Some random managerial thoughts while scanning airline manifests for Yasmani Tomas…
McCullough reports the Royals are probably going to give Ned Yost an extension, but it’s on the back burner.
Perhaps the least surprising story of November. The only reason it’s not number one with a bullet is because of that silly back-burner. Come on. We are all adults here, right? Yost is signed only through next season. One month ago his team was a game from the nirvana of a Plaza Parade. This has the inevitability of snow in a Kansas City winter. Just do it, for crying out loud.
Since my Bill James Handbook arrived last week, I thought it would be an opportune time to look at some Ned Facts. Since he’s going to be the Royals manager until the next millennium. Or something like that.
Last year, Yost used 51 pinch hitters, the fewest in the majors.
The most frequently used pinch hitter? Come on down, Raul Ibanez. The old man got 10 pinch hit plate appearances. He walked once and hit a double. That’s it. Oof. That’s a .111/.200/.222 pinch hit line. Insert snark about “professional at bats” here. Meanwhile, the second most frequent pinch hitter for Yost was Billy Butler. Butler came up eight times, had one walk, was hit by a pitch and collected four hits – including a home run – in six official at bats.
Notable was the fact Yost used 14 of his pinch hitters in the 10 games the Royals played in National League parks.
Pinch hitting is difficult. It’s not surprising someone line Butler, used as a designated hitter for most of the season, can come into a game directly off the bench to do some damage. Collectively, the Royals pinch hitters produced a slash line of .209/.320/.395 in those 51 plate appearances.
Yost called for 63 pinch runners, the most in the majors.
Again, we knew this. Or, if we didn’t know this, we had a pretty good idea. When you have a Jarrod Dyson as a fourth outfielder – and in September, a Terrance Gore – pinch running will happen. Royals pinch runners stole 15 bases and were caught just three times. That’s an 83 percent success rate. That’s pretty good.
American League average was 36 pinch runners. Yost was well above average.
Yost made 46 defensive substitutions. The fourth most in the AL.
Think about it. Yost inserts Dyson as a pinch runner and keeps him in the game as a defensive replacement. That counts as Dyson entering as a pinch runner. I really liked that Yost seemed to figure this out as the season came to it’s conclusion. Being able to bring Dyson in as a pinch runner is capitalizing on the two things he does well – run and play defense. I feel like Yost didn’t get enough credit for this.
Let’s talk managerial tactics for a moment.
The Royals attempted 189 steals under Yost, the most in the majors.
I say “under Yost” because anyone who watches the games and listens to Yost’s post-game comments knows he gives certain guys green lights. With reason. So it’s safe to say Yost himself didn’t call for each one of the 189 stolen base attempts. I don’t think it matters. As the boss, he’s the guy who fostered the environment that encouraged the speedy guys to run when they sensed opportunity.
Get ready for the next one…
The Royals attempted 45 sacrifice bunts. League average was 40 sacrifice bunt attempts.
Seriously. It only felt like the Royals attempted 45 bunts the final two weeks of September.
It’s amazing, right? The Royals tried to sacrifice once every four games, which was right around league average. And we collectively reacted as if he was throwing a basket of kittens in the river. “My God, man… Are you insane?” Turns out he wasn’t any more or less insane than any other American League manager.
According to Baseball Reference, the Royals were successful on their sac bunt attempts roughly 60 percent of the time, which was a little worse than league average. But still close.
I wish I had a breakdown of sacrifice bunt attempts by inning. I remain steadfast in my belief a sacrifice bunt in the first inning is criminal. Same for bunting a runner to third with no one out. I will listen to your logic for a bunt in the eighth or ninth inning. I will likely reject it, but I will listen. As it goes for Yost, the numbers don’t lie. Most major league managers aren’t different from their peers. Individuality has a place, but for managers, that place is the unemployment office. Easier to follow the lead than blaze your own trail. Bunts are going to happen. Maybe 45 is on the high side. Maybe you see that as giving away a game and three-quarters worth of outs. Eh. It’s a long season.
But the next time Alcides Escobar drops down a first inning bunt, look for me on Twitter. I’ll be the guy leading the meltdown.
Yost called for just three pitchouts, the fewest in the American League.
I’m glad someone keeps track of this.
Yost ordered just 14 intentional walks, the fewest in the majors.
OK, as frustrating as the bunt can be, how about this nifty stat? The fewest intentional walks? Nice. As much as I abhor the bunt, I hold the intentional walk in equal disdain. Just two years ago Yost ordered 44 intentional walks which was the most in the AL. What changed? If I had a guess it would be a veteran starting rotation and a lock down bullpen with the ability to throw some heat to generate a strikeout. Neither James Shields or Jeremy Guthrie gave an intentional walk. Same for Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Jason Vargas led the staff with four. No one else had more than a pair.
Only three times after an intentional walk did it “bomb,” which means a double play did not result and multiple runs were scored after the intentional walk was issued.
What does all of this mean?
Maybe Yost isn’t the idiot made out by most – including the author of the post you’re currently reading. It’s often said, and I believe this to be true, that a manager’s mistakes are remembered and amplified multiple times more than his successes. Call for a steal and it works, it’s a credit to a speedster like Dyson. Call for a steal and the runner is thrown out, it’s the manager’s fault for running on a particular pitcher, or catcher, or pitch count. Whatever. You get the picture.
As I said above, I can live with an “average” number of bunts. I really (really!) like the lack of intentional walks. And I thought the way he managed his personnel down the stretch was extremely solid.
In the next month or so, Yost will get his extension and it will be deserved. A reward for an exceptional 2014 season and a promise for future days in Kansas City where he can continue to use what he has learned over an 11 year managerial career to his advantage.