Thursday, April 03, 2008

4-6-3, Easy as 1-2-3

Last night, as I sat in the Metrodome taking in my first live ballgame of the season, I received a text message from a friend that said, "Twins are going to be the first team in history to go through an entire season without a home run." At the time, I chuckled at his hyperbole. Then, as the game progressed, I watched the Twins' offense sputter along, continually failing to work the count and seemingly ruining every potential rally by hitting into a 4-6-3 twin killing. And I thought to myself that maybe my buddy wasn't so far off the mark. I'm sure this team will hit some home runs eventually, but boy, have they looked bad up to this point.

There are two things that explain the Twins' night from an offensive standpoint pretty well. Here they are:

Angels' starter Joe Saunders: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 80 pitches

And then the Angels' fielding section of the box score:

FIELDING
E: E Aybar (1), J Mathis (1)
DP:
Kendrick to Aybar to Kotchman
Kendrick to Aybar to Kotchman
Kendrick to Aybar to Kotchman
Kendrick to Aybar to Kotchman

As I sat watching the game I felt like I was getting déjà vu. FOUR 4-6-3 double plays. When the offense only manages four hits to begin with, that stings.

Through three games, the Twins' revamped offense has managed a total of four runs. Not encouraging. On the bright side, Nick Blackburn's first major-league start last night was a huge success. Over seven innings, he allowed just six base-runners (5 H, 1 BB), and he did not allow a run-scoring hit, as the Angels' only run of the game came across on a wild pitch. Blackburn was also extremely efficient, needing just 86 pitches to get through the seven frames. While that might pale in comparison to Saunders' 10-pitch-per-inning average, Blackburn deserves a ton of credit for throwing strikes and getting the job done. If he keeps this up, he'll make things very interesting for the Twins once Francisco Liriano is ready to go.

On a final note, here's an amusing little tidbit that you might have missed if you were watching the game at home:

Matt Tolbert, who was playing in his first big-league game, drew a walk to lead off the ninth inning. Apparently he was very excited to have gotten himself on as the potential tying run, because after taking ball four he whipped the bat toward the Twins' dugout, and Carlos Gomez, who was standing in the on-deck circle, literally had to leap out of the way to avoid being creamed.

Hey, on nights like this one, you've just got to find something to laugh about...

12 comments:

Karleeee said...

Nick Punto did what he does.
And then Justin Morneau showed us why he's such a damn good first basemen.

Corey E. said...

Kristen and I think we see whats hurting Justin Morneau's swing. I've only got one picture of it as I got distracted with other things, but check it out. As you can see, his stride is over-extended, which leaves his upper body hanging out between his legs. Ideally, as a batter comes through his swing and opens up, the lead shoulder is on a verticle axis with the back knee. This creates power and is a balance point that helps keep a players head from moving either vertically or laterally. By getting ahead of his back knee, he loses his ability to drive the ball and drops his head. As his head drops the ball appears to rise. As a natural counter-balance, the bat follows the eye level. This is keeping him from making good contact. This is certainly a correctable flaw. What we didn't get on camera, or manage to establish for ourselves in only 4 at-bats was if there were any other peripheral issues leading him to do this, or caused by it.

*Update* Here is a pic of Morneau doing it right. *Update* Notice how the front leg stays taught and you could draw a nearly straight line through the lead shoulder and back knee.

Like I said, I only have one picture to prove it, but its something we noticed mutliple times throughout tonights game. Keep an eye out for it yourself and let me know what you think. Through 3 games, Morneau is 0-11 with 5 guys left on base and has yet to hit a ball out of the infield. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Corey E. said...

hmm, the picks didn't transfer, I'll post shortly.

Corey E. said...

http://i293.photobucket.com/albums/mm71/coreyettinger/IMG_2652.jpg

http://i293.photobucket.com/albums/mm71/coreyettinger/IMG_2656.jpg

http://i293.photobucket.com/albums/mm71/coreyettinger/IMG_2659.jpg

http://i293.photobucket.com/albums/mm71/coreyettinger/IMG_2663.jpg

http://artfiles.art.com/images/-/Justin-Morneau-Photograph-C12961906.jpeg

Corey E. said...

Blogger sucks. I just e-mailed the post to you with the various pictures. That should work.

Feel free to use or not use any of it.

neckrolls said...

Thanks for noticing the utter lack of working counts, Nick. With Bootcheck and Shields on the DL, the Angels' middle relief is vulnerable. Letting the starter breeze straight to K-Rod totally lets them off the hook.

WV said...

Swinging early in the count was simply everybody's homage to the recently departed Hunter.

Anonymous said...

Good post Nick. My wife and I took in the game last night too, and enjoyed it. I was excited to see Gomez in action, and he is as advertised - talented and raw. A couple of thoughts FWIW:

1. Gomez’ speed played out in a couple of entertaining ways last night. First, his lead off first on Saunders following his single was immense - nearly two feet on the carpet. Have not seen him enough to know if that is his M.O., or whether Kotchman playing off the bag and fronting the runner was the reason. In any event, if he is taking leads like that – on a lefty no less – they’ll have to put a mercy rule in for catchers (assuming Gomez can get on base enough to make a difference).

As entertaining was seeing Gomez run first to second on a double-play groundball and take out Aybar. Gomez was not running on the play, but his speed meant he was in Aybar’s grill almost before the ball arrived at second. At 6'4" and 185 or whatever Gomez is, Aybar was bug-on-a-windshield material. To his credit, Aybar hung in and turned it – as he did at least two other times last night, including the game-ender when Tolbert took his shot. Aybar was pretty impressive turning it last night, and ended up face down on the dirt each time.

2. Gomez needs to learn the difference between bunting for a hit and sacrifice bunting. His three attempts in the top of the ninth were, IMO, pathetic. Not so much because he didn’t execute, but because he made it much harder than it needed to be by trying to lay one down the line and beat it out. Recognizing my limits as an amateur observer, I don’t think it is too much to ask for Gomez to fully square up and makes sure he gets it down, and then run to first. Save the bunt-for-a-hit for the bottom of the first, and execute the sacrifice in the ninth.

It was particularly sad to see when Gomez bunted foul for the third strike. Figgins was playing back at third after two strikes (which could and should have been a huge mistake – it was pretty darn certain Gomez would be bunting again). All Gomez had to do was get the ball down anywhere on the left side of the infield. Instead, he hurries the bunt, can’t get it out of the box, and to punctuate how poorly he executed the play, basically overruns the bunt by sprinting out the box almost before ball hits bat.

3. What did you think of letting Redmond hit away with a runner on first and noone out in the bottom of the eighth? A mistake I thought. Especially knowing Rodriguez is coming in for the ninth, I’d have played for the run even with the lefty-righty matchup with Redmond-Saunders. Of course, Redmond proceeds to hit into a double-play. While moving Monroe to second for the likes of Punto and Tolbert is no guarantee, Gardy needed Redmond to get that runner over. And Redmond had not had a good swing on Saunders all night. I know folks have different opinions on sacrifice bunting, and it’s true that with the Twins struggling all night having Redmond take a shot had some attractiveness, but I think Gardy overplayed his (admittedly weak) hand there.

Thanks much and enjoy the site!

Anonymous said...

i pretty much count on gardy to make the wrong call in every situation. kind of like how we all expect punto to get out every time he is up. that way if gardy makes a good decision or punto gets a hit, it's just a bonus.

brandoN said...

gomez-love what i see with his baserunning and his offence, but his defence scares me. he does have the speed(which i cant get enough of) but i find myself scared everytime a ball heads his way. he gets to the ball quick and has somewhat of an arm but i havent been seeing the fundamental "easy" catches that i have been so used to the past years in center field. i find he is not catchin the ball with his body underneith it, which will be a problem down the road when he has to make that deep quick throw home. other then these small few things i see a bright furture for him as a twin.
pitching - this is what i have been most concern about the whole entire off-season. but i have to say we have been having somewhat of solid starts these past few games, and can only pray for more offence production to back them up. i dont want to go through another season watching 1-0 losses like last year. if anything happened in the offseason postive i thought it would be that we gained more bats but that has yet to be shown. please baby can i get a hit to help out the boys slinging it on the mound!!!

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