Choose Your Own Adventure, Royals Manager Style
So it’s bottom of the ninth, tie score, one out, runners on first and third and Chris Getz at the plate. Kila Ka’aihue and Mitch Maier are on the Royals’ bench, and certain corners of Twitter are blowing up calling for Ned Yost to make a move.
1) Keep Getz in the game. He’s the best defensive option in case the game goes extras. He’s weak at the plate, but known as a pretty good situational hitter. He’s 4-for-4 in scoring a runner from third with less than two outs this season*, for instance, and is slightly above the MLB average for his career.
2) Pinch hit Kila. In addition to being a personal favorite of this blog, he’s hitting .320/.393/.520 since April 20. His fly ball rate is 38.2%, which is higher than Getz’s (31.6%).
3) Pinch hit Maier. He only has 11 plate appearances this year, but is a .257 career hitter with respectable situational numbers and a 40% fly ball rate. A pinch hitter would most likely mean moving Mike Aviles to second, Wilson Betemit to third, Alex Gordon to first, and whichever combination of Maier and Melky Cabrera in center and left.
Judging by the Twitter machine, many of you wanted either 2 or 3. Yost went with 1, and it either worked out or didn’t, depending on how you judge. Getz grounded into a fielder’s choice against a drawn-in infield for the second out, and Cabrera grounded out to end the inning and send the game into extras, so you would probably say the (non-) move flopped.
But the Royals then won in the 10th, as predicted by this guy, so you could also say the move worked.
Either way, I asked Ned about the situation after the game. Here’s what he said:
“I wanted my defense in there at second base. And quite frankly, that guy’s numbers against left-handed hitters was a lot higher than right-handed hitters*. But I didn’t really have a right-handed hitter with the exception of Treanor on the bench. But the only one I had that I could’ve hit was either Kila or Mitch Maier.
* Orioles righty Jason Berken is a reverse split guy: lefties are .320/.388/.422 against him in his career; righties are .296/.344/.496 against him, which is another way of saying he ain’t exactly Mariano Rivera.
“And I felt Getzy was going to get him in, one way or the other. We had a couple options there. We could’ve squeezed, there was different things we could’ve done. But Getzy’s been swinging the bat a lot better. Hit the ball right on the nose three times tonight, and I had a lot of confidence in him in that spot.”
So, there you have it. Now, I think for the most part that second-guessing a manager’s in-game strategy is a fun but mostly inconsequential exercise for a lot of reasons. Even so, I didn’t have a problem with Yost leaving Getz in, for the reasons he mentioned and a few others.
Now, you want to second guess…what about his philosophy of ALWAYS sending the runner at third on contact?