The real Burnett stands up

My friend and colleague Stephanie Bee suggested that I write up World Series Game 2 as follows:

1. Mo was a bit over-used
2. Jeter shouldn’t have bunted
3. Burnett was brilliant
4. Umps still [expletive]

That seems like a fair rundown to me, though while my temptation is to cavil about numbers two and four, it’s probably best to stick with one and three. Actually, four is just a fact of life, and will be until Major League Baseball accepts that replay in baseball games need not be the Supreme Court hearing that is replay in the NFL and opts for having the most accurate baseball game possible, we’re going to have to live with cloddish umps. There are fewer things happening at once in most baseball replays than in football. Balls are caught or not, fair or foul. It’s not “did the wide receiver have his toes in bounds as he was/was not juggling the ball and did it cross the plane of the goal line or didn’t it?” One replay umpire stationed off the field could have overturned Ryan Howard’s non-catch in 10 seconds.

As for Jeter’s non-bunt, although the Old Captain is top-20 in double play percentage (17 percent of his chances, worst on the Yankees) giving away outs, as opposed to gambling on the better than 80 percent chance that a very good hitter WON’T hit into one, is not good managing. It was a poor decision by Joe Girardi which Jeter doubled down on by bunting foul with two strikes.

burnett_275_103009.jpgThose two items dispensed with, on to the better stuff. On A.J. Burnett’s loss/no-decision days this summer, he walked 4.8 batters per nine innings. When he won, it was only 3.4. Therein lies the sign of a happy curveball or an unhappy curveball. On Thursday night, the curveball was happy, and thereby were the Phillies made unhappy.

It’s the most basic of all human relationships. If only Burnett could be the pitcher he was Thursday night a tad more often, and had had more health — well, never mind. If your grandmother had wheels she’d be a wagon, and if Burnett had health and consistency he wouldn’t be what he is, and that’s plenty good in six starts out of 10. You just have to hope that the other four don’t come at important times.

With the help of umpire Jeff Nelson’s roomy strike zone, Burnett walked just two and struck out nine. In the game’s Nelson umpired this year, the number of strikeouts were average or even a bit below, so it’s puzzling that he gave the pitchers so much room off the plate. Still, he was consistent in having a wide zone for both teams, but for a pitcher like Burnett that little bit of generosity goes a long way. I’m not trying to diminish what Burnett did — he saved the World Series from getting out of hand — but the confluence of umpire and pitcher could not have been more perfectly timed.

During the YES postgame, one of the Yankees’ players (Jeter, I believe) was asked how it felt to know that Girardi had the “confidence” to use Mariano Rivera for two full innings. The choice of term was ironic, as Girardi was really expressing a lack of confidence in any of his other relievers. Insomuch as Game 2 was a must win, it wasn’t a bad call, but you have to question how long Rivera can keep this up. He threw 39 pitches, another high for the year, and though Girardi said in his postgame press conference that he didn’t ask Rivera to do this all year precisely so he could do it now, I’m not sure that that reasoning makes very much sense.

You’re talking about a 40-year-old guy who averaged 16 pitches per appearance this year more than doubling up his pitch counts. Given the lack of an off day between Games 3 through 5, can you really expect him to keep that up? Moreover, can you expect Rivera, a one-trick pony — it’s a wonderful trick, but it’s still just one — to keep fooling the Phillies at that rate of exposure? Andy Pettitte averaged 102 pitches per start this year and his 6.1 innings in each of his ALCS starts were the deepest into a game he’s pitched since August, plus there’s pinch-hitting for pitchers to consider in the National League park.

All of this means that Girardi is going to have to confront his bullpen problems as soon as Saturday. Rivera won’t be able to carry the whole load in Game 3, and maybe not in any of the games in Philadelphia. We will see if anyone else stands up to shoulder his burden. 

7 Comments

First Post: Huge fan of your analysis, the Yankees, and alumni of Virginia Tech. Last nights game got me wondering…What are some of the most extreme fan rituals during baseball games? I for one love donning my #42 jersey as The Sandman comes into to close out the game, and getting into a virtual frenzy as I listen to his anthem on loop until the last out is recorded. Interestingly enough, Mariano’s two inning games this postseason have seen him struggle well into the 3rd loop during the 1st inning, and only slightly into the 2nd loop during the 2nd inning. This makes me a little uneasy as we move forward through this series. One big hit by Utley or even Howard (had the correct call been made), and that would have been a different game. One other very frustrating point about last nights game was out batter’s ability to work the count deep and then watch a close pitch get called a strike. We’re not protecting the plate well on deep counts. Keep up the good work!

Regarding item #2 – Jeter shouldn’t have bunted…

Normally, I like the idea of bunting FOR A HIT with two strikes; element of surprise, guts of a burgler, all that stuff…
But to sacrifice? Too big a risk for too little a reward.

What I really couldn’t believe was bunting with NO strikes and ONE strike, when your hottest hitter is batting with two men on, no outs, one run already plated, a slim two-run lead, with an overused Mariano warming up in the pen, and a chance to blow the game wide open! But then Jeter succumbs to his own Golden Boy image and figures, what the heck, I’m Derek Jeter, this is gonna work out just fine! OOPS! Can you imagine what would’ve happened if Mr. Not-A-True Yankee, A-Rod pulled a stunt like that!

Wow! “True-Yankee” fans’ heads would’ve been exploding all over the ballpark!

I love Jeter, but after falling behind 0-2 and getting off Girardi’s managerial hook, like Merrill Hess, he’s gotta just, “swing away!”

Regarding item #4 – Umps still [expletive]…

On the line drive double play by Damon; umpires are trained to wait a split second before making a call because sometimes a player’s reaction will tell you all you need to know…when Howard came up firing to second base instead of taking two steps to first base, that sure looked like HE thought the ball hit the ground. Brian Gorman had a lousy angle, but you’d think Howard’s reaction to the play would’ve been enough for the umpires to rethink the call during their conference. Score one for consitency at least, as Gorman then proceeded to miss the Utley call, though, being a bang-bang play, that one was a lot more understandable.

In relation to the missed call on the Utley grounder, the second base umpire should have called Utley out due to interference from Victorino – he was clearly nowhere near the second base bag (could not have reached it with any part of his body) when he slid at Jeter.

Usually when someone says something to the extent of :”I’m not taking away from him…,but…” you are doing what you saying you do not intend on doing. Burnett pitched well, and that’s the end of it. When Burnett is bad, no strike zone can turn him to a good pitcher. As far as the Jeter bunt is concerned, I thought that Jeter bunted on his own with two strikes that is. With the way Damon and Teixeira are hitting, it is tough to give a free out, but Jeter didn’t execute. It’s looking like more and more that Mariano will not go unscathed if he continues to pitch two innings. The Yankees should give Joba or Robertson a chance to see if they can put a stranglehold on that eighth inning.

Usually when someone says something to the extent of :”I’m not taking away from him…,but…” you are doing what you saying you do not intend on doing. Burnett pitched well, and that’s the end of it. When Burnett is bad, no strike zone can turn him to a good pitcher. As far as the Jeter bunt is concerned, I thought that Jeter bunted on his own with two strikes that is. With the way Damon and Teixeira are hitting, it is tough to give a free out, but Jeter didn’t execute. It’s looking like more and more that Mariano will not go unscathed if he continues to pitch two innings. The Yankees should give Joba or Robertson a chance to see if they can put a stranglehold on that eighth inning.

39 pitches is overusing a guy? There is such a thing as overusing a guy in the World Series?

http://www.bronxbaseballdaily.com

Agree with rabruzzese, specially since it was before an off day. Of course, it will be different games 3 to 5. Please, do recall that Girardi has played and managed in the NL.

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