A Poorly Written Critique of Ned Yost

Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE

Yahoo!'s Dominique Ishmael makes the case for firing Ned Yost. Maybe Ned should be fired, but these aren't the reasons why.

Dominic Ishmael, a freelance writer for Yahoo! published a pretty scathing critique of Ned Yost this week titled: Royal Woes: The Cancer of Ned Yost. Cancer? Geez, we may think Ned's a lousy tactical manager, but cancer? Even as a metaphor that term is usually reserved for managers with a poor clubhouse leadership style. By all accounts, Ned is pretty popular with his young clubhouse. There are no stories of beer and fried chicken during games. No one has written "this is a sinking ship" on the clubhouse whiteboard. No one has gotten into fisticuffs with Uncle Ned. We don't even hear snarky anonymous comments in the media. Cancer? I think not.

Now I'll admit, I'm probably a bigger Ned supporter than most Royals fans. Tactically, I think he is perfectly cromulent. He tends to pull his starting pitchers a batter or two too late. His philosophy on lefty/right splits is a bit curious. His lineups for the most part are still rather conventional. He probably still bunts way too much, although his bunting seems to be down this year.

In these regards however, he's not much different from any other manager. He at the very least has put his best hitter, Alex Gordon, in the leadoff spot despite the fact he profiles as a #3 hitter in conventional wisdom (Gordon has since been moved back to the #3 spot). But most of all, Ned leads a steady ship, and I think as the manager of a young team, this is his most important job. Be a leader of men. Develop these young guys. Don't suffer from clubhouse confusion.

But I can see the case against Ned. The problem is, this isn't he case.

Dominic's argument:

Yost suffers from unending loyalty.

Ned is no doubt a loyal guy. I'm not sure its unending though. He did finally demote Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar to the bullpen. Lately he seems to be favoring Elliot Johnson over Chris Getz. And there are indications he is losing patience with Jeff Francoeur in favor of Jarrod Dyson. The fact is, we are only six weeks into the season, it would be surprising (and perhaps foolish) for any manager to make wholesale changes based on six weeks.

But I can see the case made for Ned being too loyal. If he sticks with Jeff Francoeur all season long, Ned is probably a manager on his way out. This is Dominic's only well-supported point.

Yost does not know how to properly set a batting order.

I guess it depends on what a "proper batting order" looks like. I like Gordon in the leadoff spot. I'd like Butler hitting behind him, or at least third with Lorenzo Cain sandwiched in-between them. They are the three best hitters on this team right now. Bunch them near the top of the lineup.

That's not what Dominic has in mind though.

Whether he was moving around Hosmer or Moustakas in the 3 spot or continually rotating Cain and Escobar, there has been no semblance of stability nor any chance of developing chemistry.

I never really understand this argument. Teams do not need stable lineups to be good offenses. Look at the Yankees patchwork lineup that just strolled into town and beat up on the Royals. The Royals had 118 different lineups last year. The pennant-winning Detroit Tigers had 121. The 90-win Rays, a young team themselves, had 151 different lineups. Ten different players hit cleanup. Thirteen different players hit fifth. Somehow they were able to build chemistry.

Also, Dominic seems to on the one hand say Ned is too rigid with his loyalty, not changing despite the facts on the ground changing. Yet in the same article the critique seems to be Ned is experimenting too much, and not writing the same lineup everyday despite multiple guys in the lineup struggling. If Moustakas and Hosmer and Francoeur and Getz and even Sal Perez and Billy Butler are all not hitting, exactly what lineup should Ned set out there everyday?

Our best hitter, Alex Gordon, is leading off when he should be hitting third.

Why should your best hitter hit third? Because that's where George Brett hit? (134 times George led off!) You want to get your best hitter the most plate appearances. Dominic probably feels Alex needs to hit third to drive in leadoff hitters. However what is the difference between Alex doubling home a run, or Alex scoring from second after doubling? Unless you hit Billy Butler leadoff (unlikely), the hitter in front of Gordon (Escobar? Dyson?) is not nearly as good as the hitter hitting after him (Butler). So its a lot more likely that Gordon is driven home, rather than drives a run home himself. Ned challenging some old school baseball orthodoxy is not the reason he should be fired.

Small ball. I'm a big fan of small ball. I'd be a big fan of Ned Yost if he actually used it.

Oh boy. First time I've ever heard someone say Ned doesn't bunt enough. But then Dominic writes this.

He bunts with a man on second and no one out instead of letting the batter swing away. He steals when there is no possibility of scoring.

Um, huh? I thought you liked small ball. If you're going to bunt, don't you want to bunt with a runner at second and no one out? When in a baseball game is there "no possibility of scoring"? This criticism seems utterly ridiculous. Does Dominic understand what "small ball" is? When would he like to see it deployed?

For what its worth, the Royals are exactly league average in sacrifice hits, with six.

You'd think with one of the best bullpens in the entire league, the Royals would be able to keep a lead. Of course, when you put Ned Yost on the job, he'll find a way to screw that up.

Ah yes, the old "our manager keeps blowing the game" criticism that EVERY SINGLE FAN OF EVERY SINGLE TEAM complains about. Fans tend to think that EVERY lead should be protected because those last 6-9 outs are the easiest to get, right?

Here's how the Royals have fared protecting leads after late innings:

AL Average

Royals

7th inning lead

86.3

83.3

8th inning lead

91.6

82.4

9th inning lead

95.6

88.2

They've slammed the door shut less than the average team, so this is an area of concern. But it has also been six weeks.

Royals pitchers have entered the game 33 times when it was a "save situation" (lead of three runs or less, or tying run on deck). How many blown saves do the Royals have this year? Four. That's pretty much middle of the pack in the league. And were those blown saves through mishandling the pen? The blown saves are:

  • April 6 vs. Philadelphia - Greg Holland, the anointed closer, walks the bases loaded before giving up a double to Kevin Frandsen. Holland didn't have his stuff that day. Is that Ned's fault?
  • April 20 vs. Boston - Kelvin Herrera gives up a three-run home run in the eighth to lose 4-2. Who was Ned supposed to put in that situation?
  • May 5 vs. Chicago - Tim Collins gives up three straight hits in the seventh and Ned gives him a quick hook. Aaron Crow gives up a two-run home run to cough up the lead (the Royals come back to win 6-5).
  • May 6 vs. Chicago - Holland again struggles with command (although the umpire was squeezing him) and a Getz misplay allows the White Sox to tie the game in the ninth.

I'm really struggling to see how Ned mishandled any of those situations.

Whether it is bringing Luke Hochevar in for relief with runners on against a left handed batter multiple times knowing that he struggles in pressure situations.

Now I'm not a huge Hochevar fan and bringing him in for pressure situations is probably a bad idea. But Ned has used Hochevar pretty sparingly, and for what its worth, Hochevar is only allowing hitters to hit .150/.227/.250 in 23 plate appearances with runners on base. Ned has not brought Hochevar into a single game with a lead of three runs or less. The only close games he has pitched was when the game was tied (last Tuesday against Baltimore, when Hochevar gave up the game winning hit) or the team was behind. Luke Hochevar is not holding this team back.

overworking both Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland, have led to blown saves and elongated deficits.

66 relievers have more appearances than Kelvin Herrera. 104 have more appearances than Greg Holland. Kelvin Herrera is 71st among relievers in innings pitched. Greg Holland is 145th. The Royals are dead last in the league in relief appearances and relief innings. The bullpen's overall ERA of 3.03 is fifth best in the league. Is Ned really overworking and mishandling his bullpen?

In 10 years of managing professional baseball, Ned Yost has ended a season above .500 twice. Two times. That is unacceptable.

This is pretty misleading. Ned took over two rebuilding projects, one in Milwaukee, one in Kansas City. To expect him to take a young team and a losing franchise and make them immediate winners is ridiculous. He took a losing Brewers franchise and slowly turned them into a .500 team, and then led them to first place before he was infamously fired with two weeks to go before the playoffs. Let's view Ned's career in context. If he is not able to lead the Royals to a .500 record this year, then yes, that's pretty unacceptable. But to say he should have been a winning manager the last few seasons with the personnel given him is unfair.

The expectations have risen this year and if Ned doesn't meet them, then his job should be in jeopardy. There are plenty of things to criticize Ned for, but the case is simply not made here.

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