Ron Washington has released his lineup for Game 2, and, as Dave suggested and as many suspected, it will not include Vladimir Guerrero. There was a time that Vlad was a competent or even good right fielder, but a combination of years on the knee-destroying turf of Olympic Stadium in Montreal have rendered him effectively useless in the outfield. If you don’t believe me or didn’t catch the game last night, you can see it quite plainly in the videos of Guerrero’s two errors at the link in the first sentence.
Guerrero’s decline in the field evokes memories of Ken Griffey Jr late in his career, at least for me. Particularly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vlad was now a -25 or -30 outfielder, as Griffey was with Cincinnati in 2007, at least according to UZR. With David Murphy as an aveage fielder and a comparable hitter, if not better, against right handed pitching, the decision is a no-brainer: Murphy should be in the outfield, and Vlad should be on the bench.
That said, if we count the difference in fielding as 30 runs per 150 games and call them equal hitters, the difference over the course of one game is a mere 0.2 runs. Obviously, a manger should want to wring every bit of extra win expectancy out of his roster as he can, but there’s a significant chance that this move ends up meaningless and it may even look poor if Murphy chokes. In the latter case, the second guessers will swarm the internet by the time the last out is recorded.
Just think – what if Murphy goes 0-4 with a key strikeout or double play? If Murphy makes an error in the outfield and the veteran and potential Hall of Famer in Vlad remains on the bench, what then? What if Murphy makes the last out with Vlad on the bench, or, even worse, in the on-deck circle?
These points would probably carry more weight if Murphy had received the start in game one, as at least we now have it burned into our eyes that Guerrero just can’t hack it in the outfield. Also, I have confidence in most baseball fans and much of the media to keep a level head and to realize that the process here was correct and that the results simply didn’t break correctly for Texas. Still, for all the logical, level-headed columnists, writers, bloggers, and fans, we also have those who are reactionary and refuse to look at these decisions with perspective.
The simple truth is that Washington has already made the correct choice. From here on out, it’s on the players. If Murphy doesn’t play up to his talent level, and he makes an error or fails at bat in a clutch situation, that cannot be blamed on Ron Washington. With this decision, he has given the Rangers a better chance to win, and any second guessing will simply be posturing with the help of hindsight.