Saturday, June 18, 2005

Not Make Believe

Chris Widger is not a surprise.

Chris Widger has ALWAYS played well -- over his whole career -- in certain situations. He has always hit lefthanders far more than adequately (.277/.333/.502 career in 224 games and counting).

But, like Miguel Olivo, he's never been particularly good (or even "non-craptastic") against RHP-- he's a .231/.288/.368 lifetime hitter in that situation. He can't play regularly because of this. Tony LaRussa two years ago basically used him as backup, but usually only against RHP and he sucked, further hurting his rep with GMs who don't look deeper than the backs of the Topps cards on their bulletin boards.

Ozzie, who is NOT Jerry Manuel or Tony LaRussa, has cleverly used The Widge mostly against LHPs. Chris has responded, hitting .313/.353/.594 against them, basically in line with his career numbers. It is to be EXPECTED that he'll hit like that against LHPs -- because he always has!

Against RHPs he's at .296 this year but with almost all singles, and there I'll grant you the sample-size argument -- but he isn't hitting well even with that empty average, so his career expectations are still being fulfilled.

Considering that the White Sox' primary catcher is a lefthanded batter, and that Widge can hit LHP solidly, he's a pretty good guy to have around.

He has trouble keeping a job because he can't hit RHP well enough to keep a regular job, and many major league teams try to platoon their catchers based on the starting pitcher ("caddies"), which plays hell with the hitting for a guy with certain limited skills. Just because other managers, for a semi-idiotic reason, and despite a massive 180-point platoon split, made sure Widger has gotten almost 3/4 of his plate appearances when he's at a disadvantage doesn't mean he can't play.

The secret to being a good baseball manager is to find ways to use your players in situations where they are best. Ozzie's done that with Widger.

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