Yes, I know, this idea seems crazy. We all have been fed up with Eduardo Nunez‘ defensive play earlier this season, when he made four errors in fifteen games split at second, third, and shortstop. I’m not talking about putting him into the field everyday, though. He could split some time at DH or be the occasional shortstop against lefties.
Listen, Jayson Nix hasn’t been cutting it as of late, with a 71 wRC+ in the last 30 days while striking out 31% of the time. Andruw Jones has been even worse over the same timeframe: 38 wRC+ with just one homer in 52 at bats. Perhaps Nunez could inject some life in the lineup with his speed.
I’m not saying Nunez is a great hitter by any means, but he puts the ball in play. He only strikes out 10% of the time in his career, which is a vast improvement over Nix or Jones. He’s only had 63 plate appearances this year, so we can’t find out too much about his batted ball types over that sample size. But last year, in extended playing time (338 PAs), he proved to be a pretty good line drive hitter (20.7%). He also hit the ball on the ground frequently (45.2%), which is a good mark given his speed because it allows the opportunity for infield hits. In fact, Nunez already has three infield hits in 2012 on 18 ground balls.
You might want to knock Nunez for his low 6.6% walk rate in his career, which is fair. Jones and Nix have noticeably better walk rates historically, but their struggles to make contact bring down their batting average dramatically, which allows Nunez to have a comparable OBP especially when looking at how Jones and Nix have played recently.
Once Nunez gets on base, he is a huge advantage over Nix or Jones in the speed department. He’s stolen seven bases in nine attempts this season, and at AAA, he swiped 16 of 19. Last season, he was 22 for 28, so the stolen base threat is clearly there.
Look, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t be a proponent for Nunez to get increased playing time over Andruw Jones. In this case, however, it’s clear that Andruw Jones and Jayson Nix aren’t getting the job done anymore. Plus, given the lineups struggles over the last couple months, perhaps it’s time to see if someone like Nunez can give this lineup a spark.
If anything, it may just be most important to bench Andruw Jones. For whatever reason, he has vanished. His prolonged slump has been a huge detriment to the lineup. He was brought back to be a lefty masher, and now his poor play of late has destroyed his overall season numbers vs. lefties: he’s now below average against them on the season (85 wRC+). What’s the point of running him out there against them anymore?
With the way things are going, why not give Nunez a shot? Comment and let us know what you would do.
Photo by Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons