Sunday, June 27, 2010

Is Thome biggest waste of Twins 2010 money?

In late January the Twins signed certain future Hall-of-Famer Jim Thome to a one-year $1.5 million contract. It looked like a steal of a deal: Thome ranked the second-best designated hitter in the 2009 season in an Associated Press story, just behind Adam Lind in every geeks' new favorite Sabermetrician statistic OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage).

Is it possible the Twins wasted their money on Thome? Granted, Thome is the 15th highest paid player on the team, but there must be some way to get him in the lineup more often. Recent experiments with putting Michael Cuddyer at third base puts Jason Kubel as a starter in right field. The Cuddy at third experiment was done in National League parks during interleague play and without a DH.

Once interleague play is over, the Twins need to place Thome back as a near-everyday DH and keep Cuddyer at third because using him as a pinch hitter more often than as a starter just isn't working.

So far this season Thome has played in 49 of the Twins 74 games. He's only had 107 official plate appearances for an average of 2.69 plate appearances per game. Compare that to Jason Kubel, who has played in 66 games with 264 plate appearances (4.0 appearances per game) and Justin Morneau (4.31). Thome is being used about as often at the plate as the recently demoted Brendan Harris (2.79 PAPG).

In 2010, Thome's gone 5-for-18 (.277) with just one RBI as a pinch-hitter. He's a career .230 hitter in pinch-hit situations. Additionally, when he gets on base, Thome's pinch hitting requires another roster move. It's inevitable that when he gets on base a pinch runner needs to replace him, thereby forcing Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to think of his pinch hitting Thome as a double-switch and depletion of his bench. In short, it requires Gardenhire to only pinch-hit Thome in the eighth or ninth innings.

Thome's stats so far this season: .243, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 9 2B, 24 BB, 32 SO.

It's time to use Thome where he's best: as a designated hitter. Given the Twins persistent problem of leaving runners in scoring position, it makes sense for Gardenhire to keep Cuddyer at third and get Thome more DH at bats.

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