This column is not what you might expect it to be. You might even need to sit down.
I think Royals’ manager Ned Yost has done an exceptional and even creative job of managing his pitchers through nine games this season.
Now, yesterday Yost left Chris Young in too long. I thought that (but, no, did not execute a signed affidavit and have it notarized to prove so) before Young threw a pitch in the 8th inning. Young, as you like your long relievers to do, had breezed through three innings having allowed just one baserunner. Unless you are trying to guard him in the low post, Young is not overpowering. He had struck out no one and pretty much spent three innings serving up flyballs that were caught. That’s what Chris Young is and, frankly, that is all you can ask of him: three innings of no blood. I thought right then that four was stretching it, especially down just two runs. Yost pushed his luck going for another inning, especially with a well rested bullpen.
Pin one on Ned, but give him credit for going against a lot of opinion (Twitter opinion anyway) last Saturday night and sticking with starter Jeremy Guthrie after many (myself included) thought the veteran should have been pulled. Guthrie rewarded Yost’s judgement with perfect sixth and seventh innings on the way to a 6-4 Royals’ win. Yes, I would have pulled Young yesterday after three innings and maybe kept my team close enough to make the ninth inning rally an actual comeback, but I also would have pulled Guthrie last Saturday and taken two more relief innings out of the account (and gotten no better results than Guthrie got).
At worst, through nine games, Ned Yost is even on the pitcher handling scale.
I’ll be honest, I think Ned is better than even. With this bullpen, it is a little hard to make a bad move, but I will give Yost some credit for being creative.
Yes, the seventh inning is Herrera’s, the eighth belongs to Davis and Holland is the closer, but remember last year when Yost stubbornly adhered to those roles and also to Aaron Crow being the ‘sixth inning guy’? Yesterday, with Jason Vargas struggling, Yost went to the currently ordained sixth inning guy, Jason Frasor, in the FOURTH inning.
First off, what a luxury it is to have a reliever of Frasor’s abilities around to use that early and still not have disrupted your standard plan for the final three innings of the game, but more importantly, well done by Yost to go against the ‘my starter is out in the 4th inning, the book says use your long man’ logic and go to a a better pitcher no matter the earliness of the inning. Even through nine games? Hell, Ned was no worse than even yesterday.
While it is the general plan – and a good one at that – to have the HDH trio handle the last three innings, Yost has also utilized his assets to not burn out that group in the early season. After Greg Holland worked in the first three games, Yost went to a Frasor-Herrera-Davis combination to finish out a 4-2 win in game four of the season. In the ‘Guthrie game’, Yost had already determined that Herrera was going to be unavailable and had Ryan Madson warming up in the bullpen for a possible seventh inning appearance.
Those two moves are obviously even too little a sample to be a pattern, but it shows some thought towards not adhering to The Book all the time.
Think about this bullpen when Luke Hochevar comes back. Ryan Madson, who had a rough outing yesterday but has otherwise looked good, is your sixth best reliever. Assuming Hochevar is who he was two years ago (and that may or may not be a big assumption), Yost will have the continued luxury of using Jason Frasor as he did yesterday or Madson or Hochevar or rest one of HDH for a night.
It has to be fun to have that many weapons to utilize and even more fun when your starters have not made it out of the fifth inning just once in the first nine games. Time will tell when it comes to Ned and his pitching changes. Chances are most of us – well, not those of you who automatically accuse everyone of freaking out at the mention of any discussion of anything – will forget most of the good moves and remember all of the moves (or non-moves) that blow up in Yost’s face. For now, however, at least in this area of management, I mostly like what I have seen out of the Royals’ manager.