Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Kaboom

The Twins offense has been anemic at times this year, bringing back painful memories of a club that last year scored the fewest runs in the American League. However, on occasion, there have been outstanding performances that give a glimmer of hope that maybe, with good pitching, this offense will be good enough to win a lot of ballgames. Last night's game was one such occasion.

The Twins batted around against Rangers starter Kevin Millwood in the first inning, putting up six runs, and continued to pound the Texas pitching staff for the entire game. The Twins hitters were 11-for-15 in scoring opportunities. Last week, after the Twins' 6-1 victory over the Royals (a game in which the Twins scored six runs in two innings but had only one hit outside of that stretch), I made the following plea:
Some day it would be nice to just see them come out and hit the ball hard consistently all game long, without these long stretches of 1-2-3 innings. Is that so much to ask?
Apparently not. The Twins scored 10 runs in the first three innings of last night's game and another five in the last three innings, finishing with 15 runs on 19 hits. Now, a flurry of notes on some great offensive performances:

* Michael Cuddyer is on an absolute tear. Cuddy went 3-for-5 with three doubles, 2 RBIs and a walk, raising his OPS on the season to 1.054. How long can he keep this up? Who knows, but it does appear that Cuddyer is finally figuring it out at the plate. He is now on a 10-game hitting streak.

* Likewise, Torii Hunter continued his torrid hot streak. Hunter, who was hitting below .200 just a week ago, collected three hits and now sports a respectable line of .266/.321/.476. Hunter and Cuddyer have looked great hitting fourth and fifth, and as a result the Twins offense has taken off, scoring 4+ runs in seven of their last eight games. See what happens when you get a little production out of the middle of your lineup? The one disconcerting thing about all this is that both Hunter and Cuddyer have a history of being slump-prone players, and the thought of them both falling into a rut would mean another long run of incompetence for this offense. Here's hoping that even when they cool off, both can at least keep collecting extra-base hits and driving in runs at a reasonable rate.

* Luis Rodriguez started at third base in place of Tony Batista and batted leadoff in front of Luis Castillo. Elrod ignited the Twins' first inning six-run rally with a single to lead off the game and ended up collecting a pair of hits and a walk in the game. In today's Star Tribune, Ron Gardenhire said the following about the decision to start Rodriguez over Batista:
"With [Carlos] Silva throwing sinkers, we're trying to get a little more movement in the infield, especially on the left side," Gardenhire said. "I know Luis moves around a little better than Batista side-to-side, and he always seems to throw out better at-bats, too."
So, let me get this straight. Gardy will readily admit that Rodriguez plays better defense than Batista and has better at-bats. If he recognizes these facts, then why on Earth would he continue to start Batista at third? Is it Batista's superior power? No, that can't be. Elrod currently has just one fewer homer in 70 fewer at-bats and has a 50-point advantage over T-Bat in slugging percentage.

I supported the Batista signing in the offseason to some degree, sort of a "let's see what he can do" sort of thing. Batista got off to a decent start, but now, with 100 at-bats under his belt, I think we can plainly see that he's just not going to give us much offensively. He's not striking out a ton and his walk rate has been up a bit, but he's still been making a lot of outs and his advertised home run power has been absent for an entire month. On top of that, he is a horrible defender. Let's give Elrod a string of starts at third base and see what the kid can do.

* In the same Star Tribune article, it is mentioned that Scott Bakers scheduled Friday start will be bumped back, meaning Johan Santana, Brad Radke, and Carlos Silva will face the Chicago White Sox this weekend and Baker will pitch the finale of the four-game series on Monday. The interesting thing about this is that it pushes Kyle Lohse's next start back, and every indication is that if Lohse struggles today he will lose his spot in the rotation to Francisco Liriano, who would start Tuesday. This is very good news. It is becoming increasingly clear the Lohse can't get it done right now, and Liriano would be a massive upgrade in the rotation.

* Speaking of Silva, he continued to stink last night. His poor performance was overshadowed by the Twins' offensive explosion, but the fact remains that allowing five runs (four earned) and 11 hits over six innings, including back-to-back home runs, is not a good performance. Getting Lohse out of the rotation would be a good start, but eventually something is going to have to be done about Silva, who has shown no signs of improvement and has apparently lost his ability to do the things that gave him success last year. Last night, Silva had a 9:13 groundball-to-fly ball ratio, which means his pitches still are not doing what he wants them to. I guess that he's still not "fixed" yet after all.

* Justin Morneau has finally shaken the Mendoza nickname, as he went 3-for-5 with a pair of home runs (including one against left-hander C.J. Wilson) to raise his average to .224.

* On another note, congratulations to Matt LeCroy, who hit his first home run of the season for the Nationals last night in a 7-1 victory over the Reds. LeCroy is hitting a solid .281/.343/.469 in 32 at-bats this year.

Lohse versus Vicente Padilla, today, 1:05. Will it be Lohse's last outing in the Twins' starting rotation? We'll see.



11 comments:

SBG said...

It's a good point that Silva had a poor performance again. I was thinking that, too. It's hard to say how much of that was bad pitching and how much was I've got a ten run lead, but he didn't exactly pitch a good game.

Anonymous said...

You failed to mention that Justin Morneau had 6 (!) RBIs last night and finally got a walk somewhere in there. Not saying this is how he is always going to perform, but that little one-liner you wrote, doesn't quite do his performance justice. You went on and on about everyone else, and I just think that you underplayed his performance a little.......

Nick M. said...

I think the big thing about Justin was his second homer. The one against Millwood wasn't as impressive, simply cause he pulled an outside fastball. What I liked about the second one was one, it was against a lefty, two, it seemed effortless, and three, and he went the opposite field with it. Those are things Morneau was doing in 2004 when he came up. He was stroking homers to the opposite field effortlessly. If he is ever going to put it together, he'll keep swinging the way he did last night.

Jeff A said...

I don't know why else you would change the rotation other than to replace Lohse with Liriano. If Baker's throwing Monday, the same four pitchers will throw against the White Sox, just in a different order. While I don't expect Liriano to be instant Johan--he'll probably be up and down, like most rookie pitchers are--this is still a very good sign.

Nick M. said...

Agreed. I mean, honestly, there is no way he can do worse then Lohse. What we know after Lohse's few starts this year is he has nothing in the tank. Liriano has the stuff--the fastball, the slider, the change--to be successful. Lets hope we can salvage something out of Lohse in the pen.

SocialLiberalFiscalConservative said...

"the same four pitchers will throw against the White Sox"
--By changing the rotation, it will be Santana, Radke, Silva, Lohse rather than Baker, Santana, Radke, Silva. Those aren't the same four pitchers.

Nick N. said...

By changing the rotation, it will be Santana, Radke, Silva, Lohse rather than Baker, Santana, Radke, Silva. Those aren't the same four pitchers.

Not true, actually. Baker's start isn't removed from the rotation, but instead pushed back to Monday which pushes Lohse back to Tuesday, meaning Kyle will not pitch in the White Sox series.

p2 said...

At what point do the Twins pull Radke from the rotation?

Nick N. said...

I doubt they pull Radke from the rotation unless he goes on the DL. They are extremely loyal to him and remain adamant that he's going to figure out whatever is wrong. I am starting to think he might go on the DL though... I have a nagging feeling that the shoulder injury that affected him late last year might still be an issue.

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