Anybody who knows me knows that Ned Yost (or any manager, for that matter) would have to literally forfeit a game before I said he cost the Royals a game.
I haven’t always been this way, of course, but the longer you watch baseball, the more you realize that managers don’t actually play the baseball games.
But there has always been one thing that managers do that pushes me over the edge, and it happened again last night, when the Royals lost a game without giving their closer a chance to pitch a clean inning.
Now, I’m okay with this. Another thing I have learned over my 22 years of watching baseball is that there is always context to every situation.
Bunting is mostly stupid, but if there are runners at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out in the late innings of a tie game and Alcides Escobar is hitting, maybe a bunt isn’t be so bad.
And if the bottom half of the Dodgers order is coming up, all being right handed batters, it seems okay to have Moylan pitch to them so that your closer can face the top of the order.
But even as I thought that to myself, I knew that wasn’t what was happening. Because I knew that Herrera wouldn’t be headed to the mound in the 10th, as long as the Royals didn’t have the lead.
And so it was. Corey Seager biffed an Eric Hosmer groundball, who hustled his way to second to lead off the 10th. But Salvador Perez swung at a ball in the other batters box, failing to move Hosmer over.
Mike Moustakas flew out to deep left on the next pitch, which would have scored Hosmer, but of course didn’t because he was still standing at second.
An Escobar groundout later and the Royals were still tied with the Dodgers going into the bottom of the 10th.
And just as we thought, Kelvin Herrera stayed put in the bullpen, and instead, out came Scott Alexander.
Let’s talk about a few things before we go further.
Scott Alexander has been having a pretty darn good season. And secondly, Herrera has been having his worst season since 2013. But this is much more about principle, and regardless of 2017 numbers, we know who the better pitcher is.
And I detest losing extra inning games where your best pitcher is left to rot in the bullpen.
Chase Utley led off the 10th with a marvelous plate appearance that ended in a walk. He then stole second when Alexander fell behind Seager and lost track of Utley at first.
Alexander got back into the count against Seager, but ultimately walked him. He fell behind to Turner as well, again fighting his way back into the count before eventually walking him.
This is where things get really annoying.
It is at this point that Ned retrieves Alexander and, for who?
You guessed it. Kelvin Herrera.
I’m not for throwing in the towel in any game. We know how good Herrera has been and if anybody is capable of striking out the side and getting the Royals to the 11th, it’s him.
But at this point, the Dodgers win expectancy was at 93.4%. Going into the inning, it sat at 62.7%. By the time Herrera was in the game, the game was essentially over.
If you are willing to bring in Herrera in a non-save situation, why wait until he has virtually no control over the outcome?
This isn’t to harp on Ned. I love Ned. This is to harp on all managers who still do this.
Buck Showalter still does this.
The Orioles were eliminated from the playoffs last season with their historically amazing reliever in the bullpen and Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound.
This article isn't just for Ned, it's for baseball managers everywhere.
Saving closers for save situations in extra innings when on the road is an archaic managerial ritual akin to, well, bunting.
Would it have sucked to be forced to use Neftali Feliz in a save situation? Sure.
But hey, Feliz having to save a game is better than the game already being over, right?
Stop waiting for hypothetical innings. Please.
Live to play another inning.