The Other Rotation — The Twins Outfielders
Posted by verywellthen on April 3, 2009
The Twins are going with a five man rotation. Hardly news in modern baseball, huh? Well, not just for the starting pitching, but also the outfielders.
The plan is to use five outfielders*, in somewhat equal proportions between the LF, CF, RF and DH slots on the scorecard (minus the DH slot for 9 NL hosted games).
From day to day, the factors on who plays and who stays might depend on the matchups, injuries, who needs a rest and Gardy’s whims. Maybe one player will get hot or fall behind and the lineup decisions will fall easily into place. But until then, here are some proposed guidelines on how to ration the at bats.
The North/South Divide
Like any rotation, it’s good to have a mix of lefties and righties. Young, Gomez and Cuddyer bat right. Kubel and Span, left. More right handed pitchers means more split opportunities for Kubel and Span. Span actually hit lefties better than righties last year (874 OPS vs. L to 795 OPS vs. R). That is not consistent with his minor league career, but nothing about last year was consistent with Span’s minor league career.
On the Turf
Defensively, only Span and Gomez stand out. Only Span can easily rotate through the outfield. Delmon is a fixture (almost in the real estate law sense) in left. Cuddyer plays only in right, where his strong arm is a plus if he doesn’t have too much ground to cover. If Gomez belongs on a major league roster, he belongs in centerfield. Kubel can flip between right and left, but if he’s not a liability in the field, he’s at least a toxic asset. I’d trend toward Span,when used, in the big field (e.g. right field in Fenway, left field in the Metrodome), and toward Span and Gomez when the Fly Ballers are pitching (namely, Baker and Slowey).
Designating the Designated Hitter
Span and Gomez don’t add value when there not contributing defense, so only Kubel/Young/Cuddyer should rotate through the DH slot. Also, keep in mind, the DH spot would be a nice place to rest the Bad-Back Joes (Mauer and Crede) and Morneau on occassion. Mauer’s back injury inhibits his running, so the DH isn’t a place to use his bat while convalescing. Nonetheless, I’d get even a healthy Mauer more DH time than last year (only 19 PAs at DH in 08, down from an average of 75 the previous two years). Kubel’s the default against righties, and the righties mix it up against the southpaws.
Any of the five could be thought of as a major league starter. Yet none of the five come with a high degree of certainty. Kubel is hopefully continuing to rehab past the ACL in the AFL incident. Cuddyer is as defined by his injuries as he is by his one stellar season. Delmon hasn’t approached the lofty expectations that surround him. Something clicked for Span last year, but a track record would be a nice thing to have. Gomez is ADHD manifest in a center fielder. (Do you prescribe Ritalin to focus more or Xanax to mellow out?) It’s a big year for each of them to prove themselves. And each will get 4/5 ths of a chance to do so, so the plan goes.
* The full names for those who don’t obsess about all things Twins: Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel.