Thursday, May 08, 2008

An Odd Little Game

Now that's how you get back on track.

One day after nearly being no-hit by Gavin Floyd, the Twins came out and pummeled the White Sox 13-1 last night. The game was delayed for nearly two hours due to a rain-storm, but those who stayed up and stuck around were treated to some interesting sights. Carlos Gomez hit for the cycle, Livan Hernandez tossed a complete game, Nick Punto drove in five runs... indeed, this one featured plenty of peculiar occurrences.

Much will no doubt be made of Gomez's cycle, which was pulled off in reverse order (home run, triple, double, single) and was the Twins' first since 1986. Personally, I don't find hitting for the cycle to be a huge accomplishment as much as a neat little statistical anomaly, but I'll admit that it's pretty cool and a perfect exemplification of the things that make Gomez such an exciting player. After watching the Twins consistently push their "piranha" approach, it's nice to see a player who bases his game on speed but can actually hit for some power. Since being benched for one game after striking out four times in a game against the A's on April 22, Gomez has batted .433 with an .867 slugging percentage. His hitting line for the season is up to a respectable .282/.306/.427. Still think he should be sent to the minors, Corey? :-)

The Twins picked up some offensive steam against the Tigers over the weekend, but hit a wall in their first game against the White Sox. It was great to see them break out again last night. Today Kevin Slowey makes his first start since April 3. Should be interesting to see how he fares.

Apologies for the abbreviated post today, but I'm amidst my last week of college and I'm a bit overwhelmed.

16 comments:

Corey E. said...

:)!!!!!!!

Yes, I do think he could still benefit a lot from some time in the minors. Lets not forget, Span is hitting a cool .333/.433/.353 - .796 with 11 steals at AAA with a very strong K/BB ratio.

That said, far more impressive than Gomez's cycle tonight has been his plate approach which has shown marked improvement since his one game benching. He's gone 13-30, and though he's walked only once, he's struck out just 5 times - an improvement of about 11% over his performance before the benching. Indeed, this is a trend we've seen with both Gomez AND Delmon Young who's P/PA is at or near the team lead if I'm not mistaken. Clearly thats a bit misleading, but he has shown marked improvement in that area and should be commended for it.

Could Gomez continue to hit the way he has? Of course. Is it likely? Hardly. And would letting your prized youngster develop free of charge (relatively) in the minors, while giving a chance to a player who could build some trade value at the MLB level be that bad of an idea? I certainly don't think so.

Clearly Span's value will continue to increase as long as he performs this way in the minors, though that too is less than assured. But in an ideal world, one where Gomez takes the CF job and runs away with it, that leaves Span blocked. Again.

There's nothing wrong with having capable positional depth, on the contrary, its a rare blessing for this team. But there are area's other than center field where we could use some help, and Span could theoretically be used to help address that need. I'm not saying I would trade Span, but it's another bullet in the belt should the need arise.

Of course all of this is a moot point as I imagine this is what were going to see from Gomez all year. Half amazing, half infuriating - and doing just enough to keep himself in the Majors by dazzling too much on occasion to let the front office make the move.

But I do believe that economically, and probably developmentally, it would be wise to give Gomez some time in the minors.

John said...

It is hard to make a compelling argument that Gomez should be SENT to the minors right now. You're right, that slash line looks decent for a guy his age.

The problem is that his projected OPS is only .600, he's still striking out 25% of the time, and his BABIP is an unsustainable .360.

He SHOULD be in the minors right now, but it wouldn't make sense to send him now when he seems to be getting the job done.

Gomez's struggles are not likely behind him yet and I wouldn't be surprised to hear more talk of sending him down before the season is through.

Nick N. said...

Is .369 really unsustainable for a guy with his speed? I'm not so sure. Ichiro's BABIP was .389 last season, Chone Figgins' was .391, Carl Crawford's .374.

John said...

Gomez's .360 BABIP doesn't seem sustainable to me because his line drive percentage is only 16.7%.

Ichiro has a career (MLB) BABIP of .357 but his career line drive percentage is 21.2%.

Figgins's high BABIP last season was largely derived from his 26.4% line drive percentage. He's having similar success again this year.

Crawford's line drive percentage is also 20.2% over his career matched with a .333 BABIP.

Gomez may sustain that BABIP over the season, but I think he's due for a regression.

SL__72 said...

His BABIP is probably slightly on the high side but I bet it isn't far from sustainable. The combination of an infield hit here and there and a good BA on bunt attempts really helps keep it up.

SL__72 said...

Also, I assume his many bunt attempts are part of the reason his LD% is so low. They should all just be counted as ground balls, right?

John said...

You guys make valid points. There certainly are always guys that defy the odds--perhaps Gomez will be one of them.

Even so--we're talking about a guy with a .306 OBP. He's struck out 29 times compared to 3 walks. This is alarming and something that needs to change.

twayn said...

Re: Gomez vs. Span. The Twins are known as being a very good marketing organization. From that perspective, Gomez over Span is a no brainer. Gomez is an exciting player - he has great speed and power potential, an infectious enthusiasm for the game, and a very promotable personality (even down to the boyish grin). The bottom line is that Gomez already has more tools than Span ever will. If I'm running the Twins marketing department, I'll take Gomez over Span every time. Sure, he was rushed through the Mets' system and he needs to develop better plate discipline and get a better grasp of the strike zone. But he's going to put a lot more behinds in the seats than a slap-hitting, no-power guy like Span. Not that Marketing should be making those decisions, that's Bill Smith's job. But if Gomez sticks all year, and I think he will, I've got ten bucks that says next season he'll have a bobblehead day at the Dome and be featured in a TV commercial while Span is still in Rochester trying to leg out a few more infield singles.

David said...

Gomez is the Twins' igniter. It is no coincidence that the Twins winning streak coincides with Gomez's stretch of outstanding hitting. The team just seems to hit better when Gomez is out there driving the pitcher nuts.

There is zero chance that Gomez will be sent down to the minors. Span better hope for a trade or an injury to one of the Twins' outfielders, because he won't get called up until September otherwise.

Nick N. said...

I don't think you can make much of an argument that Gomez doesn't belong in the majors. His plate discipline isn't where it needs to be by any means, but come on... He's got a respectable batting average, he's tied with Morneau for the team lead in extra-base hits, and he's tied for the AL lead in stolen bases.

Sending Gomez to the minors in favor of Span -- whose future in the majors is as a fourth outfielder, at best -- simply for the sake of saving money would be the ultimate cheapskate move by this organization. They're not that so strapped financially that it's something they should really feel forced to do at this point.

John said...

I think Twayn has it right--Gomez is in the Bigs for marketing more than his baseball ability.

He is an exciting player to watch and I think the front office felt they had to have someone from the Santana trade "contribute" right away--and they saw Gomez as their guy.

Who has said anything about money concerning Gomez being in the minors? It isn't about saving money at all in my mind--it is about having the Red Wings develop players rather than the Twins.

Nick N. said...

Who has said anything about money concerning Gomez being in the minors? It isn't about saving money at all in my mind--it is about having the Red Wings develop players rather than the Twins.

Corey said: "And would letting your prized youngster develop free of charge (relatively) in the minors, while giving a chance to a player who could build some trade value at the MLB level be that bad of an idea? ... But I do believe that economically, and probably developmentally, it would be wise to give Gomez some time in the minors."

My issue here is two-fold: First, I have a hard time believing Gomez would really benefit that much from being in the minors... I think he's proving that he can hit major-league pitching, he just needs to work on his plate discipline, which he can do just as well (if not better) while facing major-league pitching. Second, I find the idea that Span can provide anything CLOSE to the production Gomez is giving the Twins to be utterly ridiculous. Because of his complete lack of power, Span's maximum OPS is probably going to be under 700 -- Gomez is at 725 right now even with the lack of discipline. Gomez is also a superior defender, and he gives the Twins a right-handed hitter in a lefty-heavy lineup.

Corey, you say the Twins can "build some trade value" for Span by bringing him up to the big-league club.. how much did he build his trade value by hittin .258/.324/.258 in his earlier stint?

Matt P said...

Yeah i see about a one percent chance of that happening. It could be argued that Span is a more major league ready player with more plate discipline, but Gomez is just too electric to not have on the roster. He's definitely as raw as advertised, but you have to be blind not to see his potential. He recorded two #1 web gems in his first two weeks of the season and can certainly cover a lot of ground. He did have a couple follies, but who doesn't in the dome. His speed on the bases is a big bonus, both frustrating pitchers and yielding manufactured runs. Certainly he has a lot of tools at the plate given his recent cycle, and once he learns not to swing at any pitch he's going to be a productive player.

One thing that surprised me was your lack of awe for the cycle. Last night after the game and frequently this morning I've caught myself thinking about how I still can't believe he did it, he hit for the cycle. Ten bases total, four hits. The perfect thing about it is that pretty much sums up what Gomez is supposed to turn into. He's certainly promising looking hitter, and as he fills out he's projected to be a + power hitter, at least for our staff. He used his speed to leg out a close infield hit and a triple drilled to the gap. His speed almost cost him though, if he wouldn't have let up a bit on his hit to Carlos Quentin it could have been ruled as a triple instead of a double and a bag on an error. I'm certainly impressed given he's the first to do it for the twins in 20 years. And it only took him 87 games to do it. I'd put it two or three notches below AP breaking the single game record for rushing last season. Let's hope they both turn out as projected.

Happy Finals.

Nick N. said...

His speed almost cost him though, if he wouldn't have let up a bit on his hit to Carlos Quentin it could have been ruled as a triple instead of a double and a bag on an error.

And then it would have just been a boring old four-hit game with a single, two triples and a homer instead of a shiny cycle! I guess that's why I don't put too much stock into the whole cycle thing.

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