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Great moments in small ball: Joe Girardi

Aug 24, 2011, 8:48 AM EDT

Joe Girardi

It’s not my intent to mercilessly rip Joe Girardi here. I think he does a good job overall, especially when you realize how many critics he has and how much scrutiny he’s under. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find, oh, I dunno, teachable moments in his managerial decisions.

Down by two in the ninth inning, A’s closer Andrew Bailey gave up a homer to Jorge Posada.  It’s written on ancient scrolls that if you give up a homer to Jorge Posada, you don’t have your best stuff.  Russell Martin and Brett Gardner then reached, putting runners on first and second, the Yankees down by two. Derek Jeter then comes up. The same Derek Jeter who has been hot of late and who had reached base four times in this game alone already.  This is a recipe for a big honking inning.

Except Joe Girardi had him lay down a bunt. And the Yankees only scored one more time, leaving the bases juiced in their one-run loss. If only they had one more out to give.  In fact, let’s go to Pinstriped Bible’s Steven Goldman who can tell us exactly what the odds were of scoring two runs if the Yankees had that one more out to give:

[T]eams that have put runners on first and second with no outs have scored an average of 1.4 runs … Teams that have runners on second and third with one out see their expected runs go down to 1.3 … I leave it to you whether eliminating the double play was worth trading that fraction of a run as well as the possibility of having three chances to score those two runs instead of two.

Joe Girardi gets mocked by writers for using his famous binder which sets forth this strategy and that strategy for him.  In this case, however, he should be mocked for not using his binder. Or at least for having a binder that didn’t have all of the information he needed in that situation to make the right decision.

  1. kopy - Aug 24, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    I wonder what the odds would be of scoring 1 run with runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out vs. scoring 1 run with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. The above math shows a team can expect a higher average with the latter situation because there is a greater chance for a “big inning”. But is it worth bunting the runners over if you just need 1 run to tie?

    • FC - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:07 AM

      I thought the Yankees needed two runs at that point to tie it?

      • Vincent - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:19 AM

        kopy may just be asking a question? maybe?

      • kopy - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:20 AM

        Indeed. The story made me think.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:20 AM

      2b + 3b with 1 out = 1.447
      1st + 2b with 0 out = 1.556

      run expectancy matrix here:
      http://www.tangotiger.net/re24.html

      • kopy - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:24 AM

        Thanks for the matrix. I used it to answer the question I had, which I maybe didn’t ask clearly…

        With runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs, the odds of at least 1 run scoring is 0.643, the odds of scoring at least 1 run with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out is 0.698.

        So if you only need 1 run, it is worth bunting the runners over.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:36 AM

        There are other issues with the RE matrix, it’s context neutral and batter/pitcher matchups aren’t included (it’d be impossible to do so). So it treats 1st inning bases loaded with the pitcher at the plate the same as bases loaded 9th inning closer on 40 pitches with 2001-03 barry bonds at the plate.

      • uberfatty - Aug 24, 2011 at 10:30 AM

        Kopy, your wording made me think. When does a team *need* only one run?

        What do you think if your team is down 1 in the bottom of the ninth? Rather go for the small increase in odds of 1 run exactly, or the small increase in odds of scoring >1 run? The only time I would go for 1 run is if the game is tied and it is bottom of the ninth. Any other time and I want my team going with the better odds of scoring >1 runs and getting a larger lead since the opponent still gets to bat.

      • rrrii - Aug 25, 2011 at 5:58 AM

        yeah, i’m late to the party but catching up on reading. i think this situation is like understanding who has the best odds of winning the world series before the regular season ends. if there is a ‘good’ team who has locked up a playoff spot in one division but 2 ‘great’ teams fighting for a single playoff spot, the ‘good’ team has better odds of winning the ws at that point, no? because they are the only one guaranteed a playoff spot. i think this situation is the same. you (usually) need to tie the game before you win it. so playing for the best chance at one run gets you in the playoffs (figuratively speaking). no?

    • mattjg - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:23 AM

      With an average hitter at the plate, assuming the offensive environment is the same as that of 1993-2010, a team is more likely to score at least one run with runners at 2nd and 3rd and 1 out (69.8%) than with runners at 1st and 2nd and 0 out (64.3%). Of course, Jeter isn’t necessarily an average hitter, the Yankees probably did not have an average hitter on deck, and I think it’s pretty clear that the offensive environment is not the same as during the steroid era (when offense is down, a bunt, I believe, is more valuable).

      Then again, the Yankees needed two to tie, so run expectancy is a better measure than chance of scoring at least one run.

      Here’s a matrix of run expectancy and chance of one run based on baserunners and outs: http://www.tangotiger.net/re24.html

    • evanpenn - Aug 24, 2011 at 12:54 PM

      The 1.4 vs. 1.3 numbers could be a bit misleading. Obviously, giving away an out makes a big inning less likely. But the relevance of a big inning are inconsequential here. The only numbers that matter are the odds of scoring 2 runs or 3 runs. The 1.4 number is inflated by the instances in which teams score 5, 6, 7 or more runs. You haven’t introduced the relevant statistics here to irrefutably make your case.

  2. pisano - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    Think back at how many times Jeter has hit into double plays and you’ll realize that was Joe’s thinking. Jeter had reached base four times in this game, so the odds were against him reaching base a fifth time. I think it was the right move at that time. Also if Swisher gets a single the game is most likely over. Hindsight is 20/20

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:21 AM

      Jeter had reached base four times in this game, so the odds were against him reaching base a fifth time

      That’s not how it works:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambler's_fallacy

      • professorperry - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:25 AM

        I love playing poker against guys like pisano.

        Except when he sucks out on me at the river. I hate that.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:37 AM

        Process vs results. I’d take someone using the former over the latter any day of the week.

      • baccards - Aug 24, 2011 at 10:53 AM

        Perhaps with a fair coin it is 50/50 – but let’s say we have a career .300 hitter, batting exactly .300.for the season. he gets 4 straight hits to raise average to say .302.. his next at bat is likely to be an out to bring him back to his norm – Hitting a baseball does not correlate well with flipping a coin..
        Not sure how Jeter reached 4 times.. it’s dhball and the yankees at that – I couldn’t care less

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM

        Perhaps with a fair coin it is 50/50 – but let’s say we have a career .300 hitter, batting exactly .300.for the season. he gets 4 straight hits to raise average to say .302.. his next at bat is likely to be an out to bring him back to his norm.

        No it doesn’t. Read the link above about Gambler’s Fallacy.

    • professorperry - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:24 AM

      Highsight may be 20/20, but the math predicts outcomes in a way more consistent than “is due.” If you flip a coin, there’s a 50-50 chance it comes down heads or tails. If it comes down tails 4 times in a row, there’s still a 50-50 chance it comes down tails the 5th time.

      Of course, the math also tells us that hot streaks are generally not predictive (while cold streaks are, because they often reflect a player concealing or playing-through an injury).

      More to the point – this isn’t about hindsight. At the exact moment that Giradi put down the bunt sign, millions (ok, maybe 40) stat-minded fans checked their forumlas and moaned as the Yankee manager made the wrong move. That’s foresight, not hindsight.

      And if Swish had got a single, it still would have been the less optimal move.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:39 AM

        Unfortunately being in NC I basically see 5 yankee games all year, but did Girardi actually call for the bunt? [I also don't read espn so can't see if he confirmed it or not]. Often times I’ve read about Yankee players bunting on their own. This doesn’t absolve either player or manager however…

    • jwbiii - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:31 AM

      Derek Jeter is the Yankees’ all-time leader in GDPs. I’m guessing most of you missed the party for that record. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t call for Girardi.

      Isn’t that amazing, Suzyn?

      • cktai - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:59 AM

        Over his career Jeter gets a GDP 12,2% of the time that he hitting with a runner on first and less than two outs, which is only 1.5% more often than the league average in 2011. Meanwhile, in the same situation he has a career average OBP of .391 compared to a league average of .329. If anything, Jeter is better in these situation than the league average player where the win expectancy is based upon, even with his tendency to hit in double plays.

        PS. I took career averages for Jeter and 2011 averages of the AL mainly for convenience and sample size, but a quick glance at Jeters 2011 numbers indicates that using those numbers are pretty similar.

    • easports82 - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:46 AM

      So, if Swisher was team oriented, he’d have hit the single to win the game. Instead, he tried to pad his HR and RBI totals and wound up costing them the game. Selfish jackass.

      • phukyouk - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:55 AM

        i love swish… i really really do. one of my all time favorites but last night in the 9th he was plain selfish.. a ground ball up the middle and the game is over. so yea.. he was a selfish jackass last night in the 9th.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:57 AM

        ouch, I thought ea was being sarcastic…but youk, it doesn’t sound like you are. Do you really think Swisher could have just “hit a ground ball up the middle” that easily?

      • yankeesfanlen - Aug 24, 2011 at 10:09 AM

        That’s right, Chris. Swish was NO selfish jackass. Actually, after going for the long abll, his next most viable option would have been to stand like a cigar store Indian waiting to walk one in as Cano did and tie it. Least desirable is to “try” to hit one up the middle.

      • clydeserra - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:12 PM

        This has got to be a joke right? Because you know players can’t just “get a hit” when they want to. right?

      • 5thbase - Aug 24, 2011 at 4:44 PM

        You guys so new to baseball that you can’t tell the difference between someone going for good hard contact and someone trying to pull a fly ball over the fence? There are appropriate times to do the latter, but not when the winning run is on 2nd base in the bottom of the 9th.

        Trying to stay up the middle isn’t easy, but it should be attempted. Watch the front shoulder and the hip. They will tell you if the hitter is even attempting it.

    • baccards - Aug 24, 2011 at 11:10 AM

      I agree with the fallacy in a game of chance..hitting a baseball is not ‘chance’ it is based on a skill set – there are slumps and streaks based not on chance, but on skill

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 24, 2011 at 11:25 AM

        It’s not chance.

        To put it a different way, we’re talking about two different odds here

        1. A .300 hitter getting 4 straight hits
        2. A .300 hitter with 3 hits getting a 4th straight

        For the first one, it’s .300 * .300 * .300 *.300 to get a string of hits. This is what many people think regarding the “person being due”. But this is only in play at the start of the game.

        The problem is that, like the coin flip scenario, the first three at bats have no bearing on what he’ll do on his fourth (2). In the 9th inning, his chance of getting a hit is his BA regardless of what he did on his first three at bats.

  3. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    And then if Jeter doesn’t bunt, and he strikes out instead, then granderson singles, and only one run scores, then the inning ends without them getting that run in from 3rd, Girardi gets killed for not bunting the tying runs into scoring position.

    Dude can’t win either way.

    My take…forgetting all the stupid %’s because, as Church wrote above, they don’t take into account the hitters, the place in the batting order, and just how rattled the closer is, I think it was a mistake to bunt for the simple reason that it took the bat out of the hands of their best hitter BY FAR…Granderson. I’d rather have Granderson get to bat with 1st and 2nd with 1 out than have him walked to load the bases for Tex and Cano.

    The whole “% to score with 1st and 2nd no outs as opposed to 2nd and 3rd with 1 out” doesn’t always apply. But taking the bat out of the Grandy-man’s hand was the reason NOT to bunt here.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:56 AM

      And of course, I mistakenly thought they walked the Grandy-man intentionally, which they did NOT, so mea culpa, Sir Joe!!! There’s nothing to complain about then. Girardi was fine with what he did!!!!

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 24, 2011 at 9:57 AM

      Also let’s not forget that Bailey threw a 92mph 4 seamer right in Tex’s wheelhouse, and he popped it up. Low and inside to a lefty with that short porch, he should have crushed it.

      http://tinyurl.com/3v9ervg

      • yankeesfanlen - Aug 24, 2011 at 10:11 AM

        ARod would have done that.

  4. yankeesfanlen - Aug 24, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Well, here’s a medley of opinions!
    Big picture – Girardi was playing small ball again, down by two with two on. This is NOT how the Yanbkees play. What had gotten the 4 runs since the bottom of the 8th to come this close after a 6-0 deficit? A 3run Swisher blast and a Grumpy home run. So material evidence of the most recent plays will show me that you swing for the fences. Cano was ready but he found no pitch to take. so he walked in a run.
    Swisher, up for the last out, swung for it, and I think came pretty close to a grand slam (Contrary to Craig’s opinion in ATH).
    Having Jeter bunt wasted the necessary extra out to allow anything more to happen.
    Error Girardi.

    • bigharold - Aug 24, 2011 at 12:45 PM

      Can’t agree. Staying out of the DP was smart.

      “It’s written on ancient scrolls that if … you don’t have your best stuff.”

      Which also could be interpreted as with two on, one out and the fastest guy on your team, if not in all of baseball, on second and your three four and five hitters coming up it would be more than reasonable to expect one of them to get a hit off a guy who doesn’t have “his best stuff”. That would have at least tied the game.

      He put his team in a good position to at least tie the game but at some point it’s the player’s responsibility to execute. Girardi frequently gets heat for not doing what it takes to manufacture runs and playing long ball, here it’s for the opposite. Classic “you’re damned if you do damned if you don’t” situation.

      And as for all the statistical analysis, .., I believe it was Twain that said; there are liars, damned liars at statistics.” The Yankees were in a position to tie if not win the game last night because of players executing. They eventually lost not due to poor strategy but lack of timely execution.

    • pjmarn6 - Aug 24, 2011 at 4:57 PM

      You all forget that Jeter has a .356 obp and 8.5% of the time gets a walk. So with four hits already in the game, the pitcher is going to be a bit tentative of giving him something good to hit. Add in the other factors and you are not going to bunt. In the early part of the season Girardi had just the opposite philosophy, always going for the big inning.
      Psychologically, you are not going to ask your best current hitter to sacrifice. He should have played to the strength and asked Jeter to do what he is paying millions to do, get a hit.

      • pjmarn6 - Aug 24, 2011 at 4:59 PM

        Also it was a great chance to show some brilliance and pull off a double steal. That would have really unnerved the pitcher.

      • youngyankee - Aug 24, 2011 at 6:08 PM

        “Also it was a great chance to show some brilliance and pull off a double steal. That would have really unnerved the pitcher.”

        that would have really unnerved every yankee fan. a double steal down 2 w/ 0 outs in the 9th??

  5. hansob - Aug 24, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    WPA went down 4%, so yeah… I guess a successful sac bunt wasn’t good, even considering who was coming up after Jeter. But just because you’re bunting, doesn’t mean that a successful sacrifice is the only possible outcome. What if he gets on base? what if Bailey, like so many pitchers seem to do, throws wildly to first.

    I know there’s the negatives, too. Bailey gets the lead runner, etc. But it’s a very detailed analysis if you want to do it thoroughly. Is Jeter a good bunter? Where were the corner IF’ers playing? Can Bailey field?

    It’s like calling pre-flop with a suited connector. There is some downside, and you’ll probably lose a bit of money, but there’s a bunch of upside, too.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 24, 2011 at 10:52 AM

      I know there’s the negatives, too. Bailey gets the lead runner, etc. But it’s a very detailed analysis if you want to do it thoroughly. Is Jeter a good bunter? Where were the corner IF’ers playing? Can Bailey field

      Agreed, there are a lot more options. For more information read this by MGL a few years ago:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/were-the-yankee-sac-bunts-in-the-8th-inning-correct/

  6. yournuts - Aug 24, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    No matter what you do as a Manager you will get called out if it doesn’t work. If it does work, he is a genius. It is sad that the bats waited until the 8th inning to wake up! Hey Craig if you don’t want to rip Joe Girardi then why do it?

    Today is another day!

  7. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Aug 24, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    I love this commentary. Keep the stats convo going! At the most basic level, I agree with Len, which is becoming a theme I believe. The Yanks hit more HRs than anyone, which probably means (someone else look) that they hit more extra-base hits too. Therefore, why the F would they bunt in this situation or in just about any situation really??? There should be maybe 2 situations that the yanks have a solid batter (yes, Jeter has been solid of late, including yesterday) lay down a bunt and both of those situations surely occur in NL parks.

    • yankeesfanlen - Aug 24, 2011 at 1:41 PM

      Why thank you Jason. (Get the John & Suzyn reference?)
      Yesterday’s Old Gator story about his grandfather in ’61 questioning a Yankee bunt illustrates historically what we’re talking about.
      And I still say Swisher’s fly in the bottom of the ninth almost made it.
      Also, it is sacreligious not to sell 16 oz. Old Style in Wrigley, I could still make it back to Hoffman Estates after one or two (Chicago-style one or two)

    • youngyankee - Aug 24, 2011 at 3:58 PM

      think girardi made the right call.

      1st and 2nd w/ 0 outs – jeter up. he swings away.

      a)probability of a HR is slim so you can’t bank on that from jeet.
      b)prob of an extra base hit is still low – this is what you hope for but with d playing “no doubles” you’re likely left with gardner @ 3rd, jeter @ 1st or 2nd. -> chasing 1 with 0 outs.
      c)jeter hits a single – 1 scores. gardner @ 3rd, jeter @ 1st -> chasing 1 with 0 outs.
      d) jeter makes an out or worse, hits into a DP – chasing 2 with 1/2 outs.

      either way you’re still 1 hit short w/ grandy, teix, cano coming up, but by bunting with jeter you’ve eliminated the worse possible outcome (GDP) while not sacrificing much of the desired outcomes.

      Teix didn’t pull through. plain and simple. 1 out and the bases juiced. Girardi put his team in a position to tie/win.

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