Last week, I wrote a piece criticizing a piece run by Dominic Ishmael at Yahoo! Sports that called for Royals manager Ned Yost to be fired. As if there was a manager tree that produced managers where we could just pick another one! Well Dominic contacted me for an opportunity to respond and make his case for Ned's incompetence. Dominic is a pretty diehard Royals fan, so I thought I would let him make his case in response to my critique.
There has been a lot of discussion about an article I penned last week. RoyalsRetro wrote a counter to my argument. I'm here to clarify and defend my belief that Ned Yost does not deserve a job managing this team.
On to my first point about Jeff Francoeur's permanent gig in right field. My main bone of contention isn't with Frenchy's bat, it's with his legs. His runs above average and run saved (Rtot and Rdrs respectively) was -3 and -14 for the 2012 season. For just the few weeks we've played already, he's at a -1 Rtot. I'm sure all of you remember the inside the park home run given up early in the season by a routine line drive to right field that simply wasn't cut off nor delivered accurately when Frenchy finally did stumble over. Package that with the fact that as of the last game with the Angels, Jeff had a WAR of -.5 and a RAR of -5. Last season those numbers were even worse with a -20 RAR and -2.3 WAR. Add on to that fact, he is simply a liability on the base paths. 11 attempts last season and he was caught 7 times. He's successfully stolen twice this year, but there is nothing to make me believe that all those numbers will reverse considering that he is at he backside of his career.
Let's compare him to Jarrod Dyson, who seems to be the next in line for a fielding position. At this moment, Dyson stands at a -1 Rtot/Rdrs. This is seemingly a wash on the field simply because he doesn't have the arm strength the Francoeur does. What he does possess is offensive statistics that warrant at LEAST a replacement as a starter. In limited playing time, Dyson has a 2 RAR and a .2 WAR. Barely passable, but still superior to the aging and vastly overused starter. He's 6 of 7 this year stealing bases and is one of the quickest players in the AL. With more playing time, I'm certain that Dyson could be a serviceable leadoff hitter.
The batting order. Let's look at the batting order for our last game against the Angels: Dyson, Escobar, Gordon, Butler, Hosmer, Cain, Moose, Perez, Johnson. One of the most logical orders I've seen all season. I would only put Cain at 5 and Salvy and 7 with Hos at 6, but I can get over that. Let's compare that to when we got drubbed by the Yankees last week in game one: Escobar, Cain, Gordon, Butler, Hosmer, Perez, Moustakas, Johnson, Dyson. I'm a firm believer that your best overall hitters should be in positions 3-5, with your contact and slap hitters (Escobar, Dyson, whoever is manning 2B) who can get the bat on the ball to leg out hits. As of right now, Gordon, Butler, and Cain, would be batting 3-5 for me. Dyson and Escobar would hit 1-2, and then 6-9 you could throw up in the air and probably break even regardless of how it landed. I don't mind Gordon hitting first if we have no other options to leadoff, but I think we have options that need to be fully explored in both Esky and Dyson.
RoyalsRetro defends Gordon leading off by posing,
...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."
There is a flaw in this logic. If Gordon is more likely to be driven home batting leadoff, that would lend itself to believe that the hitters behind him are actually making contact and getting hits. The higher run potential comes from getting as many people on base before Gordon and Butler as possible, not hoping that Butler can drive in Gordon if the two batting in front of him get out. I'll take my chances putting
Gordon at 3. If he goes up with 2 outs batting third, he's still in the same position as he would be batting leadoff and having the two batters proceeding him get out.
Yost's ability to handle the bullpen has been egregious. The best example is removing Shields after the eighth inning when there was no suggesting that Shields could not complete the game. Another big flaw came May 7th against the Orioles. Gordon tied the ballgame 3-3 with a 2 run homer in the 8th. Collins trots out the next inning with a leadoff walk and Yost brings in Hochevar to face the switch hitting Wieters, one of the best hitting catchers in the league. Yes, switching him to the left side is weaker for him, but not by enough to bring in another pitcher. Hoch comes in, throws an errant pickoff to first, and Jones moves to second base. Hoch gives up the go ahead hit to Wieters, who he'd been brought in to stop. There is a null gain when playing chess with a switch hitter the caliber of Wieters. If you're going to bring in an arm to switch him, bring in Crow who simply has better stuff for high intensity situations.
Ned Yost is not the man to lead us to the playoffs. Regardless of who is pulling the strings for playing time, whether Glass/Moore wants Frenchy out there every day or not, Yost has to be able to put the best lineup out there every day and he simply doesn't. He has proven that he can't handle our bullpen and in over three years of me watching him work at the K, nothing makes me believe that he will change. I'd say let him go and look for new blood. If everyone believes he's average and those out on the market are the same caliber, then at the worst, we're back in the same situation. But I have a feeling that a new manager with more youth and energy would do wonders for this young team.
RoyalsRetro responds: I feel like this is a much stronger case against Ned, but I'm still not convinced that it warrants his dismissal. I agree the loyalty to Jeff Francoeur is quite misguided (eh, his bat sucks too!), but I don't think its that uncommon for managers to rely on veterans with some semblance of production in the past over unproven younger players. And there is some evidence more recently that Frenchy's leash is shorter. Like I said before, if Ned sticks with Francoeur all year, that's damning evidence, but I don't have a major problem with him seeing if Jeff has anything left in the tank for the first six weeks of the year.
I still disagree that Gordon should be hitting third. And for what its worth, Ned has moved Gordon to third. My bigger issue is that Escobar should not be hitting second, and Cain should be hitting higher in the lineup. Your best hitters should be hitting 1-3, so they get the most plate appearances. But again, I don't feel its a fire-able offense.
The bullpen issues are largely a results of players not performing in my opinion. The Shields game in Chicago has gotten the most attention, but if Holland closes it out like we know he's capable of - or Chris Getz doesn't muff a ground ball - we're not talking about it.
I do think this is a crucial year for Ned Yost in Kansas City. If the Royals meet or exceed the expectation of a .500 season, he is safe. But if we see another 72-75 win season, the excuses are over.
I appreciate Dominic's passion for the club and I look forward to his contributions in the future.