Sunday, January 25, 2009

Don't You Try And Move Me're just gonna lose.
(From "Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood)," Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2)

Apparently the Royals are tinkering with the idea of moving Mark Teahen to second base. I can certainly see the rationale behind this. Two of the three outfield spots are locked up, with Coco Crisp in center and David DeJesus in left. And the Royals have collected so many 1B/DH types that, to get his bat in the lineup and justify his excessive contract, Jose Guillen has to play right, defense and on-base percentage be damned. And Teahen has shown defensive versatility and the willingness to play good soldier as he has bounced from third base to right field to left field to first base to center field without complaint (in the linked article, he says he is willing to try playing at second if it will get him in the lineup).

While I'm glad the Royals are thinking outside the box, I'm not sure this is their best move. First, I thought the recent signing of Willie Bloomquist, plus the roster presence of Alberto Callaspo, meant the Royals were going to give one of them the second base job (for the purposes of this discussion, I'm giving Callaspo the job now). If they put Teahen at second, the Bloomquist signing really seems useless (although he would still be a better backup option at shortstop than Callaspo or Tony Pena Jr.). Second, putting a guy at a premium defensive position when he has not played there in roughly 10 years (freshman year of college, according to the Star) strikes me as a bad idea. Finally, I'm not convinced that Teahen is an offensive upgrade from Callaspo.

Callaspo's offense was pretty much unnoticed last year. He only played 74 games, and missed two months in the middle of the season. He normally hit at the bottom of the lineup, so he was rarely in the offensive mix. He had little power (8 doubles, 3 triples and no home runs in at-bats) and only had 2 stolen bases. Still, he did hit .305, with an OBP of .361, which by Royals standards is tremendous. And he ended up with an OPS+ of 98, which isn't good but also isn't terrible (a 100 OPS+ is a league-average player).

On defense, Callaspo didn't make anybody forget Frank White, but he also played 365 innings without an error. So he wasn't a butcher either. And, as mentioned, second base is an important defensive position, where you would prefer someone who is used to playing there.

I'm sure the Royals are looking at the fact Teahen hit 15 homers last year, while the Royals' second basemen combined for 3 (all from Mark Grudzielanek). But power seems to be Teahen's only advantage over Callaspo. Granted, for a team that finished 12th in a 14-team league in runs, that's an important consideration. But I think the Royals need more on-base percentage in the lineup, especially if they insist on having OBP-challenged players like Guillen, Miguel Olivo and Mike Jacobs in there. Callaspo's OBP was nearly 50 points higher than Teahen's (.361 to .313).

The Royals may be considering this move in case Callaspo has more off-field issues. Those two months he missed followed his arrest for drunk driving and were presumably time he spent in rehab. In that case, getting Teahen some experience at second is a good idea. If you're giving me a choice between Bloomquist and Teahen at second base, I will certainly take Teahen. True, Bloomquist had a higher OBP, but he has absolutely no power and that OBP last year was some 50 points higher than his previous best, which makes it look like a fluke. His career OBP is lower than Teahen's.

Since the Royals gave up a pitching prospect (Billy Buckner) for Callaspo, I wish they would at least give him a chance to see what he can do. I also think they have jerked Teahen around enough and wish they would let him settle on a spot--it might improve his offense. And I also wish the Royals would have thought of this before they spent any money on Bloomquist.

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