Texas Rangers v New York Yankees, Game 3

Memo to mainstream media: Girardi relying on hitter-pitcher matchups is not sabermetrics


With a few exceptions the media members in New York are ripping Joe Girardi to shreds following the Yankees’ lackluster showing in the ALCS and many of them are focusing on the fact that Girardi places a great deal of importance on hitter-pitcher matchups, often mocking the material contained in his “binder.”

Along the way many of those same media members have somehow convinced themselves that Girardi is engaging in sabermetrics by focusing on those matchup numbers, which allows them to do the two-birds-with-one-stone thing and rip both Girardi and stat-heads.

Here’s a prominent example, from Bob Klapisch of FOXSports.com:

Girardi’s over-reliance on numbers failed the Yankees time and again in the final week of the season, revealing a lack of trust in his own instincts. As a result, the Yankees never found that “on” switch in Game 6, because Girardi didn’t know how to ask for it. It’s not in his nature to peel away the layers of his players’ psychological flesh. Instead, the manager relied on matchups, trends and data–all the trimmings of the sabermetric era.

Here’s the problem with that notion: One of the basic tenets of sabermetrics is that individual hitter-pitcher matchups with track records consisting of some small number of plate appearances has very little predictive value. Girardi isn’t alone in relying on those small-sample numbers and in fact it’s a common practice among big-league managers, but doing so is the exact opposite of sabermetrics.

Klapisch sees Girardi looking at numbers and simply assumes those numbers equal sabermetrics, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Any decent sabermetrician would tell you that one batter being 1-for-6 with three strikeouts and another batter being 3-for-8 with two homers versus the same pitcher over the span of multiple seasons has close to zero value and in fact Girardi’s reliance on such data has been criticized by various stat-friendly Yankees writers and bloggers.

If media members want to criticize and mock Girardi for making decisions based on hitter-pitcher matchups and for keeping that data in a binder, go right ahead. Just don’t attach that type of thinking to sabermetrics.

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson
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As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger.

This feels like an admission from the O’s that they’re not going to be able to re-sign Chris Davis, who is said to be looking for more than $150 million in free agency.

Clevenger was out of options and the Orioles have both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph coming back at the catcher position. Wieters was due to become a free agent but accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Baltimore last month.

Trumbo has always been a low-OBP guy and he rates as a poor defender everywhere he has played, but the 29-year-old has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBI for every 162 games in his six-year major league career. Camden Yards is a much better place than Safeco Field for him to show that power.

Cardinals finished runner-up to Red Sox in David Price sweepstakes

David Price
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

These kind of after-the-ink-has-dried reports have to be taken with a grain of salt for a variety of reasons, but they’re fantastic conversation-starters …

Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the Cardinals “finished runner-up” to the Red Sox in the bidding for free agent left-hander David Price, who signed with Boston on Monday for a record seven years and $217 million.

There were reports early on that the Red Sox were going to have to overpay on Price because he wanted to either stay in Toronto or make the move to the more pitcher-friendly National League. And maybe they did go significantly above and beyond the next-best offer to land him.

But the report from Nightengale serves as an indication that the Cardinals are ready and willing to spend big money ahead of next week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. Does that chunk of change now get directed toward Jason Heyward? Or might the Cardinals pounce one of the falling dominos in this still-loaded starting pitching market? What about both?

St. Louis lost Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery last month and both Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha carry some injury concerns into 2016. There’s money to spend there with a new billion-dollar local television deal about ready to kick in.

Pirates expressing interest in Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson
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Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has become the king of the reclamation project. And it sounds like he’s about to take on another big one …

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates have expressed interest in free agent Justin Masterson. The expectation is that it will be a one-year deal with the goal of rebuilding the right-hander’s value in an environment where many other struggling veteran pitchers have executed significant career turnarounds.

Masterson earned his first (and only) All-Star nod in 2013 when he registered a 3.45 ERA, 195 strikeouts, and three shutouts in 32 appearances with the Indians. But he had a 5.88 ERA in 128 2/3 innings between Cleveland and St. Louis in 2014 and he continued struggling to the tune of a 5.61 ERA with the Red Sox in 2015.

It’s not clear whether the Bucs would try him as a starter or reliever.

Zack Greinke deal “could come soon,” Dodgers and Giants lead the bidding

Zack Greinke
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Jordan Zimmermann signed with the Tigers on Sunday for five years, $110 million. David Price signed with the Red Sox on Tuesday for seven years, $217 million.

Two big dominos have fallen in this loaded free agent market for starting pitchers, and another big one is about to go …

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says a deal for Zack Greinke “could come soon” and it’s currently “Dodgers vs. Giants” at the top of the bidding ladder.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick confirms that both the Dodgers and Giants are looking for an answer from Greinke, adding that the 32-year-old right-hander seeks a five- or six-year deal with a greater average annual value (AAV) than what Price just secured from Boston. That number would be $31 million, so we’re talking something close to $32 million through 2020-2021.

Greinke opted out of the remaining three years and $71 million contract with Los Angeles in October after posting a 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP across 222 2/3 regular-season innings in 2015. He finished second to the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in the National League Cy Young Award balloting.