Sunday, April 03, 2005

Last Thoughts on Bench Spots (For Now)

Just a little more comment on the decisions made regarding Restovich and the bench spots, before I can let it go for awhile....

Some have been saying that the Twins had to retain Corky Miller because Matthew LeCroy isn't really a Catcher. His arm is so poor, it's been said, that other teams are free to run wild on the bases when he's behind the plate. However, for all the worry about his poor arm, he still caught 144 innings last year, although opponents stole 15 bases in 16 tries against him. Yes, 15/16, a .0625 Caught Stealing rate. It looks terrible, but suppose he had just a decent CS rate, something like 20-25%. That would be 3-4 baserunners thrown out in 16 tries, instead of one. The difference is 2-3 extra stolen bases in 144 innings, or 0.1875 stolen bases per 9 innings. That's it. At those rates, opponents would steal an extra base off LeCroy's arm every 48 innings, or about every sixth game. So the Twins are carrying Corky Miller, and demoting Tiffee while waiving Restovich, to guard against that nightmare scenario?

"Well, it's not so much that LeCroy can't play Catcher in a pinch, it's that Gardenhire doesn't want Redmond's backup to be stuck at DH." Gardy confessed to having this sort of nightmare last season at times when LeCroy was the lone backup to Henry Blanco. What if his backup Catcher were to be in the lineup as the DH, and then the starting Catcher should get hurt in the middle of the game? He'd be forced to move LeCroy behind the plate, losing the DH in the lineup, and the pitchers may have to bat for themselves, or so goes the tale.... But so what?

So maybe the manager would have to pinch-hit for a reliever once or twice, and possibly employ the double switch. If he's really, really unlucky and the injury happens in the 1st or 2nd inning, then he may have to let the starting pitcher bat for himself a couple times. Most likely, however, the worst that would happen is that the manager must use his bench to fill the DH role for part of the game, and he'd have to think about the pitcher's spot in the lineup while considering when to make pitching changes in the late innings. Think you could handle that? There are 16 NL managers who do it 162 times a year. I'd guess that Ron Gardenhire could handle it for part of one night.

"But keeping Corky Miller frees LeCroy to be used as a pinch-hitter off the bench when Redmond is Catching (and Mauer is unavailable for backup duty)." Yes, but that's only a problem if LeCroy is on the bench while Redmond is Catching. Gardy could solve it by making sure to use LeCroy as the DH on those days, and keeping Ford or Stewart on the bench as a righthanded pinch-hitting option. Or he could have solved it by keeping Michael Restovich.

Exactly what does Corky Miller give to the team which trumps the value of keeping Restovich or Tiffee? I still have not seen a good answer.

Some have put the blame for losing Restovich or Tiffee onto Juan Castro, the veteran futility infielder signed over the winter at about $1m per season even though the club had cheaper players with similar skill sets, in Nick Punto and Augie Ojeda, already on the 40-man roster. The way the 25-man roster shook out this week is another indication of why that was such a poor signing, it's said.

I agree that Gardy is keeping one too many backup futility infielders, but that extra man is Nick Punto.

I still don't mind that TR paid the insurance premium, as Twins Geek puts it, to bring in Castro. It's evident from the move that management didn't have complete faith in Jason Bartlett, Ojeda, or Punto to fill that role on the roster, whether it be the regular SS or the primary backup in the middle infield. Castro is locked into the roster so they're sure to have an experienced middle infielder; the other three are competing for jobs. So that's fine. I understand. But once TR made the commitment to buy the experienced veteran's services and lock him into the roster, he and Gardenhire should have realized that Castro also made somebody else expendable.

Punto or Ojeda should have been bumped from the team, at least in TR & Gardy's minds, the day Castro signed a contract. Instead, it looks like Ojeda got bumped only when Jason Bartlett unexpectedly stepped up to claim the SS job.

The problem isn't Juan Castro. The problem is that management can't bear to cut bait on Nick Punto, even though he's redundant to Castro and TR decided a few months ago which one he prefers. The team only needs one utility infielder on the 25-man roster. In an emergency, Augie Ojeda or Luis Rodriguez still could be called up from AAA. Meanwhile, this week they should have picked the utilityman they signed to a 2-year deal this winter and let the less experienced one go, so the team could keep Tiffee or Restovich.

Instead, they have two redundant appendages in Punto and Miller sitting on the bench while a needed lefty bat off the bench is sent to AAA and a useful righty bat is gone off to Tampa Bay. It just doesn't make any sense.


At 4/03/2005 8:09 AM, Anonymous Dianna said...

The thing is...this is the way we're starting the season. May not be the way we finish it. Say 30 games into the season, Mauer is still fine, and Gardy is rethinking his bench. So he could still get rid of Corky or Castro or Punto and call Tiffee up. Or -- God Forbid -- Something happens to Mauer or Redmond and suddenly Gardy's gonna look like a genius.

Honestly though, I think if we have to play the season with Redmond/Miller as our catchers, we're in for trouble. I can kind of see Punto as insurance for Rivas or Bartlett, I've still not warmed to Castro though, however that may have been a purely financial decision.

While the whole scenario doesn't make me happy, I keep in mind that there were a lot nay sayers last year as well, and look at how far we got. I can however see where he's going with it and see how the situation could change very quickly.

At 4/03/2005 8:46 AM, Anonymous roger said...

Everyone is missing the point! In an effort to protect the "knee," Gardy is going to use Mauer behind the plate 2 out of 3 games. The decision to keep Miller isn't as much fear that his knee will flare up, rather it allows him to DH Mauer on most days he isn't catching to keep his bat in the order. What this says is he really doesn't want to use LeCroy behind the plate. Expect Miller to go after 30-45 days if Mauer's knee is fine.

At 4/03/2005 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Wig,

I wonder if Nicky Punto isn't there is light a fire under Rivas as have someone sitting RIGHT THERE ON THE BENCH who can REPLACE HIM AT ANY MOMENT.

I dunno. I kind of wonder how long Castro's going to be with us. I'm not taking any butt shots yet.

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