To me, the story of last night’s Yankee game wasn’t CC Sabathia going after his 20th Win, or the way the Yankee bullpen (esp Robertson and Hughes) imploded after his exit. The biggest story from last night’s game was the minute Girardi made out his lineup card. Jose Molina was inserted at DH in order to “get him some At Bats” heading into the playoffs according to Yankee manager Joe Girardi. Michael Kay has been speculating for days that Girardi is seriously considering starting Jose Molina in Game 2 of the ALDS, pairing him up with AJ Burnett.
I know that some people are going to go nuts over this if it happens. For anyone flipping out about Molina catching AJ, check out AJs splits by catcher:
Every number (R-H-BA-OBP-SLG SO/BB ratio) explodes with Jorge behind the plate. Burnett has even had almost the same number of SO (79/74) despite Molina catching 6 fewer games. By any measure, it appears the two simply work better together. Nobody affects a game more than the starting pitcher, and that’s not even debatable. A player can only affect his 5 or so ABs, a starting pitcher affects 30 or so ABs by the opposition.
If you want to argue Posada vs Molina’s bat, be my guest. Posada sports a .894 OPS and Molina’s is .553 OPS. Huge right? Its 3.5 bases every 10 ABs, or 1.75 bases per game. AJ has allowed 58 Runs in the 16 games Posada has started, or 3.63 runs per game. With Molina behind the plate, he’s allowed 24 runs in the 10 games he’s started, or 2.4 runs per game. I’ll take a full run+ less over 1.75 bases generated every day of the week. Were not talking about a long season anymore, were talking about 1 game. That’s the difference.
I was discussing this last night with Matt from BBD (BTW-great site, check it out) and he felt that these splits are all too small to take seriously, that they can be skewed by a few bad outings. In response, I was going to post the outings that Molina was behind the plate where Burnett blew up, to show that a few outings inflated his numbers somewhat as well (which can be true of anyone). But I ran into a problem. Almost every horrific outing AJ had this year was with Posada behind the plate.
4/25-5 IP 8 R vs BOS
6/9-2.2 IP 5 R vs BOS
8/1-4.2 IP 7 R vs CHW
8/22-5 IP 9 R vs BOS
9/1-5.1 IP 6 R vs BAL
There’s one 6 run outing on 9/12 with Molina, and even there AJ pitched into the 6th inning, so it wasn’t a disaster. It’s also worth noting that AJ gave up the 6 Runs early, and was able to settle down after that with Jose behind the plate. For whatever reason, the downside with Posada appears to be much greater, and maybe that’s what Girardi is worried about.
If Girardi goes in this direction, I would support the move. As David Cone pointed out last night on YES, we’re really only talking about 2-3 ABs until the late innings when you will pinch hit Posada for Molina. Can I guarantee AJ will be good? Of course not, but a manager’s job is to put the odds in his favor. He has a better chance to pitch a good game with Molina than he does with Posada, and the downside with Jorge appears greater. Plus, don’t forget that if it’s game 2, the Yanks are at home where the generally have no trouble scoring runs.
Finally, the playoffs are all about pitching match ups. The way the AL Central race is shaking out, it appears Justin Verlander will have to pitch Sunday if the Twins win tomorrow or if both teams lose. That would push Verlander to a Game 2 start facing Burnett on Saturday October 10th. I think this is what Girardi is preparing for. The Yanks don’t figure to score much off Verlander, and he wants to give AJ his best chance at matching him zero for zero. Posada’s career number’s off Verlander are Molina-like, so it’s pretty tough at argue for Jorge’s bat with that pitching matchup.