A previous employer fired Ned Yost as manager with two weeks left in the 2008 season when the team had a lead in the wild-card race. What Yost said Saturday night to explain his decision not to use closer Greg Holland sheds some light on what Yost's boss was thinking six years ago.
Many managers hesitate to bring in the closer with a tie score on the road in the late and extra innings because, these managers figure, they'll need the closer to finish anyway after the team (hopefully) takes the lead at some point. The downside of managing this way is clear: Your team might lose with its best relief pitcher never having left the bullpen.
Well, right-hander Greg Holland never left the bullpen in the Kansas City Royals' 3-2 loss in 10 innings to the Baltimore Orioles. When his tactics were questioned, Yost told Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star and other media:
Forget about the concept of leverage for a moment (Yost seems to have forgotten it), but Yost saying he "really wanted to win that game opening day" against the Detroit Tigers, but he didn't really want to beat the Orioles is impossible to defend. It has been said that opening day sets a tone for the season and all, but it doesn't count for two games, does it? Kansas City's loss March 31 counts just the same as the one April 26.
It should be noted that Holland, entering in a tie opening day at Detroit, faced one batter and allowed the hit that brought in the winning run for the Tigers.
Fool Ned once, shame on you. But not twice!
What he doesn't seem to understand is that, in the ninth inning or later with a tie score on the road, every pitcher a team uses is like a closer. He has to think like a closer. He has to approach the inning like a closer. He has to pitch like a closer. Especially for the visiting team, because if he slips and allows a run, his team will lose. It's not like Danny Duffy or Louis Coleman went out there thinking they had it made. Both of them knew if they messed up, the Royals would lose.
That's what Yost is getting at, after all, that some pitchers are better than others when it comes to the "closing mentality." That's why he wanted to save Holland for the save.
Yost has a deep bullpen. Using Wade Davis in the eighth was OK. Using Aaron Crow in the ninth... meh, OK. As for the 10th, Duffy is off to a great start and a lot of teams could use Coleman. But none of those guys are as good as Holland. It just makes no sense, on any level, for the Royals to avoid using Holland in that game.
Of course, the Royals have bigger problems than a bad decision by Yost. Most notably their offense:
ISO equals isolated power, or a measurement of how good a player is at hitting for extra bases. The Royals don't do it nearly enough. More than anything else, it's what is keeping them from being better.
Managers are supposed to be like physicians: "First do no harm." At least put your team in the best possible position to win. Yost isn't doing that with reasoning like this.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post listed an incorrect final score.]
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