Defending the indefensible defensive assets

Let’s talk seriously for a second. You’re on a nerdy internet baseball site, which means that you’re so, so much smarter than those provincial, common, peanut-chomping, foam-finger-wearing regular fans just by virtue of being here. You know this is true. You’re enlightened. It’s not bad to be an elitist if you’re one of the elite, right, you beautiful creature?

Being such a proud, evolved internet baseball nerd comes with responsibilities, though. It can’t all be women, wild parties, and digital glory. If you are so, so enlightened, you have to reject sample-size temptations in all their forms. Be strong.

The obvious example is John Bowker, and there will be a lot of groupthink agreement on this here. He’s hitting .200/.250/.333 with eight strikeouts in 30 at-bats…but that’s the point. Thirty at-bats. In 2006, Barry Bonds hit .200 in his first 30 at-bats with a slugging percentage of .300. Sure his on-base percentage was a ridiculous .529, but even past the 16th game of the season, people were freaking out about Bonds. The point isn’t to compare Bowker to Bonds, but to point out that it’s always a bad idea to make too much of a limited sample.

And that extends well beyond 30 at-bats, too. When you have a guy who hits like this in the minors but this in his first 500 major league at-bats, you’ll often feel like this, even though it’s probably a good idea to be patient and wait for this based on that minor league performance.

This isn’t a give-Bowker-a-chance post, though. You’re a) enlightened, genius internet folk, as referenced above, and b) you’re all my mindless minions, and you all think John Bowker will be a productive corner outfielder because I’ve told you so. So I’m not going to waste your time.

No, this is a Andres-Torres-is-a-good-benchie-and-spot-starter post.

He’s fast, and he plays a great centerfield. He’s been good against lefties over the past three seasons. There’s a little pop in his bat, and he plays hard. As a fifth outfielder, he’s more than qualified. His OPS+ right now is a comical -5, but that’s over 18 at-bats. Eighteen at-bats. Calls for his release are way premature.

The rebuttal is obvious: "Small sample size this, pal, because I’ve watched every Andres Torres at-bat this year, and he looks completely lost." True enough. He’s hacking at breaking balls in the dirt, chasing pitches at his eyeballs, and taking pitches right down the middle. He looks awful. The rebuttal to the rebuttal: well, duh. Bengie Molina looks like a .400 hitter right now. The dude’s putting great swings on balls low in the zone and driving the ball to all fields. When a player is slumping, they’ll look bad. When a player is hot, they’ll look invincible. The whole point of having a large sample of career at-bats is to help you look past that.

The cry for Torres’s head both here and on talk radio reminds me just a little of the Juan Uribe hate from last year. Well, that’s been mostly forgotten since Uribe sucked the lifeforce out of Alfonso Soriano at some point last season, but for a while people here were really offended by Uribe's presence. I even had to write a mini-defense of him. Just ignore the similarly themed Rich Aurilia defense in the same post, and we’ll get along fine.

When Torres hit into a double play last night, I fired a plastic green bell pepper across the room in anger. Really, I did. It was my daughter’s toy, and she saw the whole thing as she watched quietly, wondering why her daddy was so upset, and while she didn’t cry, I’m sure the psychic scars will be unearthed after hypnosis in a couple of decades. So Andres Torres is, by proxy, screwing with my daughter’s mind. I have every reason to overanalyze his slow start. The anger and frustration felt by every Giants fan is legit. It’s completely appropriate to wince every time he comes to the plate. But when it comes to roster decisions and lineup moves, a more patient approach is required. With Aaron Rowand out, Torres should still get the bulk of the time in center. There just aren’t a lot of options, and there’s a reasonable chance that Torres will be, if not as good as last year, a decent enough fill-in.

But, yeah, this is the San Francisco Giants organization. Bowker isn’t going to get another start until June, and Torres is about another 10 at-bats away from getting released. Good times.

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