The Yankees are getting obliterated by the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. Why is a team that was demonstrably better in the regular season about to get swept? First, Joe Girardi has done a terrible job as manager. Second, bad luck. Third, the playoffs are inherently a roll of the dice.
To Girardi. He has always been a bit obsessive and controlling. Remember, this is the guy who chose to walk a career .225 BA/.301 OBP/.356 SLG hitter to load the bases in order to get a better matchup in the first inning of the first game of the 2012 season. As absurd as that move was, it paled in comparison to the move he didn’t make in the 9th inning of game 3 of the ALCS.
With two outs in the ninth inning, down one run, the winning run on first base, Girardi elected to bat Raul Ibanez against Tigers lefty Phil Coke. Ibanez had a .492 OPS this season against lefties. Charitably, he stinks against left-handers. On the bench is Alex Rodriguez, who put up a .952 OPS against left-handers in 2012. Leaving him on the bench to start the game was a poor decision to begin with, but refusing to bring him into the game in the 9th is unforgivable.
I’m inclined to cut Girardi some slack because he’s an ex-Cub, but his decisions in game 3 were ridiculously bad. Sitting Rodriguez (and Nick swisher in favor of Brett Gardner) were dumb moves, born out of desperation. A good rule of thumb in baseball is to play your best players, something Girardi failed to do. He over-managed his lineup before the game, then refused to make sensible decisions once the game began.
Of course, it’s not all Girardi’s fault. The Yankees were on the wrong end of atrocious calls by the umpires in each of the first two games of the ALCS, calls that cost them runs and helped swing the series. Over the course of 162 games, bad luck evens out for teams, but in a short playoff series, they take elevated importance, which tells us nothing more than the MLB playoffs are decided by more than the talent on the field.