Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nishioka or Plouffe? It's an easy call for me

I'm going to chalk this one up to the shortened attention span of the wired generation.

It hasn't always been pretty, but Tsuyoshi
Nishioka has played a better shortstop than
Trevor Plouffe.

There's a growing demand by Twins bloggers (some of whom are smart enough to know better) for the Twins to recall Trevor Plouffe and reinsert him at shortstop in Tsuyoshi Nishioka's stead.

Plouffe is hitting well at Rochester. Fine. Maybe the Twins will find some sucker to take him off their hands.

The truffe about Plouffe is that, hot streak aside, he's not a good enough hitter to play any position other than shortstop, and he can't play short worth a summary sentence to Hades.

I'm not declaring Nishioka to be the answer at shortstop. I am declaring that Plouffe has, in roughly 700 professional games at the position, conclusively proven that he's not the answer.

The assertion, made in two of the above links, that Nishioka is at least as poor defensively as Plouffe is simply preposterous. Yes, Nishioka has made errors. My eyes tell me Nishi's range is visibly superior to Plouffe's. I believe that two of Nishka's boots came on balls up the middle that Plouffe would simply never have touched.

More objectively — and this is a very slender reed to put any weight on — the metrics agree with me. The Bill James Match-ups widget on my iPad says that in his 15 games at short, Plouffe was -5 in plus-minus (meaning he was giving away a play as compared to the average shortstop every three games), -4 in runs saved. Nishioka, in his first eight games at the position (for some reason the stats haven't been updated this week) is 0 in plus-minus, -1 in runs saved.

Again: These numbers don't mean much. It's 15 games for Plouffe, eight for Nishioka, and even the most devoted adherent of defensive metrics will say you need three years of them to draw conclusions.

But the Twins have seen Plouffe for more than those 15 games. Remember: He's been in their farm system since he turned pro in 2004. They know what he is better than the rest of us do. And they know what he isn't.

They don't have that history with Nishioka, which is reason to remain patient with him.


  1. Part of me wants to agree with you (I'm in the camp that wants to send Nishioka down), but at the same time, you can see the kind of pressure Nishi is putting on himself. I think a good 1-2 month stint at Triple-A would be good for Nishioka if for no other reason than to give him a chance to get his legs underneath and build some confidence. If you believe that this season is a bust, you might as well give him a little development time in the minors with the hopes that he gets off to a better start next year.

    I don't think Plouffe is any kind of savior, I think we all know what to expect with him, but if the Twins want to maximize their $14M investment in Nishioka, I think a Triple-A stint is a step in the right direction.

  2. Agree with a lot of your takes, but to say that Plouffe has proven he's not the answer because he's played 700 professional games doesn't really mean anything. Players develop differently. There are players who take a while to develop. See Danny Valencia who will be 27 by the end of the year and will just be finishing his first full season at the big league level. I think last year as well as into this year Plouffe has started to figure some things out. Will he develop into an All-Star caliber player? I doubt it, but he can certainly still develop into a solid hitter at the big league level.

  3. I'd like to see both of them to some degree. As long as they're both playing everyday I'm happy. If Nishioka had been playing horribly for a month or more (still a small sample) then I'd be considering the move.

    So, I tend to agree with your logic. However if August rolls around, the Twins are within 5, and Plouffe keeps hitting while Nishioka continues to scuffle then I'd like to see the switch made.

    Still a part of me really wishing Plouffe would've got a long look at 2B this year. Remember Mr. Span looked like a poor player until his age 24 season. Plouffe is only 25, could be making that same jump developmentally that Span did. Only time will tell.

  4. THANK YOU. These are pretty much my thoughts exactly. For a second there I thought I might be taking crazy pills.

    Believe it or not folks, replacing Nishioka with Plouffe is not going to be the thing that propels the Twins to a division championship. Just let Nishioka play.

  5. I am not sure that Nishioka can play shortstop in Minnesota but we all know that Plouffe can't. Everyone says that Plouffe can hit, if that is the case how do you explain 8 years in the minors with 3,000+ at bats and a .256 average with 75 home runs? You have to think that the Twins really regret trading JJ Hardy to the O's for Fooey Hoey and that other monor leaguer.

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  7. Nishi didn't win awards in Japan for nothing. Give him a while, and I think he'll show why the Twins wanted him.

  8. (Ed, you might want to give Mr Lonely the boot.)