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July 25, 2006

Blalock vs. Hairston

Who would you rather have batting in a meaningful situation: Hank Blalock or Jerry Hairston, Jr.?

It’s not a trick question. In the eighth inning of last night’s 6-2 loss to New York, Texas had runners on first and second with two out. On the mound was righty Kyle Farnsworth. The next spot in the batting order belonged to Hairston. On the bench sat Blalock, who has struggled against lefties and didn’t start against Randy Johnson. Would you pinch-hit for Hairston?

Versus Righties:
Hairston: .238/.304/.310 this season, .255/.335/.360 career.
Blalock: .306/.363/.455 this season, .296/.363/.507 career.

With Runners In Scoring Position, Two Out:

Hairston: .188/.278/.250 this season, .214/.307/.312 career.
Blalock: .404/.469/.456 this season, .302/.399/.470 career.

The Yankees did have lefties Mike Myers and Ron Villone in the bullpen. I can’t remember if either had warmed up, but for the sake of argument, assume both were ready to face Blalock if P.A. Man Chuck Morgan had announced his name to the capacity crowd. Blalock has a wretched line of .206/.277/.318 against lefties this season. Given that, perhaps you’d grit your teeth and reluctantly stick with Hairston. On the other hand…

Blalock versus Myers, career: 3-for-6 with two doubles
Blalock versus Villone, career: 5-for-16 with two doubles (but seven strikeouts)

Blalock has some success against these guys. Stats aside, this situation brings up a philosophical issue. Who do you want batting in this situation: one of your big guns, or a replacement-level player acquired in a salary dump? Blalock has disappointed, to be sure. Instead of becoming The Next George Brett, he may devolve into the next Joe Randa. But regardless of his career path, at this particular point in time he’s an average Major-League hitter, which is more than anyone can say about Hairston. Let the man hit.

Sometimes managers are accused of taking the path of least resistance. What’s odd in this case is that batting Blalock is the easy path. Who would argue? I promise you that Hairston’s mother was sitting on her couch, watching the game and saying “I can’t believe they’re letting my son hit. I mean, I love him more than life itself, but really.?

Texas now has six pinch-hit appearances in 91 games in AL parks. Only three have occurred in a meaningful situation.

1) On April 26, D’Angelo Jimenez pinch-hit for Drew Meyer and led off the bottom of the 10th with Texas down 6-4. He lined out to left.

2) On May 4, Drew Meyer pinch-hit for Brad Wilkerson in the bottom of the 5th with Texas ahead 8-0. If I remember correctly, Wilkerson left the game after hitting the outfield wall making a catch, so this really counts more as a substitution. Meyer did not reach base.

3) On May 10, Showalter removed Adrian Brown for Gary Matthews with Texas down 4-3 in the 8th, two out and the tying run on third. Matthews grounded out.

4) July 4: Righty-swinging Kevin Mench pinch-hit for lefty Brad Wilkerson against lefty closer B.J. Ryan in the ninth inning. Down 3-1 and with one out and runners on first and second, Mench flied out to right.

5) July 13: Freddy Guzman pinch-hit for Gary Matthews in the ninth inning with the Rangers ahead 12-1 over Baltimore. Guzman singled.

6) July 13: Same game as #5. Jerry Hairston pinch-hit for Michael Young in the ninth inning with Texas leading 12-1. Hairston flied out.

Posted by Lucas at July 25, 2006 11:14 AM