The Cleveland Indians cannot afford to make any mistakes in the field tonight, meaning Rajai Davis must get the start in center field.
If the Cleveland Indians are going to win the 2016 World Series, errors simply cannot be made. That was realized in Game 6 when an early error doomed the team before the top of the first inning could come to an end.
The error, which was ruled a hit because no one was able to touch the ball, came in the top of the first inning. We all know the play by now, but it involved Tyler Naquin failing to take charge in center field and catch a fly ball to record the final out of the inning.
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And this is not being said to pile on Naquin. He is a rookie who made a mistake, only it came on the biggest stage possible. This does not take away from him as a player, but it is just another example of his defensive struggles this season.
Tyler Naquin (CLE) -18 Defensive Runs Saved in outfield, tied for 4th-worst in MLB
Naquin’s mistake gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, which was an insurmountable lead that only got worse for the Indians as the game progressed.
The Indians are now in a deciding Game 7 with Corey Kluber on the mound, but the pitching could be affected if there are more errors made. That is why Rajai Davis needs to start tonight in center field.
The Chicago Cubs are sending right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks to the mound tonight, which would usually mean Naquin would get the start as he is a left-handed hitter. But his defensive struggles, magnified in Game 6, could be more detrimental to the team that anything he could potentially do at the plate.
And it is not like Naquin was tearing it up on offense. He is only hitting .174 this postseason, compared to Davis’s average of .103. The difference is that Davis is a threat when on base, as he can seemingly steal any base at any time. His three steals in the World Series are a sign of his dominance when reaching base.
But most of all, Davis is a much more reliable fielder than Naquin. His experience in the league helps with that, while his speed allows him to track down balls Naquin may not be able to reach. And at a time like this, experience must be valued over the potential of a rookie who is not even a full-time player.
Naquin will be a great player for this team in the future, and can even have an impact on tonight’s game. But to make sure it is not a negative one, he must not play the field tonight. Not only is his confidence likely at an all-time low, but there is just a better option available in Rajai Davis.