If Ned Yost had started to inspire confidence in the majority of the fanbase, he certainly did his best last night to remove quite a bit of that good will. Judging from people's tweets and comments last night, Yost moved himself back into the doghouse of many fans with multiple questionable decisions. Twitter and the Open Game Thread may not serve as the best mediums for intellectual discussion, but they are certainly useful for taking the temperature of fans, particularly in the moment.
Now that we are farther removed from the heat of the game, it's easier to have an honest discussion about the decisions Yost made last night. The first decision that upset many people was Yost choosing to start Miguel Tejada at first base instead of Eric Hosmer. I did not mind Tejada playing instead of Hosmer; Steve Physioc said that Hosmer was "a little banged up" and needed the day off. Against a left-handed pitcher, Tejada is probably the best hitting option off the bench currently on the roster.
What still bothers me about the move is that Yost plugged Tejada in at first base, where he had zero professional experience coming into Friday night, instead of Billy Butler. Bob Dutton presented Yost's side of the argument on the Twitter machine:
Seeing questions asking why Tejada at 1B over Butler if Hosmer has to sit. Tejada probably as good or better defensively as Butler, but...— Bob Dutton (@Royals_Report) April 12, 2013
…move also permits Hosmer to enter the game later as a replacement for Tejada at 1B while not losing Butler's bat as DH.— Bob Dutton (@Royals_Report) April 12, 2013
After watching Tejada look quite awkward at first last night, I think there is little chance that he is better than Butler at first defensively. It has always seemed that Yost is quite over the top when describing how poor Butler is at defense, and last night provided more evidence to that sentiment. Yost continues to make decisions based on the fact that Hosmer is leaps-and-bounds better defensively than Butler despite the mounting evidence that both are below-average.
The second polarizing decision Yost made last night was to bring Luke Hochevar in a 2-run game with runners on base. If you have even remotely payed attention to the Royals the past few seasons, you should understand that Hochevar struggles with runners on base. His struggles are well-documented, and there is no reason to assume he will pitch better with runners in scoring position out of the bullpen.
Hochevar looked shaky with men on base, but looked much better the next few innings working out of the wind-up. Kansas City has a deep bullpen, so there is no reason to bring Hochevar in a close game in the middle of an inning with runners on base. The much-maligned pitcher may have provide some value to the Royals, but he will not succeed in that role. Yost bringing Hochevar into the game with runners on base will always be a sub-optimal decision, and there is no reason for him to do so again.
The good news for Yost and Royals fans is that Saturday is a new day. James Shields will take the mound for Kansas City, while R.A. Dickey is pitching for the Blue Jays. Both pitchers commanded huge prospect hauls this off-season, and both are expected to be the "ace" of their respective teams staff.
Shields has two quality starts notched in his belt for Kansas City. He currently has a 26 percent strikeout percentage, which would be a career high for him if he could keep that pace all season. Shields has also yet to issue a walk this season in 12 innings of work.
Dickey has struggled in his first two starts for his new team; the knuckleballer has posted an 8.43 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched. He has struggled with his control, issuing six walks and surrendering three home runs. Dickey broke a fingernail against the Boston Red Sox, which may have caused some of his location issues, but he believes that it shouldn't prevent him for regaining form.
The last knuckleball pitcher Kansas City faced was Tim Wakefield. The Royals scored four runs off nine hits against Wakefield on August 20, 2011, defeating the Red Sox 9-4. Lorenzo Cain was the only player not in that lineup who is likely to be in the lineup tonight, although Wakefield and Dickey throw very different knuckleballs.
I really have no idea what to expect from Dickey tonight. If he continues to struggle with his knuckleball, the Royals offense should hit him easily. If last season's NL Cy Young award winner regains form, we could be in for a long night of awkward swings at the plate.