Last night the Yankees lost and lost big. The biggest culprit in the loss was Sonny Gray and the bullpen imploding to allow seven runs in the fifth inning. Two of those runs, however, scored on a wild pitch and a passed ball, respectively.
Suddenly a thorny problem that won’t go away is once again complicating matters for Joe Girardi, perhaps forcing him to choose between his heart and his head next week when it comes to his catcher . . . Joe Girardi shouldn’t take that chance. Not when he can keep [Gary] Sanchez’s bat in the lineup as the DH and have Austin Romine, a more skilled defensive catcher, behind the plate.
No, Sanchez did not cover himself with glory last night, as even the wild pitch was one which I presume most catchers would’ve blocked better. But with the acknowledgement that Sanchez has defensive issues when it comes to blocking pitches — he leads the league in passed balls — it’d be madness to put Romine behind the plate — and let him take a bat to the plate — in a one-and-done game as Harper suggests.
Austin Romine may be a fine young man, but he’s not a major league hitter. On the year he’s batting .220/.276/.295. And that’s actually deceptive. Since Sanchez came off the DL in May and resumed his starting position, Romine has hit a execrable.187/.249/.241. He’s a complete and utter offensive liability.
He’s no more a complete defensive catcher than Sanchez is either, by the way. Yes, he’s a better pitch blocker, but he’s only caught three of 28 base stealers this season, which is a 10.7% rate. Sanchez, in contrast, has a cannon for an arm and has nailed 38% of potential base stealers. If Twins pitchers would love to see Austin Romine take up one of the lineup slots for the Yankees in the Wild Card game, Byron Buxton would be positively over the moon to see him behind the dish if he reaches first base.
While I would strongly consider putting Romine in as a defensive replacement in the event a playoff game was close, there were runners on and, say, Dellin Betances was coming on to get a tough out, you do not give him three or four at bats at the expense of whoever the Yankees would otherwise use as a DH (Matt Holliday? Chase Headley? Aaron Hicks in the outfield with Aaron Judge DHing?). Yes, it would be bad for a run to score or a runner to advance due to a Gary Sanchez mistake. But it’s far more likely that a Yankees run won’t score or a Yankees runner won’t advance if it’s left up to Austin Romine with a bat in his hand.