There aren’t many managers out there who can run a bullpen as well as Joe Girardi. He has maximized: Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, Mariano Rivera, Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve and a slew of others. Obviously credit doesn’t just go to Girardi, but he does seem to have a firm grasp on match ups and has likely managed the Yankees’ as well as possible as evidenced by consistently winning more than their Pythagorean predictions.
Girardi knows how to win close games.
What’s been tricky and perhaps an actual challenge for the Yankees’ Skipper is managing an offense with few players in its prime. This will be more drastic in 2016 when only about half the lineup is anywhere between the ages of 27-32 and the rest either younger or older. It gets difficult managing playing time and balancing between resting hitters who might be “hot”, or are important, but also old. On one hand, you want to get the most out of their bats, but on the other hand you want to cut down on late season tiring and injuries, a sickness which plagued the Yankees’ offense the final few months of the season.
That’s why it’s so important Girardi came out and said he would be relying on his bench a lot this year.
“That’s why I think (about) the importance of (Aaron) Hicks. For him to have a good year is extremely important, because if you could start playing Aaron Hicks four or five days a week and give these guys a day off a week, or maybe even two days if they need a couple of days, it would really help them down the stretch,” Girardi said.
He also mentioned using Dustin Ackley at first, relying on Rob Refsnyder’s “versatility” and making sure Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez get their rest days.
And he’s absolutely right!
The Yankees are still a couple of years away from having a team one can consider “young” where you expect the full grind of a 162 game season to have a minimal impact. Rodriguez, even as a DH, Tex, even as a first baseman, Carlos Beltran, even as a partial right-fielder, Brian McCann, at catcher, Jacoby Ellsbury in centerfield-all of these guys need rest, likely every week. And the Yankees have positioned themselves to have a lot of depth to compensate for a thin starting lineup and rotation. With six shaky starters (with high upside) who don’t historically eat innings, the Yankees have assembled a very deep and very dangerous bullpen.
With nine regulars, most of whom are old, injury prone, or both, the Yankees have assembled a young and versatile bench. Aaron Hicks is starting caliber, so playing him four or five days a week shouldn’t be a drop off. Rob Refsnyder proved he can hit at this level and pass as a defender, playing him a few times a week at second (and possibly short?) shouldn’t be much of a drop off, especially against lefties. Gary Sanchez is a top five Yankees’ prospect, playing him a couple of days behind the plate to spell McCann is part of his development and shouldn’t offer too much drop off if his bat is as good as it’s been in the minors. Having a guy like Dustin Ackley, who can actually hit (unlike Brendan Ryan, the former versatile bench guy) and play multiple positions should be an advantage.
Starlin Castro is the starting second baseman who will also play short and third. Ackley, by the sound of it, will play first, third and corner outfield. Hicks should play all three outfield positions and Refsnyder will likely be a middle infielder. The Yankees have three starting caliber bench players and a blue chip prospect and Girardi would be wise to follow up on his word and integrate them as much as possible.
It just may allow the veterans to lead the way full-time in October.