Morning Coffee: Evaluating Ned Yost
photo by Minda Haas
Recently Bob Dutton has started doing a daily Q&A that he posts on the website of the Kansas City Star, and it’s great for a bunch of reasons. First, it’s awesome because the information is just solid information. The second reason it’s great is because it keeps our Twitter timelines clean of the questions about Jeff Francoeur playing right field. If you haven’t seen the Q&As, Francoeur is the right fielder whether you like it or not. I’d also recommend checking them out daily. One interesting tidbit from yesterday’s edition was a question about whether or not Ned Yost was on the hot seat, and that’s the point I want to talk about here today. Dutton’s answer was that the season would have to be a fiasco for that to happen because he doesn’t get the impression that Yost or Moore is on the hot seat.
First I want to say that I agree with that. I don’t think they’re on the hot seat right now, but a bad start and their seats could start getting quite warm. That odd imagery aside, for now they’re safe. When a team makes moves in the off-season like the Royals did, they’re in it to win it, and if they don’t win, then the people who made the moves might pay for it with their jobs. So I guess my first point here is that I don’t think it has to be a season long fiasco for Ned Yost to lose his job. I doubt Dayton Moore would get fired mid-season just because of the nature of the job. A mid-season fiasco that would cost Ned Yost his job is maybe a 13-27 type record through 40 games. To be honest, I don’t see that happening.
A season-long fiasco is a little bit different because a terrible record could be a result of injuries. We’ve seen that happen here before both in football and in baseball. If Shields, Guthrie, Hosmer, Gordon and Moustakas get hurt, Yost and Moore would get a pass for a 59-103 season. If they should or not is another story, but that isn’t what we’re talking about here. Now, if the Royals go 59-103 because Shields goes 7-18 with a 5.31 ERA, Guthrie goes 9-14 with a 5.29 ERA, Hosmer has a .684 OPS, et al, then we’re looking at a fiasco.
If I was the Royals front office and evaluating Ned Yost, I think wins and losses are an important barometer, but I don’t think it’s the be all, end all because of various circumstances that could have a serious impact on a season. I’d look at his use of relievers and the leverage of the given situation in which he brings them in. I’d look at his timing on removing starting pitchers and going to the bullpen. I’d look at the nuance with which he gives players days off in order to get them out of a slump or just give them a day off because they’ve been playing like they’re absolutely exhausted, which happens. A great manager can win a team a few extra games over the course of the season. The way Joe Maddon uses his lineup and massages his bench as well as the way he handles a pitching staff gives Tampa Bay and edge over the course of a season. A good manager can maybe win a game or two extra. But a bad manager can lose a bunch of games for a team (see Hillman, Trey).
If the Royals have aspirations of competing in 2013 and beyond, they’re going to have take a good, hard look at Ned Yost and determine if he’s the guy who can take them to the promised land. As you probably know, I don’t think he’s that guy and I’ve been saying it for quite some time. Last spring training, while I was appearing on 610, I was asked about my thoughts on Ned Yost and I told them then that I just don’t think he’s the guy to get the job done. The thing about Yost is that he probably won’t cost you a bunch of games. He’s not a terrible manager, he’s just below average.
The issue with that is that if the Royals hope to make the playoffs, they’re going to need an edge somewhere because their starting pitching is probably average. The edge can come from the bullpen, but that didn’t help much last year to have a great bullpen. The edge could come from their offense, which isn’t impossible considering the elite potential in that unit. But more than likely, the edge will have to come from strategy, from playing matchups and from generally out thinking their opponents.
The funny thing about Yost is that a lot of people believe he’s just way behind the times in terms of his analysis and his technological know-how, but that really isn’t the case. For him to succeed as Royals manager both this year and in the future, he needs to find a way to learn from his past mistakes. Give him the talent, and just like any manager he can win. The best find a way to squeeze a little bit extra out of their team because they use their bullpen perfectly or because they pinch hit at the exact right time. Sometimes the best win because Elliot Johnson hits a three-run homer to win a game that he started because the manager made the call to put him in that day. I think Yost is absolutely capable of being that manager, but he has to do it or else the Royals need to make a change. The day the Royals acquired James Shields is the day the excuses had to stop, and that goes for everybody from the top all the way to the bottom. I think waiting for a fiasco to make a move has a chance to be detrimental to the future of the team.
While I’ve called for firings before, I realize my mistake in that and I don’t want to be that guy. And I’m not calling for Ned Yost to be fired right now either. That would be ridiculous. All I’m saying is that the Royals need to honestly evaluate each and every person in their organization to determine if they have what it takes to be a part of a playoff team THIS YEAR. Whether or not we think that’s an attainable goal should be irrelevant because the Royals as an organization need to have totally shifted their focus to that mindset. That’s a big part of becoming a contender, and people who don’t fit on contenders need to be replaced with someone who does.
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