Monday, February 13, 2012

The outfield plan: Ben Revere's playing time

Ben Revere: Should
he be an everyday guy?
Ron Gardenhire is penciling Ben Revere in as his regular left fielder -- and as his No. 9 hitter.

It is, let us say, unusual to see a corner outfielder at the bottom of the batting order. Corner outfielders are supposed to hit. Bottom-of-the-order guys are at the bottom of the order for a reason.

It's certainly possible for Revere to be a more productive hitter in 2012 than in 2011. He's hit for average at every minor league stop, he seems to have an idea at the plate, and, of course, he's one of the fastest players in the league. But even if he hits .300, his almost complete lack of power at a power position is a significant disadvantage.

Much of Revere's value as a player figures to come on defense, where he provides center field range (and then some) in a rather spacious left field. Indeed, I've seen some analysis suggesting that his combination of offense and defense will be more valuable than the departed Delmon Young's was.

Revere's a young guy, and even such a devout platooner as Earl Weaver was wary of imposing a strict platoon role on a player before getting a handle on his abilities. Still, Revere's lack of power is so pronounced that it obviously limits his ceiling.

Then there's the Trevor Plouffe factor. His major league time is also limited, and so his platoon splits may not be a real indicator of his abilities or liabilities, but he has so far been far better hitting left-handers —.301 vs southpaws, .201 vs. right-handers. If Plouffe is to be on Gardenhire's bench, it would appear to behoove Gardy to get him in the lineup against lefties.

Plouffe could be a platoon partner for Revere. Plouffe could also be a platoon partner for the switch-hitting Ryan Doumit, who has over his career hit better against righties than against lefties. Sit Doumit, and Plouffe could DH or play right with Josh Willingham DHing, or first with Justin Morneau DHing. Doumit's platoon splits aren't as pronounced as Plouffe's at this point, but they are considerably well established.

All this is probably irrelevant. Gardenhire has shown little tendency in his managerial career to lean on the platoon differential when deploying his bench players. I don't expect that to change this year.

But I wish he would. We're dealing here with flawed talents. It would make sense to use them ways that maximizes their strengths and minimizes their problems.


  1. I'd like to hear your overall take on Gardy. This among many other things he does just really bothers me.

    Why does Revere start with the assumption of a starting position? He should have left it an open competition. He has nothing to gain from penciling in Revere.

    Also, it's clear Gardy has his favorites, see Revere, Ben and his perenial dog-house guys, see Ploufe, Trevor, & Valencia, Danny...

    I'd actually really like to see them hire a manager who is inclined to play based on performance and improving the probability of maximizing it...

  2. The problem with platoon splits is that they reflect how players are actually used. I remember lots of people, including Bill James, talking about Tom Kelly sitting Hrbek against lefties, despite his relatively good numbers against left handers. The problem was that Kelly didn't sit Hrbek against all lefties. He sat him against the hard throwing guys he thought Hrbek would have trouble with. Hrbek usually got a day off when Randy Johnson was on the mound.

    Revere does not have a severe platoon split. His defense is a given. Plouffe hasn't played the outfield enough to know what kind of defender he will be. And his offense is still a question. We don't know who will be the better offensive player, but we know for certain who is going to be the better defender. Why wouldn't you at least pencil Revere in as the starter?

  3. People talk about Revere as if the Revere we saw last year is his ceiling. I don't think that is true. Under ideal circumstances, he likely would of spent the year at AAA. While people compare him to Tyner, that really isn't a fair comp. Tyner wasn't near as fast, had a long loopy swing that only worked against RH pitchers and not all of them, wasn't a good basestealer or a good defender. While it is true Revere has little power and will never hit home runs, he will get stronger and will likely develop gap power that will keep the defenders a bit deeper or they will be giving up a ton of doubles and triples.

    Plouffe always looked like he could be a good hitter, for a SS. Whether he can hit like an outfielder is an open question. I think he will get most of time in rf this year if both Span and Revere are healthy.

    Platooning was a lot easier to do when teams only carried 9 or 10 pitchers. Now it is more important to carry bench guys who can play multiple positions well, rather than a hitter who can only play one position.

  4. Sometimes when people talk about platooning they fail to consider other factors besides platoon splits. Not only is defense a factor, but you need to consider other things. For example, people used to complain when Gardenhire stuck Redmond in against a tough righthander when he could of put him in for Mauer the night before againsty a lefty. That failed to consider whether or not Mauer was going to used as a DH, who would be used at DH on each night, who would be left on the bench to pinch hit in either of those games, and who the Twins pitcher was-since pitcher/catcher combinations have to be considered as well.

    As TT pointed out, Kelly tended to use more platooning than Gardenhire, but he seldom used straight lefty/righty match ups. It often depended on the type of pitcher as much as the side the pitcher threw from. Gardenhire also pays attention to this. He tended to use LeCroy against soft tossing righties but almost never against hard throwing righties. LeCroy had huge problems with hard throwers, especially if they combined velocity with a good breaking ball.

  5. There's nothing wrong with penciling in Revere at this point as long as your pencil has a good eraser. I really think this situation will work itself out during Spring Training.

    IF everyone (especially Span, Revere, Plouffe and Willingham) is healthy... and IF Plouffe looks like he can play a serviceable LF... and IF Willingham looks like he can handle RF at least as well as Cuddyer did... I won't be at all surprised to see either Span or Revere traded away before Opening Day or shortly thereafter.

    Revere is exactly the kind of guy Gardy loves, but Ryan has talked up Plouffe a couple of times over the winter and I believe he knows as well as anyone that a team with a corner outfielder hitting 9th has one too many soft spots in the order.

    Hopefully, Ryan won't give away either CF, but if they both look healthy and productive as March winds down, I suspect there will be teams without legitimate CFs giving Ryan a call and I believe he'll be answering those calls.

  6. I think it is doubtful the Twin are going to deal Span until they are convinced Revere is ready to replace him as the leadoff hitter. That will likely not happen this year.