James Shields had a two-hit shutout and a 1-0 lead going into the ninth inning of yesterday's game. He had thrown 102 pitches, with pretty much no stressful situations or innings. Only one White Sox batter reached second base all day against Shields. But in the ninth inning, skipper Ned Yost pulled his ace, the man we traded the best hitting prospect in the minor leagues for, for his closer Greg Holland. What did Ned have to say about that?
"Everybody has their job to do and Shields had done his. He threw eight shutout innings. It was a one-run game. The runs make all the difference. If it was a two-run or a three-run lead, yeah. But in a one-run game, you send him out he’s either going to win it or lose it. You let the closer go out and try to do his job."
He's either going to win it or lose it. Terrific zen poetry from Master Ned.
What did Big Game James think?
"I think if we scored another run right there, he was gonna leave me out there. But we’re going to Holland all day. He’s been great all season long. And that’s the right move right there."
And save for the Philadelphia series, Holland has been great all year. And he was probably squeezed in the ninth by the home plate umpire and by his own defense. If Chris Getz fields that ball cleanly, we probably aren't even having this discussion. But here we are.
Yost on whether he considered letting Shields go in the ninth: "No, no, not really." #royals— Curtis Kitchen (@curtiskitchen) May 6, 2013
James Shields started 33 games last year. Threw more than 102 pitches in 26 of them. He went 115+ 11 times. Curious to hear why Yost yanked.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 6, 2013
David Brown at Yahoo! breaks down the pros and cons of leaving Shields in and concludes:
It wouldn't have been wrong for Yost to let Shields start the ninth, but it's hard to call going to your closer a mistake. Nine times out of 10, probably, Holland will get the job done.
Craig Calcaterra leans into Ned here:
It’d be one thing to simply sit back and second guess Yost. If it had worked, great. But that explanation would be brain dead even if Greg Holland had struck out the side and gotten the save. Yost is clearly saying here that he’s letting bullpen roles dictate his moves. He has a closer, dadgummit, and he’s going to let him close. It’d be one thing if Shields was tired. Or if the guys coming up had historic success against Shields and he didn’t want to press his luck. But no, Yost’s thinking is "you use this guy in the ninth inning and it is the ninth inning, so …" Which is just enraging.
Joe Posnanski takes a look at the numbers.
I’m just saying that since 2010, starters who had pitched well enough to start the ninth inning tended to pitch well in the ninth inning too. I don’t think that’s a surprise. It seems almost certain to me that the Royals best chance to win on Monday was to send Shields back out for the ninth inning. He had dominated for eight innings, he had only thrown 102 pitches, to an outside viewpoint he looked good in the eighth, I think it’s highly unlikely that bringing in a new reliever who had pitched the day before was the team’s best shot at victory.
And concludes Ned better raise his game now that the Royals are good.
And with the Royals off to a really good start, the choices Ned Yost makes (at least for now) will be watched a lot more closely. He will definitely need to come up with better explanations that this cockamamie thing.
If it’s me, I’m going with Shields and pulling him if a runner gets on — but going with your closer who has had nine straight good outings isn’t exactly crazy, either. If a decision doesn’t work out, it’s going to get criticized. If Yost had let Shields go back out and he gave it up, critics could say why would you let a tired pitcher go back out there and face the order for the fourth time when you’ve got your closer available?
You know you may have messed up when even Lee Judge is second guessing you.