Legitimate Concerns About Tito Francona
The Guardians are red hot. The pitching has really settled in and the rotation boasts a top-five ERA in the AL despite having two of Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, and Konnor Pilkington starting games. Everyone knew the rotation would be solid, but the bats have been a tremendous surprise, also top five in the AL in total hits.
The youth movement is here and it has made some severe concerns about veterans in this lineup. Tito seems to be a manager who is loyal to his guys, almost to a fault. The players getting called up from the minors are using their chances to the fullest, but they aren’t getting enough opportunities.
Early on in the season, Bradley Zimmer, Bobby Bradley, and Yu Chang were stealing at bats from the young guys looking to make a spark on this team. All three have since been traded or DFA’d, and have done nothing since. In their place, guys like Owen Miller, Steven Kwan, and Andres Gimenez have shined when given the chance. They’ve already generated more WAR in a 60 game span then those three guys had done in their entire careers.
Most of the guys named above have been every day players, but two veteran bats are still causing issues in the lineup. Oscar Mercado continue to get chances on this team and I’m not sure why. Statcast considers him in the 15th percentile for outs above average. His OPS+ is at 77 which is well below league average. Mercado’s only redeeming stat is his sprint speed, which only puts him in the 84th percentile, certainly not high enough to be stealing ABs from Richie Palacios or Steven Kwan.
The other veteran causing lineup issues is Amed Rosario. I don’t hate Rosario like some fans on Twitter seem to do, but my issue is that he’s somehow the starting short stop over Andres Gimenez. Gimenez is in the 99th percentile in outs above average, while Rosario is in the 24th percentile. Not only that but Gimenez has just hit significantly better than Rosario boasting an OPS+ of 145 compared to Rosario’s 72.
Average is not that important of a stat in 2022, OPS is a much better metric. These “+” metrics take a stat and compare one player’s numbers to the league-wide average, where 100 is considered league average. Rosario only has a career OPS+ of 91, so he’s never even been a league-average hitter, he shouldn’t be taking one of the most important positions in baseball away from an up-and-coming superstar.
I’m tired of Francona seeing that Rosario is a career .270 hitter and thinking that is enough to be the number two hitter in this lineup. I think we need to trade Rosario and give Gabriel Arias a chance when he’s fully healthy or even let Richie Palacios get some reps in at second base. The Guardians have so much middle infield depth, there’s no reason to be dead set on Rosario at shortstop.
My last concern is a very biased concern. I’ve never liked Bryan Shaw. He’s consistently been one of the worst pitchers in baseball when thrown in high leverage situations. At least earlier on in his Guardians career, Shaw had some stretches where he was very good. At this point in his career, he should be nothing more than an innings eater in low leverage situations. His baseball savant page looks like a picture of Lake Erie because all of his stats are blue!
Besides his fastball spin, every single Statcast stat on Baseball Savant for Shaw is below the 30th percentile, and some of his stats are even in the first percentile, making him the very worst in the league at those metrics. The guys in the clubhouse seem to love Uncle Bryan, but maybe it’s time for him to take up a coaching role instead of a playing role at this point in his career.
It’s hard to hate on Terry Francona. In my lifetime, he’s the by far best coach I’ve seen from the three teams in Cleveland; however, it does feel like the times are starting to catch up with him. It’s time for him to make some adjustments, even if it means going against some of his guys. This Guardians team could very easily win the AL Central this year, but even if they don’t it’s at least time to fully embrace the youth movement.
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