No, this is not a post about Mister T. He’s not a fool, and has had an interesting career.
No, the fool in question is Ned Yost. And the truth is, I don’t pity him, I despise his managerial skill. He’s probably a good guy, but he’s a horrible baseball manager. Actually, the people I pity are the fans of the Kansas City Royals who have to put up with him.
Baseball teams generally have 27 outs to win a game. Yes, there are shorter games because of weather, and longer games because of extra innings. Sometimes, they only need 24, but they usually have only 27.
In modern baseball outs are really really valuable. By modern I mean since the time they allowed batting helmets, more than 1 ball in a game, and ensured sufficient light that hitters could actually see the pitch. In other words, since the dead ball era, the bunt has generally speaking decreased the ability of a team to score. One out is more valuable than a baserunner one more base closer to home.
This has been proven over and over mathematically. If a hitter has over a .220 on-base percentage and we’re not talking about 1 run meaning the difference between a win and a tie game late in a game, then a bunt hurts a team’s overall scoring potential.
You go argue the math, if you want, but it’s conclusive.
However, bunts do one important thing. They show fans that managers are doing everything they can to win. That the manager is doing “something,” even if it is not helpful.
This need to do “something” combined with the idea of old school baseball, again, baseball in the Dead Ball Era, have created this mystique that bunting is a great idea. It’s not. It hasn’t been for a century.
And yet this myth persists and Ned Yost is one of its prophets.
Worse yet, Ned Yost *has* to do something. So in this game where you win or go home, he removed James Shields, his best starter, in the 5th inning when he had plenty of life in his arm, for a pitcher that has not relieved before.
Shockingly, Yordano Ventura gave up a home run, turning the inning into a 5-run debacle. Could he have made better pitches? Sure. But he was put in place because Yost had to do something.
Baseball is a long sort of game. Things happen in a given at bat. I’ve only seen Nolan Ryan pitch once in person. He gave up back to back home runs to Craig Grebeck (the first of his career) and Ozzie Guillen (the first of that season). Odds against that happening were a incredible, and yet baseball is baseball.
You have to accept the fact that weird things happen, that the difference between a great hitter and the worst ever is not actually all that much. A .300 hitter will get a hit 10% of the time more than a .200 hitter, however, that still means that a .200 hitter will get a hit twice every ten times at-bat.
But which manager is smarter? The one who bats the .300 hitter or the .200 hitter? Clearly, you have to play the odds and in a long season you will get more value out of the .300 hitter, all other things being equal.
Yes, there are times when being a manager means making decisions, when you have to do something. However, in the playoffs there’s the attraction to do something simply to do something and that way lies madness.
And Ned Yost has that madness. He has made mistake after mistake, tactically, that at first sight are demonstrably unwise, must less hindsight.
Worse yet, in the one place where a bunt might very well have been optimal (down 1, fast runner on 3rd, 8th inning, mediocre hitter at the place), he chose to play it straight. It might have been the right call, but it might have been the one time to “do something.”
It’s the top of the 9th. The A’s are up by 1. I have no idea at this point if who wins. I will say this, though, that if the Royals win, it will be despite Ned Yost. And if they lose, it will be his fault directly.
Yet, fans here will probably love him for getting to the wild card game. I pity those fools.