Lastings and the Bottleneck

The one thing everyone in that Operations Management class I took in grad school remembers is the word “bottleneck.” It’s from a book, The Goal, about the theory of constraints. It’s not important the details, only that bottlenecks are, as the name suggests, the constraints to your business improving. The Nats have had a bottleneck in the outfield, and their immediate solution to that was to send Lastings Milledge down to AAA Syracuse.

While I am disappointed because I believe that Lastings has a bright future, I believe this move made alot of sense. Right now, there is little evidence that he can play CF full time for a contending team. His routes have been terrible, and for all his athleticism, he’s not there yet. The main reason that Bonifacio hit an inside the park HR and a tirple was that he hit it towards Milledge. With other CFer, those are flyouts. Meanwhile, thanks to the bottlenecks, he isn’t able to get ABs every game, and his offense isn’t looking great either. He needs daily ABs, and not only will this improve his production, it will allow the organization see if he has the bat to be a corner outfielder. While he is down there, I suspect he will get to working on defense as well.

Additionally, there was some talk about his attitude. He apparently showed up late for a few meetings, and with a team that is 0-7, if anyone is demonstrating that he is not fully invested, then action needs to be taken. This season isn’t lost yet, but it is easy enough to start losing players, so this move, on that level, has little to do with numbers but may in the end have everything to do with them.

Anyway, to send him down may seem to be a problem, as he needs ABs in the majors. But he is young, and the most important thing is getting ABs, and AAA can give him those. And maybe fielding drills, I don’t know. BUT, Milledge isn’t on the trade block right now, and other players need to take up his playing time at the big league level, in order to make room for him in the future.

What Else is Affected?

Elijah Dukes is now the presumptive center fielder, and there is promise there. His bat plays very well at that position, and his value is vastly improved if he sits there instead of in right. Quite simply, there aren’t center fielders that hit that way. Maybe a half a dozen guys? I come up with Beltran, Sizemore, Upton, Wells, and Matt Kemp. Maybin is projected to be better, there may be one or two more. Regardless, if Dukes hits like people thinks he can, he’s one of the best center fielders in the game. Interesting to think about.

The other news is that Josh Willingham should get some ABs. Willingham is suffering from a lack of playing time, but sending him down to the minors is probably counterproductive. Especially if you want to trade him eventually.

On another note, if you haven’t read The Goal, and you’re planning on managing a factory, or any business, I’d recommend it. That includes managing a baseball team. And if you have, no, I don’t think Milledge is Herbie, the fat boy scout, but I do think he may not be helpful on the big league team at this moment. I still think he has a bright future in this league, but I am not against this move at all.

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