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When is enough for Blanks in left?

April 7th, 2010 by Ray

During last night’s victory over the Diamondbacks, manager Bud Black removed Kyle Blanks in a double switch (with Cesar Ramos) for Scott Hairston and Mike Adams. The score was 5-2 Padres, with the tying run at the plate in the form of Justin Upton, so it was a serious situation, and Blanks’ spot was due up eighth the next inning. After Upton’s run scoring infield single, Adams induced a flyout from Adam LaRoche and came back to pitch a scoreless eighth. For his part, Hairston later drew a walk.

All’s well that ends well, right? Right. But I still have a concern.

Lifting Blanks was the logical decision. While Headley was due up ninth, backup third baseman Jerry Hairston, Jr. was already in the game at second, making a double switch to remove Headley a little less neat. And Headley’s an honest-to-goodness third baseman so it’s not like he’s a defensive liability, not like first baseman-cum-left fielder Blanks. Removing Blanks for a defensive substitution, double switch or no, might not be the worst idea in the world, especially for a team beginning to pride itself on small ball. That Blanks is the second best hitter* on the team however, might be a detail.

Can the Padres really afford to give Blanks the Ryan Klesko treatment**? More to the point, should they? Had the best laid plans not worked out and Arizona came back to tie the game, what happens to the team’s odds of coming back themselves with Blanks on the bench?

(This is where I acknowledge that I’m making assumptions. What happened last night may have been last night specific, with the team having no further plans to Klesko-ize Blanks, if that’s even what it was. Or it might be exactly the team’s plans moving forward, in which case continue reading.)

As I mentioned earlier, the team is priding themselves on playing small ball and stealing a lot of bases in Spring Training. How does Blanks and his outside linebacker’s body fit into this? That’s right, at first base.

Adrian wouldn’t be the first All-Star first baseman let go in part because of a youngster breathing down his neck. Just last year, the Angels were able to live with Mark Teixeira signing with the Yankees because Kendry Morales was ready to jump in and hit 34 home runs. Of course, they could’ve resigned Teixeira and forced the less-than-agile Morales to play out of position, but Kevin Towers wasn’t running the team at the time.

I know Hoyer inherited a mess, but something is wrong when a weak hitting team such as the Padres sees removing a 30 home threat from a game as a viable option. And while I trust Hoyer to clean things up, I hope last night’s move at least made him go hmm.

*According to most projections (Bill James, CHONE, etc.), Blanks will be a 120 wRC+ hitter this year, putting him behind only Adrian on the team.

**Quick history lesson: Ryan Klesko was the team’s starting left fielder in 2004 and 05 and was horrible defensively, which is why he frequently watched the end of games on the bench while someone more capable did his job in left.

Posted in gripes | 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “When is enough for Blanks in left?”

  1. scionfriar says:

    Hairston’s a good outfielder, but here’s the thing, Blanks isn’t really a liability in left. In fact, he’s proven to have very good instincts and good athletic ability, so hopefully it won’t be a Klesko-type situation. Hopefully this was just a one time occurrence.

    • Ray says:

      I get the impression Blanks could be the next Carl Crawford and he’d never get credit for it. On the MLB.com game recap, they were pretty astounded by a fairly standard catch Blanks made simply because he’s Blanks.

  2. Ben B. says:

    I think last night was more about allowing Mike Adams to pitch more than one inning than about removing Blanks for defensive purposes. As you said, double switching Headley out wouldn’t have worked, so Blanks was really the only option there. As a bonus, Hairston is a better defensive outfielder than Blanks.

    The options were, let a significantly worse pitcher than Adams clean up the mess in the 7th or pitch the 8th, let Adams hit for himself in the 8th (much worse than the loss of Blanks’s bat), or double switch out Blanks. I think Black made the right call. If they start bringing in a defensive replacement for Blanks every night, then I will be concerned.

  3. Dannyboy says:

    I’m okay with it because Hairston is a good hitter. I would also like to see Gwynn pinch run and stay in the game for Blanks.

  4. Randy Ready says:

    Assuming four-strikeout games are an anomaly and Blanks does turn out to be an offensive juggernaut, watching his performance in LF tonight certainly will expedite any plans to get him to 1B. Not that I think the situations are necessarily comparable, but in dealing Kouzmanoff, I believe that Hoyer is intent on fielding his best team – and at their best positions.

    Also, while your comparison to the Teixeira/Morales logjam in Anaheim brings up a good point, it should also be noted that San Diego might be in a more enviable position with Gonzalez/Blanks. Not only does it look like they have a suitable replacement for Gonzalez, unlike Anaheim the Padres have a greater possibility to reap the benefits via trade due to his contract situation. Think of it as similar to what the Rangers did when they cast off Teixeira to Atlanta during their playoff push.

    Not that anything is set in stone, but dealing Gonzalez at the right time (provided Hoyer doesn’t pull the trigger until the playoff picture starts shaping up) makes sense on more levels than simply getting Blanks out of LF.

    • Ray says:

      But wasn’t the Braves/Teixeira trade an anomaly? Aren’t big trades these days a result of incompetence on the part of one GM?

      Teams are valuing-to-overvaluing their prospects now, and it’s doubtful that a pro like Theo Epstein will really go through with a move that depletes his system.

  5. Randy Ready says:

    Sure, but I’d say there are less Theo Epsteins than there are Frank Wrens. Besides, Daniels – the architect of that Teixeira deal – was also the one that got bested in a deal that sent Teixeira’s more-than-capable backup to San Diego two years previous. It’s far from constant.

    I’m just saying that with Blanks in the wings, I trust Hoyer will make the smart decision and get a decent return with Gonzalez.

    • Ray says:

      In Daniels’ (and my own) defense, the Eaton trade was one of the first that he made, and he showed a learning curve.

  6. Randy Ready says:

    That’s fair. I’m just saying that despite your 20+ years of Padres fandom and resulting cynicism, Towers is no longer our GM and – despite the small sample size – Hoyer seems to have at least picked up a thing or two from one of the best in the business.

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