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Tracking Yost’s tendencies

Baseball Reference unveiled a neat addition to their managerial stat pages with what they call managerial tendencies. The tendencies break down how often a manager calls for steals, intentional walks and substitutions. It also measures successful sacrifice bunt attempts. It breaks those numbers down into what they call Rate+, which is a metric that determines a percentage of where on the spectrum (above or below league average) a manager falls.

Ned Yost’s manager page doesn’t show much evolution. Rather, it’s a detailed look at how a manager bends to the personnel available. The Rate+ numbers through the years underscore where Yost felt his team held the advantage, and areas where he believed they were lacking. There are some trends, though. Overall, it’s a nifty way to get a sense of how Yost has been managing. There’s nothing Earth-shattering to those of us who follow the team and watch the games, but it’s interesting to see how Yost stacks up against the league in his proclivities. 

Sacrifice Bunts

Ahhh, yes. Start with a good one. With a decent nucleus of bats for the last four-plus years, Yost generally didn’t feel the need to rely on the sacrifice bunt all that much. Although for some reason the 2016 team led the AL in sac bunt attempts. For 2018, the Royals didn’t lead the league; they were tied for third.

Year Sac Bunt Att Sac Bunt Success %
2011 74 55 74.3%
2012 42 26 61.9%
2013 57 37 64.9%
2014 54 33 61.1%
2015 48 34 70.8%
2016 65 38 58.5%
2017 24 17 70.8%
2018 46 24 52.2%

Quantity doesn’t always equal quality and, although the Royals had what was defined as a 52 percent success rate in laying down a sacrifice, it was still enough to place the Royals and Yost among the lead leaders in success. Thus, on Yost’s managerial page, his Rate+ on sac bunts is a robust 162. That means the Royals were 62 percent more successful in laying down a sacrifice than the average AL team. (Obviously, success when it comes down to laying down a bunt is in the eye of the beholder. Really, you should rarely bunt. If ever.)

This is my least favorite portion of the page simply because it relies of successful sacrifice bunts. Baseball reference tracks all sacrifice attempts. It would be more interesting to pack all the attempts together to get a real feel for how often a manager ordered his team to give up an out.

Besides, we have seen enough of Yost in action to know he often allows his players the ability to freelance at the plate with runners on base. (Which is a special kind of insanity.) Who knows how many bunts Yost actually called last year.

Pinch Hitters

Yost simply doesn’t use pinch hitters. The Royals have finished dead last in pinch hitting at bats in four of the last five years, 2018 included. The year they didn’t finish last (2016), they finished second to last. As such, we can glean from Yost’s managerial tendencies that he goes to his bench for a bat roughly once every other game. In 2018, he used a pinch hitter 25 percent less than the average league manager.

Pinch Runners

This is where things get kind of interesting. Yost’s league adjusted pinch runners used per game was at it’s lowest point in six years last season

Year PR/G+
2012 96
2013 131
2014 117
2015 96
2016 116
2017 97
2018 79

The Royals used to pinch run. A lot. In ’13, Yost went to Elliot Johnson and Chris Getz along with Jarrod Dyson. The next year, it was plenty of Dyson and Terrance Gore. Of course, the common denominator (or should I say the common base clogger) in those years was one Billy Butler. With Butler off the roster for 2015, Yost was roughly league average when it came to utilizing a pinch runner. In ’15 and ’16, the Royals used 40 and 38 pinch runners, respectively, but you can see how the league changed when it came to that part of the game.

Last season, Yost went to the other extreme. He called for a pinch runner just 7 times. None of them scored and only once did a pinch runner steal a base. Adalberto Mondesi swiped both second and third against the Twins on August 5.

Intentional Walks

Damnit. This was an aspect of Yost’s strategy that really had me on board the last several seasons. 

Year IBB Rate+
2013 71
2014 46
2015 38
2016 36
2017 94
2018 127

After eschewing the intentional walk in recent years, Yost suddenly became some sort of a true believer. The Royals issued just eight IBBs in 2016. This season it jumped to 28. I’m not sure why the evolution in strategy and the numbers are so slight that if asked, I doubt Yost could offer an explanation. Again, personnel matters. 

Steals

The Royals have always deployed their speed to their advantage. All part of the plan.

Year Steal 2nd Rate+ Steal 3rd Rate+
2011 106 115
2012 98 173
2013 116 108
2014 105 140
2015 101 127
2016 118 115
2017 105 120
2018 98 158

The managerial tendencies section doesn’t break out splits, but you obviously know that the Royals Rate+ on steals of second last year was inflated by Mondesi and Whit Merrifield running wild in the second half. It’s difficult to imagine exactly where the Royals were on the spectrum before the dynamic duo at the top of the order kicked on the afterburners.

One area of the game where the Royals have never been shy has been swiping third. They are always well above league average. Fun stuff.

Again, there’s nothing contained in Yost’s managerial page at Baseball Reference that you probably didn’t already realize. Still, it’s interesting to place those tendencies in context of the league and other managers. A fun diversion for a long offseason.

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1 comment on “Tracking Yost’s tendencies”

jim fetterolf

Nice to see you embracing “Billy Butler: Base Clogger”. Good note on bunts, that most are decided by the batter and not Yost. Same with steals. 1st base coach gives the runner the times of pitcher to plate and catcher pops, the runner knows how fast he can get to 2nd, and the coach offers any tells for that game. Little involvement by Yost.

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