Inside Ned Yost’s head on odd use of closer Greg Holland

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Scene 1: March 31, 2014. Opening Day. The Royals and Tigers took a 3-3 tie into the bottom of the ninth inning in Detroit. Reliever Wade Davis put runners on first and third with one out with a walk and a single. Royals manager Ned Yost brought in closer Greg Holland — with the game tied on the road — to wiggle out of the jam. Instead, Holland served up a walk-off RBI single to then-Tigers shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

Scene 2: April 26, 2014. The Royals and Orioles took a 2-2 tie into the bottom of the tenth inning in Baltimore. Reliever Danny Duffy loaded the bases following a hit batter and two throwing errors on bunts. Though Holland had been warming up, Yost brought in Louis Coleman. Coleman recorded a strikeout before serving up a walk-off RBI single to first baseman Nick Markakis.

Scene 3: April 27, 2014. The Royals lead the Orioles 9-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning in Baltimore. Yost brought in Holland to protect the seven-run lead. Ostensibly, Yost was giving his closer work because he hadn’t pitched since Friday. Though Holland allowed a run, the Royals walked away with the easy 9-3 victory.

The folly of Yost’s bullpen management is obvious to most observers but Yost vowed to never use his closer in a tie game on the road again. Via Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star:

“That’s the first time I’ve ever used my closer (in that situation),” Yost said. “Because I really wanted to win that game on opening day. But don’t look for me to do it. I’m not going to do it. Because I’ve got confidence in everybody down there.”

The Royals may never take that lead for which Yost is saving Holland. That means, as is evident from the April 26 game, the Royals will lose games with their best reliever sitting in the bullpen. But Yost’s comment is perplexing even beyond the obvious strategic shortcomings.

Yost says he “really wanted to win” on Opening Day, so he used his closer. Thus, by his own logic, using his closer in a tie game on the road gave his team the best chance to win. That he didn’t do it on April 26 means he was either lying or not putting his team in the best position to win. Either situation is not a good look for him.

As many point out when the bullpen management debate arises, Yost is just one of a gaggle of managers who use — and miuse — their closers in the same way. It’s hard to place all of the blame on him when 99 out of 100 managers would do exactly the same thing in his position.

The 2019 Hall of Fame Class will be announced this evening

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This year’s Hall of Fame ballot was released just over two months ago. This evening at 6:15 PM Eastern, all of the arguing stops. Well, actually, it doesn’t stop, because it never stops. Not really. It just transforms into something more pointless, because as of then, the 2019 Hall of Fame class will be officially announced live on MLB Network.

The entire ballot can be found here. Two weeks ago I went through it, candidate-by-candidate, in order to determine who I would vote for if, in fact, I had a vote. For what it’s worth, I ended up with Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Manny Ramirez. and Scott Rolen.

No, not all of those guys will be elected. I strongly suspect we’ll get three, with an outside chance at a fourth. Based on the best Hall of Fame voting tracker out there, Mariano Rivera is a lock. So too, it seems, is Roy Halladay. Edgar Martinez — on the ballot for is tenth and final time — likewise seems to have the support to finally make it. He was 20 votes short last year and, so far, he has picked up more than 20 new votes among voters who have revealed their ballots. Assuming that previous Martinez voters who have not released their ballots do not backtrack — a safe assumption — Edgar should, at long last, finally make it into Cooperstown.

The last guy who, at present, is trending above the required 75% is Mike Mussina who, at present, is included on 81% of public ballots. There is a tendency for the non-public voters to be stingier with their support, however, so there’s a pretty decent chance that Mussina will fall just under the threshold and will find himself back on the ballot next year. A jump from last year’s 63.5% support to something in the 70s, however, would bode very well for his 2020 chances. If he somehow makes it this year’s class will rival last year’s four-person BBWAA-elected class as one of the better ones in living memory.

Who will join Harold Baines and Lee Smith on the stage in Cooperstown in July? We find out this evening, just after 6 PM.