Ned Yost has been fired by the Milwaukee Brewers, a near-unprecedented move by a team that currently is tied for the lead in the wild card. At that, it may well be justified; Yost’s decision making, particularly his administration of the bullpen, has been questionable all season long, and it reached a nadir yesterday afternoon in Philadelphia.
The players take much of the blame for the Brewers’ being swept, of course. Manny Parra and Jeff Suppan got hammered, and the bullpen coughed up the other two games, just as it coughed up two games against the Reds last week. The offense no-showed, scoring just ten runs in four games, no more than three in any contest. In fact, the Brewers have not scored more than four runs in a game since putting up five against the Mets on September 2. They’ve nearly been doubled up, outscored 75-40 in September, on their way to a 3-11 mark this month.
Yost has to take a big part of the blame as well, after making some of the worst tactical decisions you’ll see. In the eighth inning of yesterday’s first game, the Brewers were tied 3-3. Guillermo Mota allowed a leadoff single to Jayson Werth, and was lifted for Brian Shouse so that Shouse could face Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. (Charlie Manuel‘s refusal to always put a right-handed batter between those two is a big reason why the Phillies will have trouble winning a short series.) Utley sacrificed Werth to second, setting up Shouse versus Howard.
Yost elected to walk Howard to face Pat Burrell. This was… well, it strains my vocabulary to find the right word for it. Howard cannot hit left-handers, and would be a platoon player if performance mattered anywhere near as much as reputation does. Or if he had a competent manager. Howard is at .228/.313/.458 against lefties in his career, .212/.287/.410 this year. Howard. Can’t. Hit. Lefties. Shouse, on the other hand, is in the major leagues for exactly one reason: lefties can’t hit him, to the tune of .175/.192/.289 this year, and .211/.263/.325 for his career, which includes a bunch of years when he was barely a major leaguer. Manuel sending Howard up against Shouse was a continuation of a theme for the Phillies: not hitting for Howard when he has little chance of doing something good. He was giving Yost an out, and Yost gave it right back.
That set up Shouse versus Pat Burrell, which cried out for a right-handed reliever. After all, Shouse is a pure specialist (.307/.390/.455 vs. RHB career; .293/.371/.446 this year). The only way walking Howard even might make sense is if Yost were to bring in a righty to try and get a double play out of Burrell. Burrell doesn’t have the big platoon splits he showed earlier in his career-he’s a dangerous hitter against both kinds of hurlers-but leaving Shouse in to face him was asking for trouble.
Think about this for a second. Yost had a 481 OPS pitcher facing a 697 OPS hitter. He elected to issue an intentional walk in that situation to allow an 817 OPS pitcher to face a 905 OPS hitter with an additional runner on base. That’s when you start looking around the roof of the stadium for snipers, because gunpoint is the only place where that kind of decision makes sense.
So it was no surprise that four pitches later, the Phillies were up 7-3. Burrell singled in one run, and Shane Victorino cleared the bases with a three-run homer to left.
If you’re not going to let your left-handed specialist face Howard in that situation, when exactly should you be pitching to Howard? Moreover, if you’d rather have Shouse pitching to two good right-handed batters instead of bringing in one of your righty relievers, why not just release them all, because they’re obviously not doing you any good. Eric Gagne, Seth McClung… none of these guys are very good, but all would have been better ideas than letting Shouse face Burrell. Heck, Todd Coffey is made for this situation, getting a right-handed batter out. For that matter, Salomon Torres could have been on the mound, but for the ridiculous idea of saving him for a save situation. Torres, the best righty the Brewers have, hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, while Brian Shouse was facing righties with the game on the line.
No, the players didn’t play well in Philadelphia, but Ned Yost gift-wrapped that first game, a game the Brewers could well have won with some better decisionmaking. He earned his firing, and short of replacing him with Dakota Fanning or something, the Brewers will be better off for his absence.
With all this in mind… are you still panicking, Cubs fans?
It was just a few days ago that long-suffering supporters of the North Siders were staking out windowsills and rooftops, looking for a hard place to land. The team was playing poorly, their lead in the NL Central was dwindling, and the top two starters in their rotation were nursing owies. In my chat last week, I received a number of requests for reassurance from Chicagoans who couldn’t accept the fact that their team was a post-season lock.
Then the Brewers started losing… and losing… and losing…. Then last Thursday, Rich Harden returned from a two-week respite to post six solid innings against the Cardinals in a 3-2 win, alleviating concerns about his health. And last night, Carlos Zambrano came back from his own break to throw his first career no-hitter against the Astros in Milwaukee. Zambrano, using mostly fastballs with his trademark good movement, struck out 10 and walked only one. He threw just 110 pitches on a night when he probably wasn’t going to throw many more than that, and allowed just two balls out of the infield. It was an exceptional performance, made moreso by his poor performance and admitted shoulder issues in the weeks leading up to it. There’s still no guarantee that Zambrano is ready for another seven starts, but his effectiveness is no longer in question, only his health.
The last five days should put an end to Cubs fans angst. Their magic number is seven over the Brewers and six over the Astros. Their chance of missing the postseason is right in line with the chance that Bristol Palin’s baby grows up to be the president. Of Lehman Brothers. The next two weeks are about sorting out the last few roster spots (Dear Lou: no one needs 11 pitchers for a best-of-anything with multiple off days), making sure Zambrano and Harden are rested and healthy, and abandoning the idea that Micah Hoffpauir is a major league right fielder. Hey, I didn’t say there weren’t still concerns.
The Astros ran into a buzz saw last night, but since the Brewers have collapsed, they’re not in bad shape, just two games behind both the Brewers and Phillies in the wild-card race. Heck, the Cardinals have lost five in a row and they’re still just 4½ back with 13 to play. Not being able to take advantage of three games against the Pirates while the Brewers and Astros were taking on, or scheduled to take on tough competition, is the kind of thing that will haunt a team until pitchers and catchers report. The Cardinals should be right in this thing today, but their pitching staff collapsed at the wrong time.
There has been a lot of criticism of the fact that these games were moved to Miller Park, just an hour or so outside of Chicago, in the wake of Hurricane Ike. As someone who recognizes that the home-field advantage in MLB isn’t very large, it’s not a big deal to me. Most of the home-field advantage stems from the tactical advantage of batting last, and the Astros still had that. Far too much was made of the crowd makeup and the travel difference; these things are terribly minor concerns in the outcome of baseball games. No one was crossing time zones or playing in front of 55,000 hostiles.
There was no plan in place to harm the Astros, and the solution is the best one available under the circumstances. Had Drayton McLane and the Astros players elected to play the series beginning Friday, perhaps Tampa’s Tropicana Field would have been an option. (With the wet weather across the country, a covered field would be something of a priority.) McLane held out the absurd hope that Houston would be a suitable location for baseball come Sunday, and when that was revealed to be ridiculous, he lost the right to complain about the solution handed down. The Astros players are a bit more sympathetic, as staying in Houston with their families during the storm was one reason they didn’t want to play elsewhere, but again, that’s the choice they made, and by making it, they lost Tampa as an option. I completely agree with how MLB handled it, and the only thing I might disagree with was that they were too accommodating. If Astros fans, the media, management, or the players themselves end up using this arrangement as an excuse, ignore them; the location of last night’s game was a nonfactor in its outcome.
That it was played in Milwaukee, though, did provide some absurdity. On a day when the Brewers completed a rapid fall from the top of the wild-card standings-the first time since July they haven’t been in sole possession of a postseason berth-more than 23,000 people in their home ballpark ended the evening cheering wildly. The contrast between the scene in the Brewers’ stadium and the one you picture in their clubhouse, as they prepared to leave Philadelphia winless for the trip, is striking.
I suppose we should thank the Brewers; without them, the last two weeks of the season wouldn’t have been nearly so entertaining. Now we have four teams-the Mets, Phillies, Brewers, and Astros-fighting for two spots, with a chance the Cardinals could get back in this thing as well. Ned Yost may not be the best thing for the Brewers, but he sure is good for the races.
Thank you for reading
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1) the Astros had to travel less than the Cubs
2) the game wasn\'t played 90 miles from Chicago
Thanks for the \'insight\'. Your \'contributions\' to this website are the only thing that degrades the quality of the coverage here. You have about the same credibility as Fox News.
Leez, that\'s some good stuff right up until the end, and I think if we leave off that last sentence, we keep the level of discourse high, while putting commenters who lower it on an island unto themselves.
I\'m still getting used to this myself...haven\'t really participated actively on a board since the Strat-BB list maybe seven years ago, and r.s.b years before that. Really hoping BP can, through the new feature, become a space like that.
He\'s also an incredible September player. .314/.436/.710 career in September/October, with a HR every 9.73 AB. Also in his career, he hits .289/.414/.630 with men on base, better than the .266/.341/.544 he hits with the bases empty.
Every Phils fan I talked to thought the worst managing decision of the inning was bunting Chase Utley. Why give up an out to allow them to walk your hottest hitter and pitch to Pat Burrell, who has 26 hits and 8 GIDP since August 1 with a chance to get out of the inning. Now, it worked out for Charlie and not for Ned, and Yost probably should have gone to a righty against Burrell, but the walk of Howard is automatic once the Phillies decide to bunt Utley. If I count right, Howard now has 6 HR in September that tied or gave his team the lead. Lefty or righty, you don\'t challenge him when you don\'t have to.
Don\'t even get me started on how he bats Counsell 6th when he fills in for Hall or hit Laynce Nix 3rd when he filled in for Braun.
Or the fact Kendall might lead the league in games started at his age with a pretty decent backup on the bench.
As a Brewer fan I\'m upset with the collapse but it feels almost worth it just to see Yost canned so he doesn\'t lose us 2-3 games again next year.
And come on...you couldn\'t see Fanning reprising the Gary Coleman role for two weeks? That would be awesome. We\'ll tell people she\'s Jim\'s granddaughter.
CMD, you\'re right...most fan bases have this as a central complaint, Angels fans excepted. Yankees fans have been pretty happy with Girardi, as contrasted with Torre, but I\'m not sure if it\'s the manager or the pitchers. I think Ozzie runs a good pen, just to name another example.
Shields\' innings are way down this season, as he rarely pitches over one inning. But even in past seasons, whether the 7th belonged to Donnelly or Speier, one-and-out has been the rule.
Sveum was the third base coach in Boston.
Every third base coach makes bad calls or calls that look bad in hindsight, but I doubt any are Wendell Kim.
I imagine its probably too late for gallardo to come back and fill up at the very least some meaningful bullpen innings, but his presence could have really helped them out, both in the rotation, and the kick back effect it could have had in bumping someone back to the bullpen, and someone else to their seat.
Also, agreed that Ozzie has sensible pen usage, and the quotes on it in the recent article and \'the week in quotes\' are pretty interesting.
I understand that Yost may made tactical decisions that might have cost the team the playoff spot, but with 12 games to go, can you really learn anything about the interim manager that would make you choose him? However, if the Brewers go on to the playoffs, and especially if they win a round in the playoffs (very possible, given that they would not be facing the best NL team, the Cubs), I can\'t imagine that Melvin would undertake a real interview process. He\'d be forced to hire Sveum.
I suppose if you have already made up your mind to fire Yost, you might as well do it, but I do have to question the timing of it. If you were going to fire Yost, either do it after the season ends when you can conduct a real search, or before there are only 12 games left, when the change may actually have a chance to impact the season. Firing him at this moment, after a four-game sweep and after losing seven of eight, seems to show that Melvin is putting too much emphasis on a week\'s worth of baseball, which maybe isn\'t the best evaluative techinique (another theme of recent articles).
-Light a fire under the players, creating a sense of urgency
-Cause tightness and a sense of panic
Actually a third outcome:
-The firing doesn\'t do very much of anything
is quite possible, too.
We saw this after the Fielder/Parra scuffle as well. They played better, so the fight lit a fire under them.
This is really just me bitching about MSM, rather than your post. Don\'t mind me...
Tell you this...the Brewers are very good bets to win their first game, and probably their first two games, under Sveum. That has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with where the rotation falls as he takes over. So when, Thursday morning, it\'s all about \"Brewers rejuventaed,\" remember that it\'s really \"Brewers good pitchers pitch, team succeeds.\"
Of course, I\'m not sure whether hockey coaches have more relative influence on a game\'s outcome, or if anyone even watches hockey anymore.
I don\'t see that\'s it\'s fair to criticize Piniella for starting Hoffpauir in right. Yes, ideally he would not be a starting right fielder for a top-flight team like the Cubs. But ideally Kosuke Fukodome would not be hitting .221/.314/.317 since the all-star break.
Obviously his defense doesn\'t compare to Fukodome\'s, but Hoffpauir slugged .752 (!!) in nearly 300 at bats at AAA, and his translated EQA is .298; it seems reasonable to me start him against ground-ball and/or strike-out pitchers like Marquis, Zambrano, Dempster, and Harden. (Though today he started in right with Lily on the mound, which I think is worth criticizing.)
I\'m a big fan of Corey, but there\'s no way he should be batting leadoff -- in both ends of a twin-bill -- in the middle of a hard-fought race, where precisely these sorts of mind-boggling decisions can mean the difference between a big win and a crushing loss.
That decision alone is not reason enough to can the dude, but the flawed thought process behind it probably is.
But in Howard\'s defense I will say this. He\'s been crushing the ball. 7 HR in 13 games this month: .354/.415/.917. Additionally, his LHP splits are better in this, albeit small, sample: .385 OBP in Aug, .421 OBP in September. In his 19 PA against LHP in September he\'s batting .353/.421/.765.
I don\'t know. I\'d think about walking him too, even though LOOGYs have decimated him all year. But I would have certainly brought someone else in to face Burrell.
Because this is the second straight year that the Brewers have gone into a swan dive with Yost calling the shots. And instead of mitigating the impact of a team slump Yost exacerbates the situation.
Yost is a people management guy. Period. That\'s his \"thing\". He creates an environment where folks feel that they can succeed and with a young team that has been an asset. But as the team\'s needs have changed Ned\'s failings have become more exposed. Competing in a division with Tony LaRussa and Lou Piniella have clearly demonstrated that if the game comes down to the manager\'s decision-making the Brewers are a man short. Cripes, Dusty Baker(!) has outmaneuvered Ned at times this season.
The Brewers were put in a position of having to win on talent. And while the team has guys with ability unless everyone is firing on all cylinders each night was an adventure. Going 20-7 in August was due to the starters being lights out and offense holding its own. Once the starters went south and hitters began to struggle the team needed a manager to help them squeak out a few wins. Ned fumbled two games against the Mets at home. Another two against the Reds. That turned a 5-5 or even a 6-4 homestand into a 3-7 debacle.
I know it\'s the analyst\'s creed that a manager doesn\'t make a difference. But watching Ned Yost for so many years I now know that this idea is complete and utter nonsense. When the Brewers were a bad team Yost cost the team maybe 2 wins a season. As the team improved that number increased to approximately 5. And I could make a pretty good argument that in 2007 it was more like 8.
Yost is a guy destined for the role of helping get a team on its feet. But don\'t ever expect him to bring home the gold. He just doesn\'t have the goods.
They got 27 outs to be better than the Cubs in 27 outs, and got last ups. As much as we like to believe otherwise, fans don\'t win games.
Just like the brewers managerial switch will be written based on the outcome of the next 12 games, the astros playing in milwaukee is a big story only because they lost both to a better team.
And, yeah, thanks, I gave my space on the ledge to a brewer fan. They need it more.
Just becasue the Cubs got to sleep in their own beds while the Astros sleep-walked through two games. For God\'s sake, it took them 16 innings to get a hit.
Any place on Earth other than Wrigfley Field or Milwaukee would have been better.
Hell, even at the Cell, the White Sox fans would be rooting against the Cubs unlike any Brewer fan at these games who had every reason to root against the Astros along with their Cub brothers.
Astros - your season is over - all because your owner wanted to play as many of your home games as possible at home. The Cub post season schedule is obviously more important than your attempt to get into the playoff.
They set records every year for base stealing efficiency. Very new school thinking.
They are loathe to give pitchers more than a three year contract (They aren\'t so good at signing the right pitchers at times -- Adam Eaton for example).
They traded for a closer who strikes out scads of guys -- which is a very good thing for a closer to do.
The Phils don\'t really have anyone to play 1B who hits any betteer than Howard vs. lefties. If they had some lefty masher 1B option, maybe they\'d sit Howard some. But I don\'t think they actually would. But they don\'t really have a good option anyway.
Best case might be for Coste to catch full-time and for Marson to pinch-hit, but that\'s a little much to expect a rookie to do - pinch-hit for Ryan Howard.
Of course, as I said earlier, Howard has been much better against LHP of late. Most (learned) Phils fans are hopeful that Howard can return to 06 form where he hit .279/.364/.558 against them.