Yankees ALCS Game 2 report card; whose to blame?
Though I believe that most are going way too far in their criticism of Boone, there’s a degree of blame to be given to him. Let’s examine his Game 2 moves.
There’s no valid criticism of the Game 2 lineup. Giancarlo Stanton was held out of the lineup due to a strained quad, so Cameron Maybin was a must-start.
Many have argued that Aaron Hicks shouldn’t be on the roster if he isn’t going to start, but I believe that including him was more of a Brian Cashman move than an Aaron Boone move.
Regardless, in a game begun by Justin Verlander, I have no problem giving the nod to Cameron Maybin (109 at-bats since August 3) over Aaron Hicks (no at-bats since August 3).
For anyone to argue that Austin Romine should be/should have been starting over Gary Sanchez, that’s simply not going to happen. Nor should it.
While Austin Romine is an outstanding backup catcher and had a career year offensively, he’s a career .239 hitter with 25 home runs and a .647 OPS across 368 games. A struggling Sanchez is still more of an offensive threat than Romine. Plus, his defense has vastly improved this year, his framing metrics are outstanding, and he has a cannon for an arm. You don’t sit Gary Sanchez.
Boone pulled James Paxton in the third inning after he had thrown just 51 pitches. Though this quick hook caused the Yankees to have to go to their bullpen much earlier than expected, it was the right call by Boone.
Paxton did not have his best stuff, and his command was off. Boone sensed an opportunity to keep the game close and pounced on it. Last year, Boone famously left starters Luis Severino and C.C. Sabathia in far too long, and Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS got out of hand quickly.
It was apparent that the Astros saw the ball well, and 3-0 against Verlander can feel like 10-0. Removing Paxton from the game gave the Yanks a chance to win.
This is the move that is providing the most fuel to the “it’s all Boone’s fault” narrative. For the most part, I disagree with the move but there are legitimate reasons why Boone pulled Green. I’ll get to them before explaining my viewpoint:
- George Springer is an elite hitter against four-seam fastballs. In 2019, he hit .316 with 27 home runs, a .673 Slugging Percentage and 23.9 Whiff Percentage. Against breaking balls, he still hit .316 but with eight home runs, a .579 Slugging Percentage and a 32.2 Whiff Percentage.
- Chad Green throws four-seam fastballs about 77 percent of the time, compared to about 21 percent for sliders. Adam Ottavino features a more diverse arsenal consisting of a slider (45 percent), sinker (40 percent), cutter (14 percent) and four-seam fastball (1 percent). George Springer does not hit breaking balls as well as fastballs. Going into the game, he was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in his career against Ottavino.
- Aaron Boone has confirmed that Game 4 will be a bullpen game. I suppose that he wanted to save Green to open on Wednesday. After 26 pitches in Game 2, Green will be able to do so. Would he have been able to if he reached 35-45 pitches on Sunday in addition to possible work in Game 3? Would J.A Happ or Luis Cessa have been a more popular choice among Yankee fans?
Due to the above, I do not believe that removing Chad Green was an unjustifiable, terrible move. It certainly worked out horribly, but Ottavino hung a slider. He’d have pitched in the game at some point, so what’s to say that he wouldn’t have hung a slider later on?
That being said, I would not have removed Green. Analytics work and they’re a big reason that the Yankees won 103 games. However, Green was electric and in command. The eye test must be used, if occasionally and sparingly. The eye test told me that Green should have been given a shot to finish the inning.