My good friend and fellow passionate Yankee fan Eric backs Joe Girardi’s decision to once again start Jose Molina in the postseason as A.J. Burnett’s personal caddy. I still disagree with this move, so I thought it might be fun to do a little point-counterpoint.
Mollo: For the third time this postseason Jose Molina will be starting for A.J. Burnett. Based on Burnett's ridiculous movement on breaking pitches and Molina's superior defensive ability, I think this is the 100% correct decision. Regardless of any qualms that Jorge Posada and Burnett may or may not have with each other, I don't think Posada can control Burnett’s low fastball or limit the amount of passed balls on breaking pitches that Molina can. What good is a strikeout if the batter makes it to first half of the time?
Larry: While Molina may be a superior defensive catcher, he and Burnett seemed to be struggling mightily to get on the same page in Game 2, and not even Molina’s defensive prowess was able to prevent the Angels from tying the game on a wild pitch. While Burnett shoulders the blame equally for that sequence, if that ball is blocked, the Yankees may have exited the 5th inning still up 2-1 and may not have needed to go to 13 innings for the win.
CC Sabathia has authored two utterly brilliant starts with Posada behind the dish this series; it seems crazy to me Burnett wouldn’t be able to do the same unless he has Molina catching him. It’s hard to argue with the results of Burnett’s two postseason starts so far, surrendering two runs in a little more than six innings each outing, but he hasn’t looked outright dominant, either.
And this isn’t even taking into account that inserting Molina’s bat into the nine hole is giving the Angels an automatic out every time Jose steps to the plate. I know the Yankees scored a bunch of runs on Tuesday night, but the bottom of the lineup still has yet to really get in a groove, and a bottom of the order of Cano/Swisher/Cabrera/Molina does not exactly inspire a world of confidence right now.
To me, tonight’s game is a crucial game, as you don’t want to give the Angels any more life in this series. Up 3-1, the Yankees absolutely need to put the ALCS to bed, and starting Molina over Posada does not give them the best chance to do that.
Mollo: I’ve also been highly displeased with Posada these last few games, given his baserunning blunders and the fact that it seems like his head is somewhere else, at least on defense. Not knowing how many outs there are and the lack of baseball sense seems to be a pattern, not just an occurrence, and luckily it has yet to hurt the Yankees in the playoffs.
Larry: Posada definitely made some boneheaded plays in Game 4, but I’d still rather have his bat, experience and hotheadedness in the lineup than Molina’s nothing, nothing and nothing. It’s not like Molina’s going to be an upgrade on the basepaths.
Mollo: You can argue for Posada all you want, but at this point it doesn’t matter. Girardi has two playoff wins with Molina catching Burnett, and he’s certainly not going to change that up now. Moving on to a more important question: who should DH tonight: Hideki Matsui or Posada? I’d go with Posada for a few reasons, the first being that he is a switch hitter and has the ability to hit the fastball and offspeed pitches. He can also protect A-Rod regardless of who is on the mound for the Angels.
Secondly, as bad as his baserunning is, Matsui is not an upgrade. Matsui has not hit for power, and even though he has a handful of hits he has not looked comfortable at that plate all series. The Angels also have several hard throwing righties in the pen, which makes Matsui an ideal pinch-hitter if the situation calls for it.
Both Matsui and Posada have nearly identical splits as pinch-hitters with Matsui having the larger sample size of 21 AB to Posada's 11. Both have had tremendous success as well. (Click here to see splits, scroll to defense positions and click on "As PH").
Larry: I’m going to again respectfully disagree with you on this. As much as I love Posada’s bat right now, I think you have to start Matsui, otherwise, what happens when Burnett comes out of the game? I doubt Girardi would leave Molina in once Burnett comes out, even though he did unwisely keep Molina in for an extra at-bat in Game 2.
So once Molina comes out, you pinch-hit Matsui and then lose the DH because you have to move Posada to catcher. I’ve already seen the Yankees DH-less once this series and that was plenty for me. I think you have to sit Posada and bring him in straight-up for Molina, otherwise the lineup could turn into another Game 3-style mess.