Simmer Down on Shanny
In addition to Dave Rouleau’s unabashed rumormongering that Shannon Stewart is limping around hotel lobbies (which might not be a deal-breaker: everyone hurts bad in the first week of spring training), here’s some more sand thrown on the fire of Stew’s chances this spring. Bastian hints at it in his mailbag, but the rest of the Toronto media seem to have handed the job to Shanny because he’s a career .300 hitter (yawn)/classic Jay/nude model, instead of seeing this as the shrewd zero-risk, bargain-bin, minor-league-contract insurance policy it is.
Here’s the thing: the Jays don’t need a full time left fielder who can handle both right and left handed pitching equally well (Stewart is the rare breed who is dead even against pitchers from both sides over his career). They are locked into a platoon situation in left, and rightly so, because Matt Stairs crushes right handed pitching. Even if you don’t believe he can reproduce his miracle resurgence from last year, Stairs hasn’t hit right-handed pitching as poorly as Stewart did last year at any point in the last decade. The only reason Matt has not had a full-time job (or a shot at the hall of fame?) in that span is that he’s a decidedly pedestrian .239/.331/.422 against LHP. But until he gets too old and/or breaks down, nobody should be taking at-bats away from him against the majority of pitchers.
What the Jays really need is someone who can hit left-handed pitching, and maybe play a little defense when Stairs needs some time on the defibrillator- and that’s Reed Johnson. It doesn’t matter if 2006 was a giant fluke, he’s always been an above-average hitter against southpaws. Heck, even during his disastrous, injured 2007 campaign, he hit .325/.381/.532 against them. Even if you take Reed’s amazing 2006 out of the picture (and that makes his career not much to look at), Johnson’s career numbers against LHP compare favourably to Shannon Stewart:
Add to that the fact that Shanny just isn’t that .375 obp guy any more and has an arm that makes Johnny Damon look like Jesse Barfield, and this is still clearly Reed’s job as long as he doesn’t come up lame. It’s not that Stewart isn’t probably the better all-round hitter, he’s just not what the Blue Jays need.