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Nervous Ned’s Return

When the Royals hired Ned Yost last season, most of us saw it as a huge improvement over the previous manager, Trey Hillman. Not to take anything away from Yost, but dryer lint would have been a huge improvement over Trey Hillman. After hearing from pretty much everyone that the Royals had to make a change and they chose a guy who had a very sound baseball mind, some people began coming out of the woodwork to tell fans of the Royals exactly what was wrong with Ned Yost. I remember stories about how he used the same batting order for a month straight, but only sort of. You see, it turned out that it was just the fielding positions that were the same while the players changed sometimes, even if they didn’t fit well into that spot in the batting order. We heard how he was terrible with a bullpen and how he snapped at reporters and that was why he lost his job. He had gotten nervous. You get the feeling that Yost is nervous again.

Personally, I can’t figure out why he would be. I think he has the ultimate job security through at least next season. The Royals were not expected to be good this year. In fact, the Royals were expected to be terrible this year. The way they’re playing right now, they’re living up to that billing and then some. The true test for Ned Yost and his managerial ability will come next season when the Royals may not compete, but they better finish near .500. If they lose 95 games this season, I think everyone will look the other way for the most part. Next year, though, if they lose more than, say 83 games, I think that Ned Yost’s job is in jeopardy. I’m not sure if that’s entirely fair considering the pitching will still be pretty bad, but it is what it is.

My problem with Yost the last few days is his tactical decisions, which may or may not be a problem going forward. The funny thing about managers is that when they have talent to work with, they do less stupid things. You might remember that there was a bumbling idiot who managed a few teams to a less than stellar record before the Yankees hired him and he won four titles in five seasons. It’s amazing what having good players can do for your managerial career. So, I wonder what will happen in three years (if Yost is still around) when a situation like Monday night comes up and the Royals need a pinch hitter and they have better options than Dyson, Betemit and Maier. I really like Mitch Maier. I think he’s a fantastic fourth outfielder and a good guy, but he’s not a great hitter. Jarrod Dyson is really fast and, right now, that’s about it. And Wilson Betemit has been absolutely brutal at the plate since late May and now he’s not even playing because of the promotion of Mike Moustakas.

Yes, Yost chose the worst of those three to pinch hit, but it’s not like the worst was significantly worse than the others. It doesn’t make it any less of a terrible decision, but mediocre at best players tend to be what makes the manager look silly. It doesn’t help when he furthers that himself, but it will always be the players who make the manager look good or bad in the end.

That said, the other big decision of the last few days is a bit troubling as well. I’m not sure who is responsible for this decision, but the choice to go with a six man rotation is one of which I am not a fan. I’m not as down on it as many others are, but it’s a bit annoying that people are bashing the Royals so heartily for this decision when just a month or so ago they were praising the White Sox. Now, I get that the White Sox had to go to a six man rotation because they had too many good starters, but they were still praised for thinking outside the box. My issue with it is not the tactical aspect of it, but rather the reasoning behind the decision. Why create a rotation spot for Kyle Davies? I think that Davies is, right now, the worst of the six starters on the staff.

From one viewpoint, though, it does make sense. This allows Danny Duffy to stay in the Major Leagues where he’s shown vast improvement over his last couple of starters. It allows him to stay up in the big leagues as a starter as well, which I think is something that is important to the organization for his development. And, finally, it allows him to limit his innings and potentially continue to pitch for the rest of the season. Personally, I’d rather stick with the five man and shut him down whenever he reaches his innings limit. It’s not like the Royals need him to compete this season because they’re sure as hell not competing this season.

So now the Royals rotation looks like this:

1. Hochevar
2. Francis
3. Paulino
4. Chen
5. Duffy
6. Davies

My guess is that this rotation lasts for approximately one month until one or both of Francis and Chen are traded. If it’s both, you can bet that Montgomery ran off a stretch of great starts in AAA, which is sorely needed in this organization and he comes up to take one of the spots. All I know is that I guess I’d rather see Davies pitch every sixth day instead of every fifth day. I’m trying to be more optimistic here.

One last thing I want to talk about is Felipe Paulino. I’ve discussed him a couple times in the past, but I just continue to be impressed by him. He has been outstanding since the Royals picked him up. He now has thrown 42 innings and given up less hits than innings pitched, struck out 36 and walked just ten. Just when I was starting to lose some of the faith that Dayton Moore had built up in the offseason, he goes and gets someone like this. If Paulino continues to pitch like this, there’s a spot in a playoff rotation for him. Let’s just hope that we see the playoffs sometime in his lifetime.

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