Title: How to Split the Playing Time When E5 Returns
Date: May 14, 2010
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: After another lapse in articles, I returned to take a look at how the Jays’ playing time should break down with Encarnacion, Bautista, Snider, and Lewis all battling for at bats. Looking back, this is one of those “looks good, looks bad” pieces since Edwin is now a legitimate slugger, but I seriously underestimated Bautista’s ability to maintain his hot start beyond a platoon role.
“Why don’t you quit making blogs, try and make some money?” – Fabolous
“Yup, I’m back stuntin!” – Fabolous
Fabolous sent me home and brought me back. This makes no sense. What an awful way to return to writing. Whatever.
A great deal has been made around Blue Jay Nation of late as to what lineup changes are coming when “E5” Edwin Encarnacion returns from the disabled list (in roughly two weeks time). The crux of the confusion is that Jose Bautista has filled in admirably at third base, Travis Snider has been swinging a hot bat, Fred Lewis has been an absolute revelation since he was plucked from San Fran, and there may not be enough at bats to go around when Encarnacion returns.
Cito Gaston has said E5 will resume the starting third baseman’s role when he’s healthy, which certainly made Lyle Overbay’s hamstrings cringe. Cito’s plan, then, will either see Lewis head to the bench or see Lewis and Bautista platoon in the outfield with Snider bouncing between left and right. I am giving Cito the benefit of the doubt that this will not, in any way, limit Snider’s at bats, but Cito has done more questionable things in the (recent) past.
Cito’s logic was that E5’s hefty contract ($4.75M) is a big reason to find him playing time. I don’t really buy that logic, as it’s an expiring contract and I don’t believe Encarnacion is a part of the term’s long-term plans. Thus, you may want to get him hot to increase his trade value, but if you’re holding on to him for the year, the cost is essentially sunk at this point…if it’s a waste of money, fine, but don’t cost the team wins in addition.
Bautista makes $2.4M and Lewis makes just $455,00, so if money is your logic, Lewis heads to the bench, without a doubt. But is this the right move?
Not only has MNF Lewis been on a tear since his arrival (.831 OPS), but he has also endeared himself to the
millions thousands hundreds of Jays fans left. He is an exciting player with some OBP/speed upside and he could play his way into future plans as a third or fourth outfielder, so why not give him a chance to shine?
In addition, despite the unsightly batting average, The Animal Bautista has been crushing the ball to the tune of career-highs in SLG (.458) and OPS (.781). Small sample size alert, but he’s also posting a ludicrous 1.268 OPS with men on base.
The chart below shows the split lines and some other metrics for the three players in question. You can tell for yourself that Lewis is most deserving of playing time based on his current body of work, followed by Bautista. They are all close enough that the team will obviously want to work all three of them into the lineup whenever possible (essentially letting them fight it out for playing time, and possibly a future roster spot). I used projected final stats as a way of limiting the room for sample size error for Encarnacion (and rest assured, the preseason projections weren’t far from what you see below).
The best solution is likely a timeshare with some platoon splits coming into play. Try to factor in E5’s 10 errors in 51 games as a Jay as well, since it’s too early in the year to use UZR.
Bautista: .823 OPS vLH, .695 OPS vRH (career)
Lewis: .695 OPS vLH, .800 OPS vRH (career)
Encarnacion: .835 OPS vLH, .769 OPS vRH (career)
It will certainly be interesting to see how Cito splits up the playing time. It seems obvious that The Animal should play against lefties and sit against righties, but it seems to be Cito’s unstated goal to get Bautista 700 plate appearances this year.
I’d probably put Lewis and Bautista in a straight-platoon in the outfield, while also letting Bautista spell E5 at third once or twice a week.
Oh, and Mike McCoy is getting sent down to make room for E5, almost for certain…he’s hardly seen the field since Aaron Hill’s return, and while this is unfortunate, he’s the most expendable on the roster right now.