Reviewing Ned Yost


Like him or hate him, Ned Yost is the Royals manager going into 2013. Maybe the Royals will come out flat like they did in 2012 and he’ll be replaced. Maybe they’ll run out and win 92 games and he’ll get extended.

Ned Yost made this signal more than anyone in the AL in 2012. Photo Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

The Bill James Handbook just came out for the 2013 season. This publication includes general stats for players but also more advanced measurements – including the actions of managers. Looking over these I notice some interesting observations from Ned Yost’s 2012, some of which debunk some myths. For instance:

Ned Yost bunts more than anyone!

That’s what it seems like watching the games, at least. The Royals will get somebody on base, it feels like a rally’s starting and then, like clockwork, there goes Yost, giving away an out.

In fact, according to the handbook, Yost attempted 37 sacrifice bunts, seven below the AL average of 44, and second least among AL managers. Part of that could just be the lineup he had in 2012. Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas aren’t likely to be asked to lay one down. Alex Gordon could probably do the job, but often, he would be the guy on base you’d want to move ahead a base. Alcides Escobar and Chris Getz tied with eight sacrifice bunts apiece last year.

Now, in 2011, he called for a sac bunt 65 times. That would have led the AL in 2012. At the least it appears that the lineup and roster will determine this tactic more than just a blind adherence to philosophy.

Another different lineup?

Lineup order is tricky to interpret. In general, there’s not a significant advantage to lining up batters by alternating handedness or by putting faster players at the top, or a good “put it in play” guy batting second. There are so many different teams and rosters, it can get pretty random. The best approach is to have batters who can get on base towards the top of the lineup and batters who can drive them in in the middle. But then are the batters in the middle of the lineup particularly skilled at driving in runners or does it just look that way because they come up with runners on more often than the number eight hitter? Lots of factors to consider.

To an extent, I think there’s an importance to lining up your batters to take advantage of your best hitters. Batters at the top of the order will see more plate appearances than those at the bottom. In 2012, the Royals leadoff hitter came to the plate 753 times. The ninth batter only came up 612 times. So with that in mind, batting Alex Gordon and Billy Butler down in the lineup is going to hurt your lineup.

The perception is that Yost is changing lineups at random and almost even recklessly. However, in 2012, he put out 118 different lineups. The AL average was 120. The NL average was 123. In 2011, he had 87 different lineups, which is partly due to a lack of significant injuries and stable performance, but with so many rookies making debuts, it would seem like it would come closer to a typical number. In 2012, he was right in the average range, although, again, it seemed like he was summoning Bob Boone‘s old ways.

In actuality, among AL Central teams, the Royals submitted the second least different lineups:

  • Cleveland – 122 lineups (116 from Manny Acta, 6 from Sandy Alomar Jr.)
  • Detroit – 121
  • Minnesota – 121
  • Kansas City – 118
  • Chicago – 75

Yost leaves his pitchers in way too long!

The stat the handbook has for this is the Slow Hook. They built a “damage score” that calculates Pitches Thrown + ten times the number of runs allowed. Then you rank all games and the top 25% are Slow Hooks. The bottom 25% are Quick Hooks.

Anyway, Yost had 37 slow hooks. The AL average was 43 in 2012.

Now, the caveat with this calculation is that it doesn’t say HOW slow a hook it may have been, or that the starter is so bad that his pitch count doesn’t get high enough to really build up that “damage score”. Also, letting Jonathan Sanchez throw 70 pitches and give up seven runs (140 damage score) isn’t quite as bad as 100 pitches thrown while giving up four runs. It’s all about context. If the myth was true, I’d figure to see Yost leading the pack in this category. Over the course of his career, he’s usually been in the 37-44 range. He may keep some pitchers in way too long, but not necessarily any more than other managers in the league.

Some areas that Yost led AL managers in – relief pitchers used (500), intentional walks issued (44), “good” intentional walks issued (where the next batter hits into a double play or no additional runs score and the team gets out of the inning – Yost had 29), and BOMB intentional walks (when multiple runs score after the intentional walk – Yost had 11). He used relievers on consecutive days (108) more than any manager but Joe Maddon of the Rays (123) and Joe Girardi of the Yankees (115). Yost made the least defensive switches in the AL (15).

Of course, the most important stat of them all – wins – is what matters, and Yost was obviously below average last year.