So, let's look at the pros and the cons considering the Twins are trying (and failing) to chase down the Detroit Tigers.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka has gone through every level of crappy since the start of this road trip. He appears confused and has had his confidence drained. So, is it logical (and feasible) to send him down?
The reasons for:
1. Tsuyoshi is struggling:
I. Since the allstar break: Nishioka is hitting .185. Now that in and of itself is incredibly incompetent. However, the real problem is that the power is worse. He does not have an extra base hit in that entire time period
II. His fielding isn't great: He has 8 errors and probably should have more. While I've never been a big fan of defensive metrics, he has a dWar of -1.
III. Empiricism: I don't really need to telly you that he has been absolutely terrible. You guys (and gals) already know it. This is the major leagues and (with the exception of the Astros) there is theoretically supposed to be a standard. With a team in the race, the Twins can't afford to have Nishioka go through growing pains now.
IV. Confidence: At this point, its snowballing. He keeps on getting worse and is starting to lose track of where the strike zone is. His last at bat in Oakland proved that. With a backwards K (probably high and away but one he needed to cover) he turned around in dead frustration to the home plate umpire. The sheer frustration and confusion is getting to him. As Gardy says, he's struggling too hard for it. Instead of staying on the ball and lining it, he's pulling out and really has lost his gameplan.
2. The minors would be good for him
I. Getting his swing back together: In 24 at bats in the minors (12 at Ft Myers and 12 at Rochester), NIshioka has hit .333 (at both stops). In the short run, he needs his confidence back and this is how he should get it. While I'd say getting away from Joe Vavra would also help, the plain and simple is that he needs to face easier pitchers and hit them. A lot of baseball is swagger and he's lost his completely.
3. Plouffe needs to get some ABs
I. Plouffe has killed in the minors: You all know the statistics. A gaudy 1.019 OPS, 15 homers, 21 walks vs only 39 Ks have combined for a monster year. With Span coming back, they can't really afford to bounce him around the outfield anymore with Nishioka, Tolbert, and Hughes all theoretically splitting time and presumably Cuddy being moved consistently to 1st. The eventual returns of Morneau and Casilla mean that they need to get him time while they can.
II. The defense can't really get much worse: the major reason for Plouffe ending up in the doghouse was the large amount of errors he had that drove Gardy nuts. However, Nishioka, as described, hasn't been all that good either. With consistent playing time, he can hopefully get into a good defensive groove.
4. Get him away from Joe Vavra.
I. This (imho) stands for itself.
The Reasons Against
1. Nishioka is better off up here.
I. Former batting champ: In 4 years in Japan, Nishi hit .300, .300, .260, .346. I'll be honest, I can't really judge his swing cause its just too Japanese (which is why I'm scared of it being combined with Joe Vavra). For all I know, he's really close to being on the ball. With this kind of track record, one would have to say that he can turn it around at any point.
II. Confidence: I"m worried about his self belief now. However, what would happen when he get's demoted. For all we know, that could send him into an even worse tailspin of disbelief where he never really finds it (like that pitcher for the Yankees who gets millions to sit on a bench in double A). The Twins still have years of contract left with him and the last thing they want to do is screw this up in the longrun with something like that.
2. There's nobody really to call up
I. Let's see what we got for minor league middle infielders (that haven't been called up). You got Toby Gardenhire hitting .252, an OBP below 300 and about as much power as you would expect from Gardy's kid ie none. You got Steve Singleton, who's worse but with silghtly more power if you really care about the power difference between Jason Tyner and Nick Punto (who I would love to have back right now). And thats about it. With a glut of outfielders, I really don't know who comes up in Nishioka's stead. If you want to drop down to AA, Brian Dozier has the highest OPS at .821 for middle infelders but let's face it, that doesn't really shout immediate call up. What we really want right now is JJ Hardy back.
3. Do you really want to mess with the roster that much?
I. We're heading into a tough stretch: Now this might actually be cause to send Nishi down depending upon how cynical you are but our upcoming series list is kind of a horror story: 3 with LAA, a reprieve of 3 with the Sux, and then unmitigated horror: 3 Boston, 3 Cleveland, 3 Detroit, 4 New York. That sounds really bad and the Twins could (and probably will) lose the division in that time (though if they somehow manage to stay level or actually gain, one would have to be confident.) That doesn't really sound like time for experimentation to me.
So, you all tell me. Should we send Nishi down? I personally say no. With only 1 month of minors left, I don't think he has time to make the changes the Twins want and then get back to the team. He already spent 24 games down there and that hasn't helped him back here. He needs to adjust to major pitching and the solution to me is facing his fears. With no real improvements in the minors anyway, the worst you get is what it already is: absolute crap.