The Girardi Extension

Along the way, a person hatched the idea that being the New York Yankees’ manager was the most difficult job in the land. The validity of this statement was at its peak back when George Steinbrenner was at his feistiest. Nowadays the job experience seems different in the Bronx. There is such a thing as job security, even after a “down” season. One couldn’t tell by the reaction to Joe Girardi’s three-year extension.

Girardi is not the game’s best tactician. He makes mistakes like every other manager in the world. He also makes his share of good decisions while receiving more blame on various non-decisions than he should – not pinch hitting for Lance Berkman with Austin Kearns comes to mind. Evaluating just how good Girardi is presents itself as a nearly impossible feat for an outsider. Even if he is only average tactically, there are other aspects of a manager’s job that need to be taken into account. The two flaws that Girardi’s detractors seem to be railing upon right now are: 1) he uses a binder during games to make decisions; 2) he failed to replicate Joe Torre’s early success.

Pretend for a moment that Girardi’s binder contains information about platoon splits and the basic rundown of data that a manager should be equipped with for in-game decisions. Whether this is the case or not is unbeknown to outsiders, but just pretend. Is there any downside to a manager having the information on hand with which to consult? Perhaps if the information itself is trivial or useless (i.e. how batters fared versus lefties over the last week or on Sundays), then Girardi is hurting the club, otherwise it’s hard to think of a downside.

Assuming that is not the case, the mocking of Girardi’s binder highlights the weird juxtaposition of the media’s treatment toward baseball managers who use information and prep work and their football counterparts who absorb film and schemes. Using numbers does not make Girardi a great manager, but it also does not make him a nincompoop. If he acknowledges that his gut and experience in the game does not hold all of the game’s answers, then he might be more self-aware and conscious than quite a few of his managing counterparts.

The ghost chasing aspect involved in the Girardi hate is equally weird. Torre’s first three seasons as Yankees’ manager included two World Series titles and regular season win totals of 92, 96, and 114. Girardi’s Bombers have only won a lone World Series and 89, 103, and 95 games. Torre is a better manager by that analysis, right? Well, no, because there are so many other variables in play that a direct comparison requires a lot more context.

But if the above analysis is believed to be true, then Jim Tracy deserves a ton of credit. Tracy’s first three seasons as Dodgers’ manager were also his first three as a manager at the Major League level, meaning he was a total novice. Yet those three seasons actually resulted in more wins than Torre’s first three seasons with the Dodgers. Not a soul out there claiming Girardi is inferior to Torre would be as bold in proclamation that Tracy is superior to Torre – and why should they? Rosters change, other teams change, luck changes, and even managers themselves change.

Evaluating managers is difficult, and whether Girardi is worth the money is probably beyond our analytical means. That he looks at a binder and is not his predecessor should not factor into the equation.




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24 Responses to “The Girardi Extension”

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  1. Steve says:

    I’m pretty sure Billy Martin could have managed the 1998 Yankees to a title. I am talking about the Billy Martin who was dead in 1998.

    The 1998 Yankees had a pythag of 108 wins!! 108!

    I am not trying to take anything away from Torre (although I guess I am), but if you want to hand Girardi in-their-primes Jeter, Posada, Bernie, Tino Martinez, Rivera, Pettitte, etc. AND roll back all of the benefits of revenue sharing to his competition, I’m pretty sure he’d have an extra title or two.

    Really, the comparison is a little embarrassing.

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    • Steve says:

      Just to be clear, I am talking about the comparison that originally came from Joel Sherman. Wasn’t talking about RJ’s article, which I thought was very good.

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    • JimNYC says:

      It’s silly to say that Girardi’s not as good as Torre because of their respective W/L records, but it’s not silly to say that a lot of people wanted Girardi gone because of their respective W/L records. Regardless of how it’s done, the Yankees’ expectation is to win over 100 games and World Series title every single year. Casey Stengel wasn’t as good a manager as Joe McCarthy or Miller Huggins, but he’s remembered a lot more fondly, because in 12 seasons as manager he won 10 pennants and 7 World Series titles. That’s what’s expected of a Yankee manager.

      It’s kind of like war: You’re expected to win, and if you don’t, you’re blamed for it, regardless of whether you could have possibly done anything better. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with that attitude; at the very least, it forces you to always do the best you can, even if that’s not good enough.

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  2. Matt says:

    Sorry, I’m not buying that he’s an average tactician. He is known for over-managing, especially in the late innings. Ron Washington’s move to bring in Holland for O’Day last night was Girardi-esk. Also, he does not seem to have a sound understanding of statistics (specifically sample size). There were several times during the season when he pinch-hit because the objectively worse replacement hitter had something like a 2/4 history against the opposing pitcher, rather than say, 3/12. Not to mention his mishandling of Hughes’ innings quota…

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    • Steve says:

      How did he mishandle Hughes’ innings quota??

      Also, I think you are overestimating what it means to be “average”. Almost every manager does exactly what you said about sample sizes.

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    • Captain says:

      the sample size thing could be said about any manager in baseball. hes not the only one that consults information like that. and the Hughes innings limit decision was an organizational decision, Girardi himself did not have the say in that. Cashman was on record saying that his limit goes out the window once they reach the playoffs.
      and his over managing in the late innings in the playoffs last season worked out quite well.

      Girardi is an average MLB manager, doesnt do anything real good, doesnt do anything real bad. but hes made out to be horrible by Yankee fans and the media.

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      • Patrick says:

        The Hughes innings limit is strange. I mean, it was pretty clear by July/August that the Yankees would make the playoffs so what was the point of making an innings limit for him if you intended to make him one of your starters for the playoffs anyway? It’s not like they would have shut him down in September and then brought him back and then brought him back on 30 days rest to start Game 3.

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      • Steve says:

        who is to say they didn’t incorporate the playoff innings into the limit they imposed for the regular season?

        they skipped a few starts during the season to keep him around 175, but maybe internally they felt he was good up to 190.

        either way, no one knows, and i don’t see how anyone can say it was “mishandled”.

        also, Pettitte threw a wrench into their plans when he came up lame between the ALDS and the ALCS. Hughes wasn’t supposed to be pitching in games 2 and 6, so it was likely he’d only get one start in the ALCS.

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  3. chuckb says:

    Dave Duncan uses a binder and he is widely regarded as being one of the best pitching coaches in the business. Why the contradiction? Because 1 is in New York and 1 is in the Midwest? Because 1 is a manager and 1 is a pitching coach? Or because angry Yankee fans have to find someone to blame and some reason to blame him?

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    • Don says:

      The difference is that Duncan uses a binder well and Girardi uses it like an idiot. As Matt noted above, he makes idiotic moves based on absurdly small sample sizes all the tiem. As such, I think part people conflate a lot of Girardi’s overmanaging quirks with his use of The Binder. If you watch Yankee games, YES loves to show Girardi walking back and opening up The Binder before he brings in his 4th pitcher with 2 outs in the 7th to match-up against some 1 WAR lefty. I don’t think the issue is so much The Binder as it has become, for a lot of fans, the manifestation of how/why Girardi burns through relievers, makes goofy pinch-hitting decisions, etc.

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      • Captain says:

        does Girardi use it like an idiot when the reliever doesnt get the job done or does he still use it like an idiot when the reliever does?

        One of the things that you cannot say about Girardi’s tenure with the Yankees is him burning through relievers in a negative way. he usually has his best guys ready to go day in and day out, making the pitching changes he makes in the regular season works out in the end. again, this is all coming up because his relievers did not get the job done this postseason. he managed in the same fashion last year with the pen and there was hardly a peep about it from anyone.

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      • Steve says:

        I think the Hardball Times did a study lining up which managers use their best relievers in the highest leverage situations and Girardi came out near the top. there are many things Girardi needs to improve upon, but for the most part, he knows how to manage a bullpen.

        he made a few mistakes in the ALCS, but Ron Washington made the same exact mistakes last night. 2 wrongs don’t make a right, but i think when people say he’s not “average”, their idea of average is a lot higher than reality.

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    • NBarnes says:

      Or because angry Yankee fans have to find someone to blame and some reason to blame him?

      DING DING DING! WINNAR!

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  4. matt says:

    2-3 years for quade, 3 years for girardi. anyone else think he’ll come to the cubs after they’ve rebuilt & regrouped for him?

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    • Steve says:

      shakes magic 8 ball: too soon to tell.

      it’s an interesting thought, but we prob don’t have to worry about it until about July of 2013 when it will be shoved down our throats ad nauseum.

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    • fredsbank says:

      why would you want to go from managing the yankees, professional sports’ most decorated franchise, to… the chicago cubs, professional sports’… well, chicago cubs?

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      • mike says:

        The same reason Curt Schilling wanted to come to Boston – legacy. Girardi goes to the Cubs and they win the World Series for the first time in a century? He’ll be remembered forever.

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  5. random says:

    As a Yankee fan, I only have one beef with Girardi.

    HOW DO YOU INTENTIONALLY WALK DAVID F&#@ING MURPHY???

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    • Steve says:

      Because there were two outs, a base was open, and Benji Molina was up next?

      One guy hit .298/.368/.479 against RHPs and the other hit .213/.253/.292 against RHPs in 2010.

      I am not smart enough to do the math, but just eyeballing it, it doesn’t strike me as a dumb decision for any other reason than we know what happened next. Is there anyone here who could weigh in on this with actual numbers?

      I guess I didn’t understand why there was such an outcry the next day: David Murphy is actually pretty good. He might not be a household name, but certainly against RHP, the guy can hit.

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      • random says:

        He’s not so much better than Molina that you should walk him as the go-ahead run in a home game. Intentional walks should be reserved for the heavy hitters or the guy before the pitcher. I’m talking Josh Hamilton. And after all of that, he leaves AJ in after the BB! Just utter foolishness.
        Joe Posnanski covers it better than I can, anyway: http://joeposnanski.si.com/2010/10/20/a-good-intentional-walk-day/

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      • fred says:

        The other option would have been simply to bring in his LOOGY (Logan) to face Murphy as opposed to putting the go ahead run on 1st base where he could score on a 2 out double (or jog around with a HR) or if Burnett uncorks a wild pitch (which is a fairly frequent occurrence), Murphy now can score on just a Molina single.

        I think it should have came down to a choice of Logan vs Murphy or Burnett vs Molina… not Burnett vs Murphy or Burnett vs Molina… to me the mistake was not choosing Logan vs Murphy (once he was announced as a hitter) as the matchup of choice… it’s not like Logan vs Hamilton was working out for Girardi, so why save Logan for Hamilton later on?

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  6. dgdfgdfdgdfgfhg says:

    Buy at least 200 to send beautiful T shirt

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  7. Lee says:

    As a Yankee fan, I find Girardi to be one of the best managers there is. I’m not surprised that his bullpen management was found to be near the top, since the Yankees bullpen is often viewed as a “problem” by the media before the season starts and they end up with one of the best ERA’s in baseball by year’s end.

    Of course Girardi makes mistakes or even does things that are dumb (although I’m curious about when he’s actually made moves based on tiny sample sizes). I was absolutely against the intentional walk to David Murphy, although I’m not a big fan of intentional walks in general. Honestly though, the best manager in the game would be someone who sort of does the right things a lot of the time. An average manager is probably someone who gets it mostly wrong. A below average manager probably not only gets the decisions wrong, but makes decisions that a halfway competent manager would avoid. I think Girardi fits the first category.

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  8. Seth says:

    Agreed on the binder. You don’t hear anyone criticizing Tony La Russa for the index cards he uses during games.

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