World Series 2010: Texas Rangers Wise Up and Bench Vladimir Guerrero
Guerrero and the Rangers lost the Series opener 11-7, with starting pitcher Cliff Lee failing to make it through the fifth inning.
Guerrero drove in two runs in the contest, one in the first inning and one in the ninth. That was hardly impressive given his opportunities during the night.
His defense, however, led to at least two San Francisco runs. Guerrero committed two errors in the bottom of the eighth inning, a frame in which the Giants pushed across three runs to put the game far out of reach.
Guerrero played only 18 games in the field this year after playing just twice in right field in 2009. Washington surely would prefer to have Guerrero at his usual designated hitter position, especially because Guerrero's age and accumulated leg injuries have left him lacking as much for range as for reliability in the field.
Guerrero misplayed or nearly misplayed four balls that did not even show up as errors in the final line and generally looked lost. His arm probably retains some of the fire that intimidated baserunners during his tenure with the Montreal Expos, but the days when he could use that arm and his speed to make up for bad routes and tentative handling of the ball on easy flies and ground-ball singles are long gone.
The Rangers rationalized Guerrero's misadventures simply by minimizing them: "A couple balls got by him," said Washington, who added that he plans to play Guerrero again Thursday night in Game 2. He has since reversed that position, though.
Presumably, the real reasoning for keeping Guerrero in the lineup would be to augment the team's lineup, and on the surface, that logic might hold up. Under more intense scrutiny, though, chinks in Guerrero's offensive armor in Game 1 become apparent.
In the top of the first inning, Guerrero came up with runners on second and third and one out. He drove in a run on a single in that at-bat, but the hit was a one-hopper off the leg of Giants hurler Tim Lincecum. With two runners in scoring position, Guerrero had gotten just one home and did so in fairly fluky fashion.
Guerrero did not come up with runners on base again until the ninth, this time with the bases loaded and one away. Guerrero earned another RBI, but did so with a sacrifice fly that brought Texas to within one out of losing.
In the end, his line showed Guerrero as a solid hitter with two RBI. Given the four runners in scoring position when he came to the plate, though, and since he gave up an out to record the second, the two RBI are not quite as impressive as they seem. He did a decent job, but no more.
Instead of accepting Guerrero's nightmarish defense in the hope of getting a breakout performance against Giants right-hander Matt Cain in Game 2, Washington should insert David Murphy in left field and move Nelson Cruz over to right. In the past two seasons, Guerrero's OPS against right-handed pitching is a shade under .820. Murphy's is a shade over .830 in the same time frame.
Murphy is just average in left field, but his presence would allow the strong defender Cruz to move over to a spot much more comfortable to him, in right.
Guerrero could be used in a high-leverage pinch-hitting situation, especially against a left-handed reliever, but the Rangers would be better off on the whole by using Murphy to start Game 2. Succumbing to reason< Washington has slotted Murphy in. Keep an eye on this move, which could help the Rangers even the Series on its way back to Arlington.
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