Arguing the merits of Mark Teahen would have been a fringe cause a few weeks ago, but apparently people who closely observe all the games of a baseball team are apt to pick up on similar things. As such, Jim Margalus and Corey Ettinger have both discussed the promising play Teahen has shown in bits in 2011.
A quick-n-dirty breakdown of the decision-making process behind the White 3rd base slot was that while Teahen was a more-polished and superior hitter than Brent Morel, his defense made having him as a full-time starter untenable. Morel would figure to struggle with his league-adjustment early on, but wasn't going to be tasked with doing much heavy lifting with the bat anyways. Not with an improved offense to render him irrelevant, anyways.
Since Spring Training broke with Brent promised an undefined majority of
the playing time, two things have changed fairly drastically, and
neither of them have much to do with Brent Morel. Sure, he's has a
strong case of the awfuls (.206/.219/.254), but that'd be news for the
back page if it wasn't for what's going on with the guys slated between
spots 1-6 in the batting order. They've stunk, and to search for help
Enter Mark Teahen.
Teahen is too power-deprived to ever fulfill the Jason Giambi
comparisons he earned as a prospect, but he can still walk like a power
hitter (and strike out like one, but that's another topic), and that's
something. He's taken 5 free passes in 29 plate appearances so far, a
tiny sample that's backed up by the promising 9.5% rate he posted last
season, and 8.2% career-mark.
Neither of these figures could
rouse Frank Thomas from a mid-afternoon nap, but if there's been a
negative trend with White Sox hitters of recent, it's free-swinging.
They were middle of the pack for the latter half of the decade, but
since the Gentleman Masher left, they've finished 4th from the bottom of
baseball in 2010 (7.6%) and are 5th from the bottom so far this year
(6.9%). A stat that Brent Morel's rocky adjustment-period (0 walks in
64 PAs) hasn't been helping, and doesn't figure to (4% walk rate in
The other significant switch from the expected
circumstances is that in his few games at 3rd base, Mark Teahen has
looked like, well, a 3rd basemen. When he was handed three straight
starts in Tampa last week, he punctuated them with a diving stab to
prevent a run-scoring single and an even more impressive charging scoop
and throw of a tricky short-hop. In terms of meaningless data, the
initial UZR reading of Mark at 3rd of the young year was positive.
Functionally useless, but seeing as every statistical reading of him
last year went straight to hell and never looked back, it caught my eye.
be foolish to think that Teahen walked out of his house one morning,
was struck by lightning while simultaneously being conked on the head by
a falling paint can, and thinks he's Joe Crede now, but if his charge
of a short-hop is indicative that the hesitance and indecision that
surrounded his most doomed efforts in 2010 is gone, he could be just
good enough to hide next to Alexei Ramirez.
Without getting into a
thesis about the value of the walk, it should be apparent to any who
have watched the Sox struggles of recent that a free-swinging team in a
slump is even easier to retire than usual, as they stubbornly swing into
early outs and keep opposing pitch counts down. Walks mean longer
counts for the pitcher, higher-stress innings, and working from the
stretch. Positive, positive, positive.
While I doubt after 2010 I
could ever recommend Teahen for full-time work unless he started
obliterating the ball at obscene rates, as long as he stays within
shouting distance of adequate in the field and continues to display
above-average patience as a compliment to his thoroughly average
contributions everywhere else, the utility is clearly there.
offers himself for an obvious platoon situation and provides an on-base
rate that is much more neutral to his quality of contact, and that's
absent from Beckham, Pierre, and Ramirez at the moment. Teahen could help to offset their struggles, at least until he doesn't have to anymore.
Useful stopgaps have come in worse packages.