Dunlap: Four OF System Just Won't Work

Colin Dunlap
June 14, 2018 - 5:15 pm
Austin Meadows

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This isn't working. 

This won't work moving forward. 

In truth, this was never going to work. 

No matter how you spin it or slice it, no matter if it is general manager Neal Huntington or manager Clint Hurdle making the decision here --- or a combination of both --- and no matter how much you hope and wish for it to work, it just isn't feasible. This isn't the Crafton-Ingram-Thornburg Little League where everyone gets a couple innings out in the outfield, you intersperse the guys here and there, try your best at winning and then grab a Slush afterward from the refreshment stand. 

Uh, no. This is the big leagues.

A four-man rotation in the outfield isn't going to do the trick. It isn't going to ever be a solution. It especially is going to fall flat when you are dealing with three guys (Gregory Polanco, Corey Dickerson and Austin Meadows) who hit from the left side and just one guy (Starling Marte) who takes his cuts from the right side. If it was a 2 and 2 proposition, it might work, but not when three guys hit from the same side. 

But, really, that point is secondary when there is this: A four-man, take-your-turn, paint-by-numbers rotation is especially never going to work when there are three easily-identifiable men who are playing better than the fourth. That's the case here and anyone can see it. It's just a reality that Dickerson, Marte and Meadows have been leaps and bounds better than Polanco. On top of the three former outfielders being better defensively than the latter, there is the offensive part. Dickerson is hitting .310 with 5 home runs, Marte is hitting .286 with 8 home runs and Meadows has blasted 5 homers in his short career while hitting .329 to this point. 

Polanco is hitting .204, albeit with 8 home runs. But, you know, .204 is .204 no matter how you look at it. And .204 isn't good enough to get starts, no matter how you look at it.  

So will this charade end? I mean, we will probably never get a square answer as to why it was enacted or why whomever made the decision felt as if it was a great idea. I'm just wondering if the charade will end. On Wednesday before the series-finale with Arizona in which Polanco started and got a hit (a day after being roundly criticized for not hustling in a game) Hurdle reveled that over the past few weeks Polanco's hamstring injury had been flaring up. He has been receiving more intensive treatment than normal on his hamstrings. So, let me try to comprehend this: The guy who is injured and is a distant fourth of the four outfielders statistically, has played in the second-most of the four and, from the looks of it, will continue to be part of that strict rotation where each player rotates a day off. 

It is all so quizzical and puzzling and, frankly, I don't understand any of it. 

There is some reason why the decision makers for the Pittsburgh Pirates just won't designate Gregory Polanco as the fourth outfielder. No one but those men know why. Is it money? Is it experience? Is it to keep Dickerson's mileage because a trade is coming at the deadline? 

But making Polanco a bench guy doesn't need to a baseball death sentence and, heck, he would have the opportunity to grow back into a regular. However, it seems like the only people in this universe who feel as if the three full-time starters shouldn't be Dickerson, Marte and Meadows are the few people who are in charge of making the decision. 

This is the most obvious decision to make. The Pirates starting outfield --- for a team going through some tough times right now --- is the easiest decision to make. You pencil in Dickerson, Marte and Meadows every night. Why that isn't happening is, simply, inexplicable. There is no other way to put it. 

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