Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Two Intriguing Situations (Plus One Developing Situation at Home)

(Okay, I kinda hate myself for that photo.)

As we muddled our way through two roto drafts over the weekend, we found that the rest of the baseball world came into our field of view like a sucker punch as we scrambled on-the-clock to make drafting decisions on guys who may still be viable options, may be defrocked prospects or who may have retired three years ago. (Our frantic searches for Jermaine Dye went for naught.)

There's lots of catching up with the rest of the league for us now that we've written approximately 12 posts and 1000 tweets on Brett Lawrie's place on the 2011 roster. In particular, two caught our attention this weekend.

The Reds' Outfield Situation: We love the Reds for a whole bunch of reasons, and our patriotic affections for their first baseman are probably the least of them. (But high on that list, you would find the awesome Spring Training uni's that the Reds are sporting, all richly red with the large white script. Divine.) Mostly, though, we are focused on the Reds outfield, which contains three of our favorite young players in the game: Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey, who make up the core of a saliva-inducing future for the Red Stockings.

Add in the possibility of finding at bats for major-league-ready 1B Yonder Alonso in left, and you have a nice problem of too few at bats for too many promising young hitters.

And if it were us, we'd be more than happy to run those guys out for 162 games and see what they produced. But we, being somewhat lacking in the wristbands-and-toothpick department, don't get to make those decisions. Dusty Baker does. And if there is one thing that lacks resonance with Dusty, it's the need to get young guys into the lineup.

And so there's been lots of talk about running tubby DH-type Johnny Gomes out in an every day role for the Reds this season. And try as we might, we can't possible make the case for such a move. The most sensible explanation that we can conceive for it is that it will allow Dusty to bring in a better defensive option late in games...but frankly, putting corner lamp in left would improve over Gomes enthusiastically awful defense.

Frankly, we'd prefer to keep former Jay Fred Lewis and our never-ending, past-expiry-date-prospect-mancrush Jeremy Hermida over Gomes if you're going to switch his role from outstanding pinch-hitter to everyday player.

We can't wait to see what happens in Cincinnati this summer with the young talent that they have. (And we'd be perfectly happy to tune in to see Johnny Gomes reel off dramatic pinch hits late in games as well.) We just hope that the Reds don't squander and stunt the development of the outstanding talent that they have.

The Tampa Closer Situation: Somewhere along the line, we tweeted a comment about Joe Maddon's brilliant insanity and willingness to subvert the orthodoxy.

(So brilliant was said bon mot that the world's leading authority on Maddon's goofball-genius, Jonah Keri, actually responded that he intended to steal the term. But for the life of us, we can't remember what we said, so even if he did include it in The Extra 2% - How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First - available at fine bookstores near you - we probably wouldn't have either the memory nor the moral authority to attempt to claim it back.)

It remains to be seen whether if the proverbial "bullpen-by-committee" that the Rays seem to have fashioned actually remains as such much into the season. But with a multitude of late-inning options - none of whom come bearing the Scarlet C of the Closer - we'll be fascinated to observe how Maddon manages his bullpen late in games.

The thought initially seemed to be that Kyle Farnsworth would get the bulk of the closing opportunities, though the cagey Maddon seems to have thrown both rookie Jake McGee and vet J.P. Howell into the mix.

If there is a manager who could begin to change the manner in which the back of the bullpen is utilized, and truly look more towards matchups and game situations and manage in a manner that is agnostic to the save statistic, it would be Joe Maddon.

(Though we partially assume that all of this results in McGee's closer coronation by June. Which isn't the least intriguing outcome.)

BONUS! Hometown Intriguing Jays Situation
So the Jays have announced that Edwin Encarnacion will get the start at third, and José Bautista will play right.

Well mash my taters.

(And also: Slow down on the wiseacre "E5" comments there, Chachi. We've heard them all before. And frankly, we don't think he's as bad as you've heard. So there.)

What does this mean? Does it mean that the Jays see Brett Lawrie's ascension to the big leagues as imminent? Does it mean that their use for Juan Rivera has passed already? Does it mean that they simply view this as the best offensive configuration for the team, and are willing to give up a bit of defense in order to attain it? (Which is the argument we would make.)

It will bear watching. There doesn't seem to be a deal in place for Rivera as of yet, nor do we see an immediate need for a mid-range offensive outfielder around the league. We hope to be surprised.

11 comments:

robbgel said...

The Bautista move doesn't really change the offensive configuration of the team. All the same players are playing, but their positions have changed. If EE's defence (mainly his arm) are as improved as has been reported, then this probably helps them defensively, as Rivera isn't known for his glove or outfield range. It also helps with continuity for Bautista, as when Lawrie does get called up, he would be moving to RF anyway. This could even increase Rivera's trade value, as there is less of a chance that he gets hurt and he may even hit better without having to worry about trying to play defence.

Pat Maltais said...

For what it's worth, I had the chance to see EE in Spring Training where he did very well and was also great with fans, one of the few who would go out of his way to meet everyone and sign every ball, card or picture he was presented. He doesn't deserve half the abuse he's been getting when comparing his numbers with alternates (not the least of which a certain Young fellow from Texas).

Darrell said...

Bautista is not a great 3rd baseman so putting EE there instead is not really a downgrade. Bautista is better than Rivera in the OF. This makes the defense better not worse. Offence stays the same.

Tao of Stieb said...

Yeah, I hadn't really put two and two together to figure out that Rivera would become the DH. So basically the same lineup.

I'd concur that Bautista is better than Rivera in RF. I think he's still better than EE at third, but I'm rooting for Edwin to have a good season in the field.

Timmy D said...

Question: if you blog in the first person plural, and tweet in the first person singular, what tense should properly be used to discuss a tweet on your blog?

Tao of Stieb said...

Timmy: So we goes to the doctor, and I say "Doc! We're first person singular, but I'm first person plural! What's wrong with me?"

And the Doctor says: "Relax! You're two tense."

(That joke reads better if you say it with a French accent.)

Timmy D said...

Ba-dum-cha!

Tony said...

So, how're we feeling about Lind as the full time 1B?

Parker said...

VERY SCARED.

Lyle Overbay might not have been a prototypical power-hitting 1B, but the rest of the Jays infield is really going to miss his glove. I love Adam Lind and I really hate to use the term "butcher" but the early reports on his fielding first base are not very favorable.

It's going to be an ugly season for Lind if his bat doesn't rebound.

gabriel said...

A few observations:

I think this must mean the Jays don't think Bautista's range in right is as horrid as TZL & UZR showed last year.

Third base is a scarcer position than right field. This is reflected in fangraphs positional adjustments which give a 10-run bonus to third or approximately 1 win. On the trade market, third basemen are therefore more valuable.

The BlueJays, however, have a glut of both third-base and right-field options. We aren't slotting Edwin into 3rd to allow Thome to get regular at-bats at DH for example.

Edwin is not necessarily a long-term part of the Jays plan. He has a team-friendly contract, including an option for next year. If he can establish an improved ability at 3rd base, his trade value will be much higher than as a DH/1B. I suspect this is the dominant consideration, along with an organizational belief that Edwin can improve at 3rd.

Ty said...

the early reports on his fielding first base are not very favorable.

I don't know about that - all I've heard about him is that he's been doing a pretty good job for the most part, especially with regards to catching throws. From John Lott, just a few minutes ago:

"In fairness, Lind has looked more than adequate this spring around the bag. Still an adventure on pop-ups behind him into foul ground."