KC Royals: Picking Yordano Ventura To Open Playoffs Is Wise Choice


KC Royals manager Ned Yost announced Tuesday afternoon that Yordano Ventura would start game one of the American League Division Series according to the Associated Press. Ventura will pitch game one no matter whether the Yankees or Astros win the wild card game Tuesday night.

Johnny Cueto will pitch game two, with Edinson Volquez slated for game three. Yost will decide on starters for games four and five if they become necessary.

Yost explained his decision on Tuesday:

"“For us, the last two weeks, three weeks, all three of those guys have been throwing the ball good,” Yost said. “Ventura has been excellent in his last six, seven starts. And we wanted to keep everybody on five days’ rest. We thought that would work out best for us.”"

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Don’t you believe that five days rest stuff. Yordano Ventura is pitching game one because Yost thinks he gives the KC Royals the best chance to seize momentum in the division series by winning the opening game.

Frankly, I’m gratified to see Ned Yost make what should be the obvious decision. Yordano Ventura has dominated opponents the last two months with an 8-1 record and 3.26 ERA while striking out 9.7 hitters per nine innings (K/9). He’s clearly been better than purported “ace” Johnny Cueto, and every other starting pitcher on the staff. Yordano Ventura has grown up before our eyes the last two months, and I’m glad that Yost and general manager Dayton Moore, are trusting what they’ve seen.

The 2015 Playoffs appear to be Yordano Ventura’s coming out party as the Kansas City Royals staff ace.

Actually, Yost recognizing Ventura as the staff ace is a good thing for the KC Royals future. Johnny Cueto, while having a superior track record over the long-term, is a hired gun. He’ll be a free agent this winter and most likely will leave Kansas City. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals control Ventura for four more years.

Ventura figures to headline the rotation for the foreseeable future.

While it should have been a no-brainer, Ned Yost and the KC Royals are something of an old-school organization. General manager Dayton Moore paid a heavy price in prospects to obtain Johnny Cueto as his “ace” at the trade deadline. Promoting Ventura to the top of the KC Royals rotation is at least a tacit admission that he was wrong.

And that’s a very healthy thing.

It’s the kind of decision that an organization makes when the manager and GM are secure in their jobs. It would have been very easy to cite Johnny Cueto’s improved play over his last four starts (2-1, 25.0 innings pitched, 3.24 ERA) and hand him the ball for game one. That’s what I, and pretty much everyone else, expected Yost to do.

I’m pleasantly surprised.

In fact, Ned Yost has pretty much made every common-sense decision for the Kansas City Royals this season. He replaced Omar Infante with Ben Zobrist at second base. He demoted Greg Holland from the closer role. He recognized Wade Davis‘ dominance in the late innings. And now, he has accepted the growth of Yordano Ventura from overwhelmed youngster at the beginning of the season to emerging superstar down the stretch.

About the only structural decision that still drives me crazy is Yost’s insistence that shortstop Alcides Escobar is a leadoff hitter. However, I can understand Yost’s choice after watching Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist slump after taking over the leadoff role. The KC Royals are more than 40 games over .500 with Escobar batting no. 1. While I think that Kansas City success with Escobar at leadoff has to be a statistical artifact caused by variance, perhaps the TEAM believes that they’re better with Escobar atop the lineup.

And, when facing post-season pressure, belief can trump everything else.

Next: Royals Awards For 2015 Season

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