Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jamie Hoffmann, Jason Repko and the "ideal" backup outfielder

The NUN -- that's "New Ulm Native" -- Jamie Hoffmann had just four days in The Show before being shipped back to Triple A. One pinch-hit appearance, one start in left field, 0-for-4. Called up on April 11, optioned back out on the 15th.

Like Jamie Hoffmann,
Jason Repko came up
though the Dodgers
farm system.
I suspect one reason his career isn't getting much traction is that he hits right-handed. And when one ponders the makeup of most major league benches, that's a bit of a drawback.

Every team has, or at least needs, a fourth or fifth outfielder capable of filling in at center field for a few days. That player, as a rule, will be fast but not a particularly powerful hitter. (Someone like Willie Mays would be the ideal fourth outfielder, but nobody has three outfielders good enough to force a Mays to the bench.)

The Twins' fourth outfielder, strictly speaking, is Jason Kubel, but he's not a CF candidate. Jason Repko is the backup CF, and he's right-handed, which makes him an exception to the general rule. Lefties and switch-hitters get the edge in this competition because most pitchers are right-handed and, when dealing with marginal talents, the platoon advantage matters. Repko fits the need because the Twins regular lineup is so left-handed.

Hoffmann, in contrast, is blocked by Tony Gwynn Jr., who can't hit like daddy did (few do) but is a very good defensive outfielder and hits left-handed. Last spring, as a Rule V player with the Yankees, Hoffmann lost out to a pair of veterans in Randy Winn (left-handed) and Marcus Thames (right-handed), but the job of second center fielder was filled by Brett Gardner (left-handed), the regular left fielder.

The game has a bias for left-handed players. Hoffmann, so far, has been handicapped by being a righty.

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