Thursday, August 11, 2011

Deciphering Showalter's logic

Here's Buck Showalter on Vladimir Guerrero getting the day off:
“I talked to him today about [his wrist]. I wanted to make sure that the wrist, that wasn’t bothering him. He’s always a pretty level guy. I can tell in the dugout he’s been a little frustrated lately because he’s trying so hard,” Showalter said. “He’s hit a couple balls on the button right at somebody, and you can see he’s had a little different response afterwards that he usually doesn’t have. He’s a proud man, and I want to treat him with the respect that he has coming.”
And here's Showalter again, speaking about Nolan Reimold after last night's 6-4 win:
“Nolan’s a strong guy with a lot of skills,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s got some skills that could play up here if he can grasp some of the small things, and tonight he got a good return for some of the work he’s been putting in. I know he was excited. So were we.”
Showalter was discussing Reimold because he hit a walkoff, two-run homer in the 10th inning in last night's game. Showalter, though, is talking about Guerrero and Reimold like there's a massive difference between the two. From Buck's quotes, you get the sense that he thinks Guerrero has been dealing with an injury and is hitting into some tough luck, but that he still deserves a consistent spot in the lineup. And in Reimold's case, Buck believes that he's got talent but still has a lot to prove.

You'd think Guerrero would be grossly outperforming Reimold. But that's not the case:

Guerrero's 2011: 393 PA, .274/.310/.387
Reimold's 2011: 152 PA, .215/.296/.400

Both of those batting lines are bad. Guerrero's numbers are slightly better and have been accumulated in 241 more plate appearances. But Guerrero has a steady role -- DHing every day and batting in the cleanup spot as long as he's healthy -- while Reimold sits every few days and didn't start playing more until Luke Scott's injury ended his season.

Showalter seems to be viewing Guerrero as the career .318/.380/.554 hitter who no manager would ever consider benching. But Vlad is not close to being that guy. When O's fans look at Guerrero, they see a 36-year-old designated hitter who won't be in Baltimore after this season. They see a guy who's not getting the job done, yet he's being placed in the cleanup spot game after game. And they see a guy who is preventing lineup flexibility because he can't play anywhere in the field. With Vlad in the lineup, the O's can't:
  • DH Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, or Josh Bell or at least use them in some kind of 1B/3B/DH rotation;
  • give any of the outfielders a chance to DH and rest their legs; or
  • allow Matt Wieters to stay in the lineup once every four or five days without having to catch.
The Orioles don't owe Guerrero anything. Well, I take that back: They owe him the rest of this year's salary and the $3 million of his deal that's deferred until 2016-2017. But they don't have to "respect" him by putting his name in the lineup every single game. That doesn't mean they should badmouth him or throw him under the bus for not having a good season. Guerrero has had plenty of opportunities to turn things around, but it's just not happening. And only truly bad teams keep running out players like Guerrero -- guys who barely have any value, aren't helping the team, and are blocking younger guys from having the chance to play every day.

Reimold is not a star. He may end up not being an everyday player. But it's a little embarrassing that the O's still don't have a clue if Reimold, who turns 28 in two months, can be someone they rely on for next season and beyond. The Orioles are terrible at developing young players at the major league level, and how they've handled many of their talented prospects this season is just another example.

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