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Why Gerald Laird sitting is costing the Rangers the A.L. West

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Everyone knows my feelings about Gerald Laird being on the bench, and Rod Barajas being the Rangers starting catcher.

But inspired by a piece at BP today by Nate Silver about the impact adding Alfonso Soriano would have to various playoff contenders, I thought I would take a look at the stats and see what the impact on the Rangers would be if Gerald Laird were starting.

Let's assume, for our initial hypothetical, that if Laird had been starting and Barajas had been the backup, their rate stats would be the same (yes, a huge assumption, I know, but bear with me).

Silver used MLVr for his comparison...MLVr is essentially a measurement of the difference between the number of runs per game a player would contribute to an average lineup, and the number of runs per game an average offensive player would contribute to an average lineup.

Gerald Laird has a .269 MLVr this season...in other words, having Laird in the lineup (given how he has hit this season) instead of Joe Average would mean scoring .269 more runs per game. Rod Barajas has a -.157 MLVr this season.

So, under this set of assumptions, playing Rod Barajas instead of Gerald Laird costs the team .426 runs per game.

According to BP, Barajas has caught the equivalent of 70.3 games this season, versus 31.7 for Laird...we'll round this to 70/32. Now, let's assume that the playing time was reversed, Gerald Laird started 70 games, and Barajas had started 32 games.

Over 38 games, with a .426 runs per game advantage, that would mean that the Rangers would have scored an extra 16.2 runs, good for 1.6 extra wins.

Meanwhile, the Rangers are currently 1.5 games out of first place.

And what about the rest of the way? What if Laird played, say, 50 of the last 60 games, while Barajas played 10, instead of the likely 40/20 split in favor of Barajas we are likely to see?

If we assume that Barajas and Laird keep hitting the way they have, that 30 game swing would be good for 12.8 runs, or 1.28 wins, the rest of the way.

Okay, you say, but that's not fair...Laird wouldn't be hitting so well if he were playing every day. His numbers would have to drop.

Fine...let's assume that Laird, rather than hitting at his current rate, were instead posting a .274 EQA (which is what Mark Teixeira has recorded this year, and which is an imminently reasonable assumption). That means he's just hit pretty well for a catcher, but not that great overall.

That is good for a .070 MLVr, giving Laird a .227 MLVr edge over Barajas. That means that, if their playing time had been reversed, the Rangers would have scored an extra 8.26 runs this year, good for almost a win.

And, using the same assumption for the rest of the way, it would mean an extra 6.81 runs the rest of the way, good for almost a win.

Of course, some will argue that since MLVr doesn't take into account defense, that this isn't fair to Barajas...but given that I don't think Barajas is any better defensively than Laird, I would argue that that argument is crap.

The Rangers are in a tight divisional race. Maybe they'll fall out of it. Maybe they won't.

But Buck's insistence on playing Barajas instead of Laird all season costs this team runs.

And if the Rangers miss out on the playoffs by a game or two, then I think you could argue that Buck's handling of the catching situation was the difference between making the playoffs in 2006 and sitting at home.