So why does Joe Girardi continue to pinch hit Eric Chavez for A-Rod? More specifically, why did he do so last night?
Here are both of their postseason stats to date:
Before going further, let's put this critique in context; while I am criticizing Girardi's moves, his decisions are not the main reason the Tigers beat the Yankees in game 1 of the ALCS. Various Tigers deserve credit; various Yankees deserve blame, most notably Swisher's atrocious fielding in RF. Give Bud Selig's incompetence an assist too; if MLB made use of replay technology instead of burying its head in the sand, umpire Rob Drake's blown call in the 2nd inning would have been overturned, giving the Yankees a run and an opportunity for more. If Girardi made the decisions I would have preferred, there's no guarantee the Yankees would have won. That being said, Girardi's decisions on A-Rod and Chavez were questionable.
Now I understood why Girardi pinch-hit the hot Ibanez for A-Rod in game 3 of the ALDS. I understood the benching against a righty pitcher in game 5 of the ALDS. A-Rod's ongoing slump merits such moves.
However, I just did not understand how Girardi used these guys in game 1 of the ALCS; his decisions struck me as a combination of indecisiveness and overmanaging. What I mean is that Girardi started A-Rod against Doug Fister, a righty. A-Rod's first at-bat was good - he hit the ball hard up the middle, but Jhonny Peralta's good play robbed him of a 2-RBI single. A-Rod's next 2 ABs were unproductive: grounding into a DP in the 3rd, and a critical strikeout with runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs in the 6th.
Now it's hard to determine how much blame goes to A-Rod here and how much credit to give Doug Fister, who also whiffed Granderson and Martin in the crucial 6th inning, and in general pitched well. It's not as though everyone but A-Rod was tearing it up against Fister.
So in the 8th inning, Girardi pinch hit Chavez for A-Rod when Jim Leyland brought in another righty pitcher. Here's where Girardi's strategy strikes me as flawed. Now if Girardi had just started Chavez in place of A-Rod for lefty-righty platoon reasons, no one could argue; A-Rod's certainly looked recently against righties, and Chavez is a nice option, despite his ugly playoff stats to date. But the moves to start A-Rod against a righty and then pinch-hit for him against a righty doesn't seem to make sense for 2 reasons:
- If he so lacks confidence in A-Rod's ability to hit righties, then why did he give A-Rod three plate appearances against a righty?
- Girardi's flip-flopping wasted a precious bench player.
The latter point perhaps deserves more explanation. If Girardi had started Chavez, A-Rod would have been in reserve as a pinch hitter, and could have been deployed later in the game. This could have mattered in the bottom of the 12th, where Detroit was able to match up lefty Drew Smyly against lefties Chavez and Gardner. If A-Rod bats for Chavez there, then either you get a platoon advantage on that at-bat, or you force Jim Leyland to bring in a righty, which then if nothing else gives Gardner an advantage.
In that situation, Girardi might counter by saying that right now he lacks confidence in the slumping A-Rod's ability to hit righties; so if he brings in A-Rod in these situations, Leyland just brings in a righty. Indeed, Girardi said something to that effect after ALDS game 5, where he left Chavez in against a lefty reliever. But this struck me as a lame excuse, because Eric Chavez cannot hit lefties. His splits for 2012 and for his career prove this:
- 2012 against lefties:.152/.231/.152
- Career against lefties: .236/.303/.386
So until and unless A-Rod's slump ends, what I would like to see for the rest of the postseason is some decisiveness:
- Don't start A-Rod against righties if you plan on just pinch-hitting for him against righties. If that is the mindset, just start Chavez.
- If you have A-Rod on the bench, don't fear pinch-hitting him for Chavez when the opposing manager brings in a lefty reliever. A-Rod's inability to hit righties is due to a slump (after all, A-Rod did hit 2 HRs off of Justin Verlander this season). Chavez has just never hit lefties.