Updated OF/DH Playing Time Chart
A month ago, I laid out the expected playing time for the LF/DH group on the roster. Since then, the team has made a few roster changes, so it’s worth re-evaluating how we expect the at-bats to be portioned out.
Again, quick refresher – there are approximately 1,400 plate appearances to go around, 1,000 of those coming against RHP and 400 against LHP. Because Bradley is expected to play both LF and DH, we won’t see straight platoons, where two guys share one job and two guys share the other. Instead, we’re going to get a lot of mixing and matching, depending on who is pitching, who is healthy, and whether Wak wants offense or defense on that particular day.
Against left-handers, it’s pretty easy. Assuming Byrnes is healthy and makes the club in spring training, he’s the starting LF against LHP, with Bradley DH’ing on days that he’s available to do so. Since Wak is not a big fan of pinch-hitting, they’ll accumulate at-bats against RHPs in these starts as well, which is why you see PA totals for batters against same handed pitchers, even if they’re going to be platooned.
Against right-handers, it’s a bit more complicated. You’ll see days with Bradley in left and Griffey at DH when both are healthy, probably towards the beginning of the season. As the bumps and bruises pile up, I’d expect to see this less and less. When either Bradley or Griffey need a day off, or Wak wants his best defensive team on the field against an opposing right hander, Langerhans would play left.
A few points, based on these projections.
1. I know some of you want Byrnes to take Langerhans’ spot on the roster. It can’t happen. You can’t make this work with Bradley/Byrnes/Griffey trying to hold down these two spots between them. Sorry, but three unreliable, injury prone, middle-aged guys with leg problems are not enough to cover two positions by themselves. On days when Bradley starts at DH, you’d have three outfielders on the team. That doesn’t work.
2. Given the amount of playing time available for an LF vs RHP, you’ll hopefully see why we’re giving this spot to Langerhans and not to Saunders. Bradley and Byrnes are going to eat up at least half of the at-bats against an RHP from the LF spot, not leaving enough for a young kid who should be playing regularly. If either Bradley or Junior land on the DL, then there’s room for him, but when those two are healthy, there’s not enough at-bats to go around, so he’s best served hanging out in Tacoma.
3. I know people are speculating about the team adding another RH 1B/DH type to the roster based on Jeff Kingston’s comments at FanFest yesterday, but I’d be willing to bet that he was referring to the team looking for depth at that position from a non-roster kind of player. The M’s have done a nice job of building depth across the organization at most spots, but after DFA’ing Tommy Everidge to put Byrnes on the 40-man, they don’t really have a Triple-A right-handed 1B/DH type who they could call-up if Bradley landed on the DL. Given the current setup, there aren’t any DH at-bats available for a right-handed hitter, so the prospective player they’d bring in would be limited to platooning with Kotchman at first base, and there’s no indication that they want to platoon Kotchman.
4. I’m sure there will be a flood of people complaining that this group doesn’t look very impressive. You’re used to teams having power hitters at these spots, and you just can’t accept that this is the plan. This group is significantly better than you guys think. In fact, I’d bet that the M’s could expect something like +4 wins from this group, which would equal about league average production. A Langerhans/Byrnes/Bradley job share in left field should be above average defensively and about average offensively, while Junior and Bradley should produce at an above average level while DH’ing. The various roster filler guys who inevitably have to fill-in when the injuries pile up will drag down the performance, but shouldn’t play enough to cause too many problems.
All told, the total cost of the guys sharing these two positions is about $7 million (Silva’s contract was a sunk cost, so the true cost of Bradley to the M’s is the $3 million that they’re paying the Cubs), and they’re going to get something around a +4 win return on that investment. That’s a bargain, and one of the main reasons why the team was able to spend money to bring in guys like Figgins and Lee. What they’re not spending on overpriced traditional LF/DH types is being allocated to other parts of the roster, and it’s one of the reasons why the M’s were able to be so active this winter.
This LF/DH job share may not be your ideal, but it’s a pretty good use of resources. The M’s have mixed and matched a bunch of players with complementing strengths and weaknesses, given Wakamatsu a lot of flexibility in the line-ups he can put on the field in any given day, and managed to create a situation where they’ll get solid performance for a low cost. It’s a good plan.