Cameron: Joe Girardi and the tragedy of the recent

From Dave Cameron at FanGraphs on October 17, 2012:

This post isn’t really about Joe Girardi, even though his name is in the headline and his decisions from yesterday are the inspiration for this post. It’s about Girardi in that he’s a human being, but it’s not about Girardi as a specific human being, because — as I think the results of the poll I put up last night show — there are a lot of people who would have made the same decisions he did. Because, just like the rest of us, Joe Girardi’s decision making process was formed long before he ever played or managed a single baseball game.

At the risk of generalizing, I’d imagine that most of us had parents who let us try things that they knew weren’t going to end particularly well because we’d learn from the pain we were about to bring upon ourselves. Whether it was pulling the cat’s tail or biting into that delicious looking lemon on the table, they would warn us that it wasn’t in our best interests, but knew that we had to experience the results for ourselves to know that it was something we really wanted to do. And, for many of these experiences, we only had to do it once before we realized that we never wanted to do it again.


Baseball is not a cause and effect environment. You can do all the right things and have it blow up in your face, or you can screw up badly and still be rewarded because the other variables simply went in your favor. The amount of control any one person has on the outcome of a single play in baseball is limited. To really identify small but significant lasting effects takes time, and usually, a lot of it. In baseball, making decisions based on the most recent outcomes is almost always a mistake, and yet, it’s a mistake that we all struggle to resist.

Even after Raul Ibanez struck out against Phil Coke last night, 30% of FanGraphs readers voted that they had more confidence in his abilities to get a hit in that situation than they had in Nick Swisher (a switch-hitter) or Alex Rodriguez (a right-handed hitter) facing off against a right-handed reliever. You don’t have to do a deep dive into the numbers to know that having Ibanez face a left-handed pitcher is a losing proposition most of the time, nor should it be outrageous to suggest that Swisher and Rodriguez are quality big league hitters. Two weeks ago, this wouldn’t have even been a a discussion – it was accepted as fact that you wouldn’t want Ibanez facing a left-handed pitcher in the playoffs.

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Originally published: October 17, 2012. Last Updated: October 17, 2012.