Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Seven Perspectives – 2B
As I am again away from home for a couple of days, I thought that running another Seven Perspectives Posting would be a good thing to do. I mean, there are plenty of Twins-related topics that we could put under this scrutiny. Yesterday, we looked at the CF position and whether Chris Gomez, Jason Pridie or Denard Span would be the best choice to start the season as the Twins regular CF. You definitely came through with a lot of great comments on the topic and this series. Although I realize it is not perfect and it isn’t the answer to every question and most certainly it doesn’t end in a right and wrong answer, what it does is allows us to think through what we think people who are actually involved might be thinking as well as others.
I did feel the need to respond to one thing though, my responses for “In-Season Only Fans.” Although I don’t think my thoughts on what those people think is inaccurate, I do need to say a couple of things. In yesterday’s comments, Jeff Straub pointed out a few things that I have to address. First of all, I believe that these are a very important segment. I think that they are frequently fair-weather fans and don’t necessarily look at the big picture. They only care about wins, which is kind of like the manager or players’ perspective, right? Something I should have addressed long ago is my thoughts on this though. I am frequently hard on Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven for some of the things they say. You can tell that they are speaking the company line in many cases rather than researching things. If you read a lot of newspaper articles, you get quotes from players. But we have to remember that baseball players and baseball people are known for one thing, clichés! No real incite in clichés, just tings that make fans say “Oh yeah… makes sense.” Beat writers need to be in the clubhouse every day with the players, so excessive opinion or usage of numbers or statistics in a negative tone may not go over as well.
That is their job. Their job is not to speak to the 5-10% of Twins fans who follow the team year round and analyze every trade rumor and free agent signing. Their job is to reach the ‘common fan’ and make them fans ,at least enough of a fan to watch games on TV or show up at the Metrodome a few times and buy a hot dog, some nachos and a few beverages. Their job is to tell the Twins message. The radio announcers are part of the Twins Radio Network. What is their role and what are they told to talk about?
Part of me wonders and tries to remember what it was like to just simply watch a baseball game on TV. What was it like to watch a game and not question pitch selection or lineup construction. What was it like to love a hitter like Kirby Puckett who swung at, and hit, pitches thrown anywhere in or out of the strike zone? What was it like back in the years between 1987 and 1991 when we thought players like Dan Gladden or Jeff Reardon were good? Now, I watch and think constantly. Watching a hitter sacrifice bunt is so frustrating. Wondering why Nick Punto kept playing last year was excruciating. I miss those days when a manager could say that a guy had a rough day, but he’s going to work hard and come back tomorrow and be better… and I believed him.
So again, my comments for those “In-Season Only Fans” may be accurate, but I do not want to give the impression that I don’t understand that they probably make up 80-90% of Twins fans. As Jeff mentioned, those are the fans that passed the stadium bill and agreed to the increased taxes. Those people have a very important role to Twins baseball, and the Twins know it!
Anyway, enough on that. Today, I want to give a few thoughts on the Twins 2B situation as I see it right now through the eyes of Seven Perspectives. Be sure to add your perspective in the Comments below. Again, if you would like a description of the categories, click here.
2B position – Brendan Harris, Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla
Owner – I really don’t care which of these three guys starts. Although Punto is making $2.4 million, that isn’t enough for me to really worry about too much. Harris? Casilla? Who are they? I just want a winner. Get me a winner.
GM – Yes, we had to include Jason Bartlett with Matt Garza to get Delmon Young, but I was able to get the Rays starting SS from a year ago in Harris back. Harris has a little more pop in his bat than Bartlett did, so I think we did well to get him in addition to Young. He can play SS too, but because he isn’t a great glove, and I was able to sign Adam Everett, his lack of range shouldn’t hurt us as much at 2B. Punto showed what he could do last year given a full-time job. He isn’t a full time player. We know that, even though we have to spin it a little bit. We can do that because the public seems to think he is Gold Glove caliber and that works with a role player. But, I really need Gardy to tell people that there is a battle for the 2B job. Alexi Casilla, well, I think we may have misjudged his readiness last July, but we can not forget just how talented he is. I still believe he fits into our long-term schemes here or at SS. If he makes the team, we have only Craig Monroe as a power bat off the bench, but may have our best lineup.
Manager – I love Nick Punto. He is a lot like I was as a big leaguer. I had to battle my tail off every day just to get an opportunity. I didn’t get to start in the big leagues as much as I wanted to despite how hard I worked, so I really, really want to make sure that I am not the one that tells him that he isn’t good enough to be a big league starter. Plus, he can really pick it. But he can pick it at three different positions, so I could probably still get him in the lineup five times a week between the three positions. Brendan Harris can hit the ball a little bit around the field. He certainly doesn’t have Nicky’s glove, but he can hit a little. Casilla has a lot of skills, but he just makes a lot of rookie mistakes, and he is no longer a rookie and he really needs to figure it out in a hurry. Of the three, he’s clearly got the most talent, but I want the best defender and the guy that my pitchers will most like.
Players – Nick has been with us for several years now. His attitude, hustle and hard work drives us at times. We believe that he is a better player than he showed last year. He’s got a great glove and a great attitude. We don’t know a lot about Harris. I mean, we played against him last year and he can play. We’re not sure what to make of Casilla. He’s so young and so gifted and in time, he should be very good. It just hasn’t clicked for him at the big league level yet. It will sometime, but will that be this year sometime?
SABRmetricians – Not Nick Punto! I mean, so many people talk about how good he was in 2006 when he hit .290, and yet, that season produced an OPS+ of just 90, which is 10% below average. And that season was so much better than anything he had done in previous years, not only in the majors, but in the minors too. Also, if you look up any advanced defensive metric, you will find that Punto is not the great defender that he is talked up to be. Harris is probably the best hitter now and yet the numbers he put up in 2007 are a little bit more than he has done previously. Part of that is likely because he has been traded so many times in his career. He has played in the big leagues for the Expos, Cubs, National, Reds and Devil Rays. Whenever he has played with a team most of a season, he has consistently showed a little pop. Alexi Casilla could become a very solid leadoff hitter because he has previously shown an ability to get on base. He can steal a lot of bases. He can also show some gap power, not as much as Harris, but enough to be a good top of the lineup hitter. He just needs to be given daily playing time.
In-Season Only Fans – Well, Casilla certainly has done nothing to show that he will ever produce at the big league level. Dick Bremer keeps talking about how he makes a lot of ‘rookie’ mistakes. He sure looks really fast and is fun to watch though. But I have read quotes from Gardy over and over in the paper saying negative things about Casilla. Nick Punto is the easy choice. He did such a great job in the field. He made a lot of plays that I saw on Sports Center. Gardy is always talking about how much the team needs Punto out there because of how he plays the game. Who is Brandan Harris? Another minor league prospect?
SethSpeaks – I think you’ll find that my opinion on this will not surprise you. I think you will be surprised somewhat by my rationale. I think it is completely possible that Alexi Casilla is the right person to be the Twins regular 2B. I think that Punto is more consistent defensively and Harris has a little more power, but I believe that Casilla is overall the best choice for the position. He could hit .270-.280 and get on base 35% of the time. He could steal 40 bases. He could play good defense and show excellent range. He would make some mistakes but Gardy really needs to get past that and let him relax and play. That said, I think that the ‘right’ choice, at least to start the season, is to have Brendan Harris as the starting 2B. His offensive abilities and ability to make most of the routine plays is just clearly a better option than Nick Punto’s inability to hit despite the perception of great defense. Punto has to be on the roster because of his $2.4 million contract. The truth is that he is a very solid utility infielder, and can be used as a backup or defensive replacement at three infield spots. Casilla is the future. I do believe that Casilla would be the best choice to start, with Punto and Harris as the backup infielders. However, with Redmond as the backup catcher and Monroe as the backup OF/DH, I don’t know if there would be a decent left-handed bat off the bench. In terms of roster construction, I think that Garrett Jones or Brian Buscher would be the better choice.
So, what do you think? Of course, my opinion is also subject to change or adjustment over the next three weeks or any time after that, and so is yours. Share your thoughts on the Twins 2B position battle, or the Seven Perspectives series below.