I don't usually write the harsh or critical articles. Not because I don't have negative thoughts or think the Royals organization is all candy and rainbows, but I like focusing more on the statistical side of things when I'm building a narrative or speaking of a subject matter. If that data leads to a negative point of view or narrative then I'll let the data speak for itself. This will be a data-less article and a narrative, a negative one certainly, is already in place.
(Okay, maybe there will be a little data)
In the highest leveraged situation of the entire game yesterday, a 4.95 LI, Ned Yost let (I can't stress how much let is the key word) Aaron Crow pitch to Daniel Nava. Aaron Crow throws right handed. Daniel Nava is a switch hitter. Daniel Nava essentially can exploit a platoon match-up but only to the degree of choosing which side of the plate he's on. What Nava cannot control is what hand the pitcher he is facing pitches. When Danial Nava hits against right handers he has a 112 wRC+. That's a good wRC+ and not something you'd willingly elect to face if there was another option. Fortunately the Royals and Ned Yost had another option...bring in left handed pitcher. The Royals have three left handed pitchers in their bullpen:
Brandon Finnegan pitched the previous night so you could cross him off the list, but even so there were two other left handers available. Now bringing in a left hander would really only be beneficial if the batter doesn't hit left handers well. Bringing in a lefty versus Victor Martinez doesn't really create much of an advantage as Martinez is hitting 214 wRC+ vs lefties and 147 vs righties. Daniel Nava isn't Victor Martinez...
Here's Daniel Nava's wRC+ versus lefties:
That's just the number four. As in 1, 2, 3, 4. There are no additional numbers before or after that four. Daniel Nava is hitting 96% below league average against left handed pitchers.
Here are the bottom five players with at least 60 PA's vs lefties:
|Name||Team||PA vs lefties||wRC+ vs lefties|
|Daniel Nava||Red Sox||60||4|
|Leury Garcia||White Sox||64||-9|
|Alejandro De Aza||- - -||88||-13|
Nava is the fourth worst hitter vs lefties in all of baseball given that specification, and who knows, maybe with an additional 20 more plate appearances he could be the worst but there's a reason why the Red Sox don't bat him against lefties.
So instead of inserting a left handed hitter into the highest leverage moment of the game in the middle of a playoff race with the bases loaded and knowing that a hit here could easily tie or take the lead, Ned Yost let Aaron Crow face Daniel Nava.
What did Aaron Crow do? He did Aaron Crow.
Sure, if Crow made a tough pitch to Nava and he somehow turned on it for a grand slam then maybe you can give a little wiggle room for Crow. That there is a 94-MPH fastball belt high and slightly inside. You don't have to be Victor Martinez to hit that pitch.
Now listen, I'm not asking Ned Yost to have every opposing players wRC+ or wOBA memorized, but he certainly has to have platoon splits for every player. There's gotta be an intern that prints these things off every game and puts them in Yost's hands or posts it in the dugout. This isn't advanced sabermetrics or proprietary data that only a few teams have. This is basic triple slash information. The stuff you see printed in newspapers daily.
Daniel Nava vs L/R triple slash:
vs L: .158/.200/.193
vs R: .286/.368/.380
What's perhaps even worse is that this wasn't a hard to crack code or anything. People on Twitter were pointing out this situation immediately as Nava approached the plate. Even the opposing manager John Farrell and Nava HIMSELF couldn't believe it.
Daniel Nava told reporters he looked out at the bullpen, expecting a lefty to come into the game. He was surprised to face Crow.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) September 14, 2014
John Farrell on Daniel Nava facing a RHP: "We were fortunate that we got him on the left side of the plate."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) September 15, 2014
Even as Nava was coming to the plate he was thinking about how he doesn't hit lefties well. So if Daniel Nava at the beginning of his at bat in front of 20,000 fans had a general awareness of his extreme platoon splits, you'd think somebody in the Royals dugout would too. Unfortunately they didn't, or what's even worse they did and chose not to act. We aren't talking about a guy who is slightly worse against left handed hitters... we're talking about a guy who is 108% worse against left handers than right handers.
When questioned about his questionable decision after the game;
Ned Yost said he chose Aaron Crow for the sixth because he wanted a strikeout. Crow strikes out 5.0 batters per nine.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) September 14, 2014
You said it right Andy. Aaron Crow actually has a less than 5 K/9. It's 4.98. So even if he wanted to opt for a right hander, he had Kelvin Herrera, a pitcher who has a near 9 K/9, available in the bullpen. Instead he willingly chose to let Aaron Crow pitch. Aaron Crow who has the 5th worst league HR/9 at 1.45. Nearly 20% of Crows total hits allowed this year have been of the home run variety.
That's not the worst of it though. I know that's a tough pill to swallow, but here comes a five inch cyanide capsule.
Asked why he didn’t just use Herrera in that spot then, Yost said: "Aaron Crow’s inning is the sixth inning. Kelvin’s is the seventh."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) September 14, 2014
Now let me set the record straight because maybe there's confusion going around baseball. I'm not an expert on the CBA nor do I have the MLB rulebook memorized article by article and line by line, but I am 100% certain there is in fact no rule saying that relievers must be used in a specific order. As far as I'm aware, and correct me if I'm wrong, managers are allowed to use their relievers at their discretion/will.
Now maybe Ned Yost isn't aware of the rules or lack thereof, but surely someone in the organization, bullpen, or dugout knows that such a rule doesn't exist. So either way, somebody is at fault for not informing Yost of the rules.
This type of incident isn't isolated to Yost, but does exists in all of baseball. Managers are stubbornly entrenched in a set "role" usage for their relievers. Despite being the best reliever in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera only pitched 20 innings in the sixth inning in his career and 43 in the 7th.
Now maybe Bueno, or Finnegan, or Downs gives up a home run to Nava anyways there. Maybe it was just Nava's "day." Even if you believe that, there's still no reason that Nava shouldn't have homered off a left hander instead of Aaron Crow or any right hander there.
For me, this is Ned Yost's event horizon. I hesitate to use general relativity terms in an article about Ned Yost, but this situation and astonishing remarks above have broken a mold. That's easily the worst rationale for a decision I've heard this year and maybe ever. A manager refusing to take advantage of an extreme batter split. A manager refusing to allow one of his best relievers to pitch in the highest leverage moment of the entire game (at least up to that point) because he's only allowed to pitch the seventh inning. A manager chalking up his own decision as just being "frustrating."
Frustrating. That word comes perfectly on the heels of an article asking readers why Ned Yost is so infuriating, and frustrating can be easily substituted for infuriating because Yost is abominably and equally frustrating and infuriating. This isn't a 100 loss team. This is a team that just a week ago was 2.5 games up on the division with half a month of baseball left. A team who's fans are frustrated and infuriated by an organization that hasn't delivered something as common as a playoff appearance in almost three decades. That's gotta be like 30% of their fanbase, myself included, that has never seen playoff baseball for their favorite team.
Not that Yost's terrible decision and incredible lack of acknowledging what he did wrong would be okay if this team were losing 100 games and just won a World Series last year (much like the very Red Sox they played). The desperate struggle and wanting in earnest of a playoff team by a truly begging fanbase when the team is in a position to deliver is tenfold as bad.
Simply put, Ned Yost needs to be fired. I don't think any solution or reasoning now can overcome the continual employment of Ned Yost. If I were Dayton Moore and I heard Yost make the above comments, I would have immediately walked to the clubhouse with Yost's final check and some severance merchandise.
This is an unbearable moment that can't be chalked up to Ned being folksy or charming or even his alternate personality in Frank. Everything leading up to this moment has been blow upon blow to the pride, intelligence, and eagerness of Royals fans, but that disgraceful quote, which truly personifies the old-time managerial style and total disregard by an organization to fulfill their fanbase's earnest wishes, is a final straw.
I don't care who manages the Royals tomorrow. It could be Frank White, Mike Sweeney, or Dayton Moore himself, but there is no longer any modicum of reasoning that can continue an argument for the employment of Ned Yost.
Short of stealing, assault, racial profiling, or generally any criminal offense, it's hard to pinpoint a single moment that is cause for a firing, but we've found one in Ned Yost. While all the genuinely disingenuous comments, moves, and downright embarrassing lineup construction that have built up the Gomorrah that is Ned Yost's managerial career, we've pinpointed the incident that needs to lead to the firing and destruction of said managerial career.
Rita Mae Brown was unknowingly yet perfectly describing Ned Yost when she defined insanity as ""doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." Continuing to employee Ned Yost is insanity.