Everyone with a keyboard has a piece up today ripping Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York for his characterization of Joe Girardi during yesterday's argument. It was embarrassingly heavy on the stereotypes:
For once, he wasn't "G.I. Joe" or "Joey Looseleafs" or "Binder Boy," the guy who is on autopilot in front of a reporter, and at the mercy of his splits, his spray charts and his heat maps in the privacy of the manager's office.
The wise Craig Calcaterra correctly flags this as a kind of snide anti-intellectualism:
It's always been strange to see the New York media go after Joe Girardi for use of actual information to inform his decisions. Things like scouting reports, statistics and stuff. You know, the things smart managers have always done. Except Girardi dared organize his information into a binder, so that apparently makes him weird. Never mind that he has a World Series ring and has won the manager of the year award. He's a crazy, pencil neck geek! Binderboy!
I can't defend Matthews' approach here, nor the all-too-easy shots at the binder, which is a necessary expedient given that Major League Baseball doesn't allow laptops/tablets in the dugout. However, I will suggest that he's not wrong about this one phrase: "at the mercy of his splits." How often have you heard Girardi defend a move based on batter-pitcher statistics that are almost inevitably a small sample? There are about a dozen active pitchers Derek Jeter has faced 50-100 times. For younger Yankees, it's a lot less. Robinson Cano has never faced a pitcher 100 times, has seen five pitchers 50 or more times, and one of them, Roy Halladay, is in the other league.
For most batter-pithcher match-ups, Girardi is dealing with a sample much smaller than 50 plate appearances, and at that point (and perhaps even above that point) other considerations have to come into play-handedness, arsenal, alternatives, and so on. If the manager, any manager, let's an inferior hitter bat in a key spot because his notebook says that hitter is a lifetime 1-for-3 against the pitcher, he's neither thinking nor making proper use of statistics. If Matthews has any point, I think it's that... Though it doesn't excuse the weak, off-the-shelf attempt at characterization.