Joe Girardi’s 8th Inning Guy: With Rafael Soriano set to come off the DL soon, there has been much speculation that Yankees manager Joe Girardi would put Soriano back into the setup role, which Girardi likes to call his “8th inning guy”. Soriano has been a 2011 Yankees bust (5.40 ERA, bad body language, poor interviews, fans hate him, and he has no support from Brian Cashman) while Dave Robertson made the All-Star team and strikes out 14.3 men per 9 innings with an ERA of 1.54. Just as important, Robertson has lived up to his nickname of Houdini by getting out of bases loaded jams and getting the strikeout.
Robertson’s only real flaw is his lack of command, perhaps due to a lack of confidence. David has done much better than his scouting reports had predicted. Soriano is a headcase and moody. Yes, it’s possible Soriano will instantly return to form when he comes off the DL and give the Yankees an unstoppable bullpen. But Robertson is actually better than Soriano this year and will probably outperform him for the rest of the year.
Actually my real main idea of this article is that it’s beyond ridiculous for a manager to assign such specialized bullpen roles by the inning. It’s bad enough that closers can only go inning, we have lefty specialists that just pitch to one batter, and we have set-up men. Now Joe Girardi wants to have an 8th inning guy and a 7th inning guy. Workload should be based on performance and rest schedule.
You know what the irony is, right? The 7th inning is actually more important than the 8th inning anyway. I would rather see Dave in those jam situations when the starter has left runners and base in the 7th, and have Sori get an easy 1-2-3 8th to bridge it to Mariano Rivera.
The only true consideration is the psychological impact; would Robertson feel underutilized by being “demoted” to the 7th inning, and would Soriano shut down again if he lost the 8th inning? And that, my friend, is the problem with Girardi managing innings like a lineup card. It’s bad enough we have hitters that refuse to play if they are down in the batting order.
My guess is that since Robertson is a hard worker and nice guy, he will take the 7th inning and continue to excel. Soriano will do great in the 8th, and Girardi will come out smelling like roses. All I’m saying is that it’s overkill and micromanaging to assign specific innings for relief pitchers to the media, especially since we know things never go according to plan.
Bullpens is baseball are either overrated or underrated depending on your point of view, but their importance should never be understated. The Yankees have a great bullpen this year even with injuries to Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, and Pedro Feliciano. Girardi has basically played things by performance and Cashman has been great to get cheap arms and seeing who sticks.
Anyway, this whole “8th inning” vs “7th inning” guy is beyond ridiculous. Beat writers and Michael Kay love to hold Girardi to his role definition and will start making waves if he deviates. The most absurd part: that Joe can’t just say “they are both my 8th inning guys”! Is Soriano’s ego that fragile that he couldn’t handle that? Is Joe trying to copy Tony LaRussa and create insane bullpen roles? Joba and Dave shared being the “7th inning guy” this year, so why couldn’t Dave and Sori share the 8th? Just such a stupid label.
Stuff like this has repercussions on the way other baseball managers use their bullpens, too. It’s not a good standard for Girardi to set. In practice it hardly works out the way it’s advertised anyway.
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