October 9, 2005
After finally cutting Luis Rivas loose last week, the Twins continued with the early stages of what figures to be a very busy offseason over the weekend. Matthew LeCroy and Joe Mays were let go, and third-base coach Al Newman left the team to become a scout for the Diamondbacks.
I'm predictably thrilled with the team's decision to get rid of Rivas, although the move came about three years too late for my tastes. Similarly, declining Mays' $8.5 million option for next season was a no-brainer considering how poorly he has pitched since 2001. On the other hand, I am sad to see Newman go and the loss of LeCroy troubles me.
LeCroy became one of my favorite players in his six seasons with the Twins, for equal parts laid-back demeanor, less-than-perfect physical appearance, and compelling off-the-field story. He was a "good old boy" from South Carolina who seemingly everyone enjoyed being around. Throw in the fact that the Twins drafted him out of Clemson University way back in 1997 and I think both fans and people within the organization are going to miss having LeCroy on the team.
Of course, in the end Terry Ryan is in the business of making decisions based on baseball, not popularity. LeCroy turns 30 years old in December and was set to make in the neighborhood of $1.5 million in 2006 through arbitration. While not a huge salary, that's a considerable chunk of the team's payroll that would have gone to a player who the Twins never gave even 350 at-bats in a season.
I've talked in the past about how LeCroy is incapable of being a quality everyday player because of his struggles against right-handed pitching. Unfortunately Ron Gardenhire has never quite grasped the concept of platooning, which means the Twins never used LeCroy in an optimal fashion. He served as the team's regular designated hitter for long stretches this season, and while his overall numbers were fairly good at .260/.354/.444, LeCroy hit an abysmal .228/.319/.322 against righties.
I often say that it's important to view players for what they can do, rather than what they can't. LeCroy is a perfect example of that. He adds almost zero value to a team defensively and can't hit right-handed pitching, and that keeps him from being a quality regular. However, what he can do is murder left-handed pitching, which has plenty of value all by itself.
Considering the Twins' dire need for offense in just about any form, letting LeCroy leave in order to save a million bucks is an odd decision. On the most basic level there are 18 spots to fill in a lineup; nine against righties and nine against lefties. Having LeCroy gave the Twins excellent production in one of those 18 spots (either first base or designated hitter against lefties), which is a big deal for a team that scored the fewest runs in the league this season.
MATTHEW LECROY VS. LEFT-HANDED PITCHING
YEAR AVG OBP SLG OPS
2002 .289 .347 .522 .869
2003 .298 .370 .504 .874
2004 .322 .367 .533 .900
2005 .306 .404 .621 1.025
In an offseason that will undoubtedly focus on improving a pathetic offense, the Twins kicked things off by actually making themselves significantly worse against left-handed pitching. Perhaps the team has bigger plans for the DH spot that will make everyone forget about LeCroy, but until then the Twins have taken a large step back before they've even had a chance to more forward. The already long road back to offensive mediocrity just got a little longer.
MATTHEW LECROY WITH MINNESOTA (2000-2005)
YEAR G AVG OBP SLG OPS
2000 56 .174 .254 .323 .577
2001 15 .425 .429 .775 1.204
2002 63 .260 .308 .448 .754
2003 107 .287 .342 .490 .832
2004 88 .269 .321 .424 .745
2005 101 .260 .354 .444 .798
TOTAL 430 .263 .327 .447 .774
- A Game of Epic Proportions (by David Gassko)