Thursday, May 29, 2014

The wasting of Josmil Pinto

Josmil Pinto last DHed
on May 16, almost
two weeks ago.
The Twins lost 1-0 Wednesday night. They played the game, as they have seven of their last eight, with one of their better hitters riding the pine.

Josmil Pinto figures to be in the lineup for today's nooner; he has become Sam Deduno's personal catcher, and that works on a variety of levels. It gives Kurt Suzuki a game off once every five games, and it's good for a catcher to sit that often. It also spares the hard-working Suzuki the physical beating Deduno's wildness figures to produce for the catcher. This battery pairs the rotation's one native Spanish speaker with a native Spanish speaker.

But Pinto should be playing more often than once every trip through the rotation. Maybe not at catcher -- Suzuki is clearly the more polished backstop, and he has, despite signs that his magic is wearing off, been a more productive hitter over the first two months of the season than could have been expected.

But still ... Pinto's got to play. The Twins, who in April had one of the highest runs scored totals in baseball, have sagged to the middle of the pack now, and part of the problem is that Pinto isn't getting the DH time he had been.

He isn't DHing because he's the backup catcher and Ron Gardenhire is loathe to play without a bona fide catcher on his bench.

Gardenhire's thinking on that specific aspect doesn't bother me nearly as much as it does several Twins bloggers on my Twitter feed. Catching is a unique position.

Sitting Pinto because the roster is without a third catcher is good reason to have a third catcher on the roster. Especially when one of the roster spaces is being wasted on Jason Kubel.

The Twins currently have on their roster Oswaldo Arcia, Kubel and Chris Parmelee -- three left-handed hitting corner outfielders of dubious defensive value. To be blunt, if they can't hit, they can't play.

And Kubel hasn't hit. His current OPS+ (On-base Plus Slugging compared to league average) is 84, meaning he's 16 percent below league average. (Pinto's, in contrast, is 125, 25 percent above league average.) An OPS+ of 84 is acceptable from a high-quality defensive shortstop; if Pedro Florimon had an OPS+ of 84, Eduardo Escobar would still be looking for playing time. It doesn't fly for a corner outfielder-designated hitter.

Kubel's slash line in May: .188/..297/.188. That's unusable, all the more so since Arcia and Parmelee make him redundant.

The argument against bringing Chris Herrmann back might be stated thusly: He's only here as an insurance policy. The Twins don't want to actually use him. 

And I agree with that. But they should want to actually use Pinto. And there's little reason for them to want to use Kubel. Herrmann's not a great hitter, but neither is Kubel these days.

Dump Kubel. Bring back a third catcher. And stop letting Pinto rot four games of five.

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