pointing out that the move to CC would prevent him from starting. CC pitching in relief last night was the right call. Who else did you want to pitch there? I'll take CC all day.

There was no reason whatsoever to blame Girardi's management of the pitching staff for last night's loss. That's just dumb. The pitching staff had absolutely nothing to do with losing last night. That blame lies strictly with the offense. I can kind of blame Girardi for that.

Girardi should have recognized that certain people in the lineup were struggling and he should have done something about it. The 4-5-6 hitters in the Yankees lineup (A-Rod, Teixeira, and Swisher) were absolutely brutal. Beyond brutal even. That trio combined to go 9-for-55 (.164). You can't expect to win when you get that from your 4-5-6 hitters. Girardi should have recognized the struggles and made an adjustment. Personally, I would have moved Teixeira to the 3rd spot, Cano to the 4th, A-Rod to the 5th, Posada to the 6th, and Swisher to the 7th. The lineup would have looked something like this: Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, Cano, A-Rod, Posada, Swisher, Martin, Gardner. That in my opinion, is a much better lineup.

I like Cano in the 4-hole for several reasons. One he's the best hitter on the team. Just like it did last night the game often comes down to A-Rod. A-Rod usually hits 4th. If the game often comes down to that spot in the order who do you want hitting there? Your best hitter, right? If you weren't aware, that is without a doubt Robbie Cano. He's the guy I want up with the game on the line. And let's face it, Robinson Cano doesn't need protection in the lineup. He's better at giving protection that getting it. Mark Teixeira could have used better protection. If you hit in front of Cano you're going to see better pitches compared to what you'll see hitting in front of Swisher.

Girardi should have also moved Jorge Posada up a spot in the order. Girardi should have recognized he was swinging a hot bat and moved him up ahead of Swisher. I'm not sure why Joe stuck with that lineup. Not changing it is the biggest criticism of how he managed that series. But it's not his fault that those guys didn't hit.

So why didn't they hit? I have a theory on why Teixeira and Swisher didn't. I'm not going to try and dig through numbers to validate it either. I don't have that kind of time. But here's my theory: good pitching shuts them down. There's no doubt that Swisher and Teix put up good numbers throughout the season. Over the course of 162 games you're going to come across quite a few subpar pitchers. Those guys feast on that. But I think they struggle against the cream of the crop. How else can you explain their postseason struggles at the plate? Wouldn't you agree that the teams that make the playoffs have better pitching than those that don't? I think those guys don't do well against good pitching. I don't know how else to explain it. If anyone has theories my ears are open.

After Girardi, A-Rod was receiving his fair share of criticism. While I think he deserves it to an extent, it's evident that Alex isn't 100%. I think I heard today that he was hitting .190 after coming of the DL in August. Alex was hitting .299 right before going on the DL. He finished the season with a .276 average. He definitely wasn't himself and I'm inclined to think that was a big reason why did so poorly at the plate. To his credit, he played outstanding defense the whole series. He made several great plays and I don't think you can begin to measure exactly how valuable his glove was in the ALDS. I'm not going to crush the guy over his ALDS performance.

Wow, I've been at this blog post for about an hour. I've got a little bit more to say and I'm just going to bullet point it out. Enjoy!

  • I'm pretty sure Jorge Posada's time with the Yankees is over. I don't think it makes much baseball sense to bring him back. It's obvious he's not going to catch. The only role he fills is as DH or maybe even at 1B. The plan should be to have Jesus Montero DH full-time. I don't see a spot for Jorge. I'll miss Jorge. He was a gamer and he always, as he put it, just grinded it. Thanks for everything.
  • I love Nick Swisher. I do. I think he's a great clubhouse guy but let's face it, he's not a clutch performer. I don't call him "The Rally Killer" for nothing. The Yankees will have a decision to make when it comes to whether or not they should pick up his option. My gut says I hope they don't but he does ring value to the team. My main concern is how he fades in October. I'm indifferent on Swish. Would be fine if he stays. Would be fine if he goes.
  • I fully expect CC to exercise his opt-out clause. He'd be dumb not to. Having said that, I fully expect him to resign with the Yankees. He's made it known several times that he loves pitching in New York. He's done very well here and he has to know that the club is committed to putting a winner on the field. He should op-out and renegotiate the next 4 years of his deal. The Big Man deserved more dough. The only way he gets it is to opt-out.
I'm sure I've got more to say but I'm running in fumes so I'll save it for later. I'll close with saying that despite the Yankees failing in their mission to win, it was a really great year. Derek Jeter joined the 3000 hit club. Mariano Rivera officially became the man. We saw the emergence of Ivan Nova. We saw David Robertson step up and become an 8th inning guru. Brian Cashman's "scrap heap rejects" performed above everybody's expectations. It was a great year with a lot of great memories. It's sad that we reached the end of the road.

Speaking of reaching the end of the road I'm not 100% sure what the future holds for this blog. I really enjoy doing it but it's becoming harder and harder to keep up with. When you have 3 kids aged 4 and under it's tough to free up the time for blogging. I want to keep it going but I'm not sure what commitment level I can make to it. If this ends up being my last post (I doubt it will be) the blog will kind-of live on through my Twitter account. If you're not on Twitter you're missing out. It's a great place to connect with people that share your passion. I'll always be on there talking Yankees. That you can count on.

Until next time......

Peace, love and Pinstripes,