Joe Girardi Underrated as Yankees Manager, It’s Time We Started Appreciating it

girardiGoogle “Joe Girardi hot seat” and you get over 25,000 results. Review the articles and it seems any time from 2014 to the present day the question of whether Joe Girardi should be on the hot seat has presented itself over and over again. Very likely Alex Rodriguez, Didi Gregorius, and a slew of old timers like: Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter can attest, he’s not and he shouldn’t be.

Girardi is actually underrated a manager if you look at the very limited managerial metrics we have available. First let’s review his most notable highlights as a Skipper:

  • Exclusively kept Alex Rodriguez at DH, resulting in a full year of health.
  • Stuck with Didi Gregorius at shortstop despite early season struggles.
  • Moved Brett Gardner into left field to maximize his defensive value.
  • Switched to a 3 man rotation during the Yankees’ 2009 World Series run.
  • Won the 2009 World Series.
  • Has a winning record in all eight seasons as Yankees’ manager.
  • Has Manager of the Year votes in eight of nine overall seasons.
  • Has finished top five in Manager of the Year voting in six of nine seasons, winning the award once.
  • Has finished top five in Manager of the Year voting four of the past five years

Let’s concentrate on the final three highlights, freely conceding Girardi has many more specific achievements and plenty of criticisms with in game strategy, as all managers usually do.

Joe Girardi has finished in the upper third of AL management in four of the past five years. The only other managers to have top five voting in at least four of the past five years have been: Joe Maddon and Mike Matheny, one widely considered the best manager in the game and the other presiding over one of the most successful franchises of the past decade.

If voting systems aren’t your thing, consider this: Since challenges were introduced, Girardi has won 22 of 30, or over 73%. Maddon? Just over 58%. Bruce Bochy is considered one of the best strategical managers in the game? His challenge percentage? Just over 55%. Jeff Banister and AJ. Hinch finished top two in manager of the year voting in the AL last season (Girardi finished 5th). Their percentages? 34% and just under 48%.

But challenges so minimally impact managerial success and Girardi does seem to minimize his use of them. So what about something which does a little more in depth than wins and losses, isn’t as specific as challenges or manager of the year votes and can at least hint towards a level of winning efficiency for a big league coach?

The Pythagorean W/L examines the amount of runs a team scores and surrenders and evaluates what the team’s record should be based on its offensive and defensive outputs. In his eight years at the helm for the Yankees, Girardi has met or exceeded these expectations in five seasons. Maddon, last year’s reigning NL Manager of the year and a three time winner himself? In the same sample size (since 2008 when Girardi took over for the Yankees) has done this just four times. Bochy, a three time World Series winning since 2010, has done it just one year more than Girardi, a total of six times since 2008.

So let’s take it a step further. Girardi’s statistical worst stretch as Yankees’ skipper came the two years after winning the World Series when he managed his team to six wins less than their expected success rates (but made the playoffs both years and reached the ALCS in 2010 anyway).

Even including those two years, in the six seasons since he managed the Yankees to a World Series win in his second year as Yankees’ manager in 2009, Girardi has managed his team to a net positive of +6 wins. Since 2012, however, his past three years as manager? It has been 12 more wins than expected, a -1 in 2015 and breaking even in 2012, but an astonishing 13 wins above expectations in 2013 and 2014, Girardi’s two best years exceeding his own team’s statistics.

Joe Maddon since 2010 has won five games more than expected, or one worse than Girardi and in the past four years when Girardi was a +12, Maddon has been a +5, or seven wins worse. Bochy in the same timeframes has been a +8 (since 2010) and +4 since 2012, two games better since 2010 but eight games worse since 2012.

Girardi has not been the problem, but the Yankees’ run differential and overall talent on the field has been. That’s not a reason to blame the manager as by any metric, anecdotal or statistical based, Girardi has exceeded expectations and been among the elite managers in the game.

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