As I see it,
1) Once the IJN Center Force disengages the Taffies to get into the Gulf, the escort carriers can get reorganized and get back to normal flight ops. They had at least some anti-shipping ordnance left, as I understand. So they keep attacking like gnats.
2) The cruisers, destroyers and other smaller protection near the beach were a significant force. They would put up a fight, costing the IJN time to organize.
3) The beach is a target rich environment. It would be hard for the Center Force to do real damage to the number of targets necessary to matter
4) The USN Surigao Straight force is old, but potent. Preponderance of HE on the USN battleships, but enough AP to
hurt Kurita with their excellent fire control.
5) While all those spit ball fights are going on Halsey get within range and his tired pilots, who have had a least several hours sleep over night make the coup de grace raids the next day.
6) Anything left gets crushed when Halsey's BB's and other surface units finally get in range.
Lots of noise, violence and chaos for one bloody afternoon near the beach and the IJN is done in the next day. They don't have the tools for a flat out slug fest. And once they turn into the Gulf they can not run away.
Anyway, that was the Ride of the Valkyries I always saw the IJN trapped in.