It was the at bat which sealed the New York Yankees fate in the 2012 season. After taking Justin Verlander to the brink with 132 pitches over the first eight and third innings, the Yankees were one run down with runners on first and second and two outs.
Yet in this moment of utmost importance, Yankees manager Joe Girardi kept in Raul Ibanez to face the lefty Phil Coke.
Ibanez has a .197/.246/.246 line against lefties this year. Coke has held lefty hitters to a .373 slugging percentage. Keeping Ibanez in there to hit was an absolute strategic failure by Joe Girardi. Maybe he was influenced by Ibanez’s previous postseason heroics, but those two home runs should not have come into play in this situation.
Ibanez could have been pinch hit for either by Alex Rodriguez or Nick Swisher. In both cases, Coke would have been off the mound. Right-handers are hitting .396 against him this season and there’s absolutely no way Jim Leyland leaves him in the game in that scenario.
The two likely options that Leyland could have chosen from include Octavio Dotel and Joaquin Benoit. Both have been tough on right-handers, with Dotel having allowed a .197 average and Benoit .217.
The logical move would have been to pinch hit Nick Swisher. Although he’s been slumping this postseason—last game he went 1-3 and the game before that had a double. As a lefty facing either pitcher, he’d have had a much better shot to deliver a clutch hit.
We saw what happened on the 3-2 pitch to close out the game—Ibanez looked foolish on a strikeout. There’s a reason that during the regular season he had 61 at bats against lefties versus 323 against righties.
Ibanez’s heroics this October also happened at home, where he had a .545 slugging percentage in the regular season. On the road in 2012, Ibanez hit .208/.269/.363. No matter how you look at it, there was no rationale in letting Ibanez stay in the game.
The Yankees season is much closer to being over now, and that’s thanks in part to a crucial mistake by manager Joe Girardi.