Saturday, May 06, 2006

What's Wrong with Ron-Ron?

The Twins have gotten some pretty poor offensive performances from a number of players up to this point, but at least the majority of those players have provided some type of value. Torii Hunter and Justin Mendoza have both seen their batting averages fluctuate around the .200 mark, but they have been run-producers, leading the team in home runs and RBIs. Joe Mauer has lacked power but has gotten aboard steadily and shown great patience at the plate. Juan Castro hasn't hit much but has provided steady (if unspectacular) defense at shortstop.

And then there is Rondell White. There is nothing good to be said about White's performance thus far. As designated hitter, his sole value to the team is offensive production, and he has provided almost none over the first month-plus of the season. With a line of .149/.157/.172, White has delivered just two extra-base hits in 101 plate appearances, while striking out 22 times and failing to draw a single walk. White has been pull-happy and has been far too anxious in the box, constantly swinging early in the count and falling behind. He has looked like anything but the veteran presence in the lineup that Terry Ryan was looking for when he signed White in the offseason.

With all that said, for some reason I find it difficult to get mad at Rondell. I'm not sure why this is; he is certainly as deserving of harsh criticism as any player in the league. Still, I won't endorse booing him when he steps to the plate and I don't find myself frustrated when I see his name in the lineup before a game, even if it's in the middle of the order. I'm not sure why I'm so inclined to go easy on White, while I'm perfectly apt to show my disgust with guys like Hunter and Mendoza. Maybe this is because White is, by all accounts, a genuinely good guy and a strong clubhouse presence. Maybe it's because I was such a huge proponent of his signing and I am not ready to admit that I was just horribly wrong.

White's sudden drop-off is fairly inexplicable. He didn't switch leagues. Heck, he didn't even switch divisions. It's not like he's facing pitchers he's never seen before. I not willing to buy as an excuse the fact that he switched from playing the field regularly to full-time designated hitter. I'm sorry, but there's no way that being able to sit on the bench and prepare for your next time up between every at-bat should adversely affect your ability to hit.

Whatever the reason for White's despicable play thus far, he's going to need to figure it out and get it turned around, because the patience of even his most avid supporters is growing increasingly thin.

---

And now, some notes on last night's 9-6 loss to Detroit.

* Tigers starter Kenny Rogers entered last night's game with a 2.87 career ERA in 47 games against the Twins. Considering the pathetic shutout at the hands of the hapless Royals the previous night, I didn't hold out much hope for the Twins hitters against The Gambler. Much to my surprise, they were all over Rogers last night, tagging him for 5 earned runs on 8 hits in 5 innings. Give some credit to Ron Gardenhire, who sat lefties Joe Mauer and Justin Mendoza against the crafty southpaw. Their replacements, Mike Redmond and Michael Cuddyer, combined to for 4-for-5 with two doubles against Rogers.

* It's a shame that the Twins couldn't show the same type of competence against the back end of the Tigers bullpen. Flamethrower Joel Zumaya and setup man Fernando Rodney made the Twins' hitters look absolutely foolish, combining to strike out five of the six men they faced.

* I haven't exactly been supportive of Cuddyer over the past year, but even I am a little baffled by the way Gardenhire and the Twins are handling him right now. Here is a guy who the Twins went out of their way to give opportunities for several years despite incredibly slow starts, and now that he's having the best April of his career, Gardy seems hesitant to play him and even when he does he sticks him at the bottom of the order while letting Lew Ford hit fifth. Cuddyer had a great game last night (and it was even against a good pitcher, SBG!) while Ford went 0-for-4 with a strikeout to drop his average on the season to .211. I still like Ford better as the regular right fielder for the time being -- mainly because of his defense and superior plate approach -- but Cuddy should be starting at first base every time the Twins face a left-handed pitcher and he should also get some action in right field and spelling Shannon Stewart in left.

* It seems the newfound patience of the Twins hitters carried over from the previous night. On Thursday, the Twins drew six walks against Royals starter Jeremy Affeldt. Last night, they drew a couple walks against Rogers and also worked deep into the count on a number of occasions. Judging by the results, it looks like it payed off.

* Kyle Lohse, once again, was awful last night. Lohse's stat line (4 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3 HR) does not even fully portray just how bad his outing was. Aside from the three gopherballs, the Tigers batters hit several deep line drives to center and right that Torii Hunter and Ford had to retreat to catch. Lohse was absolutely tattooed all night long. I have to wonder whether his spot in the rotation might be in jeopardy at this point. He has been terrible against every decent lineup he's faced this year, with the exception of one solid outing against the Athletics in his second start of the season. While he hasn't really fared worse than Brad Radke or Carlos Silva overall, I somehow doubt Gardy has the gall to take either of those two out of the rotation. Lohse, on the other hand, has had his issues with Gardenhire, and unlike Radke and Silva, he actually has decent enough stuff to lead one to believe he could possibly have some success in the bullpen.

5 comments:

TheBentKangaroo said...

I never thought about Lohse in the bullpen, but that could work. Actually, I'd've fired him two years ago. I can't stand players who sulk after bad games. Even though Radke's a headcase, he doesn't hole himself up after a bad outing, or sit with his head to the concrete the rest of the night.

SBG said...

The thing that gets to me about White is zero walks in over 100 plate appearances.

I went and looked and he's got the same exact career isolated discipline as Hunter. In other words, he's a career hacker.

Nick N. said...

Yes, but a better hacker than Hunter, as evidenced by White's .805 career OPS.

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