I love criticizing Ned Yost. Seriously, it's genuinely one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes, it just seems like he's asking for it ...
The Yost-is-a-moron-for-pushing-back-Ventura's-start-just because-he-wanted-to-have-Guthrie-start-the-home-opener narrative is almost ubiquitous by now. Maybe something good could come out of it.
The Kansas City Star's new beat reporter, Andy McCullough, is sort of unversed in the infernal Nedness of Kansas City baseball. So naturally, he has been commenting on it more often now than he probably will once he's anesthetized by the shocking continuity of Ned's archaism. You kind of build up a tolerance for it.
McCullough published an article on Friday in which Ned attempts to explain his decision to use Yordano Ventura out of the bullpen over the next few days. Don't worry -- it appears to be an effort to keep his arm warm for his start scheduled for Tuesday. Maybe not the best idea ever had, but apparently, nothing fundamental about Ventura's role is changing.
However, after his comments about getting into Alcides Escobar's dome, Ned's decision to push back Yordano's first start of the year seems to make even less sense than most thought it did. Isn't he getting into Ventura's dome? Wouldn't it better to push back Jeremy Guthrie and his dome's start due to the fact that his dome is more impenetrable of a dome because it has been in the majors for a decade? Is that not the very nature of domes themselves?
Oh well. That's not what happened. Ventura's an adult. He'll probably be fine, and the Royals won.
It would've been more exciting to have Ventura pitch the game for obvious reasons, but Ned's decision to push back his start could be a harbinger of some collateral benefits.
Ventura is reportedly going to be limited to 180-200 innings this season. That's a good idea. He's only 22 and he's never pitched more than the 150 (total of AAA and MLB) in a single season. This organization is excited for 2014, so they have given him a pretty liberal innings total, and they even stated their intentions to bring Kyle Zimmer along in a way that will prepare him for a role with the team during a potential playoff push. Maybe they're too excited. If Ventura is limited to 200 innings tops -- which he should be -- and he doesn't get hurt, he'll be tapped out before the postseason.
Remember how the Nationals handled Stephen Strasburg in 2012? They shut him down for the year after 159⅓ innings in the midst of a playoff run. Washington lost in the Championship series, and Strasburg didn't pitch. Kansas City might not be as conservative with Ventura, but they might benefit from more of these Ned-gaffes -- but openly the ones that moderately moderate Ventura's innings.
If the Royals manage Ventura well, they can use a few off days and perhaps a few more of these limited bullpen stints to spread out his workload. Maybe then, he'll still be in top form if the team is in contention late in the season. After all, if he helps them get there, it probably be good to have him around when/if they finally arrive.
As the schedule stand right now, Ventura would start somewhere between 30 and 33 games this season if he's treated as a regular starter all season. The league average for innings pitched per start in 2013 was 5.9. That translates to somewhere between 180 and 200 innings if he matches that over the course of the season. Those are the exact parameters for his workload the team mentioned before the season started. And if he's better than average, he could reach that threshold sooner.
Here's the schedule with a few extra breaks (or Ned-gaffes) added in.
Ventura's starts are in yellow. This layout would take a few spot starts to execute, but the Royals have a pretty good candidate for such a role in Danny Duffy.
By whittling down Ventura's workload to 26 starts -- five in May and June, four in every other month -- the Royals could scale back his innings total to around 160, assuming he averages something close to the mean from a year ago. It's only four starts, or about 25 innings. Those innings could be pivotal to the Royals playoff chances, so having a less-than-Ventura starter out there could be a big downside to scaling him back.
However, the guys filling in for him wouldn't necessarily have to be of the P.J. Walters variety. James Shields can handle a fat workload -- and realistically, he's leaving after the year anyway; not that the team should try to burn his arm out, but squeezing an extra start or two into his Royals career before he leaves town forever would be nice. The other guys in the rotation (with a little Duffy mixed in) could fill in for the most part, and Zimmer might be a factor late in the season.
Maybe they had already planned to do something like this, or maybe it will happen as a byproduct of Ned's old school philosophy. Who knows? At the very least, Ned's decision to push Ventura back has saved them a few innings -- maybe even by accident.
I'm just as excited as the next guy to watch him pitch, but it'd be even cooler to watch him in the playoffs.
The Nationals were a exceptionally precautious with Strasburg, maybe too precautious, but the Royals probably shouldn't wait until Ventura tears a ligament in his elbow to think about his future. Even without an injury, the team could benefit this season by spreading out Ventura's workload.
Anyway, just thought it'd be nice to look at the potential for a silver lining instead of being negative 100% of the time -- just 99.9%.