Vargy Wasn’t So Great
Last night’s game was a disaster. The Royals jumped to a 5-0 lead after one and looked like they could put the game on cruise control. Jason Vargas had just thrown six pitches in the first to retire the White Sox in order. That was pretty neat. Then the offense came out and did what they did with the help of the White Sox defense. In the second inning, Vargas got himself into some trouble, but was able to wiggle out of it. The Royals offense continued to work Scott Carroll as he threw a lot of pitches, but was able to escape a bases loaded jam.
At this point, it’s pretty clear Jason Vargas doesn’t have his best stuff, so the manager has to start his thought process. The question is how long can you stick with a guy who doesn’t have it going on today in order to keep the team in line for the win. For now, the answer is pretty easy. It’s 5-0 after two innings. You want to get him through at least five for a couple reasons. I’d have them in different orders, but I think Ned Yost has them this way. First, you want to reward your guy with a victory. There’s an ongoing debate regarding the relevance of pitcher wins. I’m of the belief that they don’t tell the whole story, but we can argue that another time. Second, you want to save your bullpen. For the same reason that getting the White Sox starter our early is good, keeping your starter in is good as well. You don’t want to expose the bullpen early in the series.
So the third inning begins with the Royals up 5-0 and Jason Vargas allows a single, bad bunt out and a walk. And up steps Alexei Ramirez. He promptly deposits a ball in the Royals bullpen. That’s no good. Now it’s 5-3. All of a sudden, we have ourselves a game and the Royals offense might need to wake up a little and tack on some insurance runs. Ned Yost needs to really start thinking if Vargas has what it takes to get through five innings. He was shaky in the second after being dominant in the first, but the third inning is when the explosives began. The Royals sent three men to the plate in the third and Johnny Giavotella ended the frame getting caught stealing. The hope now is obviously that Jason Vargas could get it together and keep the White Sox off the board.
Dayan Viciedo led off the fourth inning with a long home run to left field that cut the Royals lead to one. Now Ned Yost really has to start thinking about what to do. Vargas came back and struck out the side. To me, that showed that he might be back on track, and I imagine that was the same message sent to Yost, even though Tim Collins was beginning to stretch in the bullpen. Now, I should clarify that Collins was just stretching. He could have just been up and moving around on his own because he was tired of sitting, so it’s hard to say if Yost had him up or not. The Royals offense came alive again in the bottom of the fourth. Escobar singled and stole second and then scored on Eric Hosmer‘s third RBI of the day. Billy Butler followed that up with a single, but ultimately the Royals just padded their lead by one. Since the start of 2013, the Royals were 49-2 when scoring six or more.
To the fifth we go and Vargas gives up two singles (and a lucky bad base running decision by Beckham) before a ground ball scores the White Sox fifth run of the game and here’s where much of the Royals fanbase believes the Yosting began. Vargas stayed in to pitch to Adam Dunn, and I think everyone was fine with that because Dunn struggles against lefties. Vargas walked him. Louis Coleman was ready. Personally, I’d have gone with Louis Coleman here, but I can see the logic behind Yost not taking Jason Vargas out of the game. You’re probably thinking about Konerko’s career against Vargas at this point, and that makes a lot of sense. What I see, though, is that Vargas retired Konerko easily in his first two at bats and that Paul Konerko isn’t the same Pauly who had killed the Royals for years. In fact, most of Konerko’s career damage done against Vargas was in 2010/2011, which in 38 year-old, former excellent hitter years is a long, long time ago.
We all know what happened next. Konerko hit a ball over the center field wall. The White Sox led 7-6 in a game they trailed by five after just one inning. It was crushing. Much of the Royals fanbase that I saw on Twitter was claiming that the team was completely Yosted. And here’s where I take some issue.
I do believe that Yost made the wrong decision. I think Coleman should have come in to face Konerko. Maybe he retires him, maybe he doesn’t, but I’m about the process and that was probably the right thing to do. So I’m not with Yost in his decision, but I at least see his logic. He was trying to get one more out from his starting pitcher against a guy who hadn’t done much against him in three years and who had looked bad in two at bats earlier in the game.
Lost in the fact that Yost made the worst decision of all time (as I saw one person say) is that Jason Vargas was given a five run lead and couldn’t make it stand up against a division opponent that had just lost two of three to the Houston Astros. I’m not saying Yost doesn’t deserve the blame, but Jason Vargas went 4.2 innings and gave up 7 runs and 3 homers in a game in which he was handed a “W” on a silver platter. That’s unacceptable.
Yost probably should have seen that Vargas didn’t have it earlier. He maybe shouldn’t have even sent him out there for the fifth inning, but you have to at least acknowledge that you can see the logic behind his decision. And maybe the logic was that he wanted to “get Vargy the win,” and if that’s the case, then it’s just managing to a stat, which I think is dumb. I just don’t think it’s crazy to expect your big off-season acquisition, number two starter (yes, probably in name only) to retire a hitter who even after a game with a big home run has a .599 OPS.
I’m not saying the Royals weren’t Yosted in a way. Like I said, I think Yost made the wrong choice. But I also think the Royals were Vargased last night. I know that Royals fans have four years of watching Ned Yost make questionable decisions regarding his starting pitchers and relievers and their usage. Sometimes it’s hard to look past that to see that maybe this wasn’t his worst effort. Maybe he was just trying to get one more out from his guy against a hitter who hasn’t done much of anything since 2012.
I’m not a Yost fan by any stretch of the imagination. I think there are plenty of guys out there who could get more out of this team than Yost does. But I also think the hate against Yost and the simplicity of blaming last night’s loss on Yost is overblown. When your offense scores six runs, you should win pretty much every time, but last night’s starting pitcher didn’t do enough to make that stand up. Ultimately, the players perform and the manager’s job is to put them in the best position to do that. Last night, neither happened, but in this instance, I at least understood where the manager was coming from, and was just surprised by the fact that Yost took the brunt of the blame that I saw when Vargas was dreadful. It’s a loss, and that’s what ultimately matters. That’s just my two cents on the situation.
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