Friday, May 26, 2006

Back Up Backstops

by Twins Geek

The following is in the Dugout Splinters this weekend. It's also the only post this week, since John will be unable to access the internet again until June 3rd.

It’s becoming a weekly tradition. The Ron Gardenhire Show starts, and so does the berating of the manager for how he uses his catchers. There are two complaints from callers, and they are completely at odds with each other.

Lars from Mendota wants to know why Joe Mauer wasn’t in the lineup last night. Ron patiently explains again that catchers often don’t catch a night game followed by a day game, because otherwise, they break. Then Jorgi calls from Warroad and wants to know if Mike Redmond can see more playing time, because he’s swinging the bat pretty good, donchaknow. Ron praises Redmond’s production and says how much the Twins value him and how he loves Redmond’s makeup. He also tactfully refrains from mentioning the career total of twelve home runs in nine major league seasons.

Obviously, both callers are missing the bigger picture concerning Mauer’s health and Redmond’s career. But this weekend, when you’re watching Mike Redmond bat from the #3 spot, you might ask yourself, why isn’t the Twins most professional hitter in the lineup at designated hitter?

There is a reason. If Redmond gets hurt, Mauer would have to move from designated hitter to catcher. In the American League, when a player is moved from DH to the field, the team loses their DH, so the pitcher must bat in his place. Which is, obviously, not something a manager wants to deal with. But for a 162-game season, does that strategy make sense?

Consider that Mike Redmond will start about 30 games this year. If Mauer was allowed to DH for a chunk of those, he get about 100 more at-bats that would otherwise be taken by Rondell White. That’s 100 at-bats over the course of a season where Mauer is still batting third while Redmond is essentially replacing White in the batting order. That’s the upside.

The downside? If Redmond gets hurt, the manager might need to make a double-switch, or pinch hit for a reliever, or pull his starting pitcher an inning early, or even (gasp) allow a pitcher to bat. This will affect two to three at-bats. In short, the manager would have to, um, manage for about half a game. One would think Gardenhire, who played in the National League, might relish that opportunity.

For most teams, this strategy isn’t a good idea, because for most teams, replacing their designated hitter with their catcher doesn’t make any sense. But until White is straightened out or replaced, it’s worth considering for the Twins. Even if it does make Lars and Jorge feel justified in their tirades.

9 comments:

ganderson said...

What about a third catcher- I admit I haven't thought about the pros and cons of this- I guess it would mean one less pitcher, but another 100 ABs for Mauer seems a good idea to me.

eugene said...

How about Redmond at DH? I just don't anticipate White improving much, and Redmond could contribute at that spot. The risk of having to pull a double-switch seems well worth it.

ubelmann said...

Clearly, based on today's lineup, Gardy is out to get you. That, or he finally realized that Mauer is on a ridiculous tear right now, and the Twins have had a bunch of off-days lately.

dlarso01 said...

Isn't the reason Redmond is doing so well is that he primarily plays against lefties? And Mauer is benefitted a bit because he hits against less lefties? Including Mauer more often may not pay off as well as getting Redmond more time against lefties that Mauer happens to be catching against...

Welcome to Jewscott's Head said...

Not really. Mauer is actually hitting .345 off lefties this year and has more at-bats against them than Redmond has total.

And while Redmond has been hitting well, it is only in 51 plate apperances.

SBG said...

Never fear. We now have Woot! Woot! Wooten as a third string catcher.

beach64 said...

I think Gardenhire doesnt play both because if they do and 1 gets hurts, he may actually have to do a double switch. Since making a batting order seems to be beyond gardenhire's grasp just think if he had to do a double switch.

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