Jarrod Dyson will start in center field for the Kansas City Royals in Game Three of the World Series Friday night, his first start since Sept. 20. It’s Ned Yost’s response to the Series’s change of venue, which takes away the DH and creates more situations in which he might want or need to use Nori Aoki as a pinch-hitter. With Jeremy Guthrie on the mound, Yost is counting on the slightly better outfield defense provided by an Alex Gordon-Dyson-Lorenzo Cain alignment (along with the availability of Aoki to pinch-hit) to outweigh the superior offense that a Gordon-Cain-Aoki outfield would have provided.
This is a mistake. Yost is making much too much of the difference between the AL and NL rules, and valuing an imagined pinch-hit situation that only may pop up over two or three at-bats that definitely will. Without Billy Butler (whom the no-DH rules relegate to the bench), the Royals’ offense is not strong enough to support another substitution of hitting for fielding. To wit, Mike Moustakas will now bat fifth for the Royals. Moustakas hit .212/.271/.361 this season.
Nor does the wacky right field at AT&T Park provide the justification you might imagine for the increased emphasis on defense. Center and right-center fields are cavernous, but right field itself is actually quite manageable. Lorenzo Cain has no more experience playing the strange angles out there than Aoki (in fact, he has less), and Aoki is (whatever his other faults) good at handling ricochets, tricky bounces and bizarre flight paths. They suit his defensive style.
There’s no grand reveal coming. I can’t empirically prove that this move damages the Royals’ chances to win. It might well help, after all. For my money, though, Dyson is a poor hitter, one a lineup that struggles to meet the standard of a postseason offense can’t afford to start, especially when their third- or fourth-best hitter is already stuck on the bench. Yost is trading a cow for magic beans here, and if the beans happen to produce a giant beanstalk (that is, if Aoki happens to get a high-leverage at-bat against a pitcher Billy Butler couldn’t handle well, or if Dyson or Cain happen to make some game-saving defensive play), it will be a great break for him—but not a proof of the validity of his decision.Next post: Game Three in Notes
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