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The Ranger roster and allocating playing time

Evan Grant has a new blog entry up, suggesting that the Rangers should replace Matt Stairs with Miguel Ojeda, thus allowing the Rangers to play Laird at DH. Richard Durrett echoes that opinion, saying that whichever catcher doesn't catch should get some time at DH, and that Barajas's defense demands that he play.

Here's the problem with that scenario, though...

The Rangers, the rest of the way, have 6 guys who are probably going to be in the lineup most days: GMJ, Lee, Blalock, Young, Kinsler, and Teixeira. Either Barajas or Laird is going to catch.

That leaves you 6 players -- DeRosa, Wilkerson, Cruz, Stairs, JHJ, and the other catcher -- for the DH and other outfield slot.

DeRosa has played well enough to start against lefties, and probably some righthanders, the rest of the way. Cruz and Stairs are good enough to get some playing time. Wilkerson...well, we know about the Wilkerson situation.

But lets say, for the sake of argument, that we are going to regularly play Barajas at catcher and Laird at DH, with either Cruz, DeRosa or Wilkerson in RF, and Stairs on the bench.

I think it is a given that you are going to lose offense by playing Barajas over Stairs. If we look at their respective MLVrs -- a stat we talked about in last week's Laird rant -- we see that Stairs (as a Royal...not enough Ranger playing time to make those numbers significant) had a .005 MLVr, while Barajas currently has a -.181 MLVr.

That means playing Laird at DH and Barajas behind the plate instead of Stairs at DH and Laird behind the plate is costing the Rangers .186 runs per game. If we use DeRosa instead of Stairs, it is even worse, a difference of .354 runs per game. Cruz doesn't have enough data to get a good number, but his offensive value is probably similar to Stairs'. And even Wilkerson has an edge of .05 runs per game, based on this year's performance...

Now, playing Barajas at catcher and Laird at DH in place of Stairs would be a smart move if the difference between Barajas and Laird defensively is at least .186 runs per game...but I don't see any reason to believe the difference is that large. Laird throws out runners at a higher rate than Barajas does, the pitchers have a lower ERA with him in the game, and last night's tag on Cabrera notwithstanding, he seems to do a better job on throws to the plate than Barajas.

It would be one thing if Laird were a bad defensive catcher...but he's not. He was named the best defensive catcher in the PCL last year. He won the starting catching job with the Rangers in 2004 on the strength of his defense. His defense has always been his calling card throughout his career...his bat is just now catching up to it.

So it just doesn't make sense to try to shoehorn both Laird and Barajas in the lineup regularly to try to keep Barajas behind the plate.

At this point, I think the Rangers need to make Laird the regular catcher, with Barajas his backup, and let Cruz and Wilkerson split time in RF, Stairs DH against righthanders, and let DeRosa start against lefties (either in place of Blalock at 3B or in LF, with Lee going to DH and Wilkerson on the bench).

That allows you to have a couple of bats who can come in off the bench to pinch hit, your backup catcher, and JHJ as a defensive sub/pinch runner.

That alignment is probably the best way for the Rangers to go for the last two months.