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

Apr 27, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals v Houston Astros Getty Images

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.

  1. wheels579 - Apr 27, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    The role of a closer is to protect a lead in the last half inning of games. Closers are generally good for 65-80 innings per season and rarely more than one inning per appearance. Those innings are most valuable in situations where you can END a game with the lead, not to extend games (in non-playoff or elimination games). If you don’t have confidence in your other relievers to extend tied games, how can you have confidence in them to close out an extra inning lead? If closers pitched multiple innings per appearance with regularity, you could bring them in earlier for 2-3 innings and take your chances. Since that isn’t the case, your logic makes no sense when the objective is to protect leads to win games.

    • kcfanatic - Apr 27, 2014 at 10:27 PM

      Hey Ned, I didn’t realize that you posted here as Wheels 579.

    • dwrek5 - Apr 28, 2014 at 7:12 AM

      Google high leverage innings.

  2. bringbackkosar - Apr 27, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    “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.”

    so the point of this article is……um, what is it again?

  3. vols84 - Apr 27, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    The only two guys who believe in Ned are Jeff Foxworthy and Dayton Moore …and Dayton has to believe Ned is a dead man walking at this point.

  4. edelmanfanclub - Apr 28, 2014 at 2:01 AM

    Haha wow

  5. ridiculousbacon - Apr 28, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    Ok, soooo he pretty much did exactly what most other managers do on a regular basis?

    Not gonna lie, think I’m missing the point here?

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Apr 28, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      It’s still wrong. Just because everyone else does it, doesn’t make it right.

      • apmn - Apr 28, 2014 at 9:16 AM

        The logical construction of the article, then, would have been to make that the central point, arguing the merits of using closers in various ways, using Ned Yost as an example. It would have been educational and enlightening. Instead, we have “Ned Yost is a dunderhead”.

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