A day after the Kansas City Royals lost to the Chicago White Sox in 11 innings, Royals manager Ned Yost was still adamant that he made the right decision pulling starting pitcher James Shields in favor of Greg Holland in the ninth inning with Shields’ shutout still intact. They say that hindsight is 20/20, but it didn’t take a genius–in my opinion–to figure out that Yost made a big mistake the second he opted to take out Shields and enter in Holland.
“Absolutely, I’d do it again.” Yost said, “To me, if you’re going to send him (Shields) back out and pull him when the first guy gets on, why not start the inning with your closer anyway, who has been dynamic his last nine times out? It’s simple. I know it’s great fodder for everybody second guessing, but it’s a simple choice.”
It isn’t illogical to see what Yost was thinking: Holland has seven saves this year and had only blown one save during the 2013 season. In addition, Holland was also facing a White Sox lineup that has faced their fair share of struggles this season scoring runs and Holland had converted his last six save opportunities without a hiccup. In theory, does it make sense to pull a starting pitcher in the ninth inning and turn it over to a fresh closer who had been pitching well as of late? Sure it does, but Yost needs to take into consideration what kind of a pitcher Shields is.
Shields has been known for his durability over his career and has thrown over 200 innings in each of his last six seasons at the majors. Shields also has 20 career complete games under his belt, 11 in 2011 alone, so pitching deep into games is not a new concept for him. With all those things considered, what would provoke Yost into taking out Shields when he had only thrown 102 pitches?
The only reason I could see Yost justifying his decision would be if he made the move in order to protect Shields from injury due to his high pitch count and it being early in the season. Even in that case, I still don’t believe that Yost needed to worry about Shields as he has never had a problem with injuries during his career and his arm has shown it can withstand the mileage of pitching deep into games.
In addition to Shields history of durability, that game should be Shields’ to lose anyway. He did all the work for the first eight innings and did a masterful job of holding the White Sox in check by only surrendering two hits and striking out nine. The White Sox clearly were baffled by Shields and were struggling to make consistent contact. Shields has a bulldog mentality and I am sure he wanted to take the ball and finish what he started. Most pitchers would say the same things without hesitation. However, the decision wasn’t Shields’ to make and he was forced to end his night prematurely.
Luckily for the White Sox, Yost threw them a bone on Monday night and handed them a better opportunity to win when he decided to pull Shields in favor of Holland. No offense to Holland as a pitcher, but that game belonged to Shields and nobody should have the opportunity to finish it but him. By making the decision to pull Shields, Yost jeopardized the Royals’ chances to win.
With a pitcher rolling along with only 102 pitches thrown in the game, a shutout still intact, and a history of being able to throw deep into games, only a fool would pull out the starting pitcher. Fortunately for the struggling White Sox, a fool was managing the Royals on Monday night.