Aug 092013

by John Viril—

Ok. I can’t stand it anymore. The way Ned Yost handles pitchers drives me nuts.

I know this is probably the most common fan complaint in all of baseball. But, Yost seems almost mechanically devoted to the 100 pitch limit.  Come hell or high water, Yost expects his starter to deliver at least 100 pitches, no matter what the game situation.

Last night, starter Bruce Chen was sailing through the tough Boston lineup with a shutout through 7 innings. He’d thrown 94 pitches going into the 8th inning. I would have pulled Chen at that point. Part of it is that I keep thinking that Chen is pitching on borrowed time. Bruce Chen’s ERA of 1.79 spectacularly exceeds his adjusted Fielding Independent Pitching estimate of 4.68 (a sabermetric stat designed to project pitcher performance based on what a pitcher can control: strikeouts, walks, and home runs with adjustments for park factors and opponent quality). Hitters are only getting a .241 BABIP against him, well under Chen’s .281 career rate.

Yost sent Chen out for the 8th. I could accept that. Chen was rolling. Yost also got clobbered by everyone for pulling James Shields from a game in May when the Royals held a 1-0 lead through eight in favor of Greg Holland—who promptly blew the save. What I could not accept was allowing Chen to give up two base runners. At that point the Royals were up 3-0. I would have relieved Chen after allowing the first base runner because I would not want to get to the position of allowing the Red Sox a chance to tie the game.

Instead, Yost was still trying to “save” his pen.

Too often, Yost tries to coax one or two extra hitters from a starter. That might make sense on a team with a weak or overworked pen. But the Royals have the best bullpen ERA in the A.L. (and 2nd in MLB). They’ve worked the fewest innings of any relief staff in the the majors. The cherry on top of the sundae  is that Kansas City has multiple major-league quality arms stashed in AAA and relievers with minor league options.  In short, Yost can easily “churn” bullpen arms by rotating them between KC and Omaha.

If there is any team that doesn’t need to save its pen it’s Kansas City.

And, yes, I’m aware that Yost had pulled Danny Duffy after only 3.2 IP the night before (and used 5 relievers). This was a prudent decision with Duffy struggling with command and already at 93 pitches while also coming back from Tommy John surgery. But Jeremy Guthrie had given him a complete game the night before—it’s hardly like the pen was overworked.

In the end, Yost had to bring in Luke Hochevar anyway. What exactly did he gain by allowing the tying run to come to the plate?

Of course, it all worked out. Hochevar recorded the final out in the 8th, the Royals hit two home runs in the ninth, and Hoch recorded a save after allowing a run in the ninth. The Royals ended up winning 5-1. The problem is that Yost let Boston get within one swing of tying the game when it really wasn’t necessary.

[Edit: On Friday night, Yost pulled the same trick again. This time he got burnt trying to nurse one more hitter out of Ervin Santana after 94 pitches and the bases loaded in the 4th. Santana gave up a bases-clearing double that put KC down 6-3. Again his players bailed out their managerthis time by rallying for 6 runs in the 6th. Yost had a well-rested pen. Santana clearly had no command and poor movement. There’s no excuse for leaving Santana in the game. And what did Yost stand to gain? Santana might have gone another inning at most]

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