Monday, April 5, 2010

Those Are All Professionals In The Bullpen, Right?

River Ave. Blues is one of the places I go most often for my Yankee insight, but today's post by Mike Axisa about Chan Ho Park's performance last night and what it implied about the state of the bullpen was more than a little disconcerting.  Below are some of the highlights and my comments.

Last night’s game represented Phase I of a bullpen experiment. With 2009’s primary setup man moving into the rotation, Joe Girardi will have to go through the sometimes painful motions of figuring out who belongs where in the bullpen pecking order again this year.

Ummm, isn’t that was Spring Training was for? I know it's mainly to get these guys stretched out and give them time to find their stuff again, but shouldn't you also be working on getting them into situations where you might want to use them in the regular season to see how they react and how they perform? The regular season, when record does matter, isn't the time for experimentation.

Much like 2009, David Robertson was brought into a sticky situation – a strikeout situation – in the 6th inning, but Girardi opted to deploy Chan Ho Park in the 7th inning even though Robertson had thrown just six pitches....

Because why bother continuing to use a pitcher who had just worked out of trouble with minimal effort, and who has a track record from last season of coming through in pressure situations when you've got other untested options in the bullpen?

What I really want to touch on is why Park was brought into the game in that spot anyway.

Touch away, Mike. I'm still trying to figure that one out. Maybe you can help.

Robertson had thrown just those six pitches, and had plenty more in the tank if Girardi wanted to give him at least start the 7th.

Don't remind me.

Instead, the manager needed to begin the process of figuring out who are going to be the team’s late inning, hold a small lead in a big game relievers.

No, no, no, no, a thousand times NO!! The manager should have taken care of that already in Spring Training. Once it's the regular season it’s about wins and losses. If people still need to be test driven in the regular season to see if they've got the stones to pitch when it matters, then they shouldn't be on the 25-man roster. When the games matter, and even though it's just one game, last night still mattered, you play to win the game. Tell 'em, Herm.

See? Even Herm says it. Thank you, Herm.

It’s not always going to (be) pretty, and there will be plenty of times when such an audition costs the team a game, which is exactly what happened last night.

Plenty of times? Plenty??? There damn well better not be plenty. Pretty much every reputable Yankee blog, including RAB, and some of the disreputable ones, like this one, predicted the Yankee bullpen to be a strength for the team this year. So why are we now being told that there are going to be "plenty" of times where these guys fuck up and it's OK because the bullpen rotation has to get figured out?

But as we’ve seen in the past two years, we’re looking at short-terms losses for long-term gains.....

Actually, what we've seen the last 2 years is that certain guys couldn't get the job done, they cost the team many potential wins, and they got their sorry asses shipped outta town for guys that could. We shouldn’t have to be dealing with that nonsense this season. We should be skipping the short-term losses and heading right to long-term gains because on paper we have a group of talented, composed, veteran relievers who have gotten the job done before. And instead of screwing around and getting everybody playing time like this is the Little League World Series, we (Joe) should be sticking with guys who are playing well and work towards holding leads and winning games.

Easing Park into it by starting him out in lower leveraged innings may sound like a good idea, but that just prolongs the process. He’s 36-years-old, not some rookie that has to learn the ropes. He should know the routine and know what’s expected of him. There’s no sense in dragging this out, run Park out there in this big spots in April and let’s see what he’s got.

That logic is precisely why Park should have never been brought into the game last night. He isn't some greenhorn kid out of Triple-A that needs to be tested. He's a veteran who should know how to pitch and how to pitch in pressure situations. He doesn't need to be eased into this situations just like nobody in the Yankee bullpen should need to be eased into situations.

In case everybody's forgotten, except for Mitre all of these guys pitched in the playoffs last year!!! They all pitched in the World Series!!! And some of them pitched WELL!!!! Joe shouldn't have to "run anybody out there" from this group. He should be sticking with who's pitching well until that guy gets into trouble or faces an unfavorable matchup that dictates a change.

Is there a chance he’s the next LaTroy Hawkins? Sure, but right now we have no idea. He didn’t get off to a good start last night, but one outing and 22 pitches isn’t enough of anything to base a decision on. He’ll get another chance to prove himself, probably this series, and that’s just the next step in determining his value to the 2010 New York Yankees.

Fair enough, but that shouldn't be the point when it comes to a guy like Park and Joe should know that. We, and he, should know what to expect from Park and what to expect from all the guys in the bullpen. Sure Park sucked the big one last night, but that's not the point either. The point is that this discussion about guys figuring out their roles is not a discussion we should be having.

The time for open tryouts has come and gone with the passing of March; now it's the time to focus on winning games and last night Joe did not make managerial decisions that helped his team win the game when it came to his pitching staff. Whether he did it on purpose to test Park or not is irrelevant. The important thing is that Joe could have, and probably should have, stuck with a pitcher who had only thrown 6 pitches and who has shown multiple times that he's got the stuff to get out of trouble and hold leads and he didn't.

Now I know there's a ton more baseball to be played and I have all the confidence in the world that the bullpen will be fine, but we can't all sit here and play off bad managerial decisions and then justify them with this kind of weak, babying logic when it comes to Chan Ho Park or any of the guys in the bullpen. We aren't dealing with Jeremy Bleich and Humberto Sanchez out there.  The bullpen sucked last night, plain and simple, and it was the one decision made by Joe that triggered the start of all that suckiness. Call it what it was and hand out criticism appropriately.


(Photo courtesy of the NY Daily news)

Damnit, Jorge!  Catch the f'ing ball!  Only one thing can sum up this play from last night.

Yanks-Sox Opening Night Thoughts & Afterthoughts

- To the untrained eye it probably looked like CC was cruising last night when it was 5-1 Yanks after 5 innings. But in reality, Sabathia struggled all night and his final line (5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 ER, 4 K, 104 pitches, 58 strikes) didn't look much better than Josh Beckett's. He was inconsistent with his fastball command all night and got behind in too many counts. And with his off-speed stuff not being at its best yet, that's not something you can afford to do against a veteran Major League lineup.

- By the time the end of the 5th and early 6th inning came around, it was clear even to the untrained eye that CC was done. His control was completely gone, his velocity was down, and his mechanics were awful as he was falling off to the right way more than usual. If it was that obvious to me sitting at home watching on ESPN, then why the hell wasn't it obvious to Joe Girardi, who had a front row seat?

I can appreciate wanting to get your ace lefty another matchup against a lefty hitter. But when he's just given up a leadoff walk and a hard hit ball for a double and now he's facing the most dangerous righty hitter in the lineup, you have to take him out. This "one game either way" stuff that Joe is spouting in the papers today is the classic sound of a guy trying to gloss over his mistake. The bottom line is, Joe left CC out there too long and the 3rd, 4th, and 5th runs given up in the 6th inning are on Joe. It may only be one game, but it's a game that could have, and should have been won.

- Joe's other blunder was taking Robertson out after the 6th and going with Chan Ho Park. I get that Park is the big free agent signing, and I get that everybody on the Yankees management team wants to suck his dick after the World Series last year, but sooner or later people need to realize that Dave Robertson is a beast. Sure he gave up the leadoff single to Adrian Beltre, but that run was probably going to score anyway. His stuff looked great and he got out of the inning with minimal effort. He's young, he's tough, and he's got a killer fastball-curve combination; he should have been starting the 7th inning. How quickly everyone forgets that Robertson led the AL in K/9 IP last season. Let Robertson pitch and maybe that 2-run homer from Pedroia never happens.

- OK, now onto some positive things. Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson both looked pretty good in their first games with the Yanks. Johnson was 0-3, but drew 2 walks and saw a lot of pitches and Granderson took a lot of good swings (especially his homer in the 2nd) and seemed to see the ball well from both righties and lefties. His play in center was also strong. Not a bad debut at all.

- Cano looked good hitting in the 5-hole last night, going 2-5 with a run scored, a ribbie, and a double. But he saw only 9 pitches in his 5 at-bats, so he still needs to work on his patience at the plate in certain situations.

- Getting some range to his right also wouldn't hurt if Cano is trying to win a Gold Glove this year. Seriously, how many balls hit up or near the middle just made it under his glove? That ain't gonna help the old UZR right there.

- Jorge looked every bit the player he has been for the majority of his career last night, and that's both a good and bad thing. He was 3-4 with a HR, 2 RBIs, and a walk at the plate, and had a brutal passed ball that allowed the eventual game-winning run to score in the 7th. I love Jorge as much as anybody on the Yankees, but you can't try and tell me that Jesus Montero is going to be a worse defensive catcher than Jorge.

-And what the hell got into the bottom of both teams' lineups last night? Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro getting clutch hits? Brett Gardner smacking RBI singles and stealing home? It was like bizzaro world with all these "defensive" guys putting up big numbers.

- The Red Sox bullpen, despite nailing down the game in the 8th and 9th when they had to, looked very beatable last night, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 earned runs over 4.1 innings while striking out only 1 batter. Ramon Ramirez was awful, Hideki Okajima's stuff has dulled like a golf pencil over time, and even Daniel Bard still doesn't seem to have it all figured out, as evidenced by his 4-pitch walk to Nick Johnson in the 8th last night. All indications are Manny Delcarmen isn't at his best yet this year either, so that at least bodes well for the Yankees as this series and season moves forward.

- The Yankee 'pen wasn't much better last night, allowing 6 hits, 2 walks, 4 runs (3 ER), and also just 1 K over 2.2 IP. The big holes were Park and Marte, both of whom looked scared to death out on the mound and could not command their fastballs at all. Joba started off OK but then got into trouble when he allowed a base runner and focused too much on him instead of the batters. If he's going to lock down the 8th-inning spot he needs to improve that facet of his game and get back to blowing people away instead of throwing over to first and picking corners.

- There is truth to Girardi's statement that "it's one game either way" and last night certainly isn’t going to make or break the season. But it's never good, especially in the shark-infested media waters of NY, to start off the season with such a poor pitching effort. Marte and Park will get it together and CC will be fine moving forward; you just hate to see leads given up like that.