Monday, April 25, 2011

Mark Teahan, Reclaiming Third?

As I write this post, the White Sox are mired in one of their worst slumps in years, with a three game sweep at the hands of the surging Detroit Tigers leaving them having lost ten of their past eleven games. The entire offense it would seem is slumping all at the same time. This isn't unlike what has happened to the Twins throughout much of the early season.

Over their last 47 plate appearances each, the powerful tandem of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko have hit .098 and .222 respectively. It's at times like this, when a teams offensive stalwarts are struggling that you need to have your complementary bats step up, but by in large, that hasn't happened. While my colleague Colin McLaughlin highlighted the early season brilliance of Carlos Quentin yesterday, there has been precious little support behind him.

But while nearly everyone has slumped, Mark Teahan is quietly making a push to regain the third base job he played himself out of in 2010. Entering 2011 rookie Brent Morel, who had impressed the team with his defense and ability to provide at least some offense at the end of 2010 was essentially a show-in for the third base job.

However, with Morel off to a woefully slow start, hitting just .217 with a .417 OPS, Teahan has been getting an increasing share of the workload at the hot corner as Manager Ozzie Guillen looks anywhere he can to find offense. Though he too has been engulfed by the team-wide power outage (1 hit n his past six games), Teahan's .732 OPS still stands as something of a bright spot on a team that has just two other hitters (who have more than 20 PAs) with OPS marks above his. On top of that, he's also played surprisingly solid defense, which has been a persistent problem for him over the years.

Should Teahan continue to produce on both sides of the ball, it's likely that he'll be able to effectively force Ozzie into providing him with the consistent playing time he wants, while pushing back the Brent Morel era just a bit longer.

Offensively, that shouldn't be a major under taking as his overall production isn't at all out of line with his career norms - it's actually somewhat subpar. The bigger question is whether or not he can continue to provide the team with the level of defense that he's displayed during the seasons opening month or if he'll regress to being a somewhat major liability. Throughout his career Teahan's UZR/150 at third base stands at a frighteningly bad -14.1.

Obviously the list of players who've gone from major defensive liabilities to long-term assets at 30 years old is pretty barren. That said, in the same way that players can have freakishly good offensive years, the same too can happen on defense (something opponents of defensive metrics seem to forget). For whatever reason, balls they would've missed in the past instead find the glove - it happens.

As long as it keeps happening for Teahan, expect him to retain a significant share of the workload at third.

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