Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Twins = ?!
As we see August baseball being played, the biggest surprise in the league, to me, is the Minnesota Twins. They are one game back of the ChiSox for first place in the AL Central, which is a joke. The Twins are a bad team with a bad roster. On paper, you look at them, and it just makes no sense that they are where they are in the standings. The AL Central is admittedly weaker than it has been in recent years. The Indians have been ravaged by injury, and the Royals are, surprise, still the Royals. The Tigers stumbled out of the gates and their staff continues to prevent them from making the Central a three team race. The Sox are also a bit of a surprise because of the universally unpredicted emergence of Dankyasshole and Floyd entering the season. They also throw the best dong parties in the AL; their lineup has some serious power. The Twins though. I mean. I really was just looking at the standings in the MLB and was just stunned that they are not AT LEAST worse than the Tigers. I felt it was worth a post, but after really examining their roster, I still think they are terrible. The majority of articles I see regarding the Twins more or less read as a diatribe of immense confusion. I agree, it is VERY confusing. It is very, very confusing that this team is 1 game back in the Central this late in the season. It's not like they are playing in the NL West where .500 gets you in the race, they are 11 games above .500 on August 6th! They were supposed to be bottom dwellers in the Central entering the season, and they were entirely written off. I thought they would suck horribly. Their roster is top to bottom pretty much a joke and is with very few exceptions. And yet, I repeat, they are 11 games above .500 and 1 game back in the AL Central.
Batting: Firstly, if you just read off the names of this lineup without looking at the stats, it is downright laughable. Denard Span, Brendan Harris, Nick Punto; the average baseball fan would probably recognize two names on this lineup: Morneau and Mauer. I'm sorry Delmon, if you can learn to get extra base hits, maybe you will make that short list sometime. Their lineup reads like a joke, but somehow they are not playing quite the part. The Twins have just two hitters in their lineup with double digit home runs in Morneau and Kubel, with 18 and 16, respectively. Craig Monroe, who was their third leading donger with 8 (nobody even has 9...come on...), was just released. To say they have little power in their lineup would be a gross and egregious understatement. However, the Twinkies have a team batting average of .278, good for third in the AL. This is, in fact, the only standard batting statistic by which they are in the upper level in among the AL. They do not hit a ton of doubles, they do not steal a lot of bases, they are very average at talking walks and striking out, and their team OBP ranks right in the middle of the AL also. There is just one stat that explains why they have scored the 5th most runs in the league; hitting with runners in scoring position.
The following are averages when hitting with RISP / Averages hitting with 2 out and RISP: Mauer .356/.370, Morneau .378/.370, Casilla (was) .322/.294, Buscher .400/.357, Span .308/.231, Young .298/,216, Punto .353/.385, Kubel .264/.250, Harris .270/.250, Cuddy .357/.250, Gomez .318/.316, Lamb .368/.308.
That is worth looking at again. Ok. Now. These guys are hitting INSANE OUT OF THEIR MINDS with runners in scoring position. This club cannot, for obvious reasons, rely on any dong festivals to win games for them. But, they have proven to be very good at stringing together hits and rallies of singles with the occasional (lets not get greedy here) double. Situational hitting. This is Twins baseball after all. I mean, when Mike Lamb hits .236 on the season but is batting .368 with runners in scoring position, that is just flat out ridiculous. Mike Lamb SUCKS. Carlos Gomez bats .259 but hits 60 points better with RISP...JOKE. Cuddyer bats .252 but hits 100 points better with RISP...WTF?!?!?! Is this sustainable? Absolutely not. As a team, they have got to regress at some point. Right? Errr. Well it is August, the season is almost over, and they have not regressed as a club really at all to date. Maybe it is sustainable, perhaps. I am, however, still stunned and in a state of disbelief. This team's offensive production just astonishes me and I still cannot believe as I read over their rostered batters how they are NOT one of the worst offensive teams in the entire MLB in each and every offensive category. Nearly every single guy on this club is batting at an insane clip with RISP and wayyyy over their heads. But, this is the ONLY explanation for the Twins ability to score runs so far this season. That's the best I can come up with.
Starting Pitching: Anomaly number two. Livan Hernandez and his 5.48 era was the only pitcher on the Twins staff to have tallied double digit wins. Now that he is gone, they can now boast that they have 0 starters with 10+ wins on August 6th. And they are, repeat, 11 games over .500. Their staff is: Slowey, Blackburn, Baker, Perkins, and Liriano (in no particular order, because it is basically impossible to do so). Liriano is not even close to the same pitcher he was back in '06. Not even close, there is no way he will ever be an ace of any staff with his velocity where it is right now. I don't want to hear it. The Twins have for some time been one of the best organizations in developing starting pitching talent in their minor league system. But as their staff stands today, I do not see any one pitcher as a stud. But let's start with the good. I do really like Scott Baker. He has really developed into a very nice pitcher, who seems to have exceeded expectations. He looks like he is turning into a pretty solid #2 starter who is capable of eating up innings and throwing quality starts with consistency. Slowey (4.21 era 102 ip 72k) is just a league average strike thrower, as far as I'm concerned. He is a #3/#4 starter. Blackburn has a 3.56 era but not the peripherals to match. He has a .281 batting average against, which is a joke, he averages about 4.5 K per 9 ip, and his era should be closer to a 4.56. He should be a back of the rotation starter. Glen Perkins BAA is .302 (!!!) and his already kinda bad 4.38 era is not sustainable at all as he has a 1.47 whip and poor K numbers to boot. I am unconvinced he can stick as a starter in the AL. Livan Hernandez started 23 games for this club before recently being placed on waivers and has a 5.83 era, and is Livan Hernandez. Nothing further needs to be said about that. Boof Bonser started 12 games for this club, and his era is 6.53. He has regressed significantly since his promising '06 debut.
And yet, despite this pounding I just took on virtually their entire staff, their starting pitching era is 4.56 and 9th in the AL. At least they aren't last. Bad, but not horrible. But, bad enough that they should not 1 game back in a divisional race.
Bullpen: Nathan is and has been for several years one of the best closers in the game. This year is no different (1.17 era) and he has been great for them. Dannys Reyes has a 2.73 era but has only thrown 30 innings this year and is their situational lefty, so they don't get TOO much out of his flashy era even though he is one of the best lefty specialists in the game. Jesse Crain has a 3.45 era. They have nobody else with a sub-4 era in their bullpen. As a result they are 10th in the AL in bullpen era. And if you take Nathan and his 46 ip of 1.17 ball, it looks much worse. So, very good closer, not a very good bullpen. And I reiterate..wtf.
Fielding: I mean, I'm grasping at straws here. No, they are not a good fielding team, in case you were wondering. 10th out of 15 in the AL. It was worth a shot to check, I guess.
SOOOooooooooooooo.... ok Twins. RISP. That's all you got, by my estimation. Slightly below league average pitching. Terrible power. Below league average bullpen. Below league average defense. 1 game back in the AL Central. I mean, I guess they are fun to root for? I don't know. Denard Span? REALLY? Nick Punto? STILL??? Writing this article is making me lose faith in the game of baseball. GMen preseason game 1 tomorrow night. Thank god.