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Bobby V Not the Only Manager that Needs a Good Weekend



By Mike Silva ~ April 20th, 2012. Filed under: New York Yankees.

It’s Bobby Valentine vs. Joe Girardi this weekend. We all know that Valentine needs a big weekend, but the manager opposite of him might need to come away with a series victory, as well.

Valentine’s controversial comments about Kevin Youkilis‘ commitment rankled Red Sox Nation- specifically Dustin Pedroia- but the struggles on the field shouldn’t be a surprise. Coming back from a September collapse is always challenging. The Mets had their own hangover in 2008, one that led to the dismissal of Willie Randolph. It’s clear the Boston veterans aren’t use to Valentine’s honesty, as their former skipper was more of the nurturing type. To be fair, bad pitching, the loss of Carl Crawford and the injury to new closer Andrew Bailey are equally responsible for their 4-8 start.

The fans and media aren’t about to give Valentine the honeymoon period he deserves, but I doubt ownership brought him onboard with a quick trigger finger. Valentine has a 2-year deal and I fully expect him to manage for the length of that deal. I also expect the Red Sox to maximize their talent, which right now isn’t very good. The pundits thought this was a fourth place team and they have proved them right in the early going. Valentine is not one to shy away from challenges as he faced huge obstacles during his tenures in Texas, New York and the Far East. He won’t back down from this one.

This weekend is historic in Beantown as Fenway Park celebrates its 100th birthday. The Yankees coming to town is the right thing for history, but couldn’t be worse for the Red Sox righting their ship. Amazingly enough, the pressure is also on the other manager in town. I also think he is the less likely of the two to navigate through it.

When Eduardo Nunez‘ error allowed Minnesota to jump out to a four run lead yesterday, you could hear the screams from the fan base. Why rest Robinson Cano 13 games into the season? How much longer will Girardi allow Nunez to play the middle infield and cost him games? ESPN NY started a segment called “The Binder,”where they keep score of Girardi’s decision making. Of course, that is the derogatory term for Girardi, sort of how Joe Torre had the “Clueless Joe” moniker before 1996.

The Yankees are 7-6 and Girardi is in trouble? No, but things could get interesting around here very quickly. The Yankees starting pitching has looked terrible. If Hiroki Kuroda continues to look very mortal in the American League there might be a call for Bartolo Colon. The struggles of Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes makes it possible that we see if David Phelps is for real by inserting him into the rotation. Everyone seems to assume that Andy Pettitte will return to form. I count him as big a question mark as Michael Pineda. A year plus off from pitching is nothing that should be taken lightly. There are young kids in Triple-A, but a pitching surplus can become a deficit very quickly in this game. Just look at Boston last season.

The Yankees can hit, as they proved last night, but you aren’t winning a championship by outslugging opponents. This team has reminded me early this season of the 2005-2007 editions that tried to hit their way to the top. They were often feast or famine, and were prone to bad starts; the kind of start that Joe Girardi can’t handle. As a matter of fact he is the worst person you could imagine in that scenario.

Under Joe Torre the Yanks got off to a 12-19 start in 2005. In 2007 they were under .500 in July. Both times it was the steady and calming influence of Torre that kept the team focused and free of panic. Girardi’s history tells you that he gets tight and tense during those moments. He is also someone that might be prone to over managing; the antithesis of Torre.

Everyone seems to believe that Girardi proved himself by winning the 2009 title. It was Brian Cashman that made the trip to Atlanta in June that season to help right a sinking ship. Once that team got rolling they were never seriously challenged the rest of the year, including the postseason. The regular season has been rather mundane exercise the last couple of years, but once they were challenged in the postseason, you saw a tight team. Texas annihilated them at the Stadium in 2010. An inferior Detroit team went into the House that George Built and beat them in a decisive Game 5. It’s one thing for the Red Sox to do that, but Detroit? Doug FisterJose Valverde? The Yankees have been a tight ballclub under Girardi during big moments. Look how they folded like a cheap rug in August of 2008? Can we honestly dispute that Joe Girardi’s Yankees don’t play well when their back is up against the wall?

The Yankees schedule the next week features 3 in Boston, 3 in Texas and a 3-game set against Detroit at Yankee Stadium. That 7-6 record could be 9-13 very soon. The Sox aren’t about to let the Yankees embarrass them on Fenway’s birthday; Texas is clearly superior at this point and Detroit can slug with the best. This won’t be an easy stretch for a team that has its starting pitching in order. For one that doesn’t, it might be a nightmare.

A slow start doesn’t mean doom mathematically as none of the AL East teams appear ready to run away with the division. It does help fuel “The Binder” catcalls from the media. It will create tough questions during the postgame that Girardi doesn’t like to answer. All of this leads to a tight manager that historically doesn’t get the best of his ballclub.

That’s why these 3 games in Fenway are important. Win 2 of 3 and you can probably withstand a beating in Texas. Lose 2 of 3 and you start to worry that this can become a slow start. If Joe Torre were the manager I wouldn’t worry about it. Joe Girardi at the helm doesn’t elicit the same confidence.

Maybe Bobby V isn’t the only one that needs a good weekend.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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13 Responses to Bobby V Not the Only Manager that Needs a Good Weekend

  1. Brien Jackson

    *Checks Fangaphs, sees that Yankee starters are second in the American League in xFIP. Re-reads Mike’s post, chuckles to self.*

  2. Raul

    You actually rely on xFIP 2 weeks into the season?
    Hahahahaha

  3. Joseph DelGrippo

    *Checks Fangraphs, realizes that none of those writers ever played competitive baseball or stepped on a mound. Also realizes that xFIP doesn’t mean squat when a pitcher faces Adrian Gonzales with one out with men on first and third. Rereads Brien’s comment and chuckles that he still doesn’t get it and never will.

    Concentrating on three outcomes which a pitcher can “control” is the dumbest thing ever in baseball.

    A pitcher can throw very hard, strike out a ton of guys, and give up few home runs, but if he gets behind in the count or throws the ball down the middle too many times with men on base, he will have a great xFIP but give up a bunch of runs and lose a lot of games.

    Anybody ever hear of AJ Burnett?

    Pitchers like Hughes and Garcia might have lower xFIPs but the game is won and lost on runs scored, not expected home run and strikeout rates. Let me know when that rule changes.

    When Hughes pipes a 91 MPH fastball down the middle to a hitter with men on second and third, the Yankees up one run, that two run double that can be chalked up to a bad BABIP, I guess, but it is still two runs for the opposition and terrible pitching by Hughes.

    Hard hit balls usually occur on pitches over the middle of the plate, which usually leads to higher BABIPs for the pitcher and more runs for the opposition.

    There are many more factors which can be controlled by a pitcher through working ahead in the count, changing speeds, mixing up locations and defensive positioning based upon pitched location.

    But since they can’t be quantified, I guess they don’t count.

    Except on the scoreboard.

  4. Chuck Johnson

    Reads comments, sees someone used xFIP to criticize article, falls on floor in hysterics.

    Then sees who made comment, realizes it’s par for the course, and laughs harder.

    LOL, Brien.

  5. Brien Jackson

    “You actually rely on xFIP 2 weeks into the season?”

    Well…yeah. The smaller the sample size, the more you’d want to look at *expected* performance relative to the components and the less you’d want to look at things like ERA that are highly susceptible to uneven occurrence.

    Or, put another way, do you figure that C.C. Sabathia will pitch closer to his 5.59 ERA or his 3.05 xFIP over the rest of the season?

  6. Brien Jackson

    “A pitcher can throw very hard, strike out a ton of guys, and give up few home runs, but if he gets behind in the count or throws the ball down the middle too many times with men on base, he will have a great xFIP but give up a bunch of runs and lose a lot of games.

    Anybody ever hear of AJ Burnett?”

    That doesn’t describe why Burnett is an outlier. Rather, Burnett’s xFIP was always unusually low because he gave up a ridiculous number of home runs relative to the number of fly balls he allowed, and xFIP normalizes that (usually very volatile) rate to the league average. That doesn’t prove that xFIP has a flaw, it proves that A.J. Burnett is an extreme case that isn’t easy to fit into a model for average performance.

    Going the other way, this is like people trying to claim that Mariano Rivera disproves the utility of FIP because it doesn’t account for his incredibly rare ability to generate weak contact from batters.

  7. Brien Jackson

    Also your post fails on two conceptual points:

    1. The implication that there’s some obvious disconnect between ERA and FIP when, in fact, the two numbers normalize at within 0.50 runs of each other in the vast majority of cases.

    2. This:

    “A pitcher can throw very hard, strike out a ton of guys, and give up few home runs, but if he gets behind in the count or throws the ball down the middle too many times with men on base, he will have a great xFIP but give up a bunch of runs and lose a lot of games.”

    kind of ignores walks. Either that or we’re supposed to assume the existence of a ton of pitchers who routinely get behind in the count but gain the ability to groove pitches in the strikezone at will after they’ve thrown two or three balls. In fact, most guys who have trouble throwing strikes early in an at bat will tend to rack up a relatively large number of walks, which is then reflected in FIP/xFIP.

    But hey, if someone really wants to disprove xFIP, they’re more than welcome to bet me that Sabthia’s ERA is closer to 5.59 than to 3.05 at the end of the season.

  8. Raul

    This is staggering.

    There are actually people in the world who really need xFIP to realize that they don’t need to put much stock into CC Sabathia’s ERA 2 weeks into the season?

    OMG. Really? That’s amazing!

    Tell me another one.
    Please.

    This ought to be fantastic.

  9. Chuck Johnson

    I don’t know what’s sadder; the use of xFIP to discredit the article, or the perceived need to explain it.

    (Facepalm)

  10. Stu B

    The player’s name is Adrian GONZALEZ. It’s a pet peeve of mine when any baseball writer doesn’t bother to verify the correct spelling of a name. It happens far too often in the major newspapers.

  11. Joseph DelGrippo

    It’s called a typo, Stu. Notice the Z and S are closely related to each other on the keyboard?

  12. Frank Russo

    Stu,

    Everybody makes typos. Look at all the mistakes in online columns by well known writers. That’s why they make spell check, and even with that, mistakes can be made. With that said, when I first started writing for this website in 2008, I was crucified by people for making typos, even though I had a legitimate excuse, since I had catastrophic injuries to me eyes. That’s why I always let Mike Silva cross check my columns for mistakes, since my vision is still slightly compromised.

  13. Stu B

    OK, then I guess it’s not being caught in the editing. Many newspapers have the same issue.

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