Thursday, August 30, 2007

Managing to Lose

I'm really getting frustrated with Ron Gardenhire and his moronic lineups. His obsession with starting Nick Punto on a daily basis has moved from annoying to completely ridiculous. Punto is hitting a historically bad .196/.285/.254, and yet somehow he is still finding his way into the starting lineup every night. He's a nice defender, that's great -- this team is not struggling to win because of their defense. It's because they can't score runs. It is Gardenhire's responsibility to put the best hitters in the lineup, and he is not doing it.

In Tuesday's game, Buscher went 3-for-4 with a home run, and yet he still could not find his way into the starting lineup the following night. Gardenhire instead opted to start Punto at third base, no doubt reasoning that he should keep lefties out of the lineup against Cleveland's southpaw starter C.C. Sabathia. There's just one problem with that:

THERE IS NO REASON TO BELIEVE BUSCHER CANNOT HIT LEFTIES.

It's something I've written about before, and it's something that is very obvious when you take five minutes to look up Buscher's minor-league splits, but it's something that Gardenhire seems absolutely clueless about. In Double-A this year, Buscher hit an excellent .357/.419/.554 against left-handers. In Triple-A, he hit a respectable .269/.367/.346 against them. At both levels, his K/BB rates were fairly consistent against lefties and righties. And yet, Buscher has been given a total of THREE at-bats against left-handed pitching since joining the Twins, because Gardenhire seems determined to shield him from every single left-handed arm that the Twins face. Punto can't hit lefties or righties, we know this by now. Why not give Buscher a chance and see if the kid can translate the success he had against southpaws in the minors this year to the majors?

Gardenhire's love for Punto yielded another hideous managerial decision in the ninth inning. The Twins entered the inning trailing 4-3, and Tyner delivered a leadoff single against the Indians' crappy closer, Joe Borowski. With Punto scheduled to bat next, there was close to no doubt in my mind that Buscher -- who had hit his first major-league home run against Borowski the previous night -- would be stepping in as a pinch-hitter. Instead, up walked Punto, who got the sign to lay down a sacrifice bunt and -- not surprisingly -- failed to execute. Punto popped a bunt straight up, and it was caught by the catcher Victor Martinez. Leaving Punto in the game was a bad idea, and doing so just so he could bunt was especially stupid. Not only has Punto proven generally incapable of laying down a decent bunt this season, it made no sense to waste an out in that situation solely to move a runner up with the Alexi Casilla (or a pinch-hitter from the Twins' weakened bench) on deck.

In general, I have been unimpressed with the job Gardenhire has done this year. This isn't the first time his lineup construction has made me scratch my head, and his in-game management hasn't been great. I wrote yesterday that this team just isn't good enough to make the playoffs, and the numerous players who underperformed are responsible for that first and foremost. Still, the team hasn't gotten much help from the manager or the front office.

15 comments:

S.Chancellor said...

Lest any of us have any delusions -the front office will wage an IO campaign on the fans RE: losing Hunter.

The White Sox or Yankees or someone else is going to offer Hunter an eye-popping amount of money, 90 million for 5 years at least. And that is when the IO campaign will kick in - we are a small market, we made a good offer but we can't pay out the moon, the money we save gives us flexibility elsewhere.

Baloney. The Twins have never had any intention of re-signing Hunter. The team knows full well that they could have signed him for, say, 4 years at 13-15 million per year, at any point during the last 2 years. They never made the offer.

So now, when up against 90-100 million offers from the heavy-weight teams, we are going to put that light-weight deal on the table and act like we gave it our best shot? The Twins best chance already came and went.

Make no mistake: we lose Hunter, his Gold Glove, his leadership (he is the team captain for all purposes), his 30 HR and 100 RBI, we become a far worse team than this year's .500 club. There is no upside to letting him walk. He is the second-best OF to where a Twins uniform in the last 30 years.

Jake said...

Nice bunt Punto!

Love the defense....can't stand the pathetic offense Nickie. I know he's trying - but if he's not hitting, not taking any walks and not able to bunt or move the runner along he can't play.

Start crowding the plate and leaning into pitches Nick. Rather than lead the league in lowest batting average by a everyday player - you can lead the league in "hit by pitch".

Anonymous said...

At least Twins' fans who are relatively new to the covenant are getting some of the perspective that Vikings' fans have suffered with for far longer.

Anonymous said...

I believe the manager is suffering from a condition known as Scrubini Fixation.

SBG

Dan said...

I totally agree with you Nick. My family thought I was crazy last night due to my shouting at Gameday in the 9th inning.

Castilla was riding a 3 hit night, while Punto has 3 hits since August 19th. I can't really think of any reason to pinch hit for Castilla but not Nick Punto.

Guess it was just a "hunch" that didn't work out...

beth said...

I think everyone else has said it already. Pinch-hitting Buscher was a good idea. Pinch hitting Buscher for Casilla rather than Punto was not. Trying to confuse the other team with off-the-wall decisions isn't going to win the game.

Beau said...

Agree on all points, but is there a fan base that loves their manager? Are there any skippers that the sabr community loves?

Shores, Esquire said...

I wonder about the future of this franchise, Nick, in the hands of Gardenhire.

Nice blog.

Tricia said...

I'm not overly critical, but that was a head scratcher for me too. Having Buscher pinch hit for Alexi instead of Nicky just didn't make any sense. I really like LNP, but I hate stupid pop-ups behind the catcher. Hate them!

Nick N. said...

Wow, lots of comments already this morning. Glad to hear I wasn't the only one who went nuts over Gardy's decision-making last night.

S. Chancellor -- "no upside" to letting Hunter walk? That's a pretty bold statement. How about the extra $15M to potentially spend on DH and 3B?

Nick M. said...

I'm glad to know that even when I leave for a long period of time, things don't change. As Bob Uecker would say (if he was talking about Punto): "Three hits since Aug. 19? Three goddamn hits?"

brianS said...

Ron Gardenhire wrote: I did not understand everything in this article, but it sounds interesting.

Buddy Grant said...

With the seasons chances slipping away daily I'm almost hoping that Punto continues to play and has a truly historically awful season. That way the rest of the baseball world will acknowledge some of the bizarre Twins roster decisions of the last few years and perhaps pressure will be put on RG/Ryan to field the strongest players regardless of vet status or 'managers fave' status.

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