Today’s Bad Baseball Article

I haven’t done one of these in a while, so here we go. This was actually tweeted by Denard Span a couple days ago, and although he didn’t include a link, it was still rather easy to find. First, Span’s comments (edited by me into a paragraph instead of 6 tweets):

According to Doug Poe on yahoo sports he and other twins fans wanna see nishi hit leadoff… He also said that he and other twins wanna see the twins get past the first round! After reading that I got that he’s trying to say that we lost to the Yankees 2 yrs in a row bc I was the lead off hitter! All I can say is wow lol I don’t mind the idea of moving outta the leadoff spot. Just the fact that guy refers to me and us not getting out of the 1st round of the playoffs (sic)

Now, Span did have a down season last year, but I wouldn’t necessarily think this means he should be moved out of the leadoff spot. Well, just because Joe Morgan no longer works for ESPN doesn’t mean we have to stop wishing for him to be fired, so let’s take a look at Doug Poe’s article to see why he feels Span should be moved to the bottom of the order.

Fan’s Take: Twins need to try Nishioka at leadoff

Bold comment, but that’s how you get page views. Can you provide good supporting evidence?

Assuming Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan are fully recovered from last season’s injuries, the most pressing question for the Minnesota Twins for the start of 2011 is the lead off spot in the batting order.

Is it? Not the bullpen? Not who’s going to be the 5th starter in the rotation? Not the trade rumors over Francisco Liriano and Kevin Slowey? Not the false controversy of moving Scott Ullger to bench coach? Not Michael Cuddyer’s picture that he tweeted after he had that wart removed from his foot? (Why did he think he needed to share that?) Not if they’ll finally dampen the amount of country music played at home games?

Manager Ron Gardenhire needs to give the first shot to free agent infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

What has Nishioka done to warrant the chance of leading off? Plus, he wasn’t a free agent infielder, he was acquired via the posting process. Get your facts straight, DOUG. Seriously.

The team brought Nishioka over from Japan, and his swing has been compared to that of Ichiro Suzuki.

That’s racist. Not all Japanese players swing the bat like Ichiro.

According to MLB.com, “the switch-hitter is a speedy leadoff type, a bit of a slap hitter.” Nishioka won a batting title in Japan and, with his consistent contact and speed, he is likely to have similar success here.

Note: “A batting title.” Not multiple titles. A title. Plus, we’ve seen that it’s not common for Japanese imports to hit well in America. The comparisons to Kaz Matsui have been thrown around a bit, and could very well be a real possibility.

Ron Gardenhire may be reluctant to move current leadoff hitter, Denard Span, from that spot. After all, the Twins have won two straight AL Central Division titles with Span atop the order. However, we Twins fans would like to see the club move beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Yeah, you finally got something right, Doug! Denard Span is our leadoff hitter! Oh, and I suppose the fact that we haven’t gotten past the 1st round of the playoffs since 1991 (or so it feels).

Making the switch at the top of the lineup may be just what the Twins need. Span, who hit .311 in 2009, saw his average dip almost 50 points to .266 last season. His OBP, perhaps the most important stat for a leadoff hitter, dropped from .302 to .331.

Excuse me?

*checks statistics*

Oooooohhh… you meant “dropped from .392 to .331″. That makes way more sense. Anyway, there’s this handy statistic that measures Span’s batting average on balls in play, and it shows that his BABIP dropped from .353 to .294 last season.

I spot a coincidence! BABIP dropped by nearly 60 points. Batting average dropped by 47. OBP dropped by 61. HMMMMMMMM…. *inserts pipe into mouth, takes a puff, exhales* Indubitably.

For all you non-sabermetric folk, that basically means Span hit the ball at fielders more often last year. Remember quotes similar to “He hit the ball well, but just at the fielders?” Span was doing that.

Can the Twins afford to sit back and hope that Span can somehow get back his 2009 form while MVPs Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau come to bat with the bases empty?

Doug, Nishioka has had a career OBP of .364 in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. That number is likely going to drop this season. What if it’s at .330? Then we’ve moved Span out of the leadoff spot because his OBP was .330 last season, and replaced him with a guy that’s doing the exact same thing! Besides, who’s going to be hitting #2? Span? So you’re big proposal is to flip-flop two consecutive guys in the order? I don’t think that’s going to change as much as you think.

Another reason to make the switch is the fact that Nishioka is a switch-hitter. The Twins have too many left-handed hitters in the lineup, including Span, the two MVPs mentioned above, and last year’s home run leader Jim Thome. Having a switch hitter ahead of those guys would force opposing managers to use their bullpens more strategically.

When has this ever been a problem? Last season in the playoffs? Okay, fine, but don’t you realize that the majority of pitchers are right-handed? Second, three of the regular lefties in the lineup actually are successful against LHP, including Mr. Span! (Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are the other two). In fact, Span has a higher AVG, OBP and SLG against lefties compared to righties in his career!

The Twins have been my favorite team since the day I saw a young Rod Carew at the plate in the open batting stance that would help him notch a plaque in Cooperstown. He was facing the Baltimore Orioles in the playoffs, which the Twins ended up losing. The team has had that same misfortune for nearly a decade, and I would like to see them win the playoffs in 2011. Putting an exciting new player at the top of the order could just be the catalyst this team needs to win a pennant.

Or we can do as every other sane Twins fan would do and stick with getting Denarded on the first pitch of the game.

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4 Responses to “Today’s Bad Baseball Article”

  1. jbiowa Says:

    So “top of the order” consists only of the lead-off spot for Mr. Doug? It seems to me that the Twins have changed the top of the order by putting Nihsioka in the 2 spot. And it puts a switch hitter between Span and Mauer — hard to see how you’d improve that with the current projected roster.

    As for not succeeding in the playoffs, there are so many other things to talk about besides Denard’s performance — but why waste the cyber-ink?

  2. ben Says:

    I think you’re getting a little obnoxious with the BABIP talk. Just like pitchers have some level of control over the type of contact their pitches induce, batters have some level of control over whether their batted ball goes for a hit. Especially hitters who rely on legging out grounders. Check out the BABIP of leadoff hitters VS the BABIP of pitchers, for example.

    There is obviously some level of luck involved, but not as much as you might suggest.

    That aside, I haven’t heard of any fans suggesting Nishioka should lead off, and I don’t find the arguments in that article to be compelling. But more power to the author, Span seems to thrive when people are telling him he sucks.

    • Andrew Says:

      Apologies if I was being obnoxious, but I was definitely attempting to be snarky in this post.

      I do understand that BABIP is more controllable for hitters than pitchers. However, speedy line drive/groundball hitters tend to have a better BABIP, and Span fits this mold. In fact, Parker Hageman had a good post back in January on this very topic. http://overthebaggy.blogspot.com/2011/01/denard-span-says-target-field-hurt-his.html

      I’d like to point out one quote in particular by Parker.

      There is probably a fair share of bad luck mixed in as more of his balls in play were simply directed at gloves rather than openings in the defense. The reality is that the transition away from the Astroturf may repress his numbers to some extent, it is unlikely that it will be as influential of a factor in 2011 as his groundball BABIP reverts back to the league and his career norm.

  3. ben Says:

    “However, speedy line drive/groundball hitters tend to have a better BABIP, and Span fits this mold. ”

    That’s my point. His low BABIP is not a good sign, and shouldn’t be shrugged off as a fluke, dismissing his performance.

    “The reality is that the transition away from the Astroturf may repress his numbers to some extent”

    He did much better at Target field than away.

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