Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Which is more difficult, left field or right field?

The Twins have taken, in the absence of expected regular outfielders Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham, to playing Jason Kubel in left field and Chris Colabello in right.

Neither is a Gold Glove candidate, but Kubel at least has the advantage of being an experienced outfielder. Colabello is a transplanted first baseman who's only purpose to being in the outfield is to fit another bat in the lineup.

The rule of thumb — which has plenty of exceptions — goes like this:

  • If you can run and throw, you're a center fielder.
  • If you can run but not throw, you're a left fielder.
  • If you can throw but not run, you're a right fielder.
  • If you can't do either, you're a first baseman.

Colabello is the latter. Kubel is number three. He throws well, but he lost whatever speed was in his tool kit about a decade ago when he wrecked his knee.

Left and right fields, at least at Target Field, pose unique challenges.

The right field wall is not only tall, it has three or four different surfaces that play differently. The right fielder's challenge is to accurately judge the carom and avoid yielding unnecessary bases.

Left field is the sun field. The April home schedule has been packed with afternoon games, and on the sunny days the ball is easily lost.

Ron Gardenhire is playing Kubel in left, Colabello in right. Since Kubel is the better defensive outfielder of the two, that implies that Gardenhire sees left as the greater challenge, at least in Target Field.

But on Sunday, when he subbed in Chris Herrmann and Darin Mastroianni to tighten the outfield defense, he put Mastroianni (the better defensive outfielder) in right and Herrmann in left.

Contradictory? Not necessarily. Perhaps the thinking was that the sun wasn't a factor on an overcast day.