Monday, March 03, 2008

In the Win Column

Spring training is in full swing and the Twins have finally won a game, defeating the Red Sox 8-2 yesterday in the third consecutive meeting between the two clubs. Interestingly, after struggling to score runs through their first three exhibition games, the Twins managed to bring eight men across the plaet on a day where they trotted out this intimidating starting lineup:

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Nick Punto, 2B
3. Michael Cuddyer, RF
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, LF
6. Mike Redmond, C
7. Brian Buscher, 3B
8. Jon Knott, DH
9. Adam Everett, SS

Knott homered for the Twins, while Everett and Cuddyer chipped in with doubles. Livan Hernandez got the start and tossed two innings, giving up a double to David Ortiz and a home run to Mike Lowell on an 83 mph fastball.

Here are some notes on various topics as we work our way toward Opening Day:

* The battle for the starting center field job is one of this spring's most interesting storylines. Yesterday, Span got the start in center field and went 1-for-5. Pridie replaced Cuddyer in right field midway through the game and went 2-for-2 with a two-run single and a stolen base. Gomez sat the game out and is 1-for-6 this spring.

* Several Twins fans have been taking guilty pleasure in the fact that Johan Santana was roughed up in his spring debut with the Mets on Friday afternoon. I find this somewhat puzzling. Torii Hunter seems to get a free pass from everyone around here, despite the fact that his behavior on his way out of Minnesota was questionable at best. The majority of fans I talk to seem to wish him well in Los Angeles, and I have little doubt that he will receive a standing ovation in the Metrodome when he steps into the batter's box on March 31.

I'm sure there are people who disagree with me, but I thought that Santana acted with class and composure this winter. While it was relatively clear that he wanted out, Santana never demanded a trade outright, nor did he ever really speak ill of the organization. It was doubtlessly frustrating for him to see his name tossed around in so many different rumors during the offseason, but for the most part he kept his mouth shut (something Hunter could never seem to do) and kept to himself.

I respect Santana immensely, as a player and as a person, and I wish him all the best in New York. Despite his shaky first outing, I fully expect that he will find great success with the Mets.

* Reading this article in yesterday's Star Tribune was pretty painful. Here's what Ron Gardenhire had to say about Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young:

Gomez led off the first inning with a single against Red Sox starter Jon Lester and stole second on the next pitch.

In his next two plate appearances, Gomez came up with runners on base and took some tenacious swings that left Gardenhire chuckling. "I really think he swung so hard that the bat broke before the ball got there," Gardenhire said. "... He's a little bit of a free spirit."

Gardenhire met with Gomez on Saturday and encouraged him to keep being aggressive. "He took it to heart," Gardenhire said. "He looks at me and says, 'Boy, I like this guy.'

"He was hacking; nothing wrong with that. I like the way he plays. He's pretty fast, and he can be pretty exciting."

Young swung at more pitches last year (1,484) than any player in baseball. But he took the first six pitches he saw for balls Saturday, drawing a first-inning walk that loaded the bases, and then ripped a run-scoring single in the second inning.

Instead of pleading for more patience, as Young's former team did in Tampa Bay, the Twins have asked him to stay aggressive.

"All the on-base percentage [stats] and all those things -- he's dangerous when he lets that thing fly and gets fastballs," Gardenhire said. "We're going to want him to swing this year more than taking a lot of pitches and watching them go by.

"And I think he'll be more than willing to let them fly."

In my mind, Jacque Jones and -- to a lesser extent -- Hunter never really reached their full potential as Twins, because they were free swingers who never developed any plate discipline. Apparently the Twins didn't learn a lesson, because Gardenhire doesn't seem to have any interest in preaching patience to Gomez or Young, both of whom have displayed poor on-base skills throughout their careers thus far. This is unfortunate. I'm not trying to say that a player can't be great without the ability to take walks -- Kirby Puckett and Tony Oliva come to mind as guys who did just that -- but boy, does it help... particularly for a guy like Gomez who projects to hit at the top of the order.

11 comments:

ubelmann said...

I don't know that Jacque or Torii would necessarily have been better off with a different approach. They could have tried to be more selective at the plate, but unless they actually were good at identifying which pitches to lay off of, they could have been worse off trying to be more patient. Pitch identification is a skill that you can't necessarily teach.

And I wouldn't say this necessarily applies to Gomez, but we might be best off just letting Delmon be Delmon at the plate. Delmon's #2 PECOTA comparable is Vlad Guerrero, who is a force at the plate, even though he doesn't work too many unintentional walks. He's going to sink or swim based on how much he hits for average and power, and I'm not sure how much he can really be changed at this point. It was a bit ago, but Delmon's minor league success might just be an indication that he's a freak.

I guess I just wish the Twins would acquire some players with patience more than I wish they tried to force their hitters into a particular mold.

TT said...

I think the Twins want hitters to swing at pitches they can hit, whether they are strikes or not. That approach provided a batting champ and MVP a couple years ago so there is not much reason to change it.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear. I've been trolling the posts on other sites since I read those Gardenhire quotes, and yours is the first I've seen comment on it. I find it disappointing that this team is still preaching that "can't walk off the island" type of philosophy.

Anonymous said...

I think the difference between Hunter and Santana's situations is this: while both wanted out and Torii was much more of an ass about it (IMO,) since he was going into free agency, he didn't screw the Twins. People are upset about the Santana trade and blame him for setting a deadline which arguably made it difficult for Bill Smith to get the best deal. If they'd held off for a week or so until Schilling's injury, the trade war would really have blown up. I think people are just torqued off about that.

I on the other hand have mixed feelings about Johan, while I will absolutely refuse to give Hunter any more recognition than I gave Jacque Jones when the Cubs were here a couple of years ago: polite applause in recognition of his past with the Twins, but nothing more.

snelson8 said...

And I wouldn't say this necessarily applies to Gomez, but we might be best off just letting Delmon be Delmon at the plate. Delmon's #2 PECOTA comparable is Vlad Guerrero, who is a force at the plate, even though he doesn't work too many unintentional walks. He's going to sink or swim based on how much he hits for average and power, and I'm not sure how much he can really be changed at this point. It was a bit ago, but Delmon's minor league success might just be an indication that he's a freak.

I'd agree, and in reality I was directing my comments much more toward Gomez than Young. I think there's a decent chance that Young can turn into a great hitter while maintaining his low walk rate (heck, in his debut with the Rays in '06, he posted a .317/.336/.476 line while taking one whole walk in 131 PAs), but I'm not so sure about Gomez. Unless he develops some power, his value will be at the top of the order, and he won't be successful there unless he can improve his on-base skills.

I think the Twins want hitters to swing at pitches they can hit, whether they are strikes or not.

What Gomez thinks he can hit and what he can hit are probably two vastly different things with that big violent swing of his.

People are upset about the Santana trade and blame him for setting a deadline which arguably made it difficult for Bill Smith to get the best deal. If they'd held off for a week or so until Schilling's injury, the trade war would really have blown up. I think people are just torqued off about that.

In fairness, though, he did wait the entire offseason, and didn't set that deadline until we were a couple weeks from spring training. I don't view that as particularly unreasonable.

Kaiser said...

Agree with you about Johan....isn't it funny that it is probably the same people who complain about Johan's selfishness that ALSO complain about Bill Smith not getting enough for him?

TT said...

Both Johan and the Twins have denied he gave them a firm deadline. I don't know why people keep repeating it as fact. I suppose its the same reason sports writers repeated it over and over again without a single reliable source.

What Gomez thinks he can hit and what he can hit are probably two vastly different things

Not unlikely. But the only way you can learn what you can hit is to swing at a lot of pitches.

Nick N. said...

P.S., the post from snelson8 was by me. I was at my parents' house at the time and apparently logged into my mom's Google account. Cute?

Anonymous said...

I think the thing with taking pleasure that Johan got roughed up in his first ST outing is more of a, "Wow, maybe the Twins didn't make such a mistake after all, trading him away," than a "Woo hoo! You stink, Santana!" kind of a reaction. That'swhat I've been telling myself about the Twins, that hey, it's only spring training, things will be just peachy. We all know that Johan will be a stellar pitcher for the Mets. Now if only I could be so sure about the Twins!

Katie said...

Are people really giving Torii a pass?

I hope not. I fully intend on a little good natured booing opening day, and it would be awesome if I didn't get punched in the face for it.

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