Sunday, July 10, 2005

Bumming Around

Following my associate's suggestion, I read the MPR blog, "The Bleacher Bums," to see what they had to say. Essentially, they are in complete agreement with things with brought up in the past, but with examples from years ago. Its important to remember that Scott Ulger has been the hitting coach since 1998 and that, as they point, had only a year of major league experience, in which he hit a Guzman-esque .190. So, looking at guys like Guzman, Rivas, Hunter, and others who have come up in the tend, a disturbing trend is seen: A complete lack of strike zone mastery. To anyone who watches the games, this is a little obvious, but seeing the stats makes it far worse. Since coming up, guys from Hunter to Guzman have not improved their strike zone judgement at all. What the site shows are a ratio of strikeouts per walks that border on ridiculous. Its true that it may not be Ulger's fault that these guys are essentially free-swingers, but that really doesn't matter. The need for a fresh-face is immediate because they don't respond to Ulger regardless, even if he gives good advice. Its essentially the same logic used when firing Flip Saunders last year (although that didn't really help, but besides the point). Changes are neccessary beyond getting a big bat in the line-up, but its far more important to get our new hitters (Mauer, Morneau, etc) to develop good strike zone judgement. Mauer has that in a way, but he still needs guidnace and molding just like any other major league player. Like Luis Rivas, despite his game last night, I wonder all the time how Ulger still has a job in the majors when he is clearly doing an awful job.

Also, Patrick Reusse (who does a radio show and writes in the Star Tribune) made some interesting points in an article today, suggesting the Twins are lucky to have the record they have now. Basically, what Reusse says is that the Twins plan from the beginning was faulty and has failed and its pathetic to hear the congratualatory messages from Gardenhire and others. I agree about the clubhouse humor thing. These guys need to get serious and win ball games. Yes, chemistry is important, but that doesn't matter much if you don't win games. And its interesting to see the argument about the Twins plan for the year. Its true that Mauer and Morneau havent been quite the run producers they've been touted to be, but then again, we can go right back to the top paragraph and look at the coaches. Mauer is catching up and doing fine for now and of course, he can improve, while Morneau really needs the help in learning the strike zone because of his nature as a power hitter. He needs to learn to take certain pitches and wait for something he can drive or he just ends up flailing pathetically at bad pitches. It is also true that our outfield hasn't quite lead the team to victory. Hunter has been what you'd expect from him and, yes, if he learned better strike zone judgement, he could be a perennial .275-30-100 player, but his production isn't terrible either. Its Jones who has fallen into bad habits, right back to his problems with the strike zone. After starting so promising and drawing lots of walks in April, Jones has been pretty terrible, hitting .261 with 10 HRs and 41 RBIs. The Twins really do need a lot more from. Stewart doesn't neccessarly need the coaching because he's a good hitter to begin with. I do completely agree, though, that Lew Ford and Matthew LeCroy have not worked out at all as DHs. LeCroy, as people have read on this blog often, cannot hit right-handers worth a damn. (There is another coaching situation, but I dont know that LeCroy is really worth the effort) After a productive rookie year, Ford has hit only .273 with 4 HRs and 34 RBIs. Thats just not enough.

However, Reusse's larger argument is that the injury situation is overblown and that the Twins have essentially had their starting 25 most of the year. 83 of the 86 starts have been made by the projected rotation. The infield situation is overstated because Cuddyer was never that valuable and the others who have gone down were from Triple-A. However, that's easy to disagree with since that hurts our depth, but I see his point. Cuddyer isn't that productive, Rivas didn't deserve his starting job anyways (we already knew that), and Punto, though important, was overblown because he almost didn't make the team out of spring training. The Twins may just need to wait for their next generation of hitters to come up, and hopefully by then, they've realized its time to get rid of Ulger.