Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Series To Forget

Getting outscored by the Yankees 25-7 in the series is probably the most troubling number I can bring up to describe the frustration of watching the Twins slug through an ugly sweep in New York. What's worse is knowing that, while the sweep in Boston was memorable and bad, this was much worse. At least in the Boston series, the Twins had a good chance to win two of the games if not for bullpen malfunctions.

In this series? The Twins were thoroughly dominated in all three games and yesterday, they certainly did not help themselves either. The most apparent example, of course, was Alexi Casilla's completely boneheaded mistake that cost Glen Perkins what could have been another solid to good outing. Instead of completing the double play with runners at first and second with one out in the fifth inning, Casilla walked cavalierly over to the second-base bag, believing the inning to be over and then started to jog to the dugout, flashing a self-satisfied grin before being confronted by Perkins and his magnified one finger, symbolizing the lack of continuity between the game going on for everyone else and the one going on for Casilla.

Casilla certainly has made vast improvements this year, as evidenced by his .323/.360/.438 line and 38 RBI in 226 at-bats out of the No. 2 spot in the order. Despite the offensive improvement, and many good plays at second, Casilla continues to make the same kinds of stupid or silly plays that he was criticized for the last few years since he was first called up to the big leagues. The truly unfortunate thing for Twins fans is that there seems to be little to no evidence that Casilla is going to stop making these kinds of befuddling errors anytime soon.

Thus, instead of getting through five scoreless innings, Perkins followed the shocking mistake by giving up a two-run double to new guy Justin Christian and giving the Yankees the lead for good. Of course, it would be hard to tell the story of the sweep or yesterday's game for that matter by just mentioning the bad luck facing Twins starters and the bad defense.

First, in fairness, one particular player continues to flash a good glove and that's Denard Span, who made an impressive catch by robbing an impatient Yankee fan of a fly ball in the right field corner. Second, that discussion would leave out the punchless offense, which managed a meager seven runs in the series overall and only three in last two games against Darrell Rasner and an aging Mike Mussina.

Granted, Mussina has had a very good year, with a sparkling 13-6 record, 3.26 ERA, and 81/16 K/BB ratio. In fact, it's quite the impressive comeback year. But it's still hard to excuse the Twins' stale offensive performance, with as many extra-base hits (two) as double-plays grounded into on the day. Further confusing was why one of the Twins best hitters against right-handers in Joe Mauer was sitting on the bench, while Mike Redmond hit in the third spot (yes, he's hitting .313 against righties and .270 against lefties this year, but its an aberration, because that split is reversed over the last three years to the tune of .370/.422/.468 against lefties and .279/.312/.332 against righties) and the middle of the order went 2-for-12.

Of course, mentioning Mauer on the bench is probably splitting hairs to some extent, but the point remains. The offense was pretty ugly against the Yankees, just as the defense and pitching overall was, and that is particularly evident in their lack of execution, which should worry some fans. For instant, over the three-game series, the Twins scored only seven of the 31 base-runners they managed to get on. That's under 25%. Additionally, ten base-runners were left in scoring position with less than two outs. In other words, that incredible ability to be clutch with runners on that was enabling the Twins to remain a top offense despite their lack of serious power or any plate discipline outside of Mauer may truly be fleeting and there may be signs of it disappearing.

What's the good news for the Twins fans? Well, it is certainly hard to make much good news out of getting sweep by a possible contender, especially as bad as this one was. However, thankfully the next series will not present the same challenge, as the Cleveland Indians have all but admitted their season is gone by trading away C.C. Sabathia, the Twins hater and killer. On the other hand, the Twins will still face the Cy Young-contending Cliff Lee on Friday, but the good news there is the Twins managed four runs off him last time out. That's certainly more hopeful than this week's lack of execution so far.

17 comments:

Twins Fix said...

Aha! That offensive inept tag is back!

Tricia said...

Oh wow...I'm glad I didn't see Casilla not turn that double play. I wonder if Perkins will ever forgive him. Yikes.

dan said...

except that one play earlier perkins did not cover first on a ball hit to the right side, which would have been two outs leaving Casilla's gaffe not even a possibility of happening.
Perkins needs to work on his own fundamentals as well, and the twins are starting to get more annoying by the day not calling up liriano.

Nick M. said...

Not calling up Liriano is obviously getting harder and harder to defend and its really sad when the GM claims he'd rather have a guy who was "16-8 with a 7.00 ERA than one who is 8-16 with a 3.50 ERA." Really, maybe that tells us all we need to know. Until Livan stops his "winning ways," Liriano may not have a spot, because none of the four young starters have given good reason to be pulled from the rotation.

As for the Perkins mistake, that may be true, but it is hard to say that Casilla did not have the more egregious gaffe in the field. Forgetting how many outs there are is pretty bad. Anyways, if I remember correctly, Perkins fielded his position pretty well on the first play of the game.

CA said...

I wasn't very impressed by Perkins' reaction to Casilla's mistake. He had a right to be frustrated, but he needed to immediately shake it off and focus on the next hitter. Easier said than done, I suppose, but by becoming visibly and demonstrably angry at his second baseman, followed by throwing a fit in the dugout, Perkins indicated that he may have let the frustration affect his pitching. Not the best way to handle the situation.

Nick N. said...

In Perkins' defense, it's tough not to react angrily right when something like that happens. A lapse like that from Casilla is totally inexcusable.

Difficult to say what happened in the dugout, and whether Perkins was actually "throwing a fit." According to him, he was trying to be supportive:

"He lost track of the outs and that's all there is to it," Perkins said. "I think I'm sure he's going to pay extra close attention to that. I just gave him a pat on the rear and said, 'I'll get you another one and we'll get it next time.' I think you've gotta move on from that."

Daymonster said...

To be fair. At the end of the year you would rather have a pitcher who went "16-8 with a 7.00 ERA than one who is 8-16 with a 3.50 ERA" But, with that said, at any point looking forward you would rather have the lower ERA pitcher no doubt.

Nick M. said...

I'm not sure you really would. Having that 16-8 pitcher with the 7.00 is a bad thing at the end of the year. It means that if you won games with him on the mound, you were extremely lucky or have an incredible offense. Either way, its not looking good if you are playing into the postseason. The 8-16 pitcher with 3.50 ERA you want still because you recognize that his record does not reflect how well he pitched. In other words, the whole debate is about how meaningless wins is as a pitching statistic when assessing the value of individual pitchers.

Nick N. said...

I'm not sure you really would. Having that 16-8 pitcher with the 7.00 is a bad thing at the end of the year. It means that if you won games with him on the mound, you were extremely lucky or have an incredible offense.

You still won the games though, and that's the point. I think Smith was trying to say that he'd rather have a pitcher who won more games, because in the end winning is the most important thing. I doubt he was trying to say that he'd rather have that 7.00 ERA player going forward. Seems to me like that quote has been blown out of proportion.

dan said...

while putting liriano in place of hernandez is more than justified, putting liriano in place of any pitcher in the rotation or bullpen would also be justified besides baker and nathan. to me, this is what makes it all the more annoying.

maybee its not that simple, but to me you have your best players on the active roster, so if it is an 11 or 12 man staff, you have your 11 or 12 best pitchers, which means bass and latley bonser don't cut it. Does Bonser have any AAA options left?

If the Twins are adamite about keeping Hernandez because of his veteran presence, then whatever, they are going to be stubbrn about that, but it not like nothing else can be worked out like sliding one of the younger guys into a long releif role, 6 man rotation, anything that gets Liriano on the mound. Or maybee getting to where we are 6 or 7 games out will finally get them to call up our best pitcher.
sorry i just needed to vent on that issue.

Nick N. said...

Does Bonser have any AAA options left?

Nope, and the Twins will lose him if they try to put him through waivers. I'm not convinced they'd lose Bass. I'm not convinced it would matter much if they did.

Beau said...

1)What other boneheaded mistakes has Casilla made this year? I don't watch a lot of games, but a lot of the talk on message boards this year (and at the WGOM) is how Casilla is making so few mental errors this year as compared with last.

2)Mauer is the only player with plate discipline? The average isolated patience in MLB this year is 0.069. Twins players at or above this average are:

Mauer: .096
Span: .095
Morneau:.072
Cuddyer:.072
Monroe: .075
Kubel: .068

Span has been as patient as Mauer, and one can't complain about these other four guys.

Nick M. said...

Fair enough, but let me point a few more things out in support of my point. I'd say that overall, Twins players aren't particularly adept at working the count. Of course, Gomez, Young, and Casilla are the first players I think of when I think lack of patience.

As a team, the Twins are only 24th in the bigs in walks, with 305. I can't say much about Span, because he hasn't even had 100 at-bats in the major leagues. I'm not saying he isn't a patient hitter, but its hard to conclude right now he's going to keep up that rate. As for everyone else, Monroe has the problem of a small sample-size as well, Cuddyer and Kubel have only average patience, and while Morneau has improved, Mauer remains the only player on the roster who affirmately has above average patience. Morneau is heading that direction and Span may turn out to be that way, but the fact remains this team is sub-par when it comes to being patient.

Nick M. said...

Also, I should note that part of Morneau's improvement relates not to his own patience, but teams simply pitching around him. Lastly, I probably poorly worded what i was trying to say. I was not saying "no plate discipline outside of Mauer," but meant to say no serious plate discipline outside of Mauer. And I think that remains true based on what I can see.

Beau said...

All right. The league average isolated patience once eliminating intentional walks is .065. So Morneau is still slightly above average in patience.

But yes, I agree nobody on the Twins besides Mauer has stellar discipline. And as a team overall, we're terrible. Hopefully Span can maintain his rate and be a leadoff man for a while. Maybe he'll rub off.

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