Ultimately the only thing that mattered was winning the ballgame, but a big wave of emotion rolled across Twitter yesterday afternoon when the Yankees' C-level relievers couldn't keep runs off the board or put outs on it and Joe made the decision to go to Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. The line was drawn and people took to their sides immediately to either call Joe stupid for using his best relievers in what was a blowout game or smart for not letting the C-level spiral get out of hand and turn the blowout into something closer. Matt and I went back and forth with William from The Captain's Blog on the issue. Seeing how quickly and passionately people took their stances on the move, I figured it was worth discussing in greater detail on the blog. It's always a little bit fun to play Monday morning QB on stuff like this, and I was honestly surprised that there wasn't a more unanimous feeling of positivity about the decision. It was actually a really smart move.
People's first thought is to run to the workload argument in cases like this with Betances and that's what a lot of people who were against the move were doing. "He's thrown too many innings, he's thrown a ton of pitches, what if he can't pitch in a game down the road?" It's not completely baseless because Betances has thrown a lot of innings this year and last, but it is something you can't accurately frame your argument around based on season-long numbers. Workload and overwork is more about smaller sample sizes and in that context there was nothing to worry about with Betances yesterday.
Coming into the game, Betances had pitched 5 times in the last 2 weeks and 8 times in the last 3. At the start of the Boston series he had pitched once in the previous 8 days, on Saturday August 29th. Betances was on the border of not getting enough work at the start of this week, and that's something we've seen be a problem for him before. He's admitted that he likes to work regularly to help keep his mechanics right. So he was coming in on plenty of rest and had only thrown 16 pitches the night before. Why wouldn't you go to him in that situation?
Same deal with Miller. He had also pitched in only 5 games over the last 2 weeks coming into yesterday's game, and similar Betances he had not worked much in the last calendar week coming into the start of the Boston series. Last pitched on August 29th, before then Monday the 24th. Miller didn't have to work too hard the previous night - 19 pitches - so he was plenty rested and available should the situation call for it. Once Joe had set the precedent by bringing Betances into the game, he had to at least get Miller up to cover for Cotham in the 9th. And as friend of the blog David Cone said on the broadcast, if you're going to get him up you might as well use him.
Remember the key numbers from last night's recap. 2 and 12. The first is the number of outs that Cotham, Mitchell, and Baily recorded and the second is the number of batters they faced. They weren't any good yesterday, plain and simple. Cotham probably shouldn't even be pitching to Major League hitters. The situation at 11-1 certainly called for the use of those type of pitchers, but the situation at 13-7 was a little more serious and that's a game Joe can't afford to let get away. He knew that, he knew he had his studs available and at the ready, he knew he had an off-day coming up today to rest them after each working 2 days in a row, and so he made the decision to end the silliness, shut the game down, and secure the win. I don't see how anybody could find fault in any of that.
Workload is a major hot button talking point in today's baseball world, and there have been instances in the past where the Yankees and their manager have been guilty of overworking their relievers. But I've never felt that was the case with Girardi and I don't think there's much of a case to make that he was risking doing that by using Deldrew Millances yesterday in what should have been an easy game. Joe's quietly been doing a nice job not using them too much over the last month or so, and I for one hope he's been doing that consciously so that he can go to them more this month to finish off wins. That's the only thing that matters at this point in the year.