Vladimir Guerrero made a rare appearance in the outfield last night because the Rangers were playing under NL rules in San Francisco, but after multiple miscues defensively manager Ron Washington has decided to bench the nine-time All-Star and former MVP for Game 2 tonight.
David Murphy replaces Guerrero in the lineup and will start in left field, with Nelson Cruz moving from left field to right field. Cruz will also take over for Guerrero in the cleanup spot behind Josh Hamilton.
And it’s absolutely the right move.
Guerrero didn’t just look bad in right field last night, he looked horrendous. It was sad to watch. Plus, it’s not clear that Guerrero is even a better option than Murphy offensively at this point, at least against a right-handed pitcher like tonight’s Giants starter, Matt Cain.
In his prime Guerrero was a middle-of-the-order monster regardless of the handedness of the pitcher, but this season at age 35 he hit .287/.328/.482 versus righties. That production is right around average for a corner outfielder, which makes Guerrero solidly below average once his defense is factored in. He also struggled overall in the second half and has produced a measly .601 OPS in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the left-handed-hitting Murphy batted .298/.368/.479 versus righties this season, which is 37 points of OPS better than Guerrero. Murphy is also an above-average defender. Based purely on current ability rather than reputations and names my guess is that Ron Washington would have made this move for Game 1, but he at least deserves some credit for not making the same mistake twice.
And perhaps Guerrero will have a chance to make his presence felt with a big at-bat off the bench.