Ranking the blame for the Yankees’ loss

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Here’s a fun fact: the only one of the Yankees’ five highest-paid players to actually have a successful ALDS against the Tigers was A.J. Burnett.

But who is the most to blame for the series loss?  Let’s go in reverse order.

5. Joe Girardi – I don’t think he’s the main culprit here, though he could have employed a quicker hook with a struggling CC Sabathia in Game 3. One can also argue that he should have been more aggressive in using his best relievers — Mariano Rivera and David Robertson combined to pitch 3 1/3 innings in five games — but as well as the other relievers did, it probably wouldn’t have mattered much. Pinch-hitting Eric Chavez for Brett Gardner in Game 2 was his one bizarre move, and that one definitely didn’t work.

4. Derek Jeter – The Captain hit .250 with just one extra-base hit and an 8/1 K/BB ratio in the series. In the seventh inning or later, he was 2-for-9 with no RBI and five strikeouts. He also made an error that helped lead to two runs in the 5-3 loss in Game 2.

3. Alex Rodriguez – A-Rod managed just two singles in 18 at-bats in the series, though he did drive in three runs and walk four times. Thursday’s performance was his worst: he fanned in three of his five plate appearances, including in the game-ending at-bat against Jose Valverde.

2. Mark Teixeira – Girardi should have moved A-Rod out of the cleanup spot earlier in the series, but the likely replacement, Teixeira, may not have been any better. Teixeira finished the series 3-for-18. He did double and drive in a run with a bases-loaded walk tonight, but he failed to collect an RBI in the first four games.

1. CC Sabathia – Six runs in 8 2/3 innings for the Yankees’ ace. Things may turned out a whole lot differently if not for the Game 1 suspension (he came back on two days’ rest to start Monday and then two days’ rest in his Game 5 relief appearance), but Sabathia’s struggles are the biggest reason the Yankees didn’t advance. If he could have allowed two or three runs over six innings Monday, the Bombers probably would have won that game (the Tigers prevailed 5-4), and making the first relief appearance of his career, he gave up one run in 1 1/3 innings in the 3-2 loss tonight.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.