We started doing manager comments with the 2007 edition of the BP annual, so we got to review Ned Yost's performances from 2006 until the Brewers canned him with just 12 games to go in 2008. On the occasion of his hiring by the Kansas City Royals, a look back at what we thought of his Yost-ness during his Milwaukee blue period:
Yost is one of the more conservative coaches in the business, making relatively few moves. He's not particularly worried about platoon matchups on either offense of defense, and as a result doesn't use a lot of lineups or go to the bullpen a million times a game; he pinch-hits infrequently for an NL manager, but gets decent results when he does. Yost isn't overly fond of the bunt, and the Brewers don't do it very well, but he does have a fondness for the squeeze play. He also likes the running game–another thing his Brewers haven't been particularly adept at–and the hit and run. With a young team that may soon deliver on its power-hitting potential, better Yost continues to observe his stay-the-course tendencies than give in to the smallball manager that's trying to break out.
In his five years at the helm in Milwaukee, Ned Yost has overseen the Brewers' slow and sometimes painful journey from laughingstock to contender. Those two types of teams generally require different skill sets from their manager. The former requires patience, teaching, and nurturing as the skipper oversees the development of young ballplayers while waiting out the bad times; the latter requires the more traditional ability to use the roster to the best tactical advantage to give the team the best opportunity to win. The odd thing about Yost is that his contending team is actually younger than the deadwood-laded squad of vets he inherited in 2003. That's created a difficult balancing act he yet to master, as seen in the patience he showed Hardy and Weeks through injuries and extended slumps to the detriment of the offense and thus the team's playoff hopes. As a result, Yost's suitability for the next phase of the team's journey was called into question as the Brewers squandered their fast start. Particularly scrutinized was his handling of a deep pitching staff; the numbers above place him solidly in the middle of the pack overall, but he came under fire early in the season for over-reliance on his bullpen, with a chorus of "I-told-you-sos" echoing through Miller Park as Carlos Villanueva, Matt Wise, and Derrick Turnbow flamed out in the second half (Yost is most definitely not popular among the fan base). Not only did the team share the major league lead with 16 blown three-run leads–a total ranking among the 25 highest since 1959–but 12 of those came after July 28. Despite that ugly figure, the near miss, and the criticism surrounding it, Yost has the enthusiastic backing of Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin, and will return for the final year of his contract.
Yost went from potential Manager of the Year to former manager in the span of two weeks, a tumble that prevented him from entering October with many of the players whom he had first guided (to 68 wins) in 2003. One might presume such a dramatic reversal of fortune was precipitated by some fresh revelation of weakness, but the 3-11 start to September that sealed Yost's fate only intensified preexisting scrutiny of his tactical decisions. His periodic matchup miscues amounted to a relatively minor issue during seasons when no caliber of field generalship would have resulted in a playoff berth, but became an increasingly glaring fault as the marginal value of each Milwaukee win soared. Although Yost was better suited to a team in transition, Doug Melvin's post-firing endorsement of his former manager suggests that his historically late dismissal was less a commentary on his performance than an attempt to stave off a repeat of the 2007 collapse.
Seems like what we said in 2009 still holds true for his new assignment: those periodic matchup miscues aren't going to matter much to the Royals, and I figure if he gets them to a place where they're actually in position to collapse, someone will build a statue of him. Either way, congratulations on your new manager, Kansas City.