The Closer Fallacy

The Yankees lost a gut-punch game last night and while Delin Betances meltdown takes some heat off of Girardi this morning, it shouldn’t. Joe made the classic mistake modern managers do today, he treated the 9th inning as the most important. Let’s dig in.

This game was an old school pitchers duel with Luis Severino and a Jose Quintana dominating. The White Sox took a 1-0 lead into the 8th, but the Yankees broke through for three runs and took a 3-1 lead. With Severino at 105 pitches, Girardi didn’t want to push him and turned to the bullpen.

That’s understandable, but the first mistake he made was not putting Betances in at that point. Now Joe is going to say that Chapman was unavailable and he wanted Betances to pitch the 9th. The problem with that logic is you don’t know what the score will be in the 9th, nor do you know how many pitches Betances will need to pitch the 8th. Maybe he sets the side down in 8 pitches and you feel good about brining him out for the 9th. Maybe the Yankees tack on a bunch of runs in the 9th and blow the game open. You can’t predict that, but you know that with a two-run lead in the 8th, you are in a critical spot.

And Girardi turned to Domingo German, a guy with just over 60 innings of experience above A-ball. Let me emphasize that, A-ball. Not surprisingly, German walked the two batters he faced. Now Girardi makes his second mistake, going to Clippard over Betances. Clearly, Girardi didn’t want to use Clippard, or he would have started the inning with him over the inexperienced rookie, but then he turns to him when there are two guys on and no one out? Clippard promptly threw a wild pitch and then walked the bases loaded. And Girardi makes mistake number three, leaving him in.

And amazingly, this one paid off, but it really shouldn’t have. Clippard got two guys out, then walked in a run to make it 3-2. Then, on a full count, he got a strike out to let the Yankees escape the 8th. It was ugly, and it probably should have ended with him imploding, but it didn’t.

Ironically, that was Betances’ job as he didn’t have it and lost the game in the bottom of the 9th. Some will say that his meltdown is proof that Girardi did the right thing. But it isn’t. The Yankees had three choices for the 8th, the rookie, the guy who has been hit all over the park recently, and Betances. You have to pick Betances, hope he gets you to the 9th, and go from there. Managers used to know that.