New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone made it clear that he intended to mix and match his pitchers in the ALDS. In Game One against the Minnesota Twins, he did just that, using seven different men to piece together 27 outs. With James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino set to be the three starting pitchers for the series, it was expected to be all hands on deck in the series once they exit the game.
Mixing and Matching
Moves That Didn’t Work
Given the status of the Yankees starting rotation, it makes sense to manage this way. He has managed like this throughout the season albeit not as extreme as Friday. J.A. Happ, a starting pitcher, relieved Zack Britton to pitch the eighth inning. Adam Ottavino only faced one batter, and Chad Green threw eight pitches.
Despite surrendering two solo home runs, Paxton’s stuff looked great, and he recorded eight strikeouts. Six of those eight came via his curveball. That being said, he failed to pitch five innings as Boone started to make intriguing decisions.
“I felt good about him going through Polanco,” said Boone. “I felt like Pax was pretty strong to that point and had Otto ready for Cruz, but I felt good about that matchup.”
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) October 5, 2019
Ultimately, neither matchup worked out as Polanco singled in a run to tie the game at three and Cruz walked.
Moves That Worked
Other moves worked out well for Boone. For example, he opted to bring Britton into the game in the seventh inning despite him being used primarily in the eighth inning all season.
“We were prepared to be aggressive, and we were prepared split up the seventh, eighth, and ninth with Brit and Chappy in that spot,” said Boone.
This tactic played well as Britton kept the Twins from scoring in what was only a three-run game at the time. Once the Yankees tacked on three more runs, Boone felt comfortable bringing Happ out for the eighth. This allowed for Happ, who has one relief appearance in the last five years, to gain valuable experience that could be beneficial later in the series.
Additionally, Boone’s handling of Green helped secure some big outs, but still allow for Green to pitch multiple innings Saturday night if needed.
Playing To A Strength
Boone had the luxury of utilizing a deep bullpen all season, which came through for him on a consistent basis. In 2019, the Yankees bullpen finished fifth in the American League in ERA (4.08), second in K/9 (10.21), and fourth in percentage of runner’s left on base (75.2%). This was a major factor Friday night.
Paxton, who’s opponents’ average and OPS as well as K/BB rate get much worse the third time through the order, was pulled as the lineup started turning over for the third time. Opponents hit .305 with a .875 OPS the third time through the order against Paxton. Those are significant upticks from .232 and .655 the second time through. Additionally, his K/BB decreases from 3.30 to 2.92 in the third time through the lineup.
Tanaka will start Game Two on Saturday, and the same can be said about him. Opponents’ average rises from .236 to .309 and OPS from .730 to .943 during the third time through the order for him. Like Paxton, his K/BB decreases, going from 3.27 to 2.90.
Meanwhile, Severino only faced one batter for the third time during his three starts after returning from injury. Given the starting pitcher’s lack of effectiveness as they reach the third time through the order, it is evident that Boone was managing out of necessity against the potent Twins offense. This will continue to be a necessity as the series progresses.
Aaron Boone had a game plan, and he saw through its execution. At times, it may feel excessive to have so many pitchers used in one game, but Boone is ultimately making whatever moves he seems best fit to secure the victory. In the playoffs, that is exactly how a manager should operate.
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