October 11, 2012
ALDS Game Three Recap: Yankees 3, Orioles 2
The questions addressed to Joe Girardi in his pre-game press conference looked a lot like the ones he fielded several hours later, after the Yankees had come from behind to beat Baltimore 3-2 in 12 innings and take a 2-1 series lead. Both times, the emphasis was on Alex Rodriguez, with a bit of Raul Ibanez. Girardi’s responses about A-Rod earlier in the day weren’t very revealing. But by the time the second presser started, the questions almost didn’t have to be asked. Girardi’s in-game actions had already supplied the answers.
The Yankees broke Baltimore’s string of 16 straight extra-inning wins, handed the O’s their first loss of the season in which they held a lead after seven innings, and homered off of Jim Johnson—who’d entered the series having allowed three home runs all year, and none since June 5th—for the second time in three days. To hear Girardi tell it, they owed it all to his insides.
Girardi credited three separate body parts—his heart, his gut, and his stomach—with being behind the move. If his brain (or his binder) played a role, it barely merited a mention. Here’s the lone mention of any data-driven decision-making from his post-game presser:
“But I just had a gut feeling. We talked about it in the pre-game about being a great pinch-hitter, and you’ve got a left-handed hitter who’s a low-ball hitter in a sense, and you’ve got a low-ball pitcher. I just kind of had a gut feeling.”
The impetus for the move wasn’t whatever information came up in that meeting. Girardi mentioned the objective factors in favor of the matchup almost apologetically, sandwiching them between two references to his guts, which were clearly calling the shots. And while it’s easy to make fun of gut feelings, sometimes they contain truths.
This chart shows where Johnson has delivered his pitches this season. As Girardi suggested, he’s a low-ball pitcher, working most often in the middle of the zone and below.