8.29.2014

Designated Everything

Most of the wise and trusted Twins blogs have noted that while the team's current offense, to put it politely, sucks harder than a Super Powered Hoover. Yet, they say, help is on the way from the prospect ranks--even if many of them are currently injured.

That's a big but...
However, all that hope for the future comes with a caveat as big as Kenny Vargas' backside. To wit: most of the good hitters are not terribly athletic and have serious questions about their defense. Sure we may have boppers, but what do you do with a team that has nine potential designated hitters?

The obvious answer is just to designate a bunch more positions and let a whole raft of back up people hit. Creating a roster (around 2016 that looks like this)

C-Kurt Suzuki
1B--Joe Mauer
2B--Brian Dozier
SS--Danny Santana
3B--Miguel Sano
LF--Eddie Rosario
CF--Byron Buxton
RF--Aaron Hicks
Pitcher--Anything with an arm...heck a slot machine will do.
Designated Hitter--Kenny Vargas
Designated Hitting Catcher--Josmil Pinto
Designated Hitting Left Fielder--Trevor Plouffe
Designated Hitting Right Fielder--Oswaldo Arcia

Now, critics will point out that this is...you know..."breaking the rules of the game"

BUT! Perhaps there's another way. After all, you don't really need a good outfield if your pitchers induce strike outs and ground balls. So, and prepare to suspend your disbelief fans, what if, in a crazy mixed up world of my own imagination, where up is down, left is right and the Twins hire a manager who decides to use platoons (I told you it would need a major suspension of disbelief), you try to use these players strategically?


Consider the 7 claimants to the "DH" role right now as well as the two most athletic "outfield prospects" who aren't totally at sea with a bat:
Joe Mauer, Kenny Vargas, Josmil Pinto, Oswaldo Arcia, Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks.
Where do you think you're going?

If you assume that we can count on two years of Suzuki at Catcher (which apparently is also expected to be a Josmil Pinto free zone), Dozier at Second, Santana at short and stop gaps replaced by Bionic Byron Buxton in Center, then we have five spots left to play with (in order of least defensive danger): DH, First Base, Left Field, Right Field and Third Base

Here's how those 9 players rank in terms of OPS in their Major League Careers or the last season of the minors (biased I know...but hey, if you expect quality analysis from me, you clearly didn't read my "Joe-Mauer-could-play-better-if-he-became-an-amateur-stand-up-comedian" post)
OPS Versus Righties
Sano (.975)
Mauer (.922)
Vargas (.844)
Pinto (.813)
Arcia (.799)
Rosario (.705)
Parmelee (.704)
Plouffe (.674)
Hicks (.543--though .746 all year at three levels)

OPS Versus Lefties
Sano (1.027)
Pinto (.892)
Vargas (.828)
Plouffe (.807)
Mauer (.748)
Hicks (.746 majors....854 all year at three levels)
Parmelee (.710)
Rosario (.630)
Arcia (.620)

So, like I said, that's not perfect, indeed it's a big fat set of assumptions...i.e. that hitting lefties in Triple A or Double A is equivalent to major leagues (Josmil Pinto's gap from the AAA Lefties to Big leaguers is a whopping 206 points to the worse at .686...though that still puts him ahead of Arcia)

Still, I think that if we assume A) he doesn't come back as a shell of his former self and B) he can still throw the ball, that Miguel Sano is going to be a full timer no matter what. Preferably at third base the hardest of our five positions defensively and the one he would play better than everyone else on the list

That leaves 8 guys for four spots, and here's where my idea comes into effect what if we had not one platoon, not two platoons, BUT FOUR PLATOONS!!! The platoons would be based on both the opposing pitcher, and whether or not we have a fly ball pitcher going ourselves. 

Take a break Joe...literally whenever
you want.
Here's how I could see it
Versus Lefties with a Fly Ball Twins Pitcher
DH-Pinto
1B-Vargas
LF-Mauer (or Plouffe if Mauer needs a rest day)
RF-Hicks

Versus Lefties with a Ground Ball Twins Pitcher
DH-Pinto/Vargas (whoever's hotter)
1B-Mauer (or Vargas if Mauer needs a rest)
LF-Plouffe
RF-Hicks

Versus Righties with a Fly Ball Twins Pitcher
DH-Pinto
1B-Mauer (or Vargas if Mauer needs a rest)
LF-Arcia
RF-Rosario

Versus Righties with a Ground Ball Twins Pitcher
DH-Pinto
1B-Vargas
LF-Mauer
RF-Arcia

A couple of pros to this approach. 
Thanks for the memories, Chris
1--It clarifies value to the team pretty quickly: Parmelee doesn't care any of these sets of four so if someone is willing to give you a prospect with a pulse take it. Rosario only cracks one line up, and theoretically you should be able to find a solid defensive outfielder who can handle right handed pitching at a steady clip, so see if he has any value too.
2--It allows you to start thinking about defensive liberty. Vargas has some background at first, but I would bet that Josmil Pinto could figure things out there as well as Matthew Lecroy did and be a third catcher, and Mauer's still a bit of an athlete (we hope). If Mauer could do a little time in Left, all of a sudden, Trevor Plouffe is expendable.
3--You have a more structured schedule to keep Mauer healthy. Less time against lefties will be better, especially as Joe gets older. And, if/when bullpens are used and right handed relievers come in...who's that sitting on the bench with a bat in his hands? What's that...a former MVP and batting champion? How about that!

And, just to show I can acknowledge my own failings, I'll admit a few weaknesses too...
I stubbornly still have faith
in you Hicksy.
1--My data set is totally messed up: no debating that, but I think it's reasonable to say that after years of hearing that "help is on the way" from the minors and looking at prospect rankings, this is a reasonable assessment of potential at the majors
2--I assume that everyone will reach their potential: yup, I do. They won't, but I teach public school, I have to think about potential more than existing skill or I'd go nuts.
3--Mauer in Left? I mean....Mauer in Left??? Again, point taken, there's every chance that the Twins/Mauer would never consider such a deal with the risk of a wall, or another outfielder, or a beer bottle at risk of hitting his head and ending his career. However, I would say that Mauer is still a fine athlete, even with the wear and tear, and that historically left field is perhaps the least exposed position on the diamond...maybe Josmil Pinto could figure it out, maybe Adam Brett Walker will develop so fast that we have a whole other problem, but for now that makes the most sense to me.


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