Friday, May 23, 2008

Thursday Bloody Thursday

In the comments section yesterday, a reader implied that Ron Gardenhire doesn't even bother trying to win on Thursdays. I'm sure that's not true, but alas, after their 8-7 loss in 10 innings to complete a split with the Rangers yesterday afternoon, the Twins are 0-6 on Thursdays this season. This is an indication that the team seems to be packing it in on the final games of series. In part this may have something to do with the players being tired or worn out on these afternoon finales, but Gardenhire's puzzling getaway day lineups probably aren't helping matters.

In some respects, it's understandable that Gardenhire isn't able to put a maximized lineup on the field on Thursday afternoons. For instance, he generally likes to give Joe Mauer a break when the team plays a day game after a night game. That takes perhaps the best hitter out of the lineup, but it's perfectly a perfectly understandable and defensible rationale.

What's not defensible is yesterday's decision to have Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young and Craig Monroe all in the starting lineup while Jason Kubel sat on the bench. Cuddyer's awful performance thus far was rewarded with a promotion to the No. 3 spot in the lineup, while Young and Monroe batted fifth and sixth. Young's bat has heated up lately, so his presence in the middle of the lineup made some sense, but Cuddyer was hitting .217/.268/.313 on the season and Monroe had collected one hit in his past 18 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Kubel has been taking significantly better at-bats as of late, and that has been reflected in his numbers (1200 OPS, 4 BB/2 K in his past eight games). On top of all that, left-handed hitters had a 200-point advantage over right-handed hitters against the Rangers' starter, Vicente Padilla. For a manager who claims to base his lineup decisions on who matches up well and who's swinging the hot bat, Gardenhire's decision to keep leave Kubel out of the starting lineup yesterday seems counterintuitive. Without a doubt, Kubel should have been starting over one of those three players.

Cuddyer actually had a good game, going 2-for-4 with two singles and a pair of walks. Meanwhile, Young and Monroe combined to go 0-for-9 with four strikeouts. It was a particularly bad game for Young, who hit into a pair of rally-killing double plays on the way to stranding seven runners in an 0-for-5 effort. Livan Hernandez didn't pitch particularly well and there were some misplays in the field, but if you want to find an individual culprit in yesterday's loss, look no further than Young. He absolutely killed this offense. It's the type of performance that would normally get a young hitter benched for a game to straighten things out, but for whatever reason Young has earned the honor of being automatically written in as the left fielder each day, so we know that's not going to happen.

Lineup construction should only get more confusing for Gardenhire after yesterday's news that Adam Everett is headed back to the disabled list. This isn't necessarily bad news, since Everett has been essentially worthless so far this season. If he was playing the type of exceptional defense that gained him a reputation in Houston, he'd be a fairly valuable player on this team despite his awful hitting, because the rest of the infield has been very shaky defensively. Unfortunately, his shoulder problems have prevented him from being anything more than a mediocre defensive shortstop at best, so his value has been negated and he's basically been Juan Castro. I'd like to see Everett come back strong, but whatever is bothering his shoulder does not seem to be going away, so I'm at the point where I've pretty much given up on him being of any use to this team.

Replacing him on the roster will be Matt Macri, who I initially predicted to make the team out of spring training. This selection is interesting for a few reasons. For one thing, there's little chance that Macri will give the team any help defensively; he had committed a team-high eight errors over 29 games in Rochester. Ron Gardenhire is clearly fed up with this team's infield defense, evident in the fact that Brendan Harris has been moved away from second base due to his inability to consistently turn the double play from that position (Harris did turn three double plays from the shortstop position yesterday, so maybe Gardy is on to something). I wonder how Gardenhire will respond if Macri comes up and keeps committing the kind of mistakes that have haunted him in Rochester. As it stands, the inexperienced and clumsy Alexi Casilla would seem to be the best defensive infielder on the roster. It feels odd to say it, but this team really needs to get Nick Punto back.

The other reason Macri's promotion is interesting is because his numbers this year are significantly inferior to Brian Buscher, who has an 896 OPS with six homers and 20 RBI in 35 games for the Red Wings. There's probably not a whole lot of difference between the two defensively (although Macri is more of a natural second baseman, which may have played a role), so my guess is that Macri got the call because he's a right-handed bat who can spell Mike Lamb at third base against southpaws.

Infield defense has been extremely problematic for the Twins this year, and replacing Everett with Macri doesn't help them much in that respect. There could be many more ugly Thursdays to come.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

one of delmon's double plays was a line drive, so he wasn't as bad as the numbers make it look. cuddyer on the other hand had one of his best games of the year, yet still made an error and struck out twice. once was to end the game.

i can see why gardy would give mauer the day off after a night game. i don't understand why everyone else that gets a break, gets it on the same day. it seems like thursday is always the day where he shuffles postions too. i sure wish he could figure out the lefty-righty thing too. as of right now, he has earned his "MoRon" nickname.

Anonymous said...

"It's a disappointing loss for us, we had a chance get three of four from these guys," Gardenhire said. "One more big hit and we would have had it."


- one decent manager would have done the trick too.

SethSpeaks said...

I should maybe be a better fan and get upset about every questionable decision. I admit that I looked at the lineup and was a bit puzzled. But I really don't blame Gardy a lot. Sure, Monroe over Kubel makes no sense, but sometimes a manager has to do things out of the 'normal' to try to jar something. Putting Cuddyer in the 3rd spot in the lineup says to him, "I still believe in you, and have confidence that you can get out of this slump." Baseball is a mental game as much as physical, so doing things like that can be very valuable to the big picture.

Anonymous said...

the lefty/righty platoon of kubel and monroe is what really gets me. if the rangers had a lefty in for the 9th inning, gardy probably still would have pinch hit 2 lefties. it's like he doesn't believe the numbers.

i don't have as much of a problem with gardy putting cuddyer in the 3 hole as i do with him playing first base. he has proven (at least to me) that he is not an infielder. sure, he can fill in when there is an emergency, but why put him there for this game?

if he would spread these changes out throughout the week, i wouldn't has as much of a problem with it. but ever since he has been our manager he feels the need to give days off all on the same day. i think we need someone to volunteer to take him fishing on thursdays so that we can get a real lineup for once.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday's defensive fiasco confirms the Gardy's theory for shaking up the lineup frequently to "keep players sharp" generally backfires. Why Cuddyer at first? Throwing error. Why continue to juggle the defense and batting order? Why not give consistent defensive and batting order spots?

Yes players need an occasional day off. But changes like that con be sprinkled in. Gardy changes the line up too much. How can players develop a rhythm with each other?

Anonymous said...

too often gardy gets a free pass. any decision he makes can be chalked up to "trying to shake things up," that doesn't mean that it is the right decision. a lot of the time it isn't even a logical decision. the lineups, the pinch hitters, the pitchers, he really can't manage any aspect of the game well. he also has such a short leash with some players and others he wouldn't take out of the lineup if their throwing arm fell off. he'd still try and get them in there at DH.


they are keeping him around because he is a "player's coach". sounds like he should be a bench coach then. or they could let him hang around in the dugout like that dude with the big mustache.

Anonymous said...

Nice call on Thursdays, and yeah- I too was surprised that Macri got the call over Buscher. I know Macri has had a few AAA games at SS this year, so perhaps that was an angle. Given the Twins' propensity to give position players immediate playing time when they get the call up, I'm looking for Macri to get his crack at the lineup in the next day or two.

Judd
C.P. Twins Blogger

Andrew said...

Wow, never thought that we would be calling for Gardy's head at all this year.

David said...

I have to agree with you about Thursdays. Gardy's tendency is to play all his his bench players in the same game, i.e., the day game after a night game, i.e., Thursdays. Why don't the Twins just forfeit the game and hold a scrimmage?

Anonymous said...

i like the idea of a thursday scrimmage. or possibly a MLB 08: The Show tournament on PS3. or we could just have the rochester red wings play our thursday games. of course then gardy would want to give them the thursday off and would start the new britain lineup instead.

beth said...

I've actually been a bit impressed with Harris playing shortstop. I think that might be the direction to head.

We also decided on Thursday that Gardy is on a missiot to have Cuddy play all the positions in one year (as Monday marked his first start in center).

SBG said...

but for whatever reason Young has earned the honor of being automatically written in as the left fielder each day, so we know that's not going to happen.

Whatever reason? It's obvious that Delmon is going to break the consecutive games played streak. Only about 2400 games to go!

Andrew said...

I've actually been a bit impressed with Harris playing shortstop. I think that might be the direction to head.

Dan Gladden said on the radio broadcast last night that Harris is "obviously" the future shortstop of the Twins.

twayn said...

"One more big hit and we would have had it."

I thought we did have it when RonDelmon hit into his line drive double play. But it was just Gordo being Gordo.

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