Friday, August 12, 2011

What's best for the team

On Wednesday, Ron Gardenhire deployed a starting outfield of Delmon Young in left, Denard Span in center and Ben Revere in right.

On paper, and considering the relative strengths and weaknesses of that trio, that is probably the least efficient alignment — well, excluding the ones that would put Young in center. Young has one above-average tool defensively: he throws well. But he was in the outfield spot that least demands arm strength. Revere has by far the weakest arm; he was in the position that most demands arm strength. Span has very good range in center; Revere might be a bit better.

Delmon Young has played 374
games in the outfield for Minnesota,
all in left field.
As I see it, the optimum alignment would be Revere in left, Span in center, Young in right. One could argue for Span-Revere-Young. Even Young-Revere-Span would have a case.

So why play it Young-Span-Revere? I have to assume it's because that's the way Young and Span want it. Span is said to have made it known that he is reluctant to vacate center field for Revere. Young hasn't played anywhere but left since coming to Minnesota. Gardenhire has a pattern of letting his veterans call dibs on their accustomed positions; if players such as Michael Cuddyer or Nick Punto are willing to move around the field, great, but the manager is not looking to force a regular to cede his usual place to make room for a reserve, even if the reserve is a better fit for the position.

I've said this before: Gardy is managing people, not Strat-O-Matic cards.

To be sure, playing Revere's popgun arm in right on rare occasion isn't necessarily a disaster. The most overrated defensive skill is an outfielder's arm strength. Yes, it's possible that a hitter might get a triple on a ball hit into the corner with Revere there that would be a double with a stronger arm; it's also possible that Revere would retrieve (or even catch) the ball faster than Young would. Over the course of a full season, Revere in right might well give up too many bases; in any one game, probably not.

But I still have to wonder: Kevin Slowey was exiled and badmouthed for his reluctance to move to the bullpen. Young and Span don't shift for even a game, and there are no obvious consequences.

1 comment:

  1. Amen on this one, Mr. Thoma. Young could have Roberto Clemente's arm and I'd still cringe watching him play defense.