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.