Thursday, May 12, 2011

The late afternoon run of Ben Revere

Ben Revere is listed (perhaps generously) at 5-9, 175 lb;
Detroit catcher Alex Avila is 5-11, 210.  But Revere sent
Avila airborne in their collision Wednesday.
Pitcher walks are real topic of the Twins latest fiasco — the Twins walked eight men Wednesday — and the topic is probably the hanging curveball of this misbegotten season. (LaVelle Neal took a swing at the topic this week and did no better than foul it off.)

But I'm going to save the issue for the Monday print column, partly because I believe that still has the wider readership (print isn't completely dead) and partly because I don't want to think about it right now.

Instead, I want to talk about Ben Revere and Matt Tolbert.

Bottom of the eighth inning, Twins down a run. Revere pinch hits for Rene Rivera, hits a grounder, is called safe at first and given credit for an infield hit. Matt Tolbert shoots a ball into the right-center gap, and Brendan Boesch kicks it around a bit. The speedy Revere is if anything trying to go too fast, starting to stumble as he heads home. Revere and Boesch's throw reach catcher Alex Avila at about the same time, but Revere's slide takes Avila's legs out and the ball rolls away. Tolbert winds up at third, but Denard Span and Luke Hughes leave him there, the Tigers score twice in the ninth off Matt Capps, and the Twins lose 9-7.

For a moment I envisioned the play as the potential equivalent of the Torii Hunter-Jamie Burke play of 2004, a famous home-plate collision that reverberates still in the Twins-White Sox rivalry. (Among other ramifications, it cemented the notion that the Sox of that time were soft; they traded some big boppers and let others go in an effort to become more hard-nosed and, really, Twins-like — and they won the 2005 World Series.) It was the "best" Twins collision I can recall since that play, at least, but the Twins didn't win the game, so it's hardly a turning point to their season as the Burke play was.

Revere and Avila after the collision.
Revere: It's not easy to tell exactly what the Twins have in him, or how he fits into their future. He has some obvious tools — he's very fast, he has hit for average at every level — and some obvious weaknesses — he has no power and doesn't throw well.  The general consensus is that he can be the next Juan Pierre, which isn't great but is hardly an embarrassment.

The problem is that the Twins already have a left-handed slap-hitting center fielder/leadoff man (Denard Span). Can (should) they justify playing two of them, Revere in left and Span in center?

That's not a logical move immediately. Delmon Young is supposedly to be activated Friday, and he'll reclaim the left field job. Revere still has room to develop and should be playing in the minors still. This is an issue more relevant to 2012.

Tolbert: The Twins clearly don't regard him as highly as they did the departed Nick Punto, and they may well be correct, although I find Ron Gardenhire's track record at assessing the abilities of unproven players increasingly suspect.

Tolbert and Punto come from the same mold: Switch-hitting multi-position infielders who can run a bit and field but aren't strong hitters and tend to get nicked up. Punto was probably a bit faster and better with the glove, while Tolbert has slightly more power.

But Gardenhire always seemed to find ways to put Punto in the lineup, and he's reluctant to do so with Tolbert.

I keep remembering, though, that in September 2009 Tolbert played every day at third base, and his .333./.365/.464 line that month played no small role in that memorable stretch drive. The next spring the Twins started with Punto and Brendan Harris at third base and switched in midseason to Danny Valencia; Tolbert spent most of 2010 in Triple A.

There's no real reason to think Tolbert is as good as his one month of regular play suggests. But it's not like the other infielders have taken jobs and run with them.

No comments:

Post a Comment