Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mauer Posts a Career Night

Perhaps the Twins should consider keeping the Metrodome around after all. If not for the obvious advantage the players carry by knowing the ins and outs of the ballpark, then maybe for the recent surge there. The Twins, after last night's victory over the Dodgers, have won eight straight at home. The last time that happened for this franchise, in 1924, the team name was the Washington Senators.

Eight might not sound like a whole lot, but it's a clear indication of how well things have gone for the Twins recently. It was a night of breaking personal records for an individual Twin as well. Joe Mauer, who had been a little quiet over the last week, hitting only .222 with a .555 OPS, broke out and went 4-for-5 with a career-high five RBI. He nearly hit for the cycle, collecting two singles, a double, and a triple (the hardest one), but missed a home run.

It's not something I want to read too much into, but Joe is now hitting .377/.444/.524, clearly phenomonal numbers. All he's missing, just as with last night, is the home runs. Most notably, all but one of his five home runs have come with the bases empty. And even with all of his gaudy numbers, Joe only has 36 RBI, despite the fact that he has been hitting for the most part behind speedy guys who get on base at a solid clip. Partially, it's just a matter of luck. However, it can also be explained by the fact that while he's a great hitter with runners on (.393/.489/.505), he hasn't hit for much power with runners in scoring position (.294/.443/.392). At this point, it feels like the most cynical would see only a singles hitter in the future.

That's not quite what I see. I think a good comp is Mark Grace or even Paul Molitor, his fellow Cretin alum. Mauer probably won't have all the hits (3319), stolen bases (504), or runs (1782) that Molitor racked up in his illustrious career, but he can certainly be a consistent high-average hitter with lots of doubles, some triples, some good power seasons, and plenty of stolen bases for his position. Mauer may still surprise us with power, but I think at this point, it's more important to get the kind of hits he had tonight with runners in scoring position -- doubles and triples down the line and into the gaps.

Other than Mauer, Michael Cuddyer continued to produce last night out of the cleanup spot. He hasn't been amazing with runners in scoring position (.231/.365/.442) but he continues to get a run-scoring hit on seemingly a nightly basis and he's drawing walks (two last night on his 2-for-3 night, bringing in two runs along the way).

After reading the Jim Souhan article on Torii Hunter staying or leaving and continuing to witness Hunter's issues, part of me thinks we are better off just using that money to give extensions to the productive young hitters like Cuddyer, Mauer, and Justin Morneau and invest in the future. As I said in the offseason, the moves the Indians made with their young stars like Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore set a precedent that the Twins should look to follow. Simply put, it's best to focus on the young talented stars.

As for pitching last night, Carlos Silva did have a fine start. He wasn't spectacular, but he was the Silva we got used to last year. Lots of innings (eight), not that many pitches (only 97), no walks, a few Ks (three), and he even limited the hits (six) for a sinkerballer. It was a good outing, continuing an impressive string for Carlos, who struggled mightily over the first couple months of the season. With that said, Silva continued an odd trend of getting more outs through the air (15) than on the ground (six). Tonight he was probably a little lucky, but if that trend continues thing could get worse.

Tonight, things get even more exciting. Hopefully the Twins can keep their winning streak up as a pitching duel is set up with Fransisco Liriano and Derek Lowe taking the mound.

9 comments:

John said...

It is too early to know how Mauer's power will develop, but his 45 double pace is a very good sign for such a young hitter.

I suspect that over the years, many of those doubles will turn into home runs.

He has four years before he even hits his prime. That is a scary thought.

Nick M. said...

That's true, but I think part of my point is yes some of those will turn to home runs. But they did for his comparables I gave too. Molitor had some decent HR seasons (career high of 22) and had over 200 for his career. Mark Grace had a few decent power seasons as well, most specifically 1995. Now, I don't mean to say that is his ceiling, but if he had a career anything near Molitor's that would be wonderful. At his best, Mauer has 25-30 HR potential and 50-55 doubles could happen for him too.

SDfan said...

One thing I've noticed with Joe is that he doesn't seem to be particularly anxious with men in scoring position. If the pitcher doesn't give him something good to swing at, he won't. Some hitters fancy themselves as "run-producers", and get a little over-eager at the plate in those situations. Joe seems just as cool and relaxed then as with the bases empty.

Now that I think about it, that's a distinct lack of urgency on his part. Maybe a stint in Rochester would help . . .

Greg said...

Also, mauer doesn't seem to be a vocal leader in the infield, which, as we know well, is important. It is clearly time to send him down. Maybe we could get Blanco back. He can't hit, but he has all those intangibles the twins management seems to like so much.

MNPundit said...

I believe it's wishful thinking that Mauer will experience a strong power upgrade in the future. It's not too much to expect between 10-15 HR a season for him as he matures but he's a doubles hitter who gets on base a lot.

There's nothing wrong with that, not with Morneau and Kubel behind him.

As for Torii well... once again who the hell could we replace him with? I mean I certainly see his deficiencies, but all we've got are poor options--look at the minor league system, there is nothing in there that inspires confidence or even competence at the major league level.

Nick N. said...

Yeah I'd love to deal Hunter but there just aren't many options to replace him in center field. Lew Ford would have been a good option a few years ago but he just doesn't have much offensively anymore. Denard Span has been unimpressive in Double-A, hitting .287/.338/.337. At this point, Jason Tyner, who is hitting .318/.374/.386 in Triple-A, looks like the best option but clearly he would be a short-term fix.

bob2 said...

Also, we need someone around to punch little Nicky out when things are going badly.

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