Friday, November 13, 2009

Contemplating Cabrera

The conventional wisdom in the wake of the J.J. Hardy trade was that this precluded the return of Orlando Cabrera.

Not so — at least to the extent that Ron Gardenhire has a say (and one assumes the manager has some significant input).

Gardy, quoted in Sid Hartman's column:

"I would like to have Cabrera back, and I told Billy (Smith, the Twins general manager) that. He's one guy that I would like to still make an effort to sign. You need good players, and Cabrera's one of them.''

Gardenhire said he could put Cabrera at second and Nick Punto at third.

Now, Cabrera hasn't played an inning at any position other than shortstop since 2000, and I have no idea if the idea of a position switch would fly with him.

That said, a switch makes a certain amount of sense. Cabrera, even by Gardenhire's assessment, struggled at shortstop last season. His range has diminished, and Gardenhire said he was surprised at how weak Cabrera's arm was.

Yet Gardy remains eager to have Cabrera in his middle infield.

And it occurs to me, in contemplating managerial enthusiasm for a shortstop in decline, that there are four skills involved in playing defense: Hands — the ability to catch the ball; Arm — the ability to throw it with speed and accuracy; Mobility — the ability to go get the ball; and Intelligence/Instinct — knowing where to go and what to do.

Different positions have different requirements for each of these skills. A second baseman has less need for arm than a shortstop — the throws are shorter — and can get away with more bobbles as well.

Cabrera, right now, has limited mobility and arm — and his hands, at least as a shortstop, may suffer because he's trying too hard to get rid of the ball quickly to make up for the arm.

What he's got that Gardenhire wants in his middle infield, then, is that intelligence/instinct.

Which is probably the defensive attribute that has won Derek Jeter four Gold Gloves. Managers, as a rule, can more readily excuse the occasional physical error (although Cabrera had too many of them) than the occasional mental error — and Gardenhire has seen too many of those from his middle infielders the past three years.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah! Cabrera is one of those rare guys that bring an intangible to a ball club. You may be right, Ed, that it's his instinct. Whatever it is, if the Twins can find a place for him, and 2nd base could be that place, the team will be better for it.