Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The outfield plan: The alignment

Ben Revere had several memorable catches last season.
This is no real surprise: During the Twins Caravan/Twins Fest pre-spring training promotional period, manager Ron Gardenhire consistently said he wants to lock Denard Span into the center field job, with Josh Willingham in right and Ben Revere in left.

There are two potential points of contention to that plan:

  • Assigning Span to center ahead of Revere;
  • Making Revere a regular at all.

These are connected, but ... let's deal, today, with the alignment question. There are those -- such as Michael Rand of the Star Tribune -- who think it would be more effective to put Revere in center with Willingham in his accustomed left field and Span in right.

Examine the skill sets. None of the three has a true right field arm; Willingham, easily the slowest of the trio, is a converted catcher, which suggests he may have the strongest arm of the group. Revere has eye-popping range in center, but Span is quite good out there as well, and his arm is better than Revere's.

Gardenhire believes it's more important to keep his regulars comfortable. Willingham is used to playing left, but has agreed to shift to right -- and Gardenhire sees his part of the bargain as not moving him back and forth. Span prefers center to an outfield corner. And while Revere is the front runner for a regular position, his weaknesses could turn him into a part-timer.

That, I think, is a prime reason to go with Span in center.

It appears likely right now that the reserve outfielders will be Ryan Doumit (who'll also DH, catch and play first base) and Trevor Plouffe (converted infielder with little outfield experience). Neither is any sort of center field option. If Revere loses playing time -- if, for example, he winds up platooning with Plouffe --  Gardenhire doesn't want to move Span around.

Gardenhire is not a big platooner, but his outfield plan certainly makes it easier to go to a platoon arrangment in left. And it makes it easy to handle his RF/1B/C/DH set up, in which he has four regulars (Willingham, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Doumit) for four positions and he can mix and match to rest his position players.

1 comment:

  1. This analysis is right on the money. Although it isn't clear, regardless of the flexibility issues, that optimal defensive outfield isn't Gardy's lineup anyway.

    Range is a more important part of playing left field than right. Putting Willingham out in left substantially weakens the left field defense, Revere's weak arm may make center field a wash, or worse, and Span's range is wasted over in right and his arm is nothing special. He's going to be better than Willingham, but not by that much.

    To argue for that lineup you have to believe that having Revere's range in center instead of left is going to make a HUGE difference. Enough to compensate not only for his own weak arm in center, but for Willingham's lack of range in left. I doubt that is true.