By In Stuff

Royal thought of the day

Yes, I know I can be hard on Ned Yost, maybe even unfairly so at times. That said, when you are in a pennant race, when every win and loss counts, when you are at home against a last place team, when you can fall a game and a half back in the standings with a loss, YOU CANNOT HAVE AARON CROW PITCH TO DANIEL NAVA WITH THE BASES LOADED.

This is not negotiable. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Aaron Crow is having a dreadful season. His peripheral numbers look good enough (6-1 record, a sub-4.00 ERA before Sunday) that people can be fooled. But don’t be fooled. His 5.50 FIP is second worst in baseball for anyone throwing at least 50 innings. Going into Sunday he had allowed nine home runs in 56 innings, he was striking out five batters per nine innings, his strikeout to walk was 31-22. Lefties hit him way better than righties too.

Daniel Nava meanwhile hits eighty points higher and slugs 130 points higher against righties over his career and this year those numbers are even more pronounced.

Having Crow pitch to Nava there — with a bullpen loaded with three near-unhittable relievers — is not just a bad baseball move, it should be at least a misdemeanor when done inside Kansas City limits. The fact that Nava hit the grand slam you might expect is not fair recompense for having Crow pitch in that situation. There needs to be some community service too.

As usual, Yost’s explanation was even worse than the move itself. When asked why he pitched Crow rather than, say, Kelvin Herrerra, who has not given up a home run all year and has not given up a run in weeks, he said: “Because I had confidence in Aaron Crow. That’s why. Aaron Crow’s inning is the sixth inning. Kelvin’s is the seventh.”

There are many things that can be said about a Major League manager refusing to let pitchers in a pennant race in an inning not their own. But … serenity now.

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77 Responses to Royal thought of the day

  1. Paul White says:

    Like most baseball fans who aren’t completely delusional, I know that I would fail as a major league manager or GM. It’s obvious when I sit and think about it for more than 5 seconds.

    But then I watch Yost makes moves like that and I hear his explanations later, and I pause…and I think…”Well, at least I’d have a chance to be better than THAT guy.”

  2. And yet, that idiot of a manager somehow has his team in a great position to win that division. Perhaps it’s another example that managers have a lot less influence than we always thought.

    • JL says:

      Or from an alternate perspective, that idiot of a manager somehow has us back a game and a half of a division we should be up 5 on.

    • invitro says:

      People say that a lot, but I have been wondering. How much influence do we think managers have? Even in the wide-open say-anything world of baseball analysis, I don’t remember someone saying something like “Tony LaRussa is worth 15 wins a year”, or “35% of baseball is managing.”

      Would you or anyone like to say how much influence they think managers have?

      My own answer is “I really don’t know.”

  3. jeff says:

    David the Yankees are a great example of the fact that managers don’t determine as much as some might think. But they have key roles in at least ten games a year. A few weeks ago Kratz didn’t bunt in a key situation against Cleveland, last night the total gaff in having Crow pitch, it’s these games that can determine the outcome of a season. And the fact is, the Royals are no longer in a great position to win the division.

    • I think a good Manager might win you a couple of games a year. But a bad Manager can cost you more than a couple. Yost sounds like a -5 WAR type of manager.

      • owenpoin says:

        I believe Tony La Russa thought that managers have about a seven win swing in their impact. That sounds about right.

        • That’s why LaRussa over managed. I think his style was better suited for playoffs than the reg season. But he was a great playoff manager…. As long as he had nothing to do with that Eckersley back door slider pitch call to Gibson.

          • And btw, there is no way a good mgr is worth 7 wins….. Unless you are saying that they screw up 7 fewer times than the avg manager. As long as the avg manager just doesn’t do stupid stuff (yeah, I stole that one), then above that +2 is about all I’d say is possible. Yost does stupid stuff, so he’s at least a -5.

    • stushapirorutgers says:

      But a manager has two jobs.

      1. The strategic in game decisions (lineups, pitching changes, when to bunt etc.). I completely agree that the number of games per year that separate a manager who is good at these things from bad at them is small (not zero certainly but small).

      2. The psychology of managing a team. This involves getting the most from your players, Convincing them to accept their roles and creating an atmosphere where they maximize their talents. LaRussa by all reports was great at this and Joe Torre was strategically weak (once Zimmer left) but a master with his players. No idea how many wins a good manager in this regard brings to his team.

  4. Nathan H says:

    So Kelvin Herrera’s inning is the seventh, fine. You still had Jason Frasor available, who has been a lot better than Crow, this year and throughout their careers. Yost’s loyalty to some of his players is admirable, but in a pennant race it has to take a back seat to putting all of his players in the best position to win the game.

  5. Or, perhaps, the Royals would be up 12 games with an even remotely competent manager.

  6. Finley River says:

    Why not live or die by Vargas?

  7. Joe Gray says:

    Too bad we can’t have de je vu all over again and fire Yost with 12 games to go

    • David says:

      Brewers’ fan here; I was just going to say the same. Worked out great for us in ’08! We didn’t win it all, obviously, but we made the postseason, which was enough for us in Milwaukee, a fanbase as starved as KC at that point.

  8. BH says:

    As a Nationals fan I’m always grateful Crow turned down the Nats offer when they drafted him. The next year Kansas City took Crow and the Nats took Drew Storen with the compensatory pick they got for Crow not signing.

  9. wkkortas says:

    It’s good to see that Yost isn’t foolishly anal about keeping his pitchers in certain roles whether they make sense or not.

  10. Jason Connor says:

    Do the Royals need ANY manager if the rules are so inflexible. Yost can make the lineup, tell which relievers which innings they’ll pitch, invariably, then go to a movie.

  11. jim louis says:

    After the game, Yost said “It’s frustrating that we were one out away from getting to Kelvin Herrera with a one-run lead.”

    That quote (like many Yost post-game quotes) baffles, boggles, and bitch-slaps the mind.

    Joe, you don’t mention the lineup Yost assembled the last 2 days. He FINALLY dropped Infante out of the 2 hole and got Cain into the top 3. But did you ever think Nori Aoki would be a DH?

  12. Blake says:

    Yost’s explanation sounds like good personnel management to me.

    Seriously. You can’t use just 3 relievers for 162 games. Sometimes you need a 4th reliever, and that man must have confidence.

    • Maneesh says:

      Confidence does not always beget competence. Not even Casey Stengel’s confidence will suddenly turn Crow from the second-worst pitcher in baseball this year (based on FIP, min. 50 innings) into a solid reliever in a difficult situation against a bad matchup.

    • Tim Zim says:

      Choosing literally the worst possible reliever to face Nava in the most crucial part of an important game because “that man must have confidence”???

      What drugs do you take? I’d love to get my hands on some – the delusional life sounds a lot less taxing on the mind.

    • Yeah, that strategy is great in June. But, this is September where every game is crucial. In a high leverage situation you’ve got to be able to have the flexibility to put together the best matchup possible. Yost had at least a couple of much better options available that he left in the holster. BTW: since Yost was a Bobby Cox protégée, this was always the criticism of Bobby. He’s great for 162 games. But in crucial games, especially playoff games, he lacked the sense of urgency and flexibility to make needed moves in critical situations…. I.e. Leaving his ace starters in the game, when clearly they’re off their game.

      • Blake says:

        I’m neutral on Ned Yost, and I didn’t see the game. But as much as Joe is throwing up his arms and saying “every game is the World Series!” this was a game against the team with the third-worst record in the league with 2 weeks left in the regular season. It’s too early to go into all-out panic mode. And Daniel Nava is not David Ortiz.

        If a manager starts treating every game and every situation like Game 7, maybe the team runs out of gas early.

        I remember what you’re saying about Bobby Cox and always thought it was true. At some point you have to bring in your best relievers earlier than usual. But was this the point? I’m not sure it was.

        And MY point is, after his decision fails, a good personnel manager doesn’t blame the player, he boosts his confidence. Yost did that. I don’t know what Joe expected Yost to say, “Yeah, I should have put somebody better than Crow in that situation.” Really?

        • Maneesh says:

          Nava hits 150 points better from the left side than the right side. The bases were loaded. I think you do whatever you have to do to flip Nava to the other side of the plate. And Aaron Crow shouldn’t even be on this team, but that’s Dayton Moore’s issue–not Ned’s.

        • NevadaMark says:

          There are two weeks to go in a heated pennant race. If there ever was a time to use a little imagination in responding to crucial game situations, that time is now.

          And I would hardly call bringing in Wade Davis in before the 8th inning a sign of “panic”.

          To be blunt about it, Aaron Crow is a guy who pitches when you are BEHIND by five runs.

      • Maneesh says:

        Boom, that’s exactly it. Ned is actually a pretty good manager for the long-haul. His players know their roles and where they will hit i the lineup (except Billy Butler, who seems to be Ned’s whipping boy) and the locker room remains reasonably calm. However, even at the end of a marathon, there is a sprint, and Ned doesn’t know how to handle that. He actually learned the WRONG lesson from getting fired in Milwaukee with the season on the line. He thinks the lesson is “stay the course next time.” The actual lesson is “manage like it’s the playoffs NOW.”

  13. Great insights (as always). We were at the K yesterday and this isn’t second guessing: the save was in the 6th inning and it was nuts to let Crow pitch to Nava. I never understood why Milwaukee fired Yost on 9/15/08, until now: as the owner said back then: “Ned was kind of out of answers.”

  14. In this world of BBR and Fan Graphs, it’s inexcusable to allow a clear matchup advantage in a crucial situation during a pennant race. The result was all too predictable. Was Yost ignorant of the numbers so he just had no clue what was going on? Or did he just ignore the numbers to stick with Crow as his 6th inning guy? If it’s the former, he should be fired immediately, along with his bench coach. There is no excuse for not knowing. If it’s the latter, well, ignoring the matchup disadvantage with the bases loaded is also inexcusable. Also a fire able offense, but one that I see a lot of mediocre managers do all the time. Crossing your fingers and hoping is not a strategy.

  15. Phaedrus says:

    C’mon Joe. Herrerra hasn’t given up a run in months, not weeks.

    Anyone know if the Red Sox have a Sonic Slam inning like the Royals? Maybe Yost just wanted someone to win 25 grand from Sonic and your Boston Red Sox.

  16. Brad Ausmus says:

    What’s wrong with that decision? I think it made absolute sense to leave Crow in. I fully support Yost and similar decisions going forward.

  17. Elrayo says:

    Letting Moose hit against left-handers late in the game is also a fireable offense.

  18. Joe says:

    Yost also lost to the Red Sox when he set up a Scott Downs / Johnny Gomes matchup (advantage: Gomes) a couple of months back.

  19. Bill James says:

    The other couple of items not really mentioned here, and I don’t need to be Bill James to make these observations, but::

    1) Nava vs LHPs is so obviously a better way to go that Ned could have still saved Herrera for 7th. Bueno, Downs or my choice, Finnegan ( at tis point, he has he clearly shown he has the stones to get the call here) all would have turned Nava around to his by far worse side of the plate.

    2) and with the bases loaded and a BB also a disaster at that point, Ned made sure the matchup was just about the most likely guy in the AL to walk someone facing the most likely guy in the AL to take a walk in a season hanging in the balance situation. Nava is not swinging at the Crow sliders in the dirt which leaves his declining velocity fast ball as the only weapon to have to cover, and we all know how it turned out….

    • Blake says:

      How did I set myself up as the defender of Ned Yost, I don’t even care, how did I let this happen …

      But I gotta point out, this is not a “season hanging in the balance situation.” Not even close.

      A manager has to manage his team for all 162 games. It’s easy to criticize a single pitching change. And I know Joe has the authority here that comes from paying attention all the time. And I know smarter people than me think Yost is a bad manager.

      I also know I went to baseball reference earlier today, looked at the OPS for every player on the Royals, and thought, “That team is fighting for a division title?” Yost may be a bad manager, but he can’t be doing everything wrong.

      • I’d like to point out that it’s September 15. The team is probably in over their heads. So, it is crucial that, as a manager, you manage the last two weeks of the season like you would a playoff game. It wasn’t just the sixth inning. The other team had loaded the bases. Everyone knows that just a single puts up a crooked number and opens up a big inning. The announcers were saying it, the fans ere thinking it and Yost…. Let’s it happen. It’s time for a bold move to prevent that from happening…. Not sticking with a struggling pitcher in a terrible match up. It would be different if he looked into the bullpen and had no better options… But he had options. Good ones.

        • Blake says:

          See, this is where we disagree. Sunday wasn’t actually “the last two weeks of the season.” It was the day BEFORE the last two weeks of the season. I apologize, I know that sounds like nitpicking, but it’s central to the point at hand.

          At what point do you go to full-on desperation mode? Ask the ’64 Phillies.

          The Royals have bigger games left. If they miss the playoffs by one game, you might gnash your teeth at this one, but you will have more recent losses to blame.

          Could somebody smarter than me come in here and tell us exactly how much that grand slam changed the Royals’ playoff odds? Mathematically, not by the gut, please.

          • eric3287 says:

            Just checking out MLB’s playoff probabilities, going into Sunday’s game, they had a 68% chance of making the playoffs, and now they have a 65% chance, so I’d say it lowered their chances by about 3%.There chances of winning a wild card actually increased from about 41% to 48% by virtue of the 4 teams behind them all losing. So had KC won, as they were before the grand slam, I’d guess their odds of making the playoffs would have increased from 68% to closer to 70% (pure guess), meaning it cost them closer to 5%.

          • Blake says:

            Thank you Eric. Of course you have to consider that the Royals didn’t have a 100% chance of winning with a different pitcher than Aaron Crow. Not only is there some chance, however slight, that their lockdown bullpen would have yielded a run in the 7th through 9th; SOMEBODY had to pitch to Nava or a pinch-hitter, and that somebody would have had a chance of yielding a game-changing hit.

            Let’s say the Royals had a 75% chance of winning before the Nava at-bat and a 10% chance of winning afterward. So the hit to their playoff chances was about 2/3 of the overall drop. That brings us back to that at-bat changing their playoff chances by about 3%.

            I’m an Oakland fan, in case you’re wondering. Change of 3% in your playoff chances? Yeah, we’ve seen that.

      • Maneesh says:

        I agree with you here…no way this offensively-putrid team should be in the hunt. Ned deserves credit for getting them to this point.

      • NevadaMark says:

        EVERY game from here on out, the pennant hangs in the balance. How can it not? There are only 14 games left to play.

        Please tell me when you think the pennant actually will hang in the balance?

        • Blake says:

          Um, when it hangs in the balance? As in, when the Royals must win or else?

          The Royals host the Tigers this weekend. Win two out of three and this game will be pretty meaningful. Sweep and it’s forgotten.

          THOSE are the games when you disrupt the plan that has worked for the team all year, without worrying about the long-term impact. You just can’t manage all season this way, or even all month this way.

          • Blake says:

            Sorry, I meant to write this game will be “pretty meaningless” if the Royals win 2 of 3 from the Tigers. Then it will all be down to the final week.

            If, however, they lose 2 of 3 to the Tigers, then is this the game that costs them a division title, or those 2?

          • buddaley says:

            I think by framing the discussion into whether or not these games are the crucial ones you are skewing the conversation away from the real point.

            Technically, every game is as important as any other, and the manager plays every one to maximize his chance of winning. But early in the season, he may experiment a bit. He may want to see what different pitchers do in different situations, or he may want to build up someone’s confidence. All this is to gather more information and to prepare for decisions later on.

            In a sense it is a risk/reward situation. He may risk a loss in June because of the rewards he hopes to reap by giving a pitcher confidence or learning something useful and so winning more games down the road.

            But by September, a good manager knows what he has and what has the best chance of working. If he hasn’t built up Crow’s confidence by now, it is too late for 2014. And he certainly should know which pitchers have the best chance to succeed in practically any situation.

            It isn’t a question of whether this game is more or less important than the next one or the last one or the previous one. It is a question of a manager having had most of the season to guide him already, and yet he chose about the worst option available.

            If the Royals were playing for next year already, it would be justifiable. But they are in a tight race now, and in that case, the manager must take the optimum choice to win each game. There is no preparing for the later chances.

          • Robert says:

            By messing up this game though Blake, Yost moved that “must win or die” day up one notch.

            I haven’t read anyone else mention that they are using expanded rosters now too, so there is even LESS reason to stick to any one pitcher when you have bloated bullpens.

  20. Brent says:

    The essential difference between Joe Madden and Ned Yost is exemplified by what happened in the 6th inning yesterday to the Royals. If Joe Madden was coaching the Royals, he would looked at his bullpen and said, let’s flip Nava around and make him bat right handed and the best left handed arm I have out there is the kid, Finnegan. He would have zero qualms about pitching Finnegan in that situation. And Yost will never do that, ever. So Finnegan is destined to continue striking out the side in garbage innings where the Royals are either way up or way down.

    • Blake says:

      Joe Madden had two days to think about who he wanted to pitch to Pat Burrell in a crucial at-bat in the World Series. He went with a lefty. He lost the World Series.

      • Brian says:

        Burrell’s at bat was an inning after the game resumed. But that suspended game was the greatest moment in the history of internet baseball arguments. The Phillies needed a lefthanded pinch-hitter as soon as the game resumed and had three available. The prevailing sentiment was that only an idiot who has never seen a baseball game and can barely type would choose Geoff Jenkins, but he doubled and scored the tying run.

  21. MikeN says:

    Where is the evidence that the Royals are better than the Tigers or the Indians or even the White Sox for that matter? All this talk that but for the manager they’d be waltzing into the postseason is ridiculous. If you told me before the season that the Royals would have the division lead to themselves at some point in September, I would be happy with that. Not to mention several games ahead of the Yankees. I fee Yost deserves credit for exceeding expectations. Also note that they have been winning 2 of 3 since JoePo criticized him last.

    • NevadaMark says:

      Just because the Royals are underdogs and have exceeded expectations this year is no reason not to be annoyed by managerial stupidity. And if you are going to give credit to Yost for how well the team has done so far (and he does indeed deserve his share), he must accept his share of the blame for bad decisions. And it is entirely fair and proper to point that out.

      • MikeN says:

        I remember Bill Simmons writing in the middle of the playoffs that he is going to spend the offseason trying to get Terry Francona fired. The Red Sox went on to win the World Series that year.

  22. Michael Green says:

    Joe, I just don’t understand you and your criticism of Ned Yost here. Tommy Lasorda managed the Dodgers that very same way for 20 years and he’s in the Hall of Fame.

  23. Brad says:

    I’ve watched a lot of Royals games the last two seasons and feel comfortable saying these two things:
    1. I’ve always felt like Yost was in over his head and routinely through bone headed decisions, costs the Royals about five games a year.
    2. Crow lost his mojo after the all star break in summer of 2013. Collins did as well but at least Moore finally had the brains to banish Collins to Omaha. Crow (and Yost by using Crow) continues to lose winnable games.
    And remember the Royals traded a great young lefty to the Brewers for a guy who probably couldn’t make his countries Williamsport team.

    • Brian says:

      Will Smith has given up 23 runs in 22 innings since the start of July. I doubt he’s a guy who would have made a big positive difference in this pennant race.

  24. Brian says:

    Almost every team in baseball has a 7th inning setup guy, an 8th inning setup guy, and a closer, and uses them pretty exclusively in those roles. Maybe that’s not optimal but it seems unfair to single out one manager for doing that.

    That said, the correct move is to go to a lefthander to face Nava in that spot, especially since the on-deck batter is also lefthanded. The better managers are using left/right splits to match up against switch-hitters, particularly with the benefit of an 11-man bullpen due to expanded rosters.

  25. Blake says:

    Wait … I’m sorry, I stipulate that I’m in the lower 50 percentile of intelligent people commenting here, but I just looked at the standings and realized THE ROYALS LEAD the Mariners for a playoff spot.

    Does anyone want to revisit their epic “season hangs in the balance” comments?

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      Look, there’s admittedly some hysteria going on with this loss, but rather than getting caught up in whether this was late enough in the season to get worked up about, focus on the bigger picture. Yost’s own comments show that his reason for going to Crow was because it was the 6th inning, and that’s “his” inning.

      That’s entirely arbitrary, and ignores all sorts of information that might make the decision to us Crow in that situation a bad one (such as the platoon splits of Nava). And the real danger is, regardless of whether or not that game was critical or not, using arbitrary criteria for decision-making and ignoring data is what leads to mistakes like this happening again.

  26. Chris K. says:

    Big difference between winning your division outright and facing, say, John Lester in a one game playoff at Oakland Coliseum, no? That’s SOME difference, right?

  27. NevadaMark says:

    Nope, Blake, until the Royals clinch a playoff spot or are eliminated every game is critical. There is no long term anymore. Yost admitted that he may change his pitching strategy and let Herrera and Davis pitch more than one inning per appearance the rest of the year.

    Of course if the Royals get swept by the Tigers this weekend then yesterday’s game will become meaningless (barring a miracle). But that doesn’t make it unimportant now.

    I can’t believe I am arguing about Ned Yost and his handling of a PENNANT RACE with two weeks to play. With the way they played the first three months of the season I figured breaking .500 this year would have been quite the accomplishment.

  28. royalsin2013 says:

    I agree that having Crow face Nava was a bad decision (I thought bringing Crow in at all was bad). But I do think we should at least acknowledge that bringing in a lefty doesn’t flip Nava around; it probably brings in a pinch-hitter.

  29. MikeN says:

    Despite what everyone has written, my reaction is the same as when I first started reading. Following the Red Sox the last few years, I’m surprised to see that people are thinking about how to pitch to Daniel Nava.

  30. MikeN says:

    Perhaps for the Royals, just getting to the playoffs is a big enough prize that they should go all in right now. However, treating every game as a game 7 causes burnout, and if they had started so soon, they might even burnout by the time they get to the crucial Detroit series. But with speed guys, perhaps that’s the only way to play.

  31. RocketCy says:

    When Crow came in, my 68 year old mother whom I was speaking to on the phone at the time said to me, “Crow? Oh no. Why are they putting him in?”

  32. […] scenario for the Angels: fall behind early and watch Yost hand the ball to the bullpen. That is, assuming Yost manages the pen correctly, which isn’t a […]

  33. Harvey Hecht says:

    Thought Joe’s previous complaints about Ned were sometimes too harsh. Even the Gomes piece.
    But he may have understated the error in bringing Crowe in, let alone letting him pitch to Nova.

  34. BeninDSM says:

    And so in lies the reason Nedly gets to be a manager and why he has a very low ceiling. His incredible confidence in his guys regardless of results is wonderful when dealing with struggling kids when any sane person would go for wins. The problem arises once his guys do develop then suddenly he needs to make decisions for today and he is somehow incapable. It’s a really weird problem to have. I struggle to come up with another example.

  35. Marc says:

    I rarely comment, but here goes:

    This is Yost’s 11th year as a manager. He has never made the postseason. In 2008, he was let go with 12 games left in the season because upper management had lost faith in his ability to adjust.

    1. How does one end up managing 11 years in this day and age without ever making playoffs (30% of the teams make it), and the leash gets shorter and shorter.

    2. How is anyone defending Yost not recognizing a platoon split in a crucial situation? One does not need to treat it like playoff baseball – one simply needs to be aware. Every Strat-O-Matic player knows what I’m talking about here.

    • MikeN says:

      Perhaps there is more to the game than using computer models? Something like how Gregg Popovich rests all his players to make the bench guys better.

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