Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Willingham Shift: Ryan Doumit and Justin Morneau

Ryan Doumit may
not see as much
DH time as planned.
Underlying "The Willingham Shift," in which fellow free-agent signee Josh Willingham vacates his intended right field for his accustomed left field, appears to be the uncertain status of Justin Morneau.

Morneau is a key to whatever the 2012 Twins hope to accomplish. They need his bat in the lineup, first and foremost; they'd prefer to also have his glove at first base, but that's a secondary priority.

If Morneau can play first, then Ryan Doumit can be the primary designated hitter. But if Morneau has to DH -- and he hasn't played at first in more than a week now -- Doumit has to do something else.

This is a problem. As a designated hitter who plays once or twice a week in the field, Doumit's $3 million contract figured to be a bargain. The less often he hits, or the more often he plays a defensive position, the less valuable he becomes. As a traditional No. 2 catcher, used in the manner in which Mike Redmond was in his Twins tenure, Doumit is way overpaid.

How much first
base can Justin
Morneau play?
So Doumit's gonna play. But where?

Doumit could play first base, but he's clearly uncomfortable with the idea, and his discomfort makes Ron Gardenhire uncomfortable. Doumit started a televised game in left field early in spring training; he appeared, if anything, worse than Delmon Young, and Young was no picture of grace out there.

Doumit's most comfortable behind the plate, but Joe Mauer's the catcher. His next favored position is right field; if both Doumit and Willingham are to be in the outfield, the obvious alignment is Willingham in left and Doumit in right.

It won't be a good defensive outfield. But it keeps three bats -- Morneau, Willingham and Doumit -- in the lineup and opens up a slot for Chris Parmelee.

I'll post Wednesday on the implications for Parmelee.

No comments:

Post a Comment