Sunday, August 24, 2008

Big News at the Hot Corner.

The remedy for a seven-game losing streak: more Duckworth. Baseball is a funny game. That’s why we love it. Or at least that’s why most fans love it; Royals fans love it because we’re suckers.

Today I want to focus on a development which I feel hasn’t received nearly enough attention so far: namely, that with Gordon out for at least a few weeks and possibly the season, his replacement at third base has been…Mark Teahen.

This is an extraordinarily significant development, in my mind, because it means Gordon’s days as a third baseman are numbered if they’re not already over. While Gordon’s future at the plate is a matter of some question, there’s really no question that his glovework has massively regressed. As a rookie, Gordon’s defense was as terrible as his offense the first two months of the season, but he righted himself the rest of the way and was pretty solid the final half of the season. Our Baseball Prospectus metrics ranked Gordon as 2 runs below average on defense at third base, a promising number given that he was around 8 runs below average at mid-season. Coming into the season, I felt that he could handle the defensive demands of the hot corner for at least a few more years.

As recently as two months ago, when the Royals moved Mike Moustakas from shortstop to third base, I openly questioned why they didn’t consider moving him behind the plate, both because he has the body type and athleticism to be a catcher, but also because the Royals already had a long-term solution at his new position. But over the last two months Gordon has been just awful on defense – he has the lateral range of a tree stump, and has supplemented that with a blizzard of errors the last few weeks. BP evaluates Gordon’s defense this year as 18 runs below average, and that’s with five weeks left in the season. The defense on the left side of the infield is a major reason why the Royals, as a team, rank a disappointing 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency.

Up until this weekend, my thinking was that if Gordon could just hang on for two more years, Moustakas would probably be ready for the majors by 2011 if not sooner. But the Royals have decided they can’t wait, and I can’t say I blame them. Let’s be clear about this: even if Gordon’s out the rest of the year, there’s no way that the Royals move Teahen back to third base – a position he hasn’t played in two seasons, and wasn’t that proficient at before he moved – if Gordon’s simply going to take over again next season. The Royals have a perfectly acceptable band-aid in Esteban German who could fill in for a few weeks if need be.

No, if the Royals are moving Teahen back to third – after already moving him from third base to right field, from right field to left field, and from left field to first base – then they must be seriously considering the idea of making him the starting third baseman in 2009, and they want to see if he can still handle the position. It’s a gamble, certainly; Teahen wasn’t exactly Ryan Zimmerman over there to begin with. (BP’s metrics calculated Teahen’s defense as -10 runs as a rookie, but +7 runs as a sophomore.)

But I think the Royals have to try him there, if for no other reason than to decide whether he’s worth keeping around for next year at all. The guy’s hitting .246 with 10 homers, and a corner outfielder with those kinds of numbers isn’t worth paying a few million dollars a year – which is what Teahen will earn in arbitration. On the other hand, a third baseman with those numbers is worth keeping around, particularly if you think he can improve on those numbers and (more importantly) you don’t have any better options.

The question, then, is what to do with Gordon. What the Royals can not do is move him to first base. Gordon still fits into the Royals’ long-term plans, but if they park him at first base for the next four-plus years, then suddenly you have an enormous logjam between him, Butler, and Kaaihue, without even mentioning Eric Hosmer or any number of random minor league hitters who might develop over the next few years.

Gordon, on the other hand, would fit in nicely in the outfield. He has decent speed – he’s 21-for-27 in basestealing attempts in his career – and his bat would play well at either corner, particularly if he continues to develop. Teahen moved the outfield two years ago and did fine out there, and Gordon’s supposed to have the stronger arm and better athleticism of the two.

Of course, that’s why Teahen moved to the outfield instead of Gordon in the first place. It’s an admission of wrongdoing for the Royals to have them switch places after two years. But you play the game with the players you have. Gordon has been a disappointment in a number of ways – when he was drafted as the shining light of the three great collegiate third baseman in 2005, he was supposed to have Zimmerman’s glove and Ryan Braun’s bat, but it turned out he has Zimmerman’s bat and Braun’s glove.

But Gordon is who he is, and whining about it doesn’t help anyone. It also turns out that Teahen is a more versatile and more athletic player than we thought he was two years ago. So at this point, it’s worth finding out if he can handle third base again, and we won’t know if he can until he tries. We already know that Gordon can’t.


Anonymous said...

quite the change of pace from your 'be patient with gordo' post from a few weeks ago with the 'hit like zimmerman, field like braun barb' if he'd only hit like zimmerman he wouldnt be god awful

Anonymous said...

i do think you may be overreacting to this teahen to 3rd switch. Do I think its a smart thing to do? Hell no, its the height of stupidity...teahen STILL needs to learn how to play the OF even after two years. Am I surprised that Hillman would think this is a good idea? Not at all.

Anonymous said...

Here's the rub about being a Royals fan: the moment they are traded or dumped by the Royals, they'll blossom. 10-to-1 says that Gordon and Teahen turn into the guys we thought they'd be once their Royals days are over. Any takers?

Anonymous said...

I don't know why that posted as anonymous, but I wrote that...

Anonymous said...

They are trying to shop Teahen for the offseason. That's the only thing that makes sense to me. Gordon will be our third baseman next year. Silly to think otherwise.

Seth Feldkamp said...

You are giving the Royals way too much credit. They are perfectly capable of putting Teahen at 3b for the rest of the season and then switching back to Gordon. In fact I think it's likely that they will.

Anonymous said...

Rany- You've forgotten one thing... Gordon catches fly balls like a 5 year old... I think OF would be a big disaster.

Anonymous said...

Royals Lineup 2009-

Butler - CF
Gordon - SS
German - RF
Gload - C
Teahen - DH
Callaspo - LF
Guillen - 3B
DeJesus - 1B

Anonymous said...

I agree with Seth. What have the Royals done as an organization in recent memory that would lead us to believe they have the foresight and long term planning to make a calculated move like this? I think the most likely scenario is that Gordon is back at 3rd whenever he is healthy and Teahan is only there because he has done it before. I suppose you could argue that German would be the better short term fit, but I'm not convinced he won't split time with Teahan there during Gordon's absence. Then we will know there is no plan.

Gaus said...

I'm sorry -- Teahen's done. There's nothing left to get out of him. He's a utility guy at best.

Don't give up on Gordon, Rany. That swing, man. And he's walking.

And anonymous's lineup's funny.

kcghost said...

I am convinced the gods of baseball have it in for the Royals. In back-to-back drafts they had the #1 and #2 picks and came up with Hochevar and Gordon.

At the time the Gordon choice looked great (every baseball pundit on the planet agreed with it) but he sure has flopped. The Hochevar choice was simply ridiculous. Wasting the #1 choice on a guy whose maximum upside is to be a #3 starter is insane.

Anonymous said...

The question is - did Gordon's talent fall far short of the goal, or did his developent go awry? I'd be more inclined to believe the latter, especially considering that his next game at the AAA level will be his first. Gordon has played and behaved entirely like a guy who feels entitled to be there, and cares little for his overall performance. I do think Gordon should be the Opening Day 3b next year. In Omaha. Then let him EARN his way up to the big leagues. It speaks volumes that our "can't miss" prospects perform well below the average ML hitter, while a non-prospect who had to play so well as to force the Royals to promote him continues to set the league on fire. From now on, let's use the Aviles system for promotion - if you can become dominant at AAA, we move you up. If not, well, Omaha is a lovely city this time of year.

David said...

Gordon's struggled defensively this year, yes. Gordon has continued to improve offensively as the season progressed. Its too bad that he's now probably out for the year because he was on the verge of truly breaking out. The last thing to come before a hitter becomes a stud is typically the plate discipline and anybody watching the Royals over the past 2-3 months will realize that Gordon has begun laying off the pitches that caused him trouble and he started working walks at an outstanding rate. His OBP was almost a full 100 points higher than his batting average. With better pitch selection comes more power as the pitches swung at tend to be more hittable. The breakout is coming, folks.

Anonymous said...

I'm also very frustrated with Gordon but agree that we need give him more time. Time in Omaha might be real good for him.

As to Teahen, we've given him WAY more than enough time to prove himself. In my view, he has definitely peaked and shown the best he will ever be. I really believe he'd be riding the pine for any other team.

Although, there is something to be said for the theory that if we send him elsewhere he will suddenly blossom. But, we can't worry about that because even if he has that in him, he'll never find it here. Trade him in offseason.

Anonymous said...

There's no question that Teahen would be bench material for any other team. With his lack of offense, the only two positions he'd carry are SS and Catcher, and that's for a shrinking number of teams all the time. Our problem is that the only two hitters in our regular lineup that hit above replacement level are DeJesus and Aviles; most aren't just a little below RP, they're a lot below RP.

Anonymous said...

Biggest problem they have is who to ditch after the season, Gordon or Teahen. No matter what anyone says, Teahen has proved MORE in MLB than Gordon has. Gordon has potential, though, and the Royals don't want to look foolish for pinning hope on him, so my bet is that they dump Teahen, and of ocurse, he will flourish for the Red Sox as a utility player, or somewhere else. By the way, who says you need less power out of your third baseman than your corner outfielders? Not in the AL, Rain-man. (That's my nickname for YOU, Rany.)

Anonymous said...

Teahen showed as much promise as Gordon at one time, and everyone thought he was a rising star. Gordon hasn't done anything in the majors, except take Teahen's position and cause Teahen to spiral downward in his development. Clearly, the Royals want Gordon to succeed, and they are using Teahen as a pawn. And, I'm not convinced that the organization is responsible for who plays thrid right now, as much as Trey is. I'd rather get rid of Hillman and let Teahen manage the club.

Clint said...

Saying that Alex Gordon has Ryan Zimmerman's bat is vastly underestimating Ryan Zimmerman.

Anonymous said...

We have so many holes to fill. But I believe the critical piece of the offensive puzzle is first base. I looked up the season-long statistics of the first basemen on the last seven World Series Championship teams. Seven different guys from six different teams. Averaged together, they hit .285 with 25 HR's. And that includes the Red Sox Doug Mankiewicz who hit just .238 with 6 HR's in 2004. Let's hope Eric Hosmer can become our Derrek Lee, Paul Konerko or Kevin Youkilis. Or, let's dream here, our own Albert Pujols.

Anonymous said...

Explain to me how Teahan has proved more than Gordon at the major league level mr. anonymous. Gordon has played 2 years and hit 15 HR each year. Teahan had one good stretch of 3 months in his entire career and has been bad for 2 1/2 years.

Anonymous said...

Gordon hit like Zimmerman? I just wish Gordon could hit like Ross Gload when facing a lefty!

Anonymous said...

Dejesus, CF
Aviles, SS
Butler, DH
Gordon, 3B
Guillen, RF
Teahen, LF
Ka'aihue/Shealy, 1B
Kelly Johnson, 2B,
Buck/Olivo, C

BENCH (in addition to above):
Callaspo 3B/SS/2B;
Gload OF/1B; Maier/Costa/Lubanksi/Gathright CF

FA Starter

Bale (still under contract?)
R. Ramirez

This thought experiment is so distasteful, based on this year's performance, that it seems likely Moore will have some major house cleaning to do this winter, and the above roster will be no where near correct.

Anonymous said...

To my lying eyes, Teahen is a much better Third Baseman than Gordon (defensively speaking)...

Anonymous said...

"Saying that Alex Gordon has Ryan Zimmerman's bat is vastly underestimating Ryan Zimmerman."

Except that one of them has been getting worse all of the time, while one has been getting better.

Anonymous said...

Funny- I was unaware that Teahen was back at third and, while sitting at Wrigley Field yesterday suggested to my buddy that the Royals ought to move Teahen back to third for the rest of the season.

I'm with those who think the Royals are showcasing Teahen for an off-season trade. It's pretty clear that he does not have the bat to carry 1st base or an outfield corner, and they apparently don't think he can play a position up the middle. If they can trade him to a team desperate for a third baseman, they'll at least get something for him. I can't believe they'll risk going to arbitration with a below replacement level player. My guess is that he gets a "take it or leave it" contract offer, and if he doesn't take it, they non-tender him.

Anonymous said...

If you can't spell TeahEn's name right, your opinion doesn't matter. You aren't paying attention to details, why should we trust you? Seriously, how many times have you read Teahen's name over the years now? At least a couple thousand? It's hen NOT han.


Cold as iced Tea and has laid eggs over the last 2 years like a Hen. Remember it bitches!

He is the Iced Chicken.

Anonymous said...

Hillman putting Teahen at 3rd really doesn't mean much. I think it shows our lack of options in the OF. Who is he going to play if not Gathright, Guillen, and DeJesus? You really want German playing 3rd? He's playing 2nd right now. So who plays third? Has to be Teahen. It's not incompetence, it's a matter of no major leaguers capable of playing any positions correctly on our crappy roster.

Unknown said...

Rany? Is that you? Of all the things of yours that I have read, this has to be the most spontaneous, least thought about thing I can remember. You never do that.

Because they have chosen Teahen to fill in for Gordon, Gordon's days are numbered at third? Where did you come up with this? We are talking about the Royals. If this team can keep a guy like Pena on the roster for as long as they have, then they can keep Gordon at third for eternity. You stated the reasons you thought he should be moved, but that doesn't equate into why you think the Royals will move him. I don't necessarily disagree with your opinion of what should be done, I just disagree with the idea that the Royals have had that idea even cross their minds for a second.

As for many of the posters, I can't believe this post went from changing positions to starting Gordon in Omaha next year. Do any of you who made that comment know that since the break he has more BBs than Ks and an OBP of .402? You think now is the time to send him back down?

The main problem with this team has been and still is development. We seem to destroy players. Especially once they get to KC. It appears that Hillman has finally acknowledged and addressed the problem of catching popups. Folks, we got some major major problems if it takes our manager 4 months to admit a problem as obvious as this was and not until every media outlet, message board, and blog had already known about it for a while.

Anonymous said...

I've read here and elsewhere that Gordon plays like he is "entitled" to the position. What does that mean? I've watched Gordon play both this year and last year and I don't understand that comment at all. AG plays the game harder than anyone else on the team. His "effort" on defense, at the plate and on the bases is always full-out. I've never heard him in an interview be cocky or assume that the Royals owe him anything. He's not a rah-rah guy (ala DDJ) but that's not really important is it? What's the context (and evidence) of those comments?