The Runner Sports

Could It Be ALDS Or Bust For Yankees’ Skipper Joe Girardi?

The 2017 season was going to be an interesting one for the New York Yankees no matter how good the team was going to be on paper. With a new roster setup that aimed to be younger, the mindset for many for the Bronx Bombers was a repeat of last season. Perhaps compete for one of the two Wild Card spots but fall short once again. While that would normally mean riots in the streets of New York, Yankees fans seemed to accept that idea. With more organizational depth than many fans could remember, a reboot/rebuild atmosphere around the club was accepted. The interesting thing about this was how this season could affect the jobs of general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi.

At the end of the 2017 season, the contracts of both Cashman and Girardi will expire. Historically known for not negotiating before the end of contracts, both seemed comfortable with that status. Barring a complete collapse of the Yankees, it would have seemed that both men were secure with their jobs if they desired to return. Then the season started, and the Yankees were surprisingly good. In fact, the team performed so well for the first half of the season, it turned a potential selling/staying-pat team into buyers. Unless Cashman leaves for another team, it is almost a guarantee that he will be the Yankees’ GM moving forward. However, the same cannot be said about Joe Girardi.

At the beginning of the season, I believed that Joe Girardi was more likely to be on the hot seat between him and Brian Cashman. I did not believe his job would be in any immediate jeopardy. With that said, the 2017 season could spell Girardi’s last with the Yankees. The postseason should be an expectation this season at this point. Even before the trades, the roster was performing well enough to warrant expectations of postseason play. Those expectations should also include playing more than a single game. Anything short of that could mean that the Yankees will look to move on from Joe Girardi

The Wild Card Game is Barely Postseason

The introduction of the Wild Card Game was something that I personally disliked as a fan of the game. I understand the drama of a one game playoff for the two (in theory) weakest teams to make the postseason to see who advances. It is similar to the eight teams who compete to fill out the 64 for the NCAA basketball tournament. In both circumstances, it feels that those games are more “play your way into the postseason” rather than actual postseason play.

For the Yankees, they have tasted the Wild Card Game once before, losing to the Houston Astros 3-0 in 2015. Did that seem like postseason play? No. It felt like a tiebreaker game. Now, this is only my opinion, but I am sure that I am not alone. The front office for the team would (and should) not be happy if the Yankees come short of the ALDS. With the roster that Girardi has now, this team should at least make the ALDS, where the real playoffs begin.

7-18, Limping into All-Star Break

Before June 13, the Yankees were on top of the AL East with a record of 38-23. Arguably one of the best teams in the MLB at that moment, it was a great time to be a Yankee fan. From that day till the All-Star Break, the team only won seven games. Going 7-18 during that stretch, a team who looked primed to run away with the division turned into a train wreck. Injuries began to pile up, the stacked bullpen began to falter, and the starting pitching was average most games. While I am not one to place blame on the manager for these type of runs, responsibility falls on Joe Girardi. Whether poor performance on players should be reflected on the manager is a debate for another day, the simple fact is that fingers will point toward Girardi for a good portion of the blame.

Since the All-Star Game, the Yankees are 14-10 and sit three games back of the AL East leading Boston Red Sox and 2.5 games up on the Kansas City Royals for top Wild Card spot. While not a terrible place to be in, it could be a lot better had the Yankees gone close to .500 over that 25-game stretch. That might hurt Girardi the most if the team falls shy of the ALDS. This team was in position to guarantee a spot in the ALDS. Rather than knowing that there will be at least three postseason games, this team will most likely face a do-or-die situation that could have been avoided.

Joe Girardi Might Love His Bullpen Too Much

Compared to other managers in the MLB, Joe Girardi is on the modern side. While he is no Joe Maddon, he prefers the analytics and computer aspects of the game. This is a man who suggested ear pieces for pitchers and catchers to help speed up the game. After the trade with the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees’ bullpen looks like a beast. Built for the postseason especially, the game becomes shorter for the New York Yankees. That also means that the games (literally) become shorter for the Yankees’ starting rotation.

Bullpen Fatigue?

Girardi loves to use his bullpen. That is not too big of a problem, except when it becomes a bit ridiculous. A prime example is the four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays last weekend. During a stretch where the Yankees were playing 13 games in a row, Girardi went to his bullpen before the end of the fifth inning three times. One of those games was being started by rookie Caleb Smith, which makes it understandable. However, the re-surging C.C. Sabathia and recently sent down rookie Jordan Montgomery were the other two starts. Smith, who was pulled in the fourth inning, only allowed two runs to that point. Sabathia got in a jam in the fifth inning and was pulled for Chad Green who allowed the runners to score anyway. Montgomery had the worst start among the three, allowing four runs in 2.2 innings.

Though the Yankees won two of those three games (and three of four for the series), it had to tax the bullpen. Thank god for the career performance Masahiro Tanaka (14 strikeouts over 8 innings) put in to help save the bullpen. Between Sabathia, Montgomery, and Smith, the highest pitch total was 86. I understand the chase for the postseason is on and every game counts, but that seems insane to me. Girardi is quick to pull starters, even in the middle of good games (see Montgomery’s last start against the Cleveland Indians). While Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia are supposed to help this, Girardi probably will yank them from the game after they walk a batter with two outs in the fifth inning while being up by three runs.

Joe Girardi is a Great Fit for the Yankees

Other than the starting rotation/bullpen choices, I have no qualms with Joe Girardi. He has been a good manager for the Yankees since being hired in 2008. With the young roster that Brian Cashman has built, it would be best for the Yankees to have Girardi helm the ship for the next few seasons. However, it cannot be denied that his seat is hotter than it was during Spring Training. This roster is built to compete this year (as well as the next two) and that is not simply a Wild Card game. Even if they are unable to win the AL East, this team is also built to win a one-game playoff. The offense is good, the starting rotation is solid, and the bullpen is dominant. That should equal postseason success. A failure to get there might end up with a new Yankee manager next season.

Griffin Fuller
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Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
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Griffin Fuller
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  • Robert Praino

    He’s led the Yanks to one post season appearance in the five years prior to this. He does nothing to instill any confidence in his starters. Rather he seems to favor a mindset that a 6 innings would be nice, but 5 is okay for a starter as well. I like the Yankee starters. But tif they dismiss Joe who do they get to replace him? Another sabremetric genius?

    • Griffin Fuller

      Thanks for the comment Robert. If the Yankees decide to not resign Girardi, I do not have an idea of how they would sign. I do not think they would go full blown sabremetric, but someone who attempts to balance it more.

      The most aggravating thing about Girardi is how he handles the starters. Montgomery and now Garcia are prime examples. It is hard for starters to get into a rhythm if they are unable to get out of the 5th inning according to Girardi. His trigger is too quick. The loaded bullpen is a blessing, but Girardi loves it too much, especially in the regular season.

      • Robert Praino

        The points about Garcia and Monty are right on the mark. What manager takes out a guy, who’s been pitching well,after 4.2? The pitcher doesn’t deserve a chance for win? The pitcher hasn’t earned the confidence of his manager to get the last out?

  • Doug Sterling

    The Yankee bullpen has been a bit of a train wreck, leading to a current 18-25 record in one run games, and those numerous blown saves are the main reason the Yankees are not in first place. The other reason is the failure to play effective small ball in close games. Lately things seem to be improving, but the Red Sox are playing too well for the Yankees to gain in the standings.