Saturday, June 22, 2013

Munenori, we hardly knew ya!

Tomorrow will be likely be Munenori's last game at the MLB level for a while, as Jose Reyes returns to the lineup 

How did the .229 / .341 / .333 hitter win the hearts of Blue Jays fans?

Munenori Kawasaki, probably about to take a bow
(Tim Sharp/Reuters)

His ethic and love for the game

First, it was his ethic towards the game. Flaunted by Sportsnet and its own ownership, Rogers made this guy special. His crazy handstands before the game, the talk about his work ethic, his bows to the other players and to fans, playing catch with fans. his stutter-steal. His spirit is just infectuous. His crazy "I am Japanese" yell in the post game interview after his walk-off, and his curtain call to the crowd after his only home run. Players and fans love him.

He made the fact that the Jays were sucking for a while tolerable.

His approach and success as a hitter

Second, it was that .341 OBP and the fact that he would be 10th in the AL in pitches per plate appearance (had he qualified). He tries really hard, runs out every ground ball, and walks more than he strikes out, the ONLY player on the team to do so.

He walks 13.2% of the time which is in the top 5% in the AL (the average rate is 8%).

His .674 OPS is much better than the .459 he posted with Seattle last year.  He has a WAR of 1.3. He has 4 triples because when he hits a ball in the gap (which is extremely rare), the ball goes to the wall and the opposing team has that much further to run. So, he was absolutely more than what any one could possibly hope for.

He is a decent defender

Finally, he did a decent job as shortshop while Jose has been gone. His fielding was average, as good as Izturis and Derosa at the same position.


But what choice does management have?

But, fans, when Jose Reyes comes back, there is no other logical choice but for Kawasaki to go down. Kawasaki cannot play any other position well - he played 10 games at 2B last year (4 started) and that represents ALL of his experience at that position. It wouldn't be fair to take that position away from Derosa, Bonifacio, or Izturis. And none of those three players have options.

There is absolutely no situation where you would pinch hit Kawasaki for anyone on the team. There is no situation where you would put in Kawasaki as a defensive replacement for Jose Reyes or a second basement.

Bonifacio is in a hell of a slump right now, but he will get better. Defensively he already has. Izturis is out of his funk hitting .325 over his past 10 games. And Derosa isn't going anywhere.

My advice to you if you love Kawasaki: take the trip to Buffalo and go see him at a Bisons game. For the Jays management, the choice is clear. Maybe you postpone Reyes return until he is absolutely ready, but the plan is to have Reyes return after today's game, as he is ready, and the team needs him to continue their run.

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