Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The question of whether or not to move Tyler Colvin

The last two games I've been to in which he has started, I have watched Tyler Colvin play right field very carefully.

 Tyler has been hanging around Fonzi too much. 
(via UPI/Brian Kersey) 

Some people have brought up questions as to Tyler Colvin's defensive abilities out in right field. What I have seen are flashes of brilliance and lapses in concentration.

I have praised the play of Marlon Byrd this season in center...he may not be the fastest guy out there, but he usually takes good routes to balls and plays a fundamentally beautiful center field.

I have seen much the same out of Colvin. He normally takes good routes to fly balls. But there are two things that Colvin appear to be far superior with. Byrd has impressed us with his arm this year...but in the two games over the last week that I have seen Colvin play right, I have seen him make 4 throws from the outfield that have just amazed me. He has a canon out there. The top of these was a throw to second to nail Garrett Jones last Monday trying to extend a single into a double.

The other thing that I've been impressed with while watching Colvin play in the outfield is how well he plays the ball off the wall. Now this might be a skewed view because we, as Cubs fans, have become so use to watching Soriano screw up on balls bouncing off walls that just about anyone else will look good at it in comparison. With that being said, Colvin does appear to do a good job of getting to the ball and getting it back to the field quickly.

Ok…now with the positives, there are the negatives. The issues that I have seen with Colvin, not just in the last couple games, but over the season, are numerous enough to be of concern.

As I mentioned earlier, he appears to lose concentration out in the outfield. Of course, with a bullpen that can’t pitch, I guess I could understand that. But he has dropped a number of balls this season that probably should have been caught. While not the fastest person, he has the ability to get to balls better than Soriano or Byrd (or even Kosuke)…but he does has problems completing the catch at times.

Another issue…throwing to the wrong base. Colvin gets to the ball, handles the ball off the wall well, but then he makes the mistake of throw a ball, for example, to home to try to get a runner that he has not chance of getting instead of throwing to say third base to keep a runner from advancing to another base. Part of this is the fault of the infielders or cutoff men who should be directing Colvin where to throw the ball. But in the end, he is the one who actually makes the throw with the play developing in front of him.

What do the stats say about Colvin’s defense? Well, they are not kind. While I don’t believe the defensive SABR stats are exceptionally accurate yet, they do show a tread with Colvin…a tread that is considerably negative. You should look at one thing when checking out Colvin’s defensive stats. Most of his negatives have come while he has played center field this year. Overall, in right field, where Colvin has had a majority of his playing time, is only slightly below normal. I’m not going into all the details as I’m not a SABRmetrics expert….you can go here to see for yourself.

So, that brings us back to where Colvin should play. Just before Lou Piniella left, the Cubs started working him out at first base. I thought this was a mistake. Mike Quade agreed. Colvin has yet to play at first base. The Cubs know that they are probably going to need either a right fielder or a first baseman next season (assuming Kosuke is traded). Most people assume that replacing Derrek Lee at first base will be a bit easier than finding a new, solid right fielder.

The other thing is Xavier Nady who I believe, if he plays every day, could be good enough at first base…he could be a cheap alternative if the Cubs are looking reduce payroll substantially in 2011. For me, all signs point to keeping Colvin in right field next year. And with that being said, I think the Cubs can work on his obvious flaws as a right fielder….he’s not like Soriano out there.

Next year in spring training might be the better time for the Cubs to look at Colvin at first base, if they are not able to sign a suitable replacement for Derrek Lee. Why wait until then? Well, without that replacement, the Cubs are going to have a hard time competing next year, so that season will likely be used more to prepare for 2012 than anything else. Don’t mess with this kid until you have to.

The only risk at that point would be the realization that Colvin actually can’t play first base. But if the Cubs can’t sign another first baseman and Colvin sucks from that position, well, then there are bigger problems this team needs to deal with. (I guess Micah Hoffpauir is our man then!)

So I’m heading to Wrigley this evening and I’m hoping there is a bigger turn out for the Billy Willams statue unveiling than there was for the Dawson day last week.

Assuming the crowd isn’t that big, I’m sure the likelihood of a wave occurring is pretty small. A number of the season ticket holders in my section actually walked out when the wave happened on Sunday. It was pretty bad.

I'M BACK!!!!

Tonight we also get to see the return of the Orca! So that should be fun. I’m sure a large group of people from the Shedd Aquarium will be in attendance to ensure that Silva is treated well by new manager Mike Quade.