Managing a major league team is no easy task. At one point or another, every single fan of any sport has had a "genius idea" that would make them a better manager than the current one. "Move him down in the batting order!" "Bench him and play this other guy instead!" "Hand the ball off to Marshawn!" "It's the bottom of the 9th with the Yankees up one run, don't bring in Mitre!" Everyone has a genius idea that will bring their team from the cellar to a championship.
What's easy to forget, is that there's more to any decision than what it is on the surface. The manager has to not only consider what the right move is, but what domino effects these moves have. While some may argue the opposite, during his nine seasons as Yankees' manager (he's now in his 10th season) Joe Girardi has had a reputation for how well he handles his bullpen. He and his pitching coaches work hard to come up with a plan for their pitchers, paying attention to their pitch counts, how many innings they pitch and how many days in a row they pitch. Last September Girardi had to address questions about possibly overworking Dellin Betances,
It's the thought process from the beginning (of the year). I don't throw guys three days in a row. If they've thrown three out of four, I don't throw them another. That's thought, I think, really hard about that, how we use our relievers and how you keep them healthy during the course of the year.
For the most part, he's right on this. Girardi is especially strict when it comes to pitching consecutive days. He almost never allows his relievers to pitch three days in a row. However, just last week Girardi broke his cardinal rule when he let Betances pitch three days in a row from May 4th to the 6th.
This may have been a result of him having only thrown six pitches on the 4th, but the lesson to be learned is that different circumstances call for different measures. Because of how many days he pitched, Betances was unavailable on the 7th, though. Andrew Miller was also unavailable that day after pitching on the 5th and the 6th while throwing a combined 38 pitches (two on the 5th and 36 on the 6th).
Now having two of the team's biggest weapons unavailable for a game is never a good way to go into a game, but Girardi was "playing for the win today" in the days leading up to when both were unavailable. With Aroldis Chapman now off the suspended list, Girardi could at least take solace in that if two of the three are unavailable he'd still be left with a closer. That's the beauty of having three closers on one team.
In the days leading up to Chapman's arrival, Girardi has started getting asked about who would pitch when, how he'd use the three players, etc. For his part, Girardi has done a good job of answering the questions so fans know his game plan. Prior to Chapman's season debut, Girardi noted,
"Your hope is every night you at least have one of them available," Girardi said. "That's your hope. Maybe you don't. Maybe you run into a streak where they've pitched a lot and maybe you don't [have them], but if I don't have them, that probably means we're winning a lot of games, and that's a good thing too.
After Monday night's game, Girardi reiterated his sentiment to a certain extent,
(Adding Chapman to Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller) shortens games for sure, and it creates a situation where you'll have at least one and probably two every night - it gives three closers that you can interchange, in a sense."
As he mentioned in his first quote, there might be times where none of the three are available, and that's okay. Obviously the goal is to at least have one or two of the three available on any given night. This would ensure the Yankees will never have to call upon Phil Coke or Kirby Yates to be their closer. However, does this game plan or strategy come with a sacrifice? What happens when it's the seventh or eighth inning with the game tied if Betances and Miller both pitched the day before? Does Girardi elect not to use one of them incase he needs someone tomorrow or does he play to give his team a chance to win today? What if they had a lead?
I came into this post wanting to write that "if Joe Girardi ever has a day without a closer, he's doing something wrong." I planned on arguing that he should be conservative to make sure he always has one of the three. Yet the more and more I think about it, the more I remember the fickle nature of sports. At least one member of "No Runs BMC" (or Fluffy like I prefer) should be available every night, but Girardi shouldn't sacrifice today for the possibility of tomorrow.
Because no one knows what the next day will bring. It could end up being a 10-1 blowout (either way) or the Yankees' starting pitcher could be working a complete game shutout. There are way too many uncertainties in any game to try and predict what will happen or what the best strategy is.
I'm sure there will end up being times when Girardi is burned if none of the three are available, they might even lose a couple games that way. But personally I'd rather he lose the game that hasn't happened than the one happening within his reach.
Do you agree that Girardi should play for the win today and lower their odds for tomorrow? Or would you sacrifice chances at winning today to even out the odds for both days?