The Yankees performance in the ALCS is more about poor hitting than pitching thus far. But the reliance on the bullpen is proving to be a mistake…
The Yankees starting pitching in no way measures up to the tandem of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke. In a classic case of managing backward with an over-reliance on his bullpen, Aaron Boone is now forced to backtrack with the Yankees down 2-1. Here’s his thinking following last night’s rainout:
Aaron Boone Resets The Bar
As humans, we tend to rise to meet expectations or goals that others set for us. If Aaron Boone establishes a mindset in the media that the Yankees are all about their bullpen (which he did), it’s bound to carry over into the clubhouse.
If, for instance, Boone intimates that he expects four or five innings from Masahiro Tanaka tonight, or the same from James Paxton tomorrow, or one batter from CC Sabathia – chances are that’s all he’s going to get. It’s a mental thing.
A more practical example might be the parent who tells their child he/she expects all B’s on their report card. What does that say to the child, who may be capable of straight A’s, or possibly, is capable of only C’s and a couple of B’s?
Which doesn’t explain why Boone removed Tanaka after only 68 pitches in Game 1. Except that it appeared like he couldn’t wait to get his hands on his bullpen.
So, tonight, Aaron Boone has raised the bar. He expects more from Tanaka. Which, in turn, only heightens the pressure on a cold, damp night in the Bronx for Tanaka to reach the standard set by his manager.
Your Wish Is My Command
Masahiro Tanaka is a pro, and he’ll do his best to attain length in Game 4. But players, and especially starting pitchers, live by a routine. If the mindset is to give your team five good innings, what does it matter if it takes 90 pitches or more?
Likewise, if the mindset extends to seven innings, a pitcher will adjust to economize the number of pitches it takes to meet that goal.
Aaron Boone is changing the rules midstream, which is okay because he is forced to do so. But in the overall scheme of things, the Yankees need to get away from this idea that their starting pitchers are fluff and not stuff – as though starting pitching is almost an afterthought when Brian Cashman assembles the team for 2020.
The calvary is on the way only until it isn’t – which is where the Yankees find themselves now. It hasn’t helped that, except for Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres, the hitting has fallen flat. And overall, except for Adam Ottavino and Jonathan Loaisiga, the bullpen has done its job.
What’s been missing though is the expectation – no, let’s say demand – that the Yankees starters step up to meet what’s required in the postseason.
Aaron Boone wishes he’ll get what he needs from Tanaka and Paxton to save his bullpen for Game 7. What he should have said, though, is he expects it from them…