Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Offensive Output Doesn't Help Ortiz

The Twins finally put consecutive big offensive nights together. In their last two games, they've scored 23 runs, including seven in last night's contest. However, they lost to the Indians in that game because they gave up over twice as many runs: 15. Most of the Indians' run-scoring came off of Ramon Ortiz, who had by far his worst start as a Twin, and Jesse Crain, who gave up six unearned runs and now is headed to the DL with shoulder problems.

The ebb and flow of the season for the Twins has not been very kind. They started off the season well enough, with the help of a friendly schedule, but since then the offense has hit a wall, Joe Mauer has gotten hurt, and Sidney Ponson was bad enough to get released. Ortiz's May has been very symbolic of these struggles. In April, Ortiz had a sparkling 2.57 ERA. In May? 16 runs (15 earned) allowed over 11 innings.

The difference is night and day, at least for a normal pitcher. However, with Ortiz, it really isn't much of a surprise. He's spent his career having a few great starts or a great month before being absolutely terrible the next month. Take 2004. That June, he was 2-1 with a 1.16 ERA and a .152 OBA. Then in July he went 0-1 with a 2.92 ERA and a .195 OBA. Very good numbers, but in August, Ortiz had a 5.84 ERA and allowed 50 hits in 37 innings for a .331 OBA. (By the way, if your wondering why I went back to 2004, its because he really didn't have any standout months in 2005 or 2006, as he never had an ERA below 4 in any month during the 2005 and 2006 seasons in which he had more than one start.)

With that, Twins fans shouldn't expect Ortiz to have a drastic turnaround too soon. As LaVelle E. Neal III notes on his blog, "the Washington writers warned me that (Ortiz) will have four good starts and then four awful ones. And tonight’s was awful." That would mean Ortiz's next start, scheduled against the Brewers on Sunday, might not be so great. That seems like a good prediction, considering how good the Brewers offense has been this year. (For those not paying attention, Prince Fielder and J.J. Hardy are tied for the NL lead in home runs with 12 apiece.) Hopefully Ortiz makes some adjustments, but his pitches had awful location during his only inning yesterday and he has looked all-too hittable in his last few starts.

As for Crain, a DL stint bodes badly for the Twins. It leads to a call-up of right-hander Julio DePaula from Triple-A, who holds 3.15 ERA and 10/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 innings. DePaula has been a pretty good pitcher in his minor-league career, but his lack of dominance doesn't exactly predict immediate success at the major-league level. Crain going on the DL also hurts the Twins' chances of making a trade for offense by utilizing one of their right-hander relievers. Furthermore, the fact that Crain's ailment has been described as a "recurring shoulder injury" is always a bad sign. Once shoulder injuries start, for many, they don't end very quickly. Crain isn't an absolutely necessary piece of the bullpen like Joe Nathan, but when he's pitching at his best, Crain is very useful.

As for the offense, the main contributors leave only one surprise: Jason Kubel. Kubel, who for most of the year has struggled, hit his first home run of the year and went 2-for-4 to raise his batting line to .265/.311/.372. Kubel has eight hits in his last 21 at-bats, good for a .348 average. If Kubel keeps getting consistent at-bats, he may very soon start to show everyone what kind of hitter he can be.

Otherwise, Michael Cuddyer went 2-for-5 with a two-run home run in the first while Justin Morneau continued his recent hot streak, hitting two home runs to put him behind only Alex Rodriguez for the AL lead with 11 home runs. Morneau currently has a .281/.365/.568, showing both impressive power and patience, and making perhaps a more lethal offensive weapon than he was last year. Lastly, recent call-up Garrett Jones made his major-league debut, going 1-for-3 with a walk.

Today, Carlos Silva will take the mound against Twins-hater C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia was awful in his last start, but he also has 58 Ks in 53 2/3 innings this year and almost always does well against the Twins. With the offense starting to come around, the pressure will be on Silva to produce another quality start and give the bullpen some rest after last night's pitching breakdown.

6 comments:

Nick N. said...

I would just like to make note of the following statement I made when previewing this game in my post yesterday:

Look for big games from Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel.

Just call me Nostradamus Nelson.

Corey Ettinger said...

Two good games means the offense is coming around? Man we are desperate for hope aren't we?

And thank you Nostradamus Nelson

Nick M. said...

Corey, I would say its pretty hopeful if a huge offensive game (16 runs) is followed by a seven run game. Also, key players are heating up. Morneau is looking very good, Cuddyer is starting to put things together (at least, it looks that way), Kubel has been doing better, and even Redmond has been fairly hot.

All in all, the offense appears to be coming out of its major slump. Maybe I'm wrong, but after a few good games, it wasn't time for cynicism in looking at the offense. I've had plenty of that this year already.

Corey Ettinger said...

True story

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