Not too long ago, I wrote a post about Masyn Winn. Winn, you will recall, was the Cardinals’ second round draft pick this June, and one of the more interesting talents taken by the club. As both a middle infielder and two-way player, Winn brings a wide base of tools to the game that’s easy to dream on, but as I tried to demonstrate in my column, less easy to nail down in a practical sense.
After I posted said column, I received an email from a reader by the name of Curtiss Johnson, and he sent along a little doodle he’d been working on. Said doodle was not a naughty drawing of Fredbird, which is what I usually get in my email inbox (you know who you are, and...stop it), but instead a schedule of how Winn might rotate through a week’s worth of playing time. I found the notion interesting, and so I will recreate Mr. Johnson’s schedule here in full (edited slightly to fit better in this format):
Sunday — Position
Monday — Position
Tuesday — Position
Wednesday — Off
Thursday — Pitcher —> Starter OR Reliever
Friday — Off
Saturday — Pinch Hit/Pinch Run/DH
Friday — Pinch Hit/Pinch Run/DH
Saturday — Position
Now, the reason I say this was slightly edited to fit the format is because Mr. Johnson himself had arrows indicating the two paths, which doesn’t work as well in a text editor. He notes that any positional starts could be at either a primary position (in the case of Winn ending up a starter at, say, shortstop or third base), or taking the place of some other player who has the day off, should Winn end up as the utility guy I personally think he should. Mr. Johnson also notes that if Winn were used as a reliever exclusively, it’s possible he could be used on back to back days Thursday and Friday, then be relegated to PH/PR/DH duty on Saturday before returning to a starting position Sunday.
I found this take on the ‘problem’ interesting, because it lays out a way in which Winn could or would essentially be both a hitter and pitcher, but does so by essentially keeping both of his duties in separate silos. On days when Winn would be pitching, this plan has him off-limits as far as positional play goes. Part of that certainly has to do with trying to envision some way you could use him in a starting role, at which point you would definitely have to build in some time off, but part of it is also seemingly just a general aversion to wear and tear on his arm. Mr. Johnson noted in his email that the team and the player will probably just have to accept greater wear and tear than is usual, but honestly, if Winn were held to one starting appearance per week, with a day off before and after his start, that really doesn’t feel like an inordinate amount of stress placed on his arm or body to me.
My own take is more fluid, as I laid it out in much more vague terms in my original column. I would expect to see Winn pitching during a game in which he started at some position occasionally, maybe even pulling the old Ken Dayley switch from the Whitey Herzog days, when Herzog would use Dayley to get out a left-handed hitter, switch him into an outfield corner for the righty, then bring him back to the mound to get another lefty. Now, I assume that exact thing would not work given the three-batter minimum of modern baseball, but I could still see Winn starting in left field, throwing the sixth inning, and then moving back to left for the rest of the game. Curtiss’s plan would definitely require more discipline than I envision in his usage, but actually does offer a window as to how starting might work, whereas I have a hard time seeing my way to using him as anything other than a reliever, working 2-3 times a week but getting no more than, say, five innings total in any given week.
I didn’t really need to talk anymore about the far-off hypothetical that is Masyn Winn, major league two-way player, but Mr. Johnson’s note gave me a reason to circle back and consider the issue from a slightly different perspective.
My real point today wasn’t actually to talk about Masyn Winn again, but considering I’ve now spent over 750 words talking about just that, well, I guess that is now the point of this column. I had a longer piece in mind, about the mechanics of utility players in general, but that would run into the 3000+ word category, probably, and I am trying very hard currently to write more, shorter pieces, since that is what our bosses at SB Nation mostly want. I’m not good at this format, never have been.
When I was hired on at the RFT back in 2008, I was contracted to write five pieces a week, one each weekday, and I kept up with that the first several months, but given my modus operandi, that meant I was churning out around 10K words or more each week. I was also the only person really contributing sports content, and so at a certain point my editor Nick proposed that I go to two pieces a day, make them shorter, and so push the feed (what was called The Rundown at the time), to ten posts per week. I gave it a shot, but it just wasn’t for me. Coming up with five ideas a week is hard enough when you’re told to cover the team from a left field angle, not to do game stories, but also not to cover any national news, just local. Ten was unsustainable. Even if I had ten ideas per week, two 1000 word columns take longer to write than one 2000 word piece, and it’s not as if I was doing that writing full time. It was strictly a part time gig for a hundred bucks a week. It was also my first introduction to just how well and truly fucked the economics of creating content on the internet are.
Anyhow, rambly outro aside, I’m going to call this here, get to work on a game recap for the Cards-Cubs tilt currently going on, and then I’ll publish a bigger utility player piece later this week. Not to go too much into how the sausage is made, but I thought I would explain that I am deliberately trying to avoid big, sweeping epics, because that is not really the direction anyone wants to go. Well, except me, but I can’t turn out three epics a week without making time sacrifices that are just a bit too much these days. So in case you’re wondering why these pieces might feel a little slighter than is typically my style, there’s an explanation.