Ned Yost‘s failure to use an already warm Greg Holland last Saturday against Baltimore with the bases loaded in the 10th made Jonah Keri at Grantland investigate whether Yost really made worse decisions than his peers.
Saturday’s decision not to use Holland was merely the latest in a long line of questionable tactics that have led snarky observers to coin the term “Yosted” to mock decisions that cost K.C. games. Still, this game and Yost’s subsequent feeble explanation made me wonder whether he is really unique for refusing to use his best relief pitcher in tie games on the road, or whether he simply set himself up for more ridicule with his comments
Keri’s verdict is that Yost isn’t any dumber than his dugout peers.
Keri’s research showed that the vast majority of other managers behave like Yost:
Since the start of last year, non-Yost managers have used their closer in the ninth inning of tied road games 19 times out of 307 opportunities, a rate of just 6 percent. Even taking mitigating factors like closer fatigue and closer committees into account, that’s still an astoundingly low number. It’s about half the closer usage rate we’d see if managers simply rolled a die to pick which reliever to throw into the fire.
While Keri makes a good point about Yost’s bullpen use, Keri does not dig into Ned’s other quirks. For example, Ned’s proclivity to bat low OBP players at the top of the lineup, or his affection for bunting early in the game, or his reluctance to use pinch hitters.
That’s not all. Ned also had a strange affection for players like Chris Getz, Jeff Francoeur, and Wade Davis, even though they weren’t producing last season. His patience beyond reason with poor performance cost the Royals far more games than his bullpen management.
If a good manager puts his players in a position to win, Ned Yost often asks players to do things that run contrary to their strengths. A classic example came last fall when Yost, trailing 4-3 to the Indians in a game the Royals desperately needed to win, decides to bunt in the 9th inning with runners on first and second and no outs.
The truly funky decision came when Yost sent Carlos Pena to the plate. Pena is a low-contact, low-average power hitter. He’s exactly the last guy you want in that situation because of his propensity to strike out—which he proceeded to do. What you want is a contact hitter who is likely to plate the guy at 3rd if he makes an out and has a good chance to get a single. Basically, Yost surrendered an out to set up a pinch hitter that was completely wrong for the situation—in a critical game during a playoff chase.
Admittedly, Keri limited his study to bullpen use. But, that in no way is even a FRACTION of the reason for the #Yosted hashtag on Twitter where frustrated Royals fans commiserate about their manager’s tactical decisions.
If the Royals ever get into a playoff race with Ned Yost as their manager, he’s going to cost them games in September with his tactical decisions.
That’s the bottom line. Not Ned’s bullpen use.