Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Rundown

Another day, another blowout loss.  The Twins fell to the Indians 12-2 last night thanks in large part to another horrendous outing from Livan Hernandez, their seventh loss in eight games.   This team is just incredibly brutal right now.  No one can hit, no one can pitch... it's bad.  Anyway, here are a few random notes:

* In Wednesday night's win over the Indians, Carlos Gomez successfuly stole a base for the first time since May 25. After a quick start -- nine steals in his first 15 games -- the speedy center field had been stuck at 17 for nearly two weeks and had been caught on five consecutive attempts.

Clearly, those early dreams that Gomez would swipe 100 bases this bases this season were way off the mark, and at this point it appears that even 60 is an improbable goal. Opposing teams seem to have adjusted to his style, and he will have to make adjustments of his own to return to being a dominating threat on the bases. His 6-for-13 mark on stolen bases since the beginning of May simply isn't acceptable for a guy with his speed.

* In order to add an extra position player to their roster for the upcoming slate of interleague games which will open in Milwaukee this weekend, the Twins have decided to part ways with reliever Juan Rincon. As Aaron Gleeman noted yesterday, Rincon has seen a steady decline in essentially every important statistical category over the past four years, and after a decent start in 2008, he's been completely incapable of getting batters out lately. He had a 3.24 ERA on May 17, but in nine appearances since that point he has posted a 10.32 ERA while allowing opponents to bat .404 against him. It's a subject that most people do not wish to broach, but Rincon has just never been the same since he was suspended for performance-enhancing drugs back in 2005. (Although Judd Spicer shared some thoughts on the topic a few days ago on his exceptional blog over at City Pages.)

To replace Rincon, the Twins have elected to call up Brian Buscher, who has had a few stints with the Twins over the past couple seasons. Buscher had a breakout year in his first season with the Twins organization last year after being nabbed in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft the previous winter, and he has worked at Rochester this year to prove that his performance a year ago was no fluke. In 53 games with the Red Wings, Buscher has batted .319/.402/.514 with a nearly even 21-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Whatever adjustments he made last year, it appears that they have stuck with him.

I'm a fan of Buscher, as illustrated by the fact that I sponsored his page on Baseball Reference, and with the way Mike Lamb is struggling, I think Buscher will get every chance to gain regular playing time at third base with the Twins.

* The Twins will spend the next three days playing without a DH in Milwaukee, and my hope is that we won't be seeing Delmon Young starting in left field with Jason Kubel on the bench. This course of action would make little sense, for a few reasons. First of all, while Young continues to trudge along with an ugly 669 OPS and one home run on the season, Kubel has rebounded from a slow start to bat .303/.404/.539 with four homers since May 13. Also, the Twins are scheduled to face Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan and Seth McClung in the series, all of whom are right-handers. Kubel has posted an 805 OPS against righties this year; that figure is a demonic 666 for Demon... er, Delmon.

It seems entirely obvious that Kubel should be starting at least two, if not all three, of the games in this upcoming series. Hopefully Ron Gardenhire has the good sense to make it happen. The manager did plug in Kubel instead of Young against left-hander Aaron Laffey last night; the fact that he's abandoning his traditional righty-versus-lefty preference to get the better hitter into the lineup is a promising development, in my mind.

9 comments:

TT said...

First of all, while Young continues to trudge along with an ugly 669 OPS and one home run on the season, Kubel has rebounded from a slow start to bat .303/.404/.539 with four homers since May 13.

Are you in training to be a sports writer, cherry-picking stats to fit your argument? You are starting at Kubel's low point for the year and comparing it to now. But he hasn't really improved much from his season averages over the last couple weeks, in fact his batting average has fallen. Those two home runs in the last week have lifted his SLG, but its not like those show a trend any more than Delmon Young's home run does.

Since that May 13th date you chose, Delmon Young's SLG has gone up 56 points while Kubel's has gone up 31. Young has 12 extra base hits during that period, Kubel has 9.

J. Lichty said...

The manager did plug in Kubel instead of Young against left-hander Aaron Laffey last night; the fact that he's abandoning his traditional righty-versus-lefty preference to get the better hitter into the lineup is a promising development, in my mind.

According to Christensen, this was becauase Kubel had a strong history against Laffey. What was that history you ask? 2 for 2. Yep, small sample size theater strikes again.

Nick N. said...

Are you in training to be a sports writer, cherry-picking stats to fit your argument? You are starting at Kubel's low point for the year and comparing it to now. But he hasn't really improved much from his season averages over the last couple weeks, in fact his batting average has fallen. Those two home runs in the last week have lifted his SLG, but its not like those show a trend any more than Delmon Young's home run does.

OK how about this? Kubel's season OPS: 723. Young's: 669. The inclusion of that relatively arbitrary date was merely to show that Kubel is once again putting together some fine numbers after a slow start.

Since that May 13th date you chose, Delmon Young's SLG has gone up 56 points while Kubel's has gone up 31. Young has 12 extra base hits during that period, Kubel has 9.

That was bound to happen considering how abysmal Young's SLG was over the first six weeks of the season. Kubel's SLG is still roughly 70 points higher overall.

Shores said...

If Gomez doesn't get it together, I'm going to finish last in SBs in my roto league.

Nick, you and I both know that Kubel won't start more than one of the next three NL games.

tt--yes, Delmon is really on fire right now. Tough to keep that bat out of the lineup. Cherry picked stats or not (they're not), Kubel is a better hitter at this point than Young.

TT said...

The inclusion of that relatively arbitrary date was merely to show that Kubel is once again putting together some fine numbers after a slow start.

I understood that. My point is that it doesn't show that at all. What actually happened was that Kubel had a mild hot streak in the middle of May and then went back to his season norm.

"Young has 12 extra base hits during that period, Kubel has 9."

That was bound to happen considering how abysmal Young's SLG was over the first six weeks of the season.


I know you were responding to the earlier part of my comment about Young's SLG, but you seem to have just skipped over the second half about his recent advantage in extra base hits.

If Gardy makes decisions based solely on performance since May 13th, it would seem that Young, not Kubel, would get the nod.

Kubel is a better hitter at this point than Young.

I suspect that who gets the better results depends on who the pitcher is.

Nick N. said...

If Gardy makes decisions based solely on performance since May 13th, it would seem that Young, not Kubel, would get the nod.

The fact is that, even putting aside your breakdowns of breakdowns of time periods (I wasn't trying to be arbitrary by the way -- May 13 was one month ago today, I didn't just randomly pick it because it coincided with a hot streak), Kubel hit well enough at one point in the season to bring his overall numbers up to a level of respectability. Young hasn't done that. Kubel has outhomered him 8-to-1 and outslugged him by 70 points. He's been a far better hitter, both recently and overall. The only reason Kubel's numbers over the past two weeks or whatever don't look great is because he went on a brief cold streak for like five games as May turned into June. I don't think that should affect Gardy's decision-making for this weekend, because if you want to look at real recent performance, Kubel has a 1139 OPS over his past seven games.

I suspect that who gets the better results depends on who the pitcher is.

In that case, Kubel is the smart play since -- as I mentioned -- the Twins face three right-handers this weekend and I don't think there's much arguing that Kubel is a better hitter against righties.

TT said...

Over the last 28 days according to baseball reference:

Kubel .254 .361 .437
Young .269 .324 .452

Kubel has 6 extra base hits during that time in 83 plate appearances. Young has 12 in 102. Half of Kubel's extra base hits have been home runs compared to Young's one, which is why Kubel is even close in SLG.


Here are their lines against right-handed pitchers:

Kubel .269 .320 .481
Young .271 .320 .346

So actually Young has a better average but Kubel hits for a lot more power. Of course, in general, Kubel hasn't hit left-handed hitters at all (.171 .239 .195) That adds to the Twins vulnerability to left-handed relievers.

"May 13 was one month ago today"

Something I missed when I made the crack about being a sports writer. Sorry.

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