Monday, September 4, 2017

DIssecting the use of Niko Goodrum

A curious bit of usage of Niko Goodrum on Sunday. He got his first start with the Twins -- as a DH against a right-handed starter.

This is curious on a variety of levels, but let's start with the platoon splits the switch-hitter racked up in Rochester this year. Goodrum, as reported by Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, had a .265 on-base percentage against righties, .386 against lefties. One would think that Paul Molitor would be looking for an opportunity to start Goodrum against southpaws, not against the likes of Ian Kennedy. What gives?

I wouldn't assume that Molitor is giving the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It's quite possible that Molitor does indeed believe that Goodrum looks better hitting left handed. It's possible that Goodrum has hit better lefty in the past (I don't know). But the objective evidence on hand doesn't support using Goodrum against a righty.

Molitor may well have had other, unstated reasons for putting Goodrum in the lineup. But if he wanted to get the rookie a start quickly, he had an opportunity on Saturday to play him in left field against a lefty. Molitor went with Ehrie Adrianaza instead.

Goodrum went 0-for-3 Sunday with a pair of strikeouts. I would have found the decision curious had he gone 2-for-3.

Point of curiosity No. 2: On the face of it, a major point of having Niko Goodrum on your roster is in the number of positions he can play competently. DH negates his biggest strength.

I've long liked Bill James' description of how Earl Weaver built his "deep depth" rosters. Weaver, said James. looked for players who did something well enough for Weaver to want to get him in the game to do it. He had teams of specialists. Some were brilliant fielders who couldn't hit (Mark Belanger); some were platoon bats with defensive liabilities (Terry Crowley).

Rosters are markedly different now -- Weaver would never had imagined carrying 13 pitchers -- but the basic idea remains. What value does Player X have for you? Know the answer, and use him accordingly. DHing Goodrum does not meet that criteria.

Point of curiosity No. 3: Ian Kennedy is notably home run prone. The last three years -- pitching with cavernous home parks in San Diego and Kansas City -- he has surrendered 31, 33 and 28 homers. Goodrum hit 13 homers for Rochester (his first time in double digits); the long ball is not his forte.

This looks like a matchup made for Kennys Vargas, not Goodrum. But Vargas was locked onto the bench; when Molitor hit for Goodrum in the ninth, it was with Adrianaza.


  1. I was thinking exactly the same thing throughout the game. Curious use of players.

  2. I think it was Gene Glynn pulling the strings in the ninth. But yeah.