Church stealing valuable playing time

In the following chart, an “X” indicates a game started for that player. Any combination of asterisks indicates a game in which that player was not available. Please notice the age and 2010 performance of each player.

Ryan Church Jeff Clement Lastings Milledge Steve Pearce
2010 wOBA 0.277 0.242 0.286 0.353
Age 31 26 25 27
4/30/2010 X X *
5/1/2010 X X X *
5/2/2010 X X *
5/4/2010 X X X
5/5/2010 X X
5/6/2010 X X
5/7/2010 X X
5/8/2010 ** X X
5/9/2010 ** X X
5/10/2010 ** X X
5/11/2010 ** X
5/12/2010 ** X X
5/14/2010 ** X X
5/15/2010 X X
5/16/2010 X X X
5/17/2010 X X
5/18/2010 X X
5/19/2010 X X
5/20/2010 X X
5/21/2010 X X
Total Games Started 12 8 15 7
Started/Available 85.7% 40.0% 75.0% 41.2%
* In Triple-A
** Injured

Church has started 12 of the past 14 games in which he has been available. Why would a rebuilding team give the majority of available playing time to a 31-year-old, well established 4th outfielder who is struggling, while younger players with uncertain talent levels watch from the bench? It does not make sense. Lastings Milledge is showing some signs of breaking out of his slump, with a respectable .337 wOBA in May. With Jose Tabata potentially arriving at some point this summer, Milledge needs to be in the lineup at every opportunity. It might be his last chance to establish himself as a starting outfielder on this team. Ryan Church should not be getting in his way. Church should not be keeping Clement or Pearce on the bench either. The front office has a limited amount of time to find out about these guys. As Charlie mentioned earlier today, playing time is a valuable resource.

Ryan Church Jeff Clement Lastings Milledge Steve Pearce
2010 wOBA 0.277 0.242 0.286 0.353
Age 31 26 25 26
4/30/2010 X X *
5/1/2010 X X X *
5/2/2010 X X *
5/4/2010 X X X
5/5/2010 X X
5/6/2010 X X
5/7/2010 X X
5/8/2010 ** X X
5/9/2010 ** X X
5/10/2010 ** X X
5/11/2010 ** X
5/12/2010 ** X X
5/14/2010 ** X X
5/15/2010 X X
5/16/2010 X X X
5/17/2010 X X
5/18/2010 X X
5/19/2010 X X
5/20/2010 X X
5/21/2010 X X
Total Games Started 12 8 15 7
Started/Available 85.7% 40.0% 75.0% 41.2%
* In Triple-A
* Injured

Author: Matt Bandi

Matt has covered the Pirates at Wait ‘Til Next Year, Pittsburgh Lumber Co. and now Pirates Prospects. He served as Pirates team expert for Heater Magazine in 2009 and 2010 and has contributed to Graphical Player 2009, 2010 and 2011. Matt was also the editor of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates Prospects Annuals.

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  • e poc

    Exactly. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Will

    Yeah, I have to say I agree, as well. It’d be different if Church was clearly outplaying Milledge and/or Pearce, but he isn’t. I’m beginning to wonder, in fact, if Church isn’t basically finished. He had several concussions that really hurt him badly, and there’s more and more evidence emerging all the time that full recovery from that sort of brain injury is no sure thing.

    Again, though, Milledge just hasn’t seized the job outright, and he hasn’t done enough to make it an easy decision to keep Church on the bench. So, I’d point the finger more at Milledge than at Russell, who supposedly is trying to put a lineup on the field that has some chance of winning in the here and now. If Milledge was playing better, it’d be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, he hasn’t played very well and it’s looking more and more doubtful that he ever will.