Bench Denard Span! What? you say? Bench Span?.... But he's the lead-off hitter. He's the center fielder.
Since June 29, Span has only 42 hits and 7 XBH, all doubles. He is hitting .241/.302/.282. He has also grounded into one double play and only stolen 4 stolen bases while being caught twice and he gets picked off far too often. These numbers are not only terrible as a lead-off hitter, but just plain terrible for any spot in the lineup. Over The Baggy has looked at Span's struggles getting on base. Span's numbers since the end of June mirror Carlos Gomez's post All-Star 2009 line of .219/.281/.305.
I am not advocating shutting Span down but, he has been a liability as a lead-off hitter, on the base paths and has not been great in the field. Maybe there is an injury, maybe something is going on or maybe Span needs more time to clear his head. Gardenhire has given Span days off now and then but it has not improved his performance.
I would give Jason Repko some more time. He has shown he has been a good defender in his career, with an 8.8 UZR/150. In 2010, he has a 34.7 UZR in RF and a 32.4 UZR in CF in small sample size. He also looks more confident out there than Span right now. At the plate, in his career, he has a .231/.303/.389 line in 546 PAs, but in limited play this year he is hitting .267/.343/.517. While these numbers are probably not sustainable, Repko may finally be coming into his own after struggling to get his feet set with the Dodgers.
There has been precedent of course. Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez have been benched in the past. Delmon sat many games in 2009 before getting hot in September and Gomez was shut down once Delmon got hot.
If Gardenhire isn't comfortable with benching Span, he should at least demote Span from the lead-off spot. Orlando Hudson has a .283/.355/.398 line in 2010, including a .300/.383/.525 line in August. Hudson isn't a great lead-off option, but has proven more capable than Span at getting on base. I'd move Hudson to lead-off, Mauer to 2nd and let the lineup fill in behind that, until Span or Repko proves to be adequate at getting on base. Putting Span at the bottom of the line-up might also wake him up or take some pressure off of him.
I know the Twins offense has been clicking lately, but their outfield defense has remained poor. Giving Span some time off now should help the defense and could improve the offense in 2010 and help Span in the future.
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