Monday, July 5, 2010

The Omar Infante Affair

For the second straight season, Phils' skipper Charlie Manuel is managing the NL squad at the All-Star Game. With that comes the responsibility of choosing a handful of the team's reserves. Manuel chose the following players:

- Brandon Philips, 2B, Reds.
- Ryan Howard, 1B, Phils.
- Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals.
- Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers.
- Tim Hudson, SP, Braves.
- Evan Meek, RP, Pirates.
- Arthur Rhodes, RP, Reds.
- Omar Infante, 2B, Braves.
- Michael Bourn, OF, Astros.
- Chris Young, OF, D-Backs.

Other all-stars were chosen by the fans and the players.

One of Manuel's picks has attracted more attention than the others. It should be clear. Omar Infante? Really? Manuel picked a below-average NL hitter who starts less than half of his team's games to play on the NL squad. This seemingly-indefensible choice was made at the expense of a number of deserving players, including Reds 1B Joey Votto, who leads the NL is OPS (.988) this season.

Infante, whose greatest asset is that he plays seven positions, has the following numbers this season:

Starts - 35
AB - 177
HR - 1
RBI - 22
AVG - .309
OBP - .341
SLG - .376
OPS - .711
SB - 3
OPS+ - 95

Infante is essentially a slap-hitting, utility player whose hit for some average this season, but done little else. He has no power, little speed, and doesn't take many walks. In addition to Votto (.988 OPS, 19 HRs), he was taken over Cardinals centerfielder Colby Rasmus (.916 OPS), Braves first baseman Troy Glaus (.822), Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (.880), Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder (.867), and Manuel's own Jayson Werth (.901).

What bothers me is that the manager of my team is able to make such an obviously poor baseball decision. There is no way to conclude that Infante is more valuable than any of the above players. Yes, he plays lots of positions. So what. The all-star rosters are huge and there are plenty of guys to get through the game. He has a responsibility to pick those enjoying the best seasons. It's the fair thing to do and it gives the NL the best chance to win.

Manuel should know better than anyone that the All-Star Game counts. Home-field would have been nice in either the 2008 or 2009 World Series.

I do believe, however, that Manuel wants to win. I just think he disagrees with, or fails to understand, the proper ways to evaluate offensive performance. The fact that he can sleep at night denying the NL's leading OPS guy from the game tells me the statistic means little to him. The idea that Omar Infante's .309 average looks like a major asset, despite the fact that his OBP is only .341, suggests that Manuel is reading the wrong part of the baseball card.

Perhaps Infante will surprise us and record the game-winning hit in the All-Star game. It's baseball and of course that's a possibility. The point is that Manuel failed to execute his responsibility when he chose an inferior player for the roster over many, many more-deserving hitters.

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