Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's Official: Monroe's In The Mix.

Most fans suspected as much: the Twins have finally signed Craig Keystone Monroe to a one-year, $3.8 million dollar deal plus incentives (possibly totaling $4 million). As I stated previously, Monroe isn't the worst acquisition the Twins could have made (Butch Husky was, no wait, Tommy Herr), specifically because this is a non-guaranteed contract. If he has a poor performance in spring training Monroe can be released at a cost of $636,667 - a marginal risk.

It is notable that spring training is not the ideal time to pass definitive judgement on a player considering both the sample size and the quality of pitching. Considering all the slack that Rondell White received, unless Monroe proves stupidly ineffective against Double-A pitching at Hammonds Field this March, it is a given that he will be brought north. The problem is that Monroe does not have any competition for the 4th outfield/DH/right-handed bat position. Buuuut he could...

(Warning. Shameless Kevin Mench plea forthcoming).

Milwaukee has officially designated Kevin Mench for assignment. If the Twins were to pursue Mench, they would either have to make a similar trade like they did with the Chicago Cubs for Monroe or wait several days and attempt to sign him to a modest free agent contract (if possible). Another potentially low investment to build depth. If we were to compare the two option in the parameters of the defined role (4th outfielder/Right-Handed Bat vs Lefties) we find that both have two different offerings to the organization:

Defensively in 2007 neither would be classified as specialists. Far from. Mench spent his time in Milwaukee platooning with Geoff Jenkins in both left and right field while Monroe was the everyday left fielder in Detroit until traded at which point Chicago didn't seem to know what to do with him (playing 39 innings in center and 46 in left). Monroe played 795 innings in left field for Detroit with only 3 errors (.982 fielding percentage) and throwing out 6 runners on the bathpaths. Of 152 balls in his zone, Monroe was able to make the play on 129 (a .849 rzr rating) on top of which he made 33 plays on balls hit out of his zone. With Mench splitting his time between Jenkins, Mench played only 377 innings in left field. Even though he did not commit any errors (1.000 fielding percentage), it is another misleading statistic: 47 balls were hit in Mench's zone and he made plays on only 38 of them (a .809 rzr rating) and he was only able to make 17 plays outside of his zone. In 219 innings in right field, Mench had 53 balls in his zone and made the play on 47 of them (a .868 rzr rating), he made two fielding errors reducing his percentage (.976) but he did throw out another 3 baserunners (equaling Monroe's total) and made 10 plays on balls out of his zone totaling 27 between left and right field.

While Monroe is better at covering ground, both seem to have reasonable arms and make few errors. Considering the limited time that either would actually spend on the field, I'd declare this a push. If you are placing Mench in the field, you wouldn't be losing a substantial amount of glove and if you were to use Monroe, you would not necessarily gain that much defensive either.

left field - 2007 innings played errors fielding percentage runners thrown out rzr percentage ooz
monroe 795 3 .982 6 .849 33
mench 377 0 1.000 3 .809 17

*hardball times

If either of these players were to get at-bats against RIGHT-handed pitching, neither would improve the line-up (and with Kubel available, this should never be an option).

vs. righties - 2007 home runs average on-base percentage slugging
monroe 6 .197 .247 .308
mench 0 .212 .261 .303


The peripheral numbers here tells the same story:

vs. righties - 2007 plate appearances bb% k% xbh% hr% ops+
monroe 287 6.2% 27.5% 6.2% 2.0% 75
mench 142 5.7% 7.7% 7.7% 0.0% 56

Monroe is slightly better than Mench against the righties but also was given twice as many plate appearances.

To say that the Twins were offensively deficient against left-handed pitching would be an understatement. Grossly ineffective is more appropriate. Of the three players that were able to provide production, one is now in Anaheim, and Delmon Young has been acquired to hopefully replace that offset that loss. Therefore, either Monroe or Mench would be asked to improve on that. In 2007, both players had roughly the same amount of plate appearances versus left-handed pitching (Monroe's 144 to Mench's 166) with seemingly similar but ultimately different results:

vs. lefties - 2007 home runs average on-base percentage slugging
monroe 6 .271 .309 .469
mench 8 .314 .343 .558


When you dissect the peripheral numbers further you will find that Mench is a better option because of his considerably higher contact rate (14.0% less strikeouts per plate appearance) with nearly identical power.

vs. lefties - 2007 plate appearances bb% k% xbh% hr% ops+
monroe 140 5.0% 20.0% 12.1% 4.2% 99
mench 166 4.8% 6.0% 12.0% 4.8% 139

Mench is on-base more and making more contact than Monroe when facing lefties. If Gardenhire were to maximize production against left-handed pitching, such as getting runners on and moving them over, he would be rewarded by implementing Mench.

I anticipate a team like the A's or Blue Jays who analyze talent less on appearance (i.e. Matt Stairs) and more on the offensive production to sign Mench to a small contract much like the one Stairs was inked to last season.

The problem is that if Mench were to be used for the National League team, he would had to be played in the field. The added incentive in the American League is that as a designated hitter, Mench would not have to play the field. With Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer available, Mench would never have to see the field when lefties are pitching. At this point, Mench is grossly undervalued. Admittedly at times it would appear that I have a man-crush on Mench, however I have a complete opposite sentiment towards Mench after reading the Journal-Sentinel's Brewers Blog comments. Judging from the numbers, Brewers manager Ned Yost did use Mench in the correct manner, limiting his plate appearance versus righties to minimum. His body type earned him nicknamed Shrek has opened the door for ridicule. Brewers fans have decided that he took up roster space when in reality he was quite productive in his limited role.

Meanwhile, Monroe's production has declined and probably leveled off and he provided the Tigers with 3 win shares in 2007, Mench in his limited role gave the Brewers 8. On the record I am not anti-Monroe nor do I think that Mench is the Twins key to the postseason, however introducing Mench as a possible option would a) give motivation to Monroe, b) better comparison during spring training and c) be one of the least expensive acquisitions that would improve the lack of offensive against left-handed pitching. On paper (or more appropriately, on blog) the Twins would stand to gain more from Mench than Monroe.