Sep 2, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost (3) and pitching coach Dave Eiland (58) talk with starting pitcher Yordano Ventura (30) in the dugout after the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 12-1. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The 2015 Kansas City Royals return the same coaching staff that guided the team to the 2014 World Series. So how can there be much of a difference?
During the 2014 regular season, manager Ned Yost showed a lot of rigid thinking in terms of reliever roles and lineup construction. The 2015 Yost showed a bit more of a tendency to experiment. Some of the differences in his approach can be traced back to changed he made under the crush of guiding his first team into the post-season as a major-league manager. Comparing himself to the version that managed the Brewers, Yost said:
"“Completely different, I think,” said Yost on Monday. “I’ve learned to let my players be themselves. I’m every bit as patient as I was back then. I think I’m also, because I have great coaches, I think I listen a lot more than I did back then. I’m pretty hard‑headed, a little more flexible, and use the tremendous experience we have in our coaching staff to my benefit and our benefit.”"
Yost’s flexibility in listening to his Kansas City Royals coaches, which began late in the 2014 season, became an established pattern in 2015. In this sense, I believe Ned Yost—and by extension the rest of the coaching staff—have become a more effective group because Yost is doing a better job of utilizing their talents.
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While Yost continued to show patience with under-performing players like Alex Rios, Omar Infante, and Greg Holland during the regular season, he eventually made common-sense adjustments that helped the team. He installed Ben Zobrist at second base, he demoted Greg Holland from the closer role when it became clear he just wasn’t getting the job done, and he removed Jeremy Guthrie from the rotation when he was obviously pitching on fumes.
In 2015, Yost has the benefit of managing three playoff series and one wild card game under his belt. Whereas in 2014, every rung up the playoff ladder was a new experience for the Kansas City Royals coaches as a group. One would think they will benefit from that experience.
On the other hand, I don’t see how the KC Royals can replicate the momentum they gained from their crazy 9-8 Wild Card win over the Oakland A’s. Coming back from a four-run deficit in the eighth inning, and overcoming another one-run lead in the 12th inning, to win was a pretty unique experience.
Tabulating the results of this analysis gives the edge to the 2015 team in offense, starting pitching, and coaching. The 2014 team had a stronger bullpen, defense, and bench. While that assessment looks pretty even, starting pitching and offense play a bigger role in winning games than the bench and bullpen. Objectively, I believe the 2015 Kansas City Royals are a better team than their 2014 counterparts.
But, the 2014 American League Champions caught the x-factor of momentum that the 2015 Central Division winners are unlikely to repeat.