SEATTLE, WA - JULY 27: Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals strikes out for the final out in a 6-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on July 27, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
There's a ton of back and forth about how much the manager influences the outcome of the ball game on a game to game basis. The focus tends to be on the negative because it's simple... a blown steal, a botched pitching change, a BUNT... These are easy to identify when they fail because the impact is immediate.
My view is the manager's job is to put his players in a position to succeed. That begins with the daily lineup card.
Ned Yost takes a ton of heat for his myriad lineups, but he faces some difficult decisions. Not to go all apologist like Steve Physioc, but I don't envy Yosty when he's sitting in his office hours prior to the game, trying to figure out who to bat fifth that night. Kind of like choosing cyanide or a bullet.
A brief look at Royals lineup construction follows...
The worst performing spot in the lineup...
Naturally is the fifth spot. Because Jeff Francoeur is a Damn Leader. Fine, we all know that Frenchy is awful. It is an indictment against Yost that he stuck with his right fielder in the same spot for so long. It's now an indictment against Yost that he's still in the lineup. I know that, you know that... the only people that don't know that are drawing a paycheck from the Kansas City Royals Baseball Club. And that sucks.
Except Yosty has finally dropped Francoeur. It's been almost a month since Francoeur struck out in the fifth spot. Since then, the Royals have employed Yuniesky Betancourt (just as bad as Francoeur), Mike Moustakas (slumping) and Lorenzo Cain and Sal Perez (interesting).
The problem is the offense is dreadful. Really bad. Horrible. So you only have two guys who can produce and a couple of guys Yosty has to shuffle.
But could you guess that the worst spot in the Royals lineup relative to the league? The answer was kind of surprising.
It's the third spot in the order.
Collectively, the number three spot has hit .224/.299/.373 this season with an sOPS+ of 62. Ouch.
Where have you gone George Brett?/Royals Nation turns it's lonely eyes to you.
The culprit here has been Eric Hosmer. Butler has been fine at that spot, but Hosmer has been such a drag that even Butler being Butler for half the Royals games at the third spot hasn't been enough to overcome the horrific offensive performance of Hosmer.
The Royals have two solid bats in Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. Moustakas is slumping (and now hurt) and Alcides Escobar has been a steady, pleasant surprise wherever he hits in the order. Sal Perez has been surprisingly good, but needs to be handled with care returning from injury. Lorenzo Cain has hit .321/.361/.585 since returning from injury, so there's that. The Royals have three good bats at this moment and two more with potential to contribute. It's not enough.
Again, not to come off as a Yost apologist (because I'm not), but it feels like with the overall regression of his offense this season, there's not much he can do with the lineup. Did he stick with Francoeur for too long at number five? Certainly. However, the players he's rotated in and out of that spot over the last month haven't performed much better.
Is Yosty putting his players and team in a position to succeed based on lineup? The results would say no. Has he overlooked better options? Based on the results, again I would say no.