Friday, April 27, 2007

Battle of Ineptitude

By the time Mike Redmond drove a single to right-center field in the bottom of the 11th inning yesterday afternoon to break a scoreless tie and push the Twins to their first victory in five games, most Twins fans were probably frustrated enough already that a narrow victory was of little consolation. The Twins had put together another feeble performance against an unspectacular starting pitcher in Zack Greinke (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 1 K) and had been shut down for three innings by the Royals' bullpen before finally stringing together three straight singles against Todd Wellemyer in the 11th to bring home Justin Morneau with the winning run. Fortunately, the 1-0 victory was made possible by an excellent combined performance by the Twins' pitching staff, which kept the Royals off the board long enough for the astoundingly inept offense to produce a run.

Boof Bonser got the job done by allowing no runs and striking out eight over five innings of work. However, Bonser's lack of control in the game was rather perturbing; he issued seven walks and threw just 58 of his 108 pitches for strikes. Bonser has now issued 16 walks over 25 2/3 innings this year, which could be a bad sign. As a minor-leaguer, Bonser frequently struggled with his control, which was one of the main reasons he was never really viewed as an elite prospect. Over 885 2/3 innings in the minors, Bonser walked 398 batters -- a 4.05 BB/9 ratio. Then, when he came up to the majors last year, Bonser showed greatly improved control, walking just 24 batters in 100 1/3 innings of work. That was good for a 2.15 BB/9 ratio that was better than any he had posted at any level of the minor leagues, indicating that perhaps the "Rick Anderson Effect" had benefited him. Largely as a result of his ability to throw strikes, Bonser was a very solid pitcher for the Twins down the stretch. Now, after his outing yesterday, Bonser holds an unsightly 5.60 BB/9 ratio this season. Because of this, it is no surprise that, despite the fact that he's held opposing hitters to a .245 batting average, his ERA is still over 5 and his WHIP is a high 1.60. Simply put, Bonser needs to get back to where he was last year in terms of throwing the ball in the strike zone if he wants to be a consistently effective pitcher.

Fortunately, Bonser was able to work out of the jams that his walks created yesterday, and the bullpen was lights-out. Glen Perkins, Matt Guerrier, Joe Nathan and Juan Rincon combined to pitch six scoreless innings while allowing just two hits.

As horrifying as the Twins' offense was to watch in the late innings of the game, the scariest moment undoubtedly came in the second when Torii Hunter was hit in the face by a Zack Greinke fastball. Hunter's immediate reaction was anger, and indeed he took a few steps out toward the mound, but he quickly staggered and fell to the ground in pain. He was taken to the hospital where he received three stitches for a laceration on the inside of his lip, and he later returned to the Dome. He's being listed as day-to-day. From watching the play, it initially looked like it could have been a lot worse; Hunter is lucky the pitch didn't break his jaw. The Twins are lucky too -- he's really the only guy in the lineup that's been producing over the past week.

The rest of the Twins' lineup looked much the same as they have for the previous four games: awful. The top three hitters in the lineup -- Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto and Joe Mauer -- combined to draw four walks but also went hitless in 11 at-bats. Jason Kubel, who went 2-for-4 and continues to hit the ball hard almost every time up, provided the team's only extra-base hit when he doubled in the ninth but was stranded when Jason Bartlett struck out in the next at-bat.

Even though the Twins ended up winning, it's tough to put a positive spin on this game. They wound up scoring just four runs over 20 innings in this two-game series against the Royals' weak pitching staff, and now they'll be heading to Detroit to face Nate Robertson, Justin Verlander and Mike Maroth in a three-game series. It could be a brutal weekend, especially if Hunter is not in the lineup.

11 comments:

Bruce said...

With White gone for ??? who knows how long, it is time for Kubel to be in the line up every day, either in the outfield or as DH. I also think it is time he gets moved up in the batting order and time for Punto to be moved down. This should help a liitle with offense.

Nick M. said...

If Punto gets moved down, it should be so that Bartlett can be moved up. I think Bartlett would make a fine #2 hitter (I even said he'd do fine at leadoff) after Casilla. Maybe this way Tyner can bat ninth, where his bat ultimately belongs if it must be in the lineup.

Nick N. said...

I think replacing Punto with Barlett at the No. 2 spot would make a negligible difference. The idea of Kubel batting second is intriguing though.

Ray Felix, III said...

Punto is an automatic out at this point. I don't think he will be this way for the rest of the season, but we need to get baserunners on in front of Mauer and co. Count me in favor of Bartlett in the 2-hole.

8-Punto
9-Tyner
1-Casilla/Castillo
2-Bartlett

It ain't pretty but there's an outside chance of stringing some hits together in front of the "meat" of our lineup.

Ray Felix, III said...

... Instead Punto hits leadoff tonight. It would be frustrating if it weren't so predictable.

Nick N. said...

Punto is an automatic out at this point. I don't think he will be this way for the rest of the season, but we need to get baserunners on in front of Mauer and co. Count me in favor of Bartlett in the 2-hole.

Nick Punto, last 7 days: .259 BA, .725 OPS.

Jason Bartlett, last 7 days: .263 BA, .649 OPS.

Just some food for thought.

Ray Felix, III said...

If you go back a little further to the last 2 weeks:

Bartlett .325 BA, .761 OPS
Punto .229 BA, .622 OPS

It's all in how you look at it

Nick N. said...

I suppose so. I guess my point is that ever since Punto returned to the lineup after missing some time with a sprained ankle, he has been pretty decent at the plate. Bartlett hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire lately, and is only hitting .222 overall. I really don't think there's a whole lot of difference between Punto and Bartlett at this point, which is why I say that replacing Punto with Bartlett in the 2-hole would make a negligible difference.

Beth said...

"Fortunately, the 1-0 victory was made possible by an excellent combined performance by the Twins' pitching staff, which kept the Royals off the board long enough for the astoundingly inept offense to produce a run."

As you later mentioned that Boof's performance was not overly stellar, I prefer to think that inept hitting of the Royals and Twins resulted in the 0-1 score. It was just a matter of figuring out which team would actually get a *hit* with runners in scoring position. As it turned out, it was the Twins. But the Royals had opportunities, too, which they did not capitalize on.

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