The Measure Of Wakamatsu
Yesterday, Wakamatsu slotted Ichiro in the #3 hole in the line-up spot, and then said this about it.
“(Ichiro’s) been outstanding, coming in here and saying, ‘Whatever you need me to do to help this ballclub.’ It has been off the chart,” Wakamatsu said. “I’m trying to take the ego out of it with a lot of these guys and say, ‘Hey, whatever we feel gives us our best opportunity to win, we’re going to do that,’ and he’s been outstanding with that.
He talked a lot about mixing things up this spring to prepare guys to be ready to do whatever the team asks of them in order to help the team win. After years of the manager giving the veterans whatever they want for fear of upsetting those with an entitlement attitude, this is nice to hear.
The first measure of Wakamatsu’s ability to actually make this work, though, will be how he handles the Griffey scenario. As you’ll recall, I walked everyone through the math on Griffey as an LF, working on the assumption that the DH on days when Griffey was in the field would be Jeff Clement. Now, Clement is in Tacoma. That leaves Mike Sweeney as the de-facto backup DH. So now, the comparison isn’t getting Clement at-bats and upgrading the defense behind the plate, but instead is simply a straight across comparison of Endy Chavez’s defense versus Mike Sweeney’s offense.
Even if you think defensive stats aren’t accurate, there’s just no way – none, zilch, nada – to believe that the team is better with Griffey in left and Sweeney at DH than with Chavez in left at Griffey at DH.
Mike Sweeney, 2006 to 2008: 677 plate appearances, .322 wOBA
Endy Chavez, 2006 to 2008: 853 plate appearances, .315 wOBA
Over the last three seasons, Chavez and Sweeney have been comparably valuable hitters. The difference between a .322 wOBA and a .315 wOBA is 3.5 runs over 600 plate appearances. We’re talking a remarkably small difference in actual performance at the plate between these two over the last three years. On a per PA basis, the projected wOBA difference between Sweeney and Chavez is .013 runs. One one-hundredth of a run.
I don’t care how much you like Griffey, or how much you think Endy Chavez sucks, or whatever – there’s just no way to think that the defensive gap between those two is anything close to the offensive gap between Chavez and Sweeney.
In order to believe that the Griffey/Sweeney alignment is preferable, you’d have to think that Chavez is no better than +4 runs defensively compared to an average left fielder that Griffey is no worse than -4 runs compared to an average left fielder. Chavez’s career UZR/150 in RF/LF is +23. Griffey’s career UZR/150 in RF/LF is -27. You’d have to regress those back to +4/-4 in order to make the Griffey/Sweeney tandem equally valuable to the Chavez/Griffey tandem. Not more valuable – equally valuable.
There’s no argument to be made here. The team is categorically, undeniably better with Endy Chavez in left field and Ken Griffey Jr at DH than with Ken Griffey Jr in left field and Mike Sweeney at DH.
“I’m trying to take the ego out of it with a lot of these guys and say, ‘Hey, whatever we feel gives us our best opportunity to win, we’re going to do that,…”
Wak, if you’re serious about this, Endy Chavez and Wladimir Balentien will split the innings in left field. There’s no contest here – the team is worse every single time you put Griffey in left. Penciling Junior to start in left field will never give you your best opportunity to win with this roster. Never.
I understand that you’ll feel the need to give him some innings out there occasionally. There will be days when he pinch-hits for Chavez and you’ll have to send him out to left to finish the game. There will be days when one of the regular outfielders are under the weather and you’ll be playing with a 24 man roster. There will be a lot of pressure to stick him out there in the home opener, so the fans can give him a bunch of standing ovations and welcome him back to Seattle. We won’t hold those against you.
But, given the comments about ego taking a back seat to the team’s best chance to win, you have to limit Junior’s innings in left field. He really shouldn’t get more than 100 the whole year, and that’s generous, honestly.
So far, I’m extremely encouraged by what Wakamatsu has said. But, when the rubber meets the road, he has the chance to back up his words with one tough action. That action – make Ken Griffey Jr a full time DH. It’s the right move for the team. It gives them the best chance to win.