Regardless of what the Baseball Writers’ Association of America says, Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees was the best manager in the American League this year.
While other managers like John Farrell drove brand-new automatics all the way to October, Girardi worked a stick shift with 200,000 miles on it and almost made the playoffs. He won 85 games with a team that had no business being as successful as it was. Just look at the team’s statistics:
The Yankees were 16th in the majors in runs scored this year. Last year, the Minnesota Twins were 16th in this category and they finished the year 66-96, good for last place in the AL Central (and they scored 51 more runs than the Yankees did this year).
The Yankees had a team batting average of .242, 24th-best in the majors this year. Which team was 24th in this category last year? The Miami Marlins, who batted .244 as a team. They finished 69-93, good for last place in the NL East. The Yankees had a .376 slugging percentage, 27th-best in the majors this year. Last year, the Chicago Cubs were 27th in this category with a .378 slugging percentage. They finished 61-101 — the second-worst record in baseball.
The Yankees’ starting rotation was also a mess. C.C. Sabathia set career highs in losses (13) and ERA (4.78). Hiroki Kuroda dominated for much of the season but flamed out in late August. The ever-reliable Andy Pettitte had a solid final season, but Girardi needed to monitor his pitch count and innings so as not to overwork the 41-year old south paw. Ivan Nova was inconsistent all year and Phil Hughes couldn’t keep the ball in the park.
“The Yankees had the highest payroll in baseball!” Yes, but none of it was on the field. Mark Teixeira played in 15 games. Derek Jeter played in 17. Kevin Youkilis, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner – all of them missed huge portions of the season. Even their replacement players like Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix suffered sever injuries and were placed on the 60-day DL.
56 different players suited up in pinstripes this year – 56! In the history of baseball, 20 other teams have used 55 players or more. Only two finished above .500 and none made the playoffs. The Yankees finished well above .500 and almost made history as the first team to reach October having used so many players.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the official winner, Terry Francona, was undeserving. Honestly, I wouldn’t have had a problem if any of the guys who finished in the top three in voting (Francona, Farrell and Bob Melvin) had won the award. But the fourth place finisher, Girardi, was the most deserving.
The Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians had +197, +142 and +84 run differentials respectively. The Yankees had a -21 run differential and almost made the playoffs. In terms of run differential, the 2013 Yankees were identical to the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates. New York scored 650 runs and allowed 671. Pittsburgh scored 651 runs and allowed 674. The difference is that the Buccos only won 79 games last year.
The manager’s job is to get the most out of the team he has. Girardi basically had just Robinson Cano (who teams pitched around early in the year) and a bullpen, yet he somehow won 85 games. The offense was anemic and the starting pitching unreliable. Every position but second base was done by committee but Girardi had his team in the playoff hunt for the entire season. He got the most out of the team he had.
I honestly can’t see how this year was a disappointment in the Bronx as many have claimed it to be. All things considered, it was a miracle this team won 85 games and Girardi deserves the credit. I don’t care whose name is on the trophy. Joe Girardi was the best manager in the AL this year.