by John Viril—
With the season coming to a close and starters wearing down, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost needs to be more aggressive utilizing his team’s strength. He needs to use his bullpen to relieve wobbling starters more to bring home wins.
The Royals have the 3rd least-used pen in baseball with 384.1 IP—about 7 innings more than the Tigers. The Royals have the 2nd lowest bullpen ERA in baseball (and 1st in the A.L.) at 2.53. They also have the reliever with the highest WAR value in baseball in Greg Holland (2.7 WAR).
With the September roster expansion to everyone on the 40-man roster eligible to play, the Royals now have 10 relievers on the roster, including recent call-ups Donnie Joseph, Louis Coleman and Wade Davis. Yost no longer needs to try to get extra outs from a starter in trouble in 5th, 6th, and 7th innings. He is well-armed to use his pen to get out of trouble.
Yost made exactly this move on Monday, when he pulled the struggling Danny Duffy in the 4th inning after only 91 pitches and runners on 1st and 3rd while trailing 1-0. With Seattle ace Felix Hernandez on the mound for the Mariners, Yost correctly recognized that runs were at a premium. Yost’s early hook, and Will Smith’s dominant performance (4.1 IP, 8 K’s, 0 runs) allowed the Royals to secure a needed 3-1 victory. On Tuesday, Yost again pulled his starter early—in this case Bruce Chen—after only 85 pitches. Chen had surrendered a two-run home run in the 6th and the Royals were clinging to a 3-2 lead. While Kelvin Herrera did relinquish the lead,the bullpen did come through to notch another narrow win (4-3 over Seattle).
Yost would be wise to make more decisions like these in the final 25 games of the season. Kansas City is only 4 games back of Tampa Bay for the final wild card spot, yet have Baltimore, Cleveland, and New York between them and the Rays. Kansas City has almost no margin for error if they are to make the post-season.
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