Monday, April 4, 2011

Understanding the Eddie-oms

(Note: This entry, with minor differences, was the Monday print column. I'm posting it here for my ease of future reference.)

Veteran readers of this blog and my print column are aware of my penchant for personalizing certain ideas or concepts.

What I'm going to do here is organize and define these idioms — or Eddie-oms, if you will.

The Greg McMichael Rule: If you get outs, they'll find a job for you. Named for a pitcher cast off by the lowly Cleveland Indians and signed to a minor-league deal by the Braves, who rose from last man on the talented Atlanta staff at the start of the 1993 season to closer in mid-season.

The Michael Cuddyer Principle: Holds that any (right-handed) major-league position player can be put at any position without it being immediately apparent that he's got no business playing there. Named, obviously, for the current Twins player, who has as a professional played every position other than pitcher or catcher, none of them with notable adeptness.

The Butera Corollary: Holds that the Cuddyer Principle does not apply to catcher; put a non-catcher behind the plate, and it will be immediately obvious to all that he's out of position.

For this reason, back-up catcher is the cushiest job in baseball. They seldom play, and when they do, they're not asked to do a whole lot other than avoid disaster. A reliable back-up catcher will last far longer than a star catcher, and the longer they stick around, the more they are valued.

The (Tom) Kelly Virtues: The basic template for Twins players, established by Tom Kelly during his 15-plus seasons as manager. The Twins value command over stuff from their pitchers and batting average over power from their hitters, and they put an emphasis on defensive reliability. The Kelly Virtues led the Twins to value Doug Mientkiewicz more than David Ortiz.

Adherence to the Kelly Virtues has dwindled in some aspects since Ron Gardenhire took the dugout job, but the changes in the middle infield this offseason suggests that the Virtues may be on the rise again. If the Twins use the expiring contracts of Cuddyer and Jason Kubel to slide Ben Revere into the lineup in 2012, we'll have more evidence that the Kelly Virtues are ascendant.

The (Denard) Span Syndrome: A recent tendency for Twins rookies to outperform their minor league stats.  Span's career minor league OPS was .716; his major league OPS is .759. Brian Duensing and Danny Valencia appear so far to be other examples of the Span Syndrome.

The Gossage Rule: Even the best relief pitchers are failed starters. I pick on Goose Gossage here, but it could just as well be named for Dennis Eckersley, who had been a very good starter earlier in his career but appeared to be on his way out of the game when Tony LaRussa made him a relief pitcher.

The Gladden Rule: The quickest way to improve a lousy pitching staff is to add speed to the outfield. Named for the impact Dan Gladden had when he joined the Twins, but the best example would be the 1989 Baltimore Orioles, who added a flock of fleet young outfielders and went from 54-107 in 1988 to 87-75.

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