Friday, April 20, 2007

Sweet Seattle Sweep

There was a time in which Johan Santana would have a slow April, walking a few too many batters, giving up a few too many hits, and not racking up strikeouts. However, this April continues to be a different story altogether. After last night's win, Santana has struck out 32 while walking only seven and has given up only 18 hits in 27 April innings. That amounts to a 0.93 WHIP and a .186 opponent batting average. Quite good numbers, considering recent April numbers for Santana.

Last night, Santana picked up his third win of the year, going seven innings against the Mariners while striking out seven, giving up four hits, walking one, and giving up two runs, with one unearned due to a Jason Bartlett throwing error. There are few better signs for the possibilities of the Twins season than having Santana start off well. No one will forget his post-All Star break runs anytime soon and Santana could be well on his way to a career year, if anyone can even imagine what that will look like.

However, the one thing that will remain in the way is the inconsistent offense. Last night, the Twins scored five of their six runs in the seventh inning, with their other run coming on a Jason Tyner RBI single in the second. While the seventh included many nice RBI hits, including Michael Cuddyer's two-run double that put the Twins ahead for good, it also exposed lineup issues.

Josh Rabe nearly ended the scoring with a double-play ball that was botched by Yuniesky Betancourt. Rabe is not much of a hitter, with little power (contrary to claims by Bert) or patience, and he certainly showed himself to be a hole in the lineup. And even though Mike Redmond went 2-for-5 with two RBI, it is slightly nerving when Redmond is in the sixth spot as "protection" for the MVP. Obviously, Torii Hunter's injury, as well as Rondell White's, has played into this, but there still isn't that much of an excuse for such limited depth. Redmond isn't a middle-of-the-order hitter and Rabe isn't a qualified major leaguer, so here is to hoping Hunter returns very soon.

However, just as Nick Punto returned last night to shore up the Twins' infield depth, Luis Castillo hurt himself in yesterday's game as he ran the bases on his fifth inning double. After the game, it was reported that he had a strained right quadriceps. No doubt that Twins fans are hoping Castillo doesn't go on the disabled list, but a trip seems likely at this point. I have to wonder, with Castillo out, if Ron Gardenhire will end his annoying habit of making the lineup more according to position than skills. Alexi Casilla is a talented player, but he isn't ready to bat leadoff.

At this point, I would actually be in favor putting Jason Bartlett in front of Nick Punto at the top of the order. Punto isn't much more patient and he strikes out a lot more. Not to mention, Punto is in a far worse slump. And Tyner does not have the skill-set to bat leadoff either. With injuries in mind, I'd like to see this lineup in tonight's game against the Royals:

Bartlett
Punto
Mauer
Cuddyer
Morneau
Hunter
White/Kubel
Tyner/Kubel
Casilla

White may come off disabled list today and if he does, I have to assume that he'll replace Jason Tyner as a starter. At least the Twins have had the luck so far of playing bad teams while they deal with injury problems. Lets hope that once the Twins face Cleveland and Detroit at the end of the month, they are in a better position health-wise.

On a final note, the Wild sadly lost their series to the Anaheim Ducks. At least they made the playoffs, unlike a certain other Minnesota team who played this winter.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think some combination of Casilla Bartlett 1-2 is better than Bartlett-Punto. Punto has looked awful thus far and 2006 is looking more and more like his career year.

Josh

Nick M. said...

Right, but I am also trying to be realistic. Which is why I refer to Gardy's problems with lineup formation. He won't move Punto out of the second spot, even if he should. I would be fine with Bartlett and Casilla up front, since Casilla has lots of speed.

Corey Ettinger said...

Nick, your argument that Casilla is less patient than Bartlett doesn't hold water.

So far this season Bartlett has taken 3.53 P/PA

Casilla has taken 3.62 P/PA

For their careers its 3.78P/PA for Bartlett and 3.74 for Casilla.

Casilla is significantly faster player that Bartlett, and thats not to take anything away from Jason, but Alexi could be one of the fastest guys in the league.

Castillo BTW is a career 4.01 P/PA and 3.80 this season.

I would agree however that some combination of Jason and Alexi at the top would preferable. Punto shouldn't be in the lineup.

Nick M. said...

Corey, I didn't suggest that Casilla was less patient than Bartlett. If it came off that way, my mistake. I don't think there is a huge difference there in patience. I would only fear putting Casilla up there because if he doesn't do well right away, Gardy will yank him anyways.

And don't worry Corey, I know your not a big fan of Punto. But obviously, I don't want him up front either.

Corey said...

Are you kidding? I love Punto, put him in the four hole!

ubelmann said...

For what it's worth, PECOTA projects Casilla to be a better hitter this year than Bartlett, Punto, and essentially equivalent to Luis Castillo.

Ray Felix, III said...

Didn't Bartlett struggle quite a bit in his first real action batting at the top of the order? (2005, I believe he was hitting in the 2-hole). I think that will probably weigh on Gardy's mind and prevent him from considering this lineup switch.

That probably also was part of the reason Bartlett batted .350 for a significant part of the second half last year - from the 9th spot! He never budged from there, no matter how well he was hitting.

This is all based on my memory of Bartlett's first season, so I could be mistaken, but given Gardy's penchant for keeping hitters in a batting order spot where they've had success it's something to think about.

Nick M. said...

Ray, I can't disagree. I was trying to be realistic and also projecting what I think may be the best choice with the circumstances. Bartlett did struggle in the two spot before. But, I can't see Punto or Tyner doing it and that leaves Bartlett and Casilla. Casilla is more talented overall(as Ubelmann's stats show) and Gardy may put him in the leadoff spot, but I just fear the "Gardy treatment." I want Casilla to have success and that may come more easily in the ninth spot, where he won't get yank around, then the leadoff spot. Just my feeling on the subject.

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