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Why do we Yostify ourselves?

The other day, I made mention of something that I would guess is pretty obvious to long-time baseball fans: The regular season has never meant less. As of this moment, teams that finished with the best records in the American and National Leagues are out. Only two division champions are still in, along with teams that finished with the seventh and eighth best records in baseball.

Here is actually what I Tweeted: “Don’t get me wrong, I love all baseball. But why even play a regular season?”

I got a lot of responses to that, many of them answering the rhetorical question (money, revenue, to qualify for postseason, etc.) and many others making the salient point that ALL American professional sports have the two seasons, the regular season and playoffs, which makes the question stupid.

The question certainly might be stupid … but I would argue that baseball has always been different from football, basketball, hockey. It is different, for one thing, because the season is ONE HUNDRED SIXTY TWO games in baseball, twice as long as the NBA or NHL season and with ten times as many games as an NFL season. You can make a pretty compelling argument that if you’re only trying to find the Top 10 teams, you probably don’t need to play more or less every day for six months.

But there’s also a different history in baseball. For the first sixty-five or so years, there were no playoffs at all. The American League team (the Angels this year), and the National League team (the Nationals this year) would simply go right to the World Series. For the next quarter century or so — after baseball finished expanding from sixteen to twenty-four teams — they added one more playoff round, meaning four teams went to the postseason.

This was different from other sports. Take the 1985 season:

NBA: 16 of 23 teams in playoffs.
NHL: 16 of 21 teams in playoffs.
NFL: 10 of 28 teams in playoffs.
MLB: 4 of 26 teams in playoffs.

This seemed the natural order of things — why in the world would you play THAT long a season unless you were honestly trying to identify the very best teams? There was this overriding theme in baseball that said you could not separate good teams from great ones in a short series. You needed to see a team perform in the rain of April, the July sun and the September dog days in order to find its true quality. Other sports were happy to choose their champions in tournaments and March Madnesses, that was fine for them, but baseball was different.

Now let me be clear: I’m not some dewy-eyed romantic who wishes everything would go back to the days when that Merlin toy was the very cutting edge of technology*. Well, maybe I’ve got a little dewy (defeats Truman) romance in me, but I get why baseball has the wildcards and interleague play and all that, and I fully appreciate that most people like these things and, anyway, there’s way too much money involved. I’m not saying it should (or even could) ever go back. I actually have a whole other point to make.

*Where Merlin now/He’s not there/He’s out with Billy/Playing magic square! 

Let’s go back for a moment to the Nationals-Giants game and revisit the pitching choice of one Matt Williams. You might have read Dave Cameron’s destruction of Williams, a piece I agree with more or less across the board, but let’s put it this way:

You have five pitchers available.

1. Stephen Strasburg
2. Tyler Clippard
3. Matt Thornton
4. Aaron Barrett
5. Rafael Soriano

Now, in order, how would you rank the pitchers on the “Who I trust most not to give up a run and end our whole season” scale? For convenience sake, I numbered them in that order. You could fool around with the choices somewhat, but generally speaking that’s probably how you would rank them. In the seventh inning, with the Nats season on the line, Matt Williams did not pitch either of the top two pitchers but did pitch the bottom three — even more than that, in all three cases, he pitched them against hitters with huge platoon and tendency advantages.

It was a pretty illogical performance, and then came the even more illogical explanation — I am adding the word “Yostify” to JoeWords:

Yostify (yo-stah-fy), verb: give an explanation that is more irrational than the irrational decision.

Matt Williams yostified that he didn’t use Clippard because it was the seventh inning, which is not Clippard’s inning — this is bizarre yostimony that Ned Yost himself has used.

The reason he didn’t use Strasburg, it seems, had something to do with his plan to not use Strasburg except in case of an emergency. This wonderful reasoning reminds me of a scene from “The Sure Thing,” one of my favorite movies. John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga are stuck in the middle of nowhere, in a rainstorm, with no way of getting home or back to college or anywhere else. Suddenly a soaking wet Zuniga reaches in her purse and realizes that she has a credit card.

Zuniga: I have a credit card!

Cusack: You have a credit card!

: Oh no. My Dad told me specifically that I can only use it in case of an emergency.

: Well, maybe one will come up.

I would make a slightly different point — I would guess that Matt Williams was just coming up with reasons off the top of his head. It seems to me he did not use his best pitchers because he still sees baseball the way people of our generation see it. That is to say: He still thinks that baseball is a long season game, where you keep your closers for the ninth inning and don’t use a great starter on short rest. 

It’s hard to get that baseball isn’t a long-season game now. Baseball isn’t about 162. You can turn the cliche around — baseball, now, is a sprint, not a marathon.

Matt Williams used Thornton and Barrett and Soriano because he simply could not shift into football mode. And that’s what is needed now. Football teams play to win every week (unless they’ve clinched their spot). There’s no long-term strategy. There’s no “let me rest you so we have a better shot later in the season.” There’s no, “Hey, this guy has been a loyal guy all year so I’m going to put him in with this playoff game on the line.” It’s win this game, now, win, celebrate until midnight, watch the film to learn for next week. 

Baseball hasn’t been like that. Thing is: Baseball IS like that now. One-third of all teams make the playoffs. Four of those teams play in winner-take-all, one-game crapshoots. Then it’s three-out-of-five, which is nothing — the NFL equivalent might be having wildcard games where the teams only play a half.

Then it’s one seven-game series and the seven-game World Series.

That’s the season that matters in baseball now. The only season that matters. Are there a substantial number of Angels fans or Nationals fans who see 2014 as a wild success? I can tell you there sure are a substantial number of Royals and Giants fans who do.

So, you have to manage baseball games to win today. I get that players like their roles, I get that you can create chaos by trying to change things up after a successful season, I get that Ned Yost just won a series by NOT pitching his closer in key earlier innings and had it work out splendidly. I get all that.

But it’s playoff time, and it’s all hands on deck, and this is what baseball has become. When Baltimore’s Buck Showalter first started in this game, people thought he could never last with his insane preparation for every game, his detailed plans for every moment, his football coaching mentality in a long baseball season.

Well, ol’ Buck has been around long enough that the game has tilted toward him — if Showalter won’t come to baseball, baseball must come to Showalter. These days, he’s EXACTLY the guy you want managing your team, the one who gameplans each game like it is World Series Game 7.

Well, hey, just about every game that matters IS World Series Game 7 now. The regular season is fantastic for getting us fans through a hot summer, and it will spark many memories, and it will eliminate the Rockies and Cubs and Astros. But the real season is about winning today, whatever it takes. The emergency, Matt, has come up. It comes up every October.

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91 Responses to Why do we Yostify ourselves?

  1. Tim says:

    Williams managed the series like he was afraid from the first pitch of game 1. No one in their right mind would call Strasburg the number one starter on that team. Fister was more successful, Zimmermann was more successful, you can even make an argument for Roark. But because Strasburg is supposed to be the glorious leader, is supposed to be the difference maker, Williams sets aside that he’s been the team’s third or fourth best starter, that he’s the starter for whom the Nationals had the worst won-loss record.

    Fister: 18-7 (.720)
    Zimmermann: 23-9 (.719)
    Gonzalez: 16-11 (.592)
    Roark: 18-13 (.581)
    Strasburg: 19-15 (.559)

    Yes, that’s not entirely the fault of Strasburg, but Gonzalez was a dumpster fire for stretches this season and the team managed to win at a far better clip with him on the mound.

    He set up a bizarre NLDS roster, leaving off Detwiler to keep Soriano (who, mercifully, got the job done in both outings despite having no business being near a baseball diamond) and Barrett (who was a mess, allowing 3 runners while getting only one out, and throwing two wild pitches) against a left-handed heavy team. His only win came because of a move to ask an inexperienced bunter to sacrifice with two base-stealing threats on base, no one out, and the #8 batter on deck in the top of the 7th. Had Bumgarner not made his throwing error and, against all odds, Ramos accomplishes what he was asked to do, the game plays out as Cabrera then being intentionally walked, Fister having to be pinch hit for (presumably bringing Barrett or Thornton into the game, because it’s “their” inning), and the game resting on the bat of Nate Schierholtz or maybe Ryan Zimmerman (though the 7th is too early for Williams to contemplate such a move, one would imagine).

    They lost in 2012, but in 2014, they got beaten and by a team that didn’t look good at any point in the series. Having sat through 27 innings at home, I’m just grateful that if they were going to lose, they did it without bringing the series home.

    • Dude is just a moron. Funny because we share both the same first and last name. He should be fired on account of the way he’s handled Bryce Harper this season. But you know, grit, wants-it-more, respect, yada, yada, yada.

    • which hunt says:

      Dumpster Fire FTW!

    • Mike says:

      Williams wasn’t great in this series, but don’t complain about starting Strasburg in game one. Strasburg is pretty clearly their best pitcher. Don’t let poor run support and a fluky BABIP cloud the picture. Projections show him a full win and a half better than Zimmerman:

      • Tim says:

        2015 projections don’t have a whole lot to do with 2014 reality, which still recognizes that Zimmermann was a considerably better pitcher.

        Even if you want to use WAR, Strasburg is your fourth best option by baseball-reference, second best by fangraphs (though fangraphs is weighted heavily by FIP, which underestimates the value of a guy like Fister who doesn’t strike out many batters). Strasburg also had a high number of bad starts — 8 starts of 4 ER or more, including his last start against the Giants, where he lasted 4 innings. Zimmermann had 5 such starts and hadn’t given up more than 2 earned runs in a start since August 18.

    • I think using wins to make your point about the Game 1 starter is a form of Yostify in itself. You could have used ERA, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, or any number of stats that would have made more sense. I think we all hope NO managers are still making pitching decisions based on wins. A good argument could be made that Fister and Zimmerman had better years than Strasburg. But, it’s not like Strasburg was awful this year. Maybe more is expected from the golden child, but he had a very good year by all measures. There is also a logic that says dominant arms win playoff games. Strasburg’s high strikeout/low walk results this year make him still a dominant pitcher. So, while strong arguments can be made to the contrary, the decision to start Strasburg in game 1, I think, was not unreasonable.

      • Tim says:

        I didn’t use wins. I used the team’s record in games he pitched. And if you want me to tell me that whether or not a team wins or loses a game you start is irrelevant in a five game series, I think you already are manager of the Washington Nationals. Pitcher wins are a stupid statistic, whether or not a team wins games when you pitch is not.

        But yes, it was a metric I picked because it was so emphatic on the point, not because it was the best. And I could have used ERA, ERA+, FIP, or WHIP. You know who starts those games? Still not Stephen Strasburg. Only in FIP does he finish in the top 3 choices using any of your metrics.

        ERA: Doug Fister, then Jordan Zimmermann, then Tanner Roark, THEN Stephen Strasburg
        ERA+: Doug Fister, then Jordan Zimmermann, then Tanner Roark, THEN Stephen Strasburg
        FIP: Jordan Zimmermann, then Stephen Strasburg. And FIP would have you believe that Doug Fister is a dreadful pitcher, so while it has its value, any metric that puts Fister at 3.93 is pretty deficient.
        WHIP: Jordan Zimmermann, then Doug Fister, then Tanner Roark, THEN Stephen Strasburg.

        FIP would have you starting such luminaries as Aaron Harang (3.57), Bartolo Colon (3.57), T.J. House (3.69), Tyler Matzek (3.78), Josh Collmenter (3.87), Mike Leake (3.88), any anyone who wore a San Diego padres uniform that isn’t Eric Stults over Doug Fister. So while it still would recognize that Strasburg isn’t the number one pitcher on that staff, I disagree that it would make sense as the best measure of who should be starting that game.

        So does starting Stephen Strasburg in game 1 make literally no sense? No. But does it make a lot less sense than Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister? Yes, yes, it does.

        • Team record is probably worse than wins for determining pitcher value. With team record, you’re not only assessing value without factoring out the tem’s offensive and defensive contributions to a pitchers performance (which have nothing to do with pitcher value) but you are also including in Strasburg’s value, the performances of other pitchers who entered the game after Strasburg exited. So, you are arguing that including the value of other pitchers performances, by using team record instead of wins, is somehow a BETTER indicator of Strasburgs value than wins. You also foo-foo FIP, which at least attempts to strip out defensive contributions, because it doesn’t pass your “eye test”. On what planet does this make any sense? FIP is certainly imperfect, but using team record is nonsensical.

  2. I love “The Sure Thing,” what an analogy. “Yostify” is a tremendous new adjective.

  3. Circle me, Joe, as one orioles fan who could not be happier to have Showalter as a manager. One of our pitchers might screw up at some point in the postseason to come, but I doubt it will be a case where many in the media question his being in that spot in the first place

  4. tombando says:

    If only yost.

  5. Chris says:

    Tell the 2014 Brewers the season is a sprint.

  6. tombando says:

    Ahhh if only yost had listened to you genius and traded Myers for Shields, KC would have a shot at the WS some yr…..Izzat called a Sandusky there Poz, to use another football phrase?

  7. What a Great post. Have not heard/read it put that well. Makes perfect sense. Am curious on thoughts about managing a 7 game vs a 5 game series. My guess is that the win at all costs-football mentality is still the way to it modified at all? My guess would be there are more justifiable reasons for holding back on front line starters ( as relievers) in non-elimination games in a 7 games series…not sure. The good news for us baseball romantics is that this playoff mentality does not have to ruin the long season narrative or strategy…you just need a manager ( and a mind) that can walk and chew gum.

    • There is good logic to having defined roles, resting players, being careful with starters innings and relievers appearances during the regular season. Many a Manager has been criticized for burning out starting pitchers (Billy Martin, Gene Mauch) or overusing the bullpen (Freddi Gonzalez) that led to late season collapses, or the shortening of careers. So, I’m not totally buying into the “Showalter’s Method” of managing a season. I suspect he still moderates during the regular season to avoid a flaming wreckage in September…. I don’t know since I don’t follow the Orioles at all….but his style is obviously better in the playoffs when every win counts a lot. I personally don’t understand why some Managers like Yost, Williams, Bobby Cox, etc., can’t shift gears and come up with a more aggressive, win every game at all costs, approach for short series playoffs.

      • invitro says:

        You say that like you believe Cox was not successful in the playoffs. I challenge to come up with an objective measure to support that belief. (I think the truth is just that Cox’s postseason record is not as good as La Russa’s or Torre’s, but better than just about everyone else.)

  8. Interesting point about Showalter. He does manage the games like it’s game 7. And it’s necessary. Yost on the other hand is just LOL. So expect the Royals to sweep.

    • Exactly. There is nothing about the Royals Roster that predicts anything more than a slightly above (maybe) .500 season. No stars, no great seasons, except from maybe the bullpen. The manager is suspect. So, of course, they keep winning. I keep predicting that Fantasyland can’t continue. That the Royals will revert to the mean. That “hot” is only sustainable for a couple of weeks. And yet, they keep winning.

    • nightfly says:

      Damn, son. Good call.

  9. cass says:

    Just a quick correction:

    You actually have six pitchers available. There’s the closer, Drew Storen, as well. 🙂

    • Paul Zummo says:

      Considering his recent post-season performance, he would barely crack the top five if only because Soriano was such a terrible choice.

  10. Mikey says:

    I think you answered your own question perfectly a couple years ago, Joe. Baseball now has an unfair postseason to act as a counterweight to its unfair regular season, and as a result pretty much every team has a chance to reach and win the World Series. It sort of works, but there’s not much benefit anymore to proving yourself to be the best team over 162 games.

  11. invitro says:

    “The regular season has never meant less.”

    This is false and you know it. It means more now than before the WC game.

    “Yostify (yo-stah-fy)”

    It’s not “Yostafy”. Pronunciation is yo-stih-fy.

    • Dodger300 says:

      Joe was correct. “YO-stah-fy.”

      The emphasis is on the first syllable. The i definitely represents an unstressed mid-central neutral schwa sound.

      • invitro says:

        Well. An unaccented syllable is not required to have a schwa. But anyway… a schwa is not pronounced “ah”. It’s very close to “uh”. I would accept YO-stuh-fy.

  12. Brian says:

    Can’t believe someone else has “TheSure Thing” on their favorite movie list. Also, as a Royals fan, I appreciate that Joe identifies the irrational explanation for the irrational move as Yostify. So often what Yost says to support his head scratching moves just heaves you with more head scratching.

  13. AJ says:

    This is why I think Joe Torre won so many WS titles with the Yankees – well, until he didn’t…. But that magical stretch from 96-03 every game the Yankees played in the postseason was a game 7 in his eyes. Pitch Rivera for 2 innings, yep…every time he needed to. You win the game you are playing at all costs – figure out tomorrow’s pitchers tomorrow. The ones they lost (’03 didn’t go to Rivera in a tied game on the road) and well…’01 was just some luck running out. (’02 Rivera was hurt)

  14. winnipegdave says:

    Don Mattingly had a perfect Yostifying moment when he said he was starting Ethier in place of Puig because of Ethier’s superior defense. So, even though Puig had struck out something like 8 out of 12 at bats, it was his play in the outfield that caused him (according to Donnie Baseball) to be sitting on the bench for the most important Dodger game this season.

    I mean come on – that has to out Yostify the most Yostifying statement that has ever been Yostified!!

    But poor Don Mattingly. Every single one of his relief pitching moves back-fired on him. Leave the starting pitcher in? Should have pulled him because the result was a homerun. Take the starting pitcher out? Should have left him in because the result was a homerun. Go with a young reliever? Should have gone with the proven veteran because the result was a homerun. Go with a proven vet? Should have gone with the young gun because the result was a homerun.

    Every. Single. Decision. Backfired. It’s got to be tough to sleep some nights as a Manager…

    • NevadaMark says:

      You would think by the end of the season he’d know who his best players are and just let them PLAY.

      • He did with Kershaw. Let his best pitcher pitch in a great matchup situation…… And it didn’t work out. Benching Puig because he was a mess at the plate, moving around the batters box like a line dancer, made some sense too…. But obviously not because Ethier is a better fielder and really not much better at hitting either.

        • Michael Green says:

          Oh, this enters my wheelhouse. Here is a story that explains why Don Mattingly should never be allowed to make any strategic decision on the bench–maybe he should get the team ready to play, but then he should have to sit in the clubhouse while someone else directs the team on the field.

          In 1941, the Dodgers and Yankees played in the World Series. With the Yankees up 2-1, the Dodgers seemed to have Game 4 just about in the bag: 4-3 lead, 2 out in the 9th, and Hugh Casey, the top reliever, on the mound. Casey then broke off a curve and Mickey Owen missed it. Tommy Henrich ran to 1st. Thus began a carousel, with the Yankees winning, 7-4.

          Red Barber said that after the game, Leo Durocher, the Brooklyn manager, said something he didn’t think had appeared in print: “Blame me.” Why? Leo explained that after that play with Henrich, it was his job as manager to get out to the mound and say, ok, no big deal, they have a baserunner, we’ve been fine up to here, go get ’em–at least do something. If not then, then after the next batter.

          In Game 1, when the Cardinals started roughing up Kershaw at the end of a long season after six full innings on a 100-degree field, Mattingly didn’t go to the mound until, as I recall, the 5th batter. No. No. A thousand times no. If he doesn’t do it, then the pitching coach needs to, or the catcher–after the second straight hit, get over there and talk to Kershaw. Make sure everything is ok. But above all, break the rhythm.

          The excuse has been that Mattingly didn’t trust his bullpen. The Dodgers won 94 regular season games. I hadn’t realized that the starting pitchers completed all 94 of them.

          • Mattingly’s bad because he didn’t make a mound visit to tell his veteran multi CY Young award winner to calm down? No. He’s a bad manager because he didn’t have a closer eye on his CY pitcher who was throwing on short rest…. And didn’t recognize when it was time to pull him. Mound visits are overrated except when used to buy time for a reliever or discuss pitching/defensive strategy before a key at bat.

            Durocher know this too. He was simply trying to take the heat off of one of his players after a tough outing.

  15. NevadaMark says:

    Would even Yost put the winning run on base with an intentional walk? I was SO hoping for that to blow up in Buck’s face.

  16. Kris says:

    I don’t get the whole Yost is a dumpster fire and Showalter is freaking Yoda. Both do the unconventional and when the players respond you are a genius

    • :-) says:

      Agree with your point. It is very difficult to judge managers against one another.

      I agree with Poz about the baseball playoffs being too inclusive. I’d be happy going back to the original AL regular season Champ vs NL champ for the title. If you need more TV money, make it a longer series–but I realize I’m in the minority on that one.

      It is easy to spin a manager into looking like a genius or an idiot. For some reason Joe really enjoys piling on Yost. In this article he is critical of Williams for not using Strasburg in relief, yet last week he wrote an article critical of Yost for using Yordano Ventura in relief citing, among other things “Ventura is a rookie pitcher who throws 100 mph, had a fine season, and had one relief outing this year to go with 30 starts.”

      • invitro says:

        “I’d be happy going back to the original AL regular season Champ vs NL champ for the title. If you need more TV money, make it a longer series–but I realize I’m in the minority on that one.”

        The World Series would then have to be something like best 21 out of 41.

        But I’m much more on your side than theirs. My ideal postseason would be as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Probably very few people were turned off enough by the mega-inclusion to quit baseball, and thus give impetus to halting postseason creep. I was, and quit following baseball due to postseason randomness for a few years. I’m trying it again now, but maybe not for long. The negative of not having LAA and WAS at least in the ALCS/NLCS far outweighs the positive of the exciting Royals and whatever you want to point to in the NL.

  17. paul says:

    Let’s not forget the excellent “Yosted.”. As in, when Yost put Ventura in during the wild card game, the Royals nearly got Yosted.

  18. KHAZAD says:

    Yostify is awesome! I can’t tell you how many times the last few years that Yost has made an in game decision that seems to me to defy all reason and sanity, and I have listened to the press conference simply to hear him asked about it.

    He always makes it worse with a completely nonsensical explanation. You might as well hand the dude a shovel and tell him to start digging.

    “The Sure Thing” is also one of my favorites, and I have always wondered why it never seems to get replayed on TV as often as seemingly every other early Cusack movie.

    I have a friend, who, when he was single, used the movie as a test. The 2nd or third date with every girl, they stayed in and watched the movie. If she didn’t love it, she was history.

  19. Yancey says:

    It strikes me that Matt Williams might not be a very good manager, and he might single-handedly keep this very good Nationals team from winning a WS during their window of opportunity here.

    It also strikes me that the Division Series should be best-of-7 as well.

  20. Chris H says:

    Before we label Matt Williams a moron, maybe we should consider the possibility that he’s still figuring this out. When the Braves were running circles around Cleveland in 1995, I commented to a friend that they were getting out-experienced. Give Matt Williams as many tries as Buck Showalter, and he might figure out some different strategies. (Not that he will suddenly morph into the guy who was toilet-trained at gunpoint.)

    But as for Yostifying, I think what Ned has figured out is that the best answer is the one that ends the interview soonest. There are ordinarily two possible outcomes to a postgame interview, as we all should know from “Bull Durham”: boring everyone to tears (“Wedgifying”?), or saying something that causes you to spend the next two weeks putting out fires. Yost seems to have figured out a third outcome, which is to say something fairly nonsensical that mostly defies argument, but in any case takes the spotlight off a player who has failed to perform and puts it on the manager. If he blames the color of the sky or makes a scriptural utterance like “your closer is for the ninth inning,” now we’re arguing about crazy, hard-headed Ned instead of “Why didn’t Shields succeed?” or “Why doesn’t Ned trust his players?”

    I’m not defending his decisions, mind you, at least not right now – just the way he talks about them.

    It’s generally accepted that Ned’s players have busted their tails for him for 162 games – now 166 and counting. Isn’t it possible that his postgame act is part of that? I think he’s dumb like a fox.

    • But that doesn’t explain the in game decisions….. Only that he takes the heat for the players, as almost all good Managers do.

    • William says:

      I disagree completely giving Williams a free pass because he’s new at this. I’ve never managed anything beyond 12 year olds and was screaming at my television “Where’s Clippard”? I understand that he was saving Strasburg for game 5 but Clippard is an all star. He’s been in the fire many times and could easily have taken over the closer roll rather than Storen. (Where was Storen?)

      Williams may as well have carried the ‘book’ around with him, since he has used it to manage since the season started. The long season allowed for the talent on the Nats to show, but a short series depends more on the manager. Williams only tough decision all season was when Soriano imploded.

      Put Matt Williams in the minors if he needs seasoning. He should take the heat for this. If Clippard had lost it, then he made the right move and it did not work. Not making the right move is all on him.

      • Chris H says:

        I’m not saying Williams should be given a free pass. He didn’t manage well. But the second poster here (maybe I should have replied to him) said “Dude is just a moron” and I don’t think that’s fair. Williams managed his team to the best record in the National League, and a reasonable but inexperienced person might well say, “I’m going to keep doing what worked for me.”

        In the same way, Mike Hargrove didn’t manage especially well in the ’95 series, and it showed in the results. Arguably, he didn’t manage very well in ’96 either. By ’97 I think you can say he had figured it out (unfortunately his closer hadn’t). There’s no reason to think, at this point, that Williams path will be different.

        (And: The central thesis here is that managing in the postseason is different. The idea that managing in the minor leagues will somehow prepare Williams for that is ludicrous.)

  21. Melody says:

    Is this title a Tori Amos reference? If so, you’re even more awesome than I realized. If not– you’re still pretty awesome.

  22. Jon says:

    That was a risk, but Britton may have had the highest GB% in baseball in 2014, and got DPs in 30% of situations where he had a runner on first and < 2 outs.

  23. thomastce says:

    Come on, man, was the shot at the Cubs necessary? It’s been 106 years of futility. Why pile on?

  24. Pete Ridges says:

    Here’s an idea, shamelessly adapted from various European soccer leagues. Change the Division Series to four games (or six games). But the team with the better regular-season record gets a one game lead before the start.

    Maybe do the same for the Championship Series. But leave the World Series unchanged, so we still get those 1906 upsets.

    • invitro says:

      I would quickly support this, and have argued for it before.

      So soccer does this? I have tried to get into soccer a few times, and it seems too much dependent on luck. But they seem to do playoffs and relegation the right way.

    • Tampa Mike says:

      What soccer league does that? I’ve never heard of that and most leagues don’t even have a playoff.

  25. MikeN says:

    Showalter only got his put the starters in tactic from Lou Piniella, who put Randy Johnson in in Game 5, and Buck matched with Key.

    • Dave says:

      It goes back until at least 1929, when Connie Mack put Lefty Grove in in relief. Likely goes back further than that, but I remember reading somewhere that Grove came in in relief. Looked it up. I would doubt though, again, that that was the first time a manager put in a star starting pitcher to finish a game.

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      If you’re referring the the Yankees-Mariners 1995 ALDS, Showalter used Jack McDowell, not Key

  26. MikeN says:

    KC sweeps out the Angels, and the response is to bash the manager. I have to reconsider whether Jeterate came about because of some Yankee wins where he played well.

    • AG says:

      KC swept despite Yost’s managing.

    • Mark Daniel says:

      AG, KC swept despite Yost’s questionable in-game moves. His other managerial tasks seem to be sound, as evidenced by this season, the defeat of the A’s and the sweep of the best team in the AL.

  27. Chris H says:

    Completely agree – I’m making no judgment about the in-game decisions. But I think he’s not so much taking heat as creating a diversion.

  28. bullman says:

    So, your basic point Joe is that Williams managed yostifyingly? Excellent new word addition & quite flexible. “The managers were pre-yostifying in the locker room before game 1.”

  29. Brent says:

    Am I the only one who hopes that girl whose boyfriend bought her a puppy called it Ned? As in Ned just Yosted on the floor again.

  30. CarlG says:

    Ah, “The Sure Thing”, not the only good thing to happen in 1985, but a really good one.

    I would disagree in that the regular season hasn’t changed that much. It has changed in that a few teams get to coast at the end for good reasons (Orioles, Angels having clinched their postseason seeds) while some that would be giving up in early September don’t now (half of each league it seems). But you still have to treat the regular season like more of a marathon. The postseason has always been a sprint, though the thought-process of managing in it has had to evolve. The earliest I remember a manager bringing his best available pitcher in a win-now moment is Whitey with the Royals in the 70s, though I would assume it happened before that. The fact that some managers still can’t see that is their own stubbornness.

  31. Starfall says:

    That’s the thing about Showalter. He is very, very good aboout protecting his bullpen during the regular season. He stretches his starters out as much as he can, never gets a reliever warming up unless he is going to bring him in, etc. One of the reasons his bullpens have been so good the past few years is because he protects it. It’s also why Dan Duquette makes so many roster moves, bringing in fresh arms all the time.

    Then the playoffs come around, and now its all hands on deck. I think that is Joe’s point. Buck isn’t letting himself be shackled by how he used his bullpen in the regular season. I don’t think he ever used Miller in the sixth inning all year, but when he needed him there against Detroit, he made the move. Britton was never asked to get a save of more than 3 outs all year, until game 2 against Detroit. Because Buck knew it was time to shift gears, and that we were in “Emergency” mode now.

  32. Greg Quincy Adams says:

    Before my wife agreed to get married she had to yostify my love.

  33. Alejo says:


    Love it. May be in the same category as “Shitasmia” and “Clemenate”

  34. mark in orlando says:

    The wild card entry into the playoffs isn’t nearly as valuable as the division winners, so while it is true that 5 teams per league make the playoffs, it is really 3 teams from each league gets a full ticket into the playoffs, the other two battle in sudden death style for that last spot, I don’t see the regular season being devalued at all, there are really only 4 true playoff spots per league and it ain’t easy getting into the playoffs, I should know I am from Chicago!

  35. rtallia says:

    Why not get 2 more teams and then redivide the divisions like football–8 divisions of 4 teams each, no wildcard, so then you have 8 potential pennant races each year–which are very exciting end-of-regular season things to track. The “2 wildcard thing” dilutes the races even further. Then cut back the regular season to 160 games, and do three best-of-seven series in the playoffs. So slightly fewer flukes that way getting to the World Series. That’s my proposal…thoughts?

    • invitro says:

      It is a mathematical fact that adding the 2nd wild card increased the importance of the regular season, rather than diluting it.

      I’m too lazy to check if your system would dilute more than the current system.

      Best of seven versus best of five is a miniscule difference, and not the cure-all that many people (not accusing you) seem to think it is.

      • rtallia says:

        What IS the math on that, invitro?

        • invitro says:

          Which part? In the current system, a division winner has a 1/4 chance of winning the pennant, and a WC has a 1/8 chance. With four division winners and no WCs, each have a 1/4 chance. The regular season is more important in the prior because getting the division rather than the WC adds 1/8 of a pennant.

          To do the second part, you need to estimate the probability your team has of winning one game, and I’m not sure what to use there, and I’m also lazy. fivethirtyeight has a recent article on odds of winning a series, though it has a serious problem with hiding information. But I think the odds for a 7-game and 5-game series are in it.

    • Bill Blake says:

      you’re on the right track. the key though is to make the regular season relevant. that can be done by redoing the schedule to creat division rivalries.

  36. invitro says:

    After being corrected above on Bobby Cox’s postseason performance, I’m curious if anyone has ranked the teams on postseason achievement versus regular season achievement, over let’s say the ALCS/NLCS era, 1969-present.

    A team with the worst regular season record (or pyth record?) among the playoff teams winning the WS would be worth the most, while this year’s Angels would be worth the least. Maybe give each postseason team a grade from +2 to -2.

    Surely the Yankees would be at the top. I’m guessing the Cardinals or Red Sox would be next.

    Would the Braves rank last? Mariners? Astros? Cubs?

  37. Does Bruce Bochy do something unusual in the postseason (or regular season?) that possibly leads to the Giants having good success in the playoffs?

  38. NatsFanFC says:

    Thanks for the Sure Thing quote. I referenced the exact same scene earlier this week when discussing Wiiliams’ unwillingness to use Strasburg except in case of emergency.

    Early examples of using starters at key times in playoffs:

    1924 World Series: Walter Johnson who had started and lost two games pitched the top of the 9th inning to preserve a tie game that was won by the Senators in the bottom of the 9th.

    1926 World Series: Grover Cleveland Alexander was brought in to pitch the 7th inning of the 7th game with two out and the bases loaded. Alexander finished the game, allowing the Cardinals to win the World Series.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for the info. As I wrote above, I had remembered that Mack used Grove that way in a WS, looked it up, and didn’t go any further. But keeping with the idea of using an “ace” in such a situation, I’ll just quibble a bit: The Big Train was certainly the ace of the Senators, but by 1926, Pete was no longer anyone’s ace. (One thing I didn’t know is that with Pete finishing that game–that’s what I didn’t know–that means he was on the mound when Babe attempted his infamous steal that ended the WS. Neat trivia!)

      • NatsFanFC says:

        While admittedly not in his prime at 39 years old, Pete Alexander had been the starting pitcher for the Cardinals in games 2 and 6, both of which he won. So Hornsby (who was player manager for the Cardinals) certainly thought he was one of the Cardinals best starters, at least in a World Series game. Also, during the part of the season when Alexander played for the Cardinals (he was waived by the Cubs during the seasons because of his poor performance for them), he actually had the lowest ERA of any of their starting pitchers:

        In addition, he had the best WHIP in the National League in 1926, the 8th best WAR, the 9th best ERA (including his time with the Cubs), :

        So while Alexander might not have been the ace of the Cardinals staff, he was still a very formidable pitcher and Hornsby certainly thought so.

  39. Brett Alan says:

    One comment I had to make about Cameron’s piece, more so than Joe’s (although Joe doesn’t mention this, either):

    Cameron notes that it wouldn’t make sense to save your best bench player in the NFL or the NBA, so why would you do it with a pitcher in baseball? But that neglects one crucial difference: you can, of course, bring in your best reserve player in those other sports early, take them out, and then bring them back later. As much as you want, in fact. In baseball, the rules don’t allow that, and even if they did, it would be bad for a pitcher to keep coming in and out of games.

    Now, I want to be clear, that doesn’t really change the point in this situation; I do totally buy that he should have brought in Clippard or possibly Strasburg in that spot. I’m just saying that if you’re going to make the comparison, you should acknowledge that difference, and that there are certainly times in an important game where the guy most likely to get this particular important out shouldn’t be brought in.

  40. jamoke says:

    Williams made a Yostly decision not choosing a different pitcher.

  41. […] this offseason (they shouldn’t). Various forms of “Yost” are now verbs, both on sports-theme websites and on Urban Dictionary (though the latter may be unrelated). But the Royals are the only […]

  42. MikeN says:

    6 straight postseason wins, all with an inferior team. You would think a terrible manager couldn’t achieve that.

  43. […] over a fall dinner and together watched the last five innings of the Orioles/Royals game; read Joe Posnanski’s wonderful blog and learned a new word:  Yostify*; checked out some music of the people on the wonderful […]

  44. Brilliant post, Joe. You simply can’t lose an elimination game without getting any of your THREE best relief options in the game. Also, you neglected to mention that Barrett was not only not the best choice, he did two stints in AAA this season, and looked petrified the previous time he had taken the mound in the playoffs.

  45. […] on the NLDS, but when the best sportswriter  of our generation (in my opinion), Joe Posnanski, rips on Matt Williams‘s pitching choices in Game 4, it’s worth a […]

  46. jeagleshield says:

    How to fix MLB. End interleague play. Has not created the rivalries expected. Those games should be within the divisions.2) No more wild cards. Division winner in each league gets a first round bye. MLB does not want to be like the NBA<NHL,or even the NFL,allowing too many losers int the playoffs. 30Shorten the season to 154. Fix the DH either both leagues have it or both don't End the home field thing for the All Star game. Being there should be enough. End fan ballot for All stars,give it back to the writers,so those who DESERVE to be there are there.

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