The Joe Girardi Show: Season 5, Episode 2

Shane Greene

I can’t remember the last time I was this devastated, upset, frustrated, embarrassed, angry, disappointed, sad and pissed off over a regular-season loss. Looking back, I’m laughing at myself for calling the June 24 loss to the Blue Jays the worst loss of the season because when you put it next to Monday night against the Rangers, it’s about as close as comparing the willingness to play through injury of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.

Monday night had it all. It was like a never-ending diner menu for every kind of negative feeling baseball can emote from a person, featuring five Yankees errors, two runs against a pitcher with a 10.05 ERA, one disastrous inning of managing and one big loss to the worst team in the entire majors. But because I can’t do anything about the physical mistakes (the errors) and can’t make the Yankees score runs against a horrible pitcher, I decided to focus on what could have been changed to prevent the Yankees from losing the game: the sixth inning.

It’s now been over three months since the last episode on April 21, but I felt after Monday night that it was necessary to fill in for Michael Kay on my version of The Joe Girardi Show.

Why did Shane Greene face Geovanny Soto?
Shane Greene threw 113 pitches on Monday. One hundred and thirteen. In his last start on July 12 he threw 106 and on July 7, in his only other start in the majors before that, he threw 88. How unusual was it for Joe Girardi (Mr. Conservative) to let a pitcher throw 113 pitches in a game? Well, the Yankees have played 98 games this year and here are each of their starting pitchers with the number of pitches they have thrown in each of their starts:

Masahiro Tanaka: 97, 101, 107, 105, 105, 108, 113, 108, 114, 88, 118, 106, 104, 110, 104, 106, 116, 85, 99.

Hiroki Kuroda: 91, 92, 97, 99, 91, 94, 108, 95, 98, 100, 94, 93, 90, 93, 107, 102, 109, 105, 103, 99.

David Phelps: 87, 70, 100, 104, 109, 92, 93, 102, 115, 94, 101, 107, 103, 98.

Vidal Nuno: 69, 72, 80, 82, 78, 81, 101, 101, 92, 92, 75, 107, 91, 89.

CC Sabathia: 99, 93, 111, 107, 106, 98, 77, 107.

Chase Whitley: 74, 71, 91, 83, 87, 82, 95, 87, 81, 74, 68.

Michael Pineda: 83, 94, 89, 37.

Ivan Nova: 88, 61, 97, 80.

Brandon McCarthy: 101, 99.

Greene’s 113 on Monday night represented the fifth time in 98 games (5.1 percent) that Girardi has left his starter in long enough to reach that number.

With the Yankees leading 2-1, Greene retired the first two hitters in the sixth and then gave up a single to Jake Smolinski on his 105th pitch of the game. At that time I expected Girardi to come out to get Greene. He didn’t. Greene walked Jim Adduci on five pitches to put two on with two outs and then I was certain Girardi would come get Greene at 110 pitches. He didn’t. Instead Larry Rothschild came out and talked to Greene briefly and turned around and went back to the dugout. Girardi stayed in the dugout and the bullpen door never opened. Three pitches later, Geovanny Soto singled to left. Tie game.

Why is Matt Thornton still being considered an “A” reliever just because he is left-handed?
The obvious answer to this question is that Matt Thornton is the left-hander in the bullpen and will face left-handed hitters. Some would say, “If you’re not going to bring Thornton into the game in that spot, then why is he on the team?” And to that I would answer, “He shouldn’t be.”

Matt Thornton is not good. Once upon a time Matt Thornton was good, but the last time he was good was in 2010. Since 2010, he has been “OK” and the last thing you want your left-handed “specialist” who will only be called on for one hitter or maybe two hitters in huge spots is to be “OK.” This year, lefties are hitting .277/.340/.277 against him and he has only struck out eight of the 55 lefties he has seen (14.5 percent). There’s a reason the Red Sox left him off their postseason roster last year and there’s a reason the White Sox traded him to the Red Sox in the first place and there’s a Red Sox didn’t care to re-sign him: he isn’t good.

But there was Matt Thornton being called on to face to face two lefties with runners on first and second and two outs in the sixth. And there was Matt Thornton giving up an RBI single to 20-year-old Rougned Odor and his 197 career plate appearances and there he was giving up another RBI single one a 1-2 pitch to Shin-Soo Choo.

Thornton left the game after failing to retire either lefty he faced and allowing both inherited runners to score to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead. Only in Major League Baseball, where Thornton is getting paid $3.5 million this year (and next year!), is it OK to not do your job in any capacity and then leave your workplace without holding yourself unaccountable for your actions. And that’s what Thornton did as he was nowhere to be found in the Stadium when the media went to ask him about his horrible performance. If Thornton worked a real-life, 9-5 job, an equivalent work day to his Monday night effort would have been showing up to the office at lunch time, eating fish that smelled up the entire place, taking a dump in the handicap stall in the bathroom and then going home for the day.

Why did Adam Warren relieve Matt Thornton instead of Shane Greene?
Who comes in to relieve Matt Thornton? Why it’s Adam Warren! You know him. He’s the supposed seventh-inning guy — the first reliever to be used in a big spot after David Robertson and Dellin Betances. The guy Girardi trusted more than Betances earlier in the year because he had been in the league longer despite having inferior ability and numbers to Betances (which is odd since Girardi didn’t trust Betances to be his setup guy earlier in the season because he’s a rookie while Warren and Shawn Kelley ruined games, but here he is trusting rookie Shane Greene to throw 113 pitches in his third career start).

So Warren, who Girardi didn’t turn to for either of the two right-handed hitters Greene was allowed to face at 105 and 110 pitches, comes in to face right-handed Elvis Andrus in an inning where the game has already changed and the Yankees have already given up the lead.

This entire inning was part of a much bigger problem, which is set innings for relievers because in real life (which is where games should be managed), the game needed to be saved in the sixth inning. Worry about the seventh and eighth innings (where the bases will be empty) when you get there and worry about how you will protect the lead in the ninth when you get there. Girardi went against his own formula by bringing in seventh-inning guy Warren in the sixth inning after he already let the game get away by overusing his starter and calling on a “B” reliever. So now, the same way Betances was likely unavailable on Monday night because of his 1 1/3 innings on Sunday, Warren is now likely unavailable for the following game after being wasted to hold a deficit rather than protect a lead or keep the game tied, which are both things he could have and should have been asked to do on Monday.

I always hope that my latest version of The Joe Girardi Show is the last one I will ever have to do because it would mean he wouldn’t have given me a reason to write another one. Unfortunately, I know that won’t be the case.