Well, this has certainly been an interesting start to the season. The team is taking walks (sometimes), looking at pitches (sort of), and winning games. Gordon has hit well the last couple of games. Part of it makes me wonder if perhaps the pitching matchup against Weaver, Haren, and Santana had more to do with his early struggle (on the flip side, facing Kazmir and the Angels' bullpen may have as much to do with his recent success). Yet I digress.
There have even been some managerial positives, in the sense that we have seen Crow and Collins twice and Texeira, Adcock, and SOS only once in the first four games. Bravo, good sir.
And yet, there are still some questions being raised regarding ol' Neddy's penchant for personnel decisions in the later innings, particularly in the 12-9 game on Sunday, when the lineup ended up looking like a Royals' roster from 2006.
So, in the spirit of spreading positive waves as we head into tonight's contest with the pale-hosers from the Windy City, I'd like to say that, in regard to his pinch-running decisions on one April 3rd, 2010, I fully support Ned Yost every step of the way.
The first move came in the 8th inning, when Flanders decided to pinch-run Jarrod Dyson for Brayan Pena, after Pena had singled to right with one out in the inning and Mike Aviles at the plate. Dyson promptly stole second, which was expected, and then decided that he liked the view from third base better, and stole it as well.
With Dyson at 3rd, anything on the ground past the pitcher is going to score the run. Tie game, 8-8, and the Royals may come to the mound in the 9th with either Crow, Collins, or Soria coming in to hold off the Angels for three more outs, and get the batters back out there with (potentially) Gordon, Butler, and Ka'aihue due up.
However, this did not happen, as both Aviles and Cabrera struck out (Aviles struck out looking on a borderline pitch, which I believe ESPN's GameDay marked as a ball, but hey, Eddings will be Eddings).
So, subsequently, Treanor comes in to catch, and Dyson is completely removed from the game. Great. Moving right along.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Royals now find themselves down 9-7, thanks to one Mr. Albert Callaspo (seen here looking ill after glancing at the leathery hide of Bobby Abreu). So now, the Royals come up, down 2 with Gordon, Butler, and Ka'aihue due up. Gordon walks. Butler lines out to short (which was a really fantastic, full-extension, leaping catch by Maicer Izturis). Ka'aihue walks. And Yost decides to pinch-run Getz for Ka'aihue. A perfectly reasonable move, given who was due up next in the order (Francouer and Betemit). A single to the outfield will probably score Gordon, but it is doubtful that K.K. goes first-to-third. Also, a double will more than likely bring them both in, tying the game. But then, Francouer decided to take his first of three walks on the season, and now your P.R. becomes a null-decision. Ka'aihue, while not the fastest man in the world, will probably score from second on a deep base hit to the outfield, and would certainly round third on a gapper. But, given the unknown of events to unfold, again, a perfectly reasonable decision to replace Kila in the 9th inning of a two-run game representing your tying run on first base.
And then, Betemit doubled, tying the game, and making everybody wish that Yost had pinch-ran Getz for Francouer to score the winning run from first. But, alas, the game is tied, and we move ahead.
In the Bottom of the 10th, with two outs, Billy Butler gets on with a fielder's choice after a Gordon single. Two out in the inning. Butler stays in to run, until a wild pitch moves him over to second, and in which case, Flanders decides to pinch-run Maier for B.B. This is probably the hardest move to defend, but given context, it is at best a game winner, and at worse, a zero-sum to barely-registering negative move on his part, if only for the fact that Billy the But is such a load on the bases, despite his recent foray into the magical world of the stolen base. I would have had zero confidence in Butler scoring from second on a base hit, which, obviously Ned did as well. So, the decision was made, and then you hope for the best from Getz.
So, from and out-of-context perspective, it seems ridiculous to substitute an outfielder for your catcher and to remove two of your power bats, one for a soft-hitting second baseman and the other for a soft-hitting outfielder. But within the context of the game, given the circumstances, I can't really fault him for any of these decisions, because:
1. If the Dyson move works, game is tied with the heart of your order up in the bottom of the 9th.
2. If Francouer doubles in the 9th, Getz (more often than not) scores from first, tie game. If Francouer singles, Getz is far more likely to go first-to-third than Ka'aihue, and even if he only moves to second, is again, much more likely to score from second on a single from Betemit.
3. If Getz singles in the 10th, Maier scores from second, whereas Butler has a 4% chance of doing so.
And if any of these moves had worked, then there is no 11th, 12th, and 13th inning with us staring at a lineup with a huge power vacuum and very little contact to match.
And besides, in a way, all of these moves worked out in the end, seeing as how the guy (Treanor) replacing the guy (Dyson) who replaced the guy (Pena) goes yard to finish the game.
I know there are a lot of assumptions in here, but really, that is what managing is mostly about: putting your team in the best position to win a game. Yost did his best three times to do just that, and I for one will not fault him for it. He is far from a perfect manager, but on this day, I believe he did just about the best he could.