Does Ned Yost have any options?

Before Game 7, the story’s been all about Madison Bumgarner. First it was will he pitch, and now it’s become how much will he pitch. Well, here’s a pretty decent clue:

It’s been suggested in some quarters that Bumgarner should actually start Game 7, and just go as long as he can go. That seems exceptionally unlikely. It’s also been suggested that Tim Hudson is given an exceptionally short leash, with Bumgarner set to take over in the fourth or fifth inning — or maybe just in time for Eric Hosmer’s second at-bat, whenever that comes — and throwing anywhere from two to four more innings, depending on the pitch count and his effectiveness. And finally Bochy shifts to his four best relief pitchers to close things out.

All of which makes as much sense as anything else.

My question: Does Ned Yost have to just sit there and take it? Or can he do something?

The answer, I think, is that Yost won’t be able to take the initiative away from Bochy.

Consider: In Game 7, the Royals’ bench will consist of Josh Willingham, speed guy Jarrod Dyson, light-hitting infielder Jayson Nix, speed guy Terrance Gore, and a backup catcher who hasn’t been off the bench in more than a month. Leaving aside the fact that the backup catcher (Erik Kratz, just in case his mom is reading) actually has some power, we’re just not going to see him unless Salvador Perez fractures both tibias or something.

Which really leaves just one prospective pinch-hitter: Josh Willingham … who has batted three times in October, going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. Since joining the Royals in August, Willingham has played in the field exactly once, starting in right field on the 20th of that month. Which suggests he won’t be playing in the field in this most serious of games.

So at the very least, Bochy should have his way with Yost for the first five or six innings. It probably won’t be until the seventh or eighth that Yost is even tempted to pinch-hit with Willilngham … but for whom, exactly? Yost has shown, time and time again, that he trusts his gut over the numbers when it comes to Hosmer and Moustakas. Or maybe he trusts the recent numbers — Moustakas has five home runs in the postseason, while Hosmer leads the club with 20 hits and 12 RBI — over the (let’s be honest) more meaningful numbers. 

Which means Willingham probably gets off the bench in just one situation: to pinch-hit for Nori Aoki, when Javier Lopez has just entered the game for the Giants. Because if Aoki’s not Lopez’s first batter, there will be a righty warming up in the bullpen. And Yost won’t want to burn Willingham against an entering righty.

Of course the Royals’ manager might surprise us. But considering he found the grand total of one at-bat for Willingham and Billy Butler in Games 3 through 5 in San Francisco, it’s clear that Yost just doesn’t want to use pinch-hitters. So until very late in the game, when Yost can deploy his beloved pinch-runners, Bochy will be calling the shots when the Royals are batting.