Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fun with Rosters

David Dellucci injured his knee running to first on a groundball in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Phillies Tuesday. A little more than halfway to the bag, Dellucci’s knee gave out, forcing him to slide head-first to reach base. While Dellucci’s hustle on the play was commendable, the damage was done; he had to be helped off the field by two trainers.

As bad as Dellucci has been this season, you never want to see a player get hurt and I hope the injury is not as serious as it looked. However, the injury did appear to be quite serious, which likely means a trip to the DL for Dellucci and a call up from Buffalo to take his place. Wedge has options at several positions, but it will be interesting to see how he adapts to losing an outfield platoon member with 173 at-bats this season. Here are the positions affected by Dellucci’s injury, with the available players:

LF: Michaels / Blake
RF: Nixon / Blake / Gutierrez
3B: Blake / Rouse

Michaels is a near lock to collect the majority of starts formerly assigned to Dellucci, given his success this season. Blake has never started in LF, but plays a solid outfield and can handle the occasional appearance in left.

Nixon and Gutierrez will likely continue to platoon, but I would still like to see Gutz get the majority of starts as the team heads into the All-Star break. I’m a big Nixon fan and while I was frustrated with his epic slump at the plate, I figured he would have at least stabilized by now. Instead, his OPS has continued to sink, due in part to an ugly .332 SLG. Trot has a career .470 SLG and slugged .394 in 2006 and .446 in 2007. The last time he hit more than 10 homeruns in a season was 2005 (13).

As far as I know, Nixon is healthy in 2007, so his stats are in all likelihood the best we will see out of him. What’s worse, Nixon’s range in right field has deteriorated to the point of being a liability on defense. As I’ve said before, Nixon is arguably canceling out the benefit of his batting against rightys with his all-around poor play. The lineup would also get a major speed boost with Nixon and Dellucci benched. I don’t know how much longer Wedge can justify starting Nixon with Gutierrez and Blake available.

Gutz has only seen 20 major league at-bats in 2007, so a sub-par offensive line is difficult to project (he was hitting .341 with an .872 OPS in AAA, so his bat is more likely to come around than Nixon’s), but he has shown great range in the outfield. Under the current platoon regimen, the Tribe’s best defensive outfield of Michaels, Sizemore, and Gutierrez only appears against left-handed pitching. Dellucci’s injury may allow the superior corner defenders to solidify a regular presence in the lineup.

In the event Gutz is not ready for a full time gig, Blake would have to take the majority of starts in right, with Andy Marte getting called up from Buffalo to start at 3b (Rouse is strictly a utility fielder). This is the least likely scenario in my opinion, given the team’s handling of Marte this season. Marte has turned up his offense in June (.302 AVG, .970 OPS), but is in Buffalo because of his offensive struggles in Cleveland. He will need to show a consistent improvement at the plate and Gutz will need to struggle for Marte to get the call.

More Roster Madness

I was simultaneously shocked and thrilled to see Josh Barfield bat second in the lineup against the Phillies on Monday and Tuesday. Barfield has been knocking on the door for a promotion, batting .355/.354/.387 in June so far. His power may not have caught up yet, but it's nice to see him hitting consistently right now.

Batting Sizemore and Barfield at the top of the lineup is wicked smart and a huge departure from Wedgie's usual lineup (Dellucci in the two-hole!?!). Once J-Barf's bat locks in for good (I'm extremely confident it will), can you imagine the chaos that much speed would do at the top of the lineup? Pitchers are going to have a hard time focusing on Victor or Pronk at the plate with that much speed on the basepaths. (ed. note: Casey Blake resumed batting second today, so it looks like Barfield was just getting a cup of coffee while Blake and Hafner rested those two days. I know I got a little carried away about Barfield batting second, but Blake is definitely the better choice, at least this season.)

Finally, Kelly Shoppach is now batting .391/.458/.656 in 64 ABs this season. His batting line is even more impressive, given his irregular appearances.

Did anyone else wonder if Shoppach catching Lee on Monday was for more than just lineup purposes? Lee and Victor were definitely unhappy with each other during Lee's last outing and he looked much more comfortable on the mound in his most recent start. Probably nothing, but something to keep an eye on.

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