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Vlad In The Field

So it appears the Rangers will be playing Vladimir Guerrero in the field for every NL game.

I don’t like it. I could deal with it when it seemed he’d just play one of the first two games. I liked the idea of Vlad getting to play his first World Series game as a starter, instead of a pinch hitter, and Guerrero hits curves and change-ups very well. That helps make up for any platoon advantage that might be lost by starting him against the right handed Tim Lincecum, who lives on a devastating curve and change up.

Starting him all four times is a little worrisome, though. Asking Vlad’s aging legs to play the field that much is a scary proposition when Texas has better fielders in David Murphy and Jeff Francoeur. Particularly worrisome is the gigantic right field of AT&T Park, and I shudder thinking about Guerrero trying to handle that triples alley.

The fielding isn’t the only worry, though. There’s also the offense. Guerrero put up a very nifty .360 weighted On Base average in 2010, but Murphy managed to stick right with him at .358. On top of that, Murphy would likely have the platoon advantage as three of the four NL games will likely feature right handed starters. Murphy’s wOBA against righties this year was .364 to .349.

And then there’s the question of how well Vlad held up over the course of the season. He started out great this year but then went .275 and .310 in July and August. He did roar back with a .366 average in October, but Murphy went .418 in the same month after going .401 the month before and .346 over the two months prior. Murphy not only looks like the better option to play the outfield against a right handed starter looking over the whole season, but he’s looked even better than Vlad as the year has gone along.

All that said, I also don’t think it’s a huge deal. Even with making that choice, I think the Rangers keep themselves comfortably favored in this series. The loss of offense and defense is tangible and real, but over a few games it’s also not a huge deal, and Guerrero does have the upside to destroy baseballs on a level Murphy never has. Every advantage does count when the games are this important, but while I disagree with Ron Washington’s decision here, I’m also not about to panic that this will be the move that costs the Rangers their shot at a championship.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.