A Quick Note on Aaron Boone’s Bullpen Usage Last Night

Last night, as I was writing a piece on Zack Britton, he surrendered a 3-run home run to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., blowing the game for the Yanks. So it shouldn’t surprise me that, a few days after praising Aaron Boone’s bullpen management, he went out there and completely misused his bullpen arms. Let’s go through this.

First, it’s important again to remember that Boone has been very, very good at using the pen. Here are the updated numbers:

That’s still pretty much exactly what you want. Last night, though, wasn’t Boone’s finest hour. Let’s leave aside the results for a moment and stick purely to the process.

The Yankees took a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the 7th, needing 6 outs to bridge the gap to Aroldis Chapman. The middle of the Jays order — starting with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in slot 2 — was due up.

Boone went to Jonathan Holder, which in and of itself isn’t an inexcusable decision. Holder has good rate stats, after all, and it was a three-run lead. No real complaints.

The problem, though, is that Boone clearly was planning on using Zack Britton, who is much better than Jonathan Holder, in the 8th inning. We know this because Boone, of course, turned to Britton with 2 outs in the 7th following a run-scoring double by Teoscar Hernandez. He turned to Britton for 4 outs.

If you’re going to use Britton at all, why not use him against the middle of the order? You’d think that would make the most sense. That way, you can start the 7th with Britton against the heart of the order and plan to use Holder in the 8th against the bottom third and turn to Chapman if he runs into trouble. Britton’s status as a ground ball heavy pitcher makes him a less than ideal “fireman” candidate as it is.

This was a puzzling decision by Boone — let alone the fact that, if you ARE going to use Britton for 4 outs, why bring him in after the runs have already scored? — in what has been largely a good year for him. Besides, I’m not sure that anything he did last night would have worked. It seems to have been just One of Those Games. It wasn’t the finest night for the Yankee skipper. (We’ll just ignore the fact that Kendrys Morales, of all people, hit cleanup last night.)

We can only hope that this is something that doesn’t continue moving forward, because Boone has already shown himself to be smarter than this with the way he uses Ottavino. Oh well. Onto the next one.

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6 Comments

  1. Doug Hudgins

    Agree with you on the bullpen usage – Boone seemed to ignore who was coming up. But I especially agree about Morales hitting cleanup, why is he in the lineup at all ?

  2. Brian M

    Britton ended up facing the same part of the order in the 8th anyway and gave up 3 runs. For all we know he would’ve done the same thing in the 7th. The errors were the biggest part of yesterday’s loss IMO since they led to big innings for the Blow Jays.

    • RetroRob

      That was basically my point below. The pen didn’t do the job. The quartet he went to has been great this year. Britton has one of the best sinkers in the game. He gave up a HR on a pitch in a location that’s never happened before. The usage was fine. The relievers were not.

      I’ve criticized Boone many times in the past on his bullpen usage, although much less this year. This game was not on Boone.

  3. RetroRob

    This feels a bit like the baseball equivalent of Monday-morning quarterbacking. Ottavino to Kahnle to Holder to Britton. Hard to argue as that quartet has been elite this year. They simply didn’t do the job last night. It happens. Further, I’d say Britton’s heavy ground ball approach can make him an excellent fireman with runners on. He’s a DP machine. As Katie Sharp noted, the HR that Britton gave up to Vlad the Baby Impaler was the first one he’s ever given up in his career with a sinker below the strike zone.

    Ehh, it happens.

  4. Aaron Boone has good bullpen usage rate stats..i guess, but he’ll have to show that those numbers translate in a big game. I’m an easy grader as far as bullpen usage goes. I’m not around the team every day so I give Boone the benefit of the doubt if it seems like a call seems a bit off. Just gotta keep Lance Lynn away from this team come the playoffs.

  5. Dan

    I’m not generally one to complain about lineup orders, but the fact that Morales was hitting cleanup was completely inexcusable and I refuse to just ignore it. What possible justification could Boone have for that? I at least understood his bullpen management last night.

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