Monday, April 11, 2011

The Conundrum in Center

Just 10 games into 2011 and there seems to be an interesting storyline developing. Who should start in center field this season for the Milwaukee Brewers?

The job was handed this offseason to Carlos Gomez early. The Brewers made it known that center field was not up for grabs and Gomez was going to start everyday. While I still feel this is the thought with many of the Brewers officials, fans don't seem so convinced. In the first two weeks of the season, they have seemed to side with Nyjer Morgan and his hot bat and good defensive plays. While the play of Morgan has been exciting, I'd argue the excitement surrounding Morgan has just as much to do with the early struggles of Gomez.

It seems like the same story year after year for Gomez. An inability to get on base, with far too many strikeouts and good defensive ability. While I'm not arguing that his defense isn't valuable to the team, I don't think it should solidify him into the everyday lineup batting second. Gomez has proved time and time again he should be nowhere near the top of the order and his value lies pretty much entirely in his glove.

In theory, that would mean Nyjer Morgan would be a lock for that job, but a closer look would suggest Morgan also has some issues. He also excels with the glove and is a better hitter than Gomez in my opinion. However, his ability to take over in center full time is hampered by his inability to hit left handed pitching. Morgan's numbers against lefties over the past three seasons are as follows.


Morgan vs LHP:

2008: .240/.321/.320/.641, 25 AB's
2009: .175/.283/.223/.507, 103 AB's
2010: .200/.280/.252/.532, 135 AB's

Simply put, Morgan should never be allowed to face left handed pitching. Easy solution, right? Gomez is a righty and would make an ideal platoon option with Morgan. Well, it's not that simple. Here are Gomez' numbers against lefties during that same time frame.

Gomez vs LHP:

2008: .270/.310/.403/.713, 159 AB's
2009: .204/.275/.333/.608, 108 AB's
2010: .196/.271/.309/.580, 97 AB's

Obviously, those numbers are better than Morgan's but still not something a team would want in their everyday lineup. However, one thing that is impossible to overlook is Morgan's numbers against right handers.

Morgan vs RHP:

2008: .304/.349/.385/.734, 135 AB's
2009: .344/.395/.434/.829, 366 AB's
2010: .273/.333/.337/.670, 374 AB's

While those 2010 numbers aren't impressive, that was his worst season during his career. Despite that, it seems rather obvious that against righties, Nyjer Morgan should be starting over Carlos Gomez in center field. I understand the Brewers still want Gomez to succeed and still want to give him a chance, but starting him over Morgan against righties is not justifiable. Sure Gomez may struggle mightily against lefties, but that is where he should get his playing time. If he reverts back to his 2008 form against them, it would be a huge lift to the Brewers. In the meantime, the recipe for success seems pretty obvious: Morgan vs RHP and Gomez vs LHP.


Anonymous said...

Start both of em and put Kotsay on the bench. Designate him to the role of first bat off the bench, a role he may actually succeed in.

You do this and you put more speed on the field and Ron Roenicke has 2 supreme OFs and 2 absolute blurs to be aggressive with if they get on base.

Jonathan Ede said...

When Hart comes back, Kotsay will come off the bench. Until then, Kotsay should be getting the bulk at bats in RF. Starting both Morgan and Gomez together just creates too much liability in the order. With that lineup, the Brewers 6-8 batters become an easy outs. While Kotsay might not be a good hitter, he should still be playing until Hart returns. I have to say though, I really like the late game defensive subs Roenicke has used thus far.

Nick said...

Too much liability? What do you mean? Do you not agree that Morgan is better than Kotsay both offensively and defensively? There's no reason that Nyjer shouldn't be starting right now (unless his bat cools off dramatically)

Jonathan Ede said...

The question is not whether Morgan is better than Kotsay, it comes down to Gomez and Kotsay. I personally have no problem with Kotsay receiving regular playing time over Gomez and starting Morgan in CF (as long as a righty is pitching). I like the strategy Roenicke has employed so far with using Gomez as a defensive replacement for Kotsay is late inning situations when the Brewers have the lead. For the next 10-14 (until Hart returns), this is what I think should be done.

Anonymous said...

I guess I misread that, but honestly I think Kotsay is basically useless and that Gomez and Morgan should start for the time being.