Monday, July 14, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Yesterday the Twins had an opportunity for a four-game sweep of the Tigers on the road that would have been a wonderful way to enter the All-Star break. Of course, given that beforehand the Twins probably would have been happy to come away from this tough seven-game road trip with four wins, winning three out of four after being swept in Boston is certainly a good thing to go into the break with.

With that, I think several observations should be kept in mind:

* While the Twins offense sputtered against Justin Verlander yesterday, they also managed to beat around two lefties they have historically struggled against in Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson, while also winning against the up-and-coming Armando Galarraga. Key players had outstanding series -- most notably Justin Morneau. Morneau went 8-for-15 with a home run, three doubles, four runs scored and five walks. It was both impressive and enjoyable to see Morneau have much better at-bats against the types of lefties he has struggled against in the past.

* In total, the Twins scored 18 runs over the four-game series and certainly were in all the games. Its tempting to look at the fact that all the wins were close ones (7-6, 6-5, 3-2) and think that could show some luck, but the ways the games were won should keep fans excited. For instance, in Friday's win, the Twins hitters showed much better patience, taking a total of seven walks between Morneau, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Nick Punto, and Denard Span. If the Twins hitters are showing better patience, it bodes much better for sustainability than a high average in situational hitting. Of course, when it comes to patience, no one on the Twins has been in the same vicinity as Mauer, as he drew four walks over the series to give him a total of 53 and an on-base percentage of .418 (Isolated Discipline of 0.96 as well). That puts him on pace for an amazing 95 walks and gives him the second best OBP in the AL. Pretty impressive, but then again, he's an All-Star for a reason. (Unlike other All-Star catchers who happen to be "captains.")

* The Twins also did see some good pitching from young guys like Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins. Blackburn took the loss yesterday, but he didn't pitch poorly by any means. Seventy out of his 108 pitches were strikes and he got through seven innings having given up only five hits and two walks while striking out four. Blackburn's stats don't jump out at you too much, but the 3.65 ERA and 1.27 WHIP are good, while the 64/18 K/BB ratio is even better.

* Glen Perkins also had a good start, even as his peripherals have projected him to start struggling soon. Perkins wasn't amazing in Friday's win, but he did have a Quality Start, going 6 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and two runs with two walks and two strikeouts. The 95 hits he's given up in 78 1/3 innings isn't particular good, and neither is the 1.46 WHIP, .301 BAA, or the lack of strikeouts. However, he has been a solid starter this year and if he can be good for Quality Starts, there is no reason to get down on him too much yet.

* If there is one not-so-positive thing to take from this weekend, it's Carlos Gomez's offense. It only seems to haven gotten significantly worse. He went 1-for-18 with an RBI and 5 strikeouts in the series and did not draw a single walk. His line is now down to .253/.287/.351. A 638 OPS is bad enough, but a .287 OBP for a lead-off hitter is just hideously awful. Perhaps the All-Star break will do him some good, but it would be better if the break did some good for Gardenhire's decision making so he can finally do everyone a favor and remove Gomez from the leadoff spot. Of course, in an effort not to be too much a downer, I am certainly not forgetting any of the good plays Gomez has made in center recently; but, in fairness, even in that area Gomez has not been all good, all the time. It's time to make the move everyone else has been calling for and move Span or even Alexi Casilla to the lead-off spot.

* Lastly, in a bit of separate news, Morneau has filled out the roster for Home Run Derby participants. While many fans may react negatively to this, since there is an idea that somehow the Derby is an awful thing that has ruined many a baseball player, I just do not accept this premise. Players may alter their swings for it, but they just as often do that to put on shows during batting practice. That is all the competition really is: just a glorified batting practice session. Players like Miguel Tejada and Bobby Abreu didn't start going downhill because of the silly Derby. Tejada was older then most believed and was never a truly elite home run hitter to begin with and Abreu at the time had already shown signs of slowing down. So, in brief, don't fear Twins fans; Morneau will be fine. Instead of worrying, enjoy the show and hopefully he makes it to the second round.

***

If you're bored, head over to the White Sox blog Life in the Cell, where Nick Nelson has written a guest post giving Sox fans a mid-season report on the Twins.

8 comments:

Twins Fix said...

Good job on the mid-season report, Nick. I was asked, but was forced instead to travel to San Diego and get burned. Too bad.

Also, I see a minor league assignment in the future for Gomez. Or, at least, I hope so. He has been, as you said, "hideously awful."

Nick M. said...

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3483235

Anyone looking for a little more insight into the baseball myth surrounding competing in the derby can look at that article. Needless to say, I forgot about what a good counterexample presented to someone like Abreu.

Corey E. said...

With a line of .215/.241/.273 with a 44/6 K/BB ratio and being just 4-8 in stolen bases since May 30th...

Maybe

Its

Time

They

Sent

Him

Down

?

But heck, why not stick with the 22 year old who can't read a breaking pitch in the lineup spot that will get more at-bats than any other all year. I like that logic too. Might as well have your biggest out producer get more chances than anyone else on the team.

MVB said...

Great to see Morneau win the derby, although it belonged to Hamilton.

Did you see the Twins and Adrian Beltre rumors? Maybe Bill Smith has people reading our blogs!!!

Nick M. said...

The Beltre rumors can't be given too much credibility, if only because at this point they are "internal discussions." Remember that Beltre is signed through next year, at $12 million a year, has a limited no-trade clause that could include the Twins, and has Scott Boras as a free-agent. Of course, they may not be interested in signing even if they did trade for him, so that may not matter, but there is a lot of money here for the Twins to be looking at and if the Mariners are picking up any of it, the Twins are giving up more. Which leads to the biggest question: who are they giving up?

Nick M. said...

Ok, sorry, they were more than internal discussions now, according to LaVelle, as Bill Smith has placed a call to Seattle about Beltre. My bad. Regardless, my assessment remains the same and I'm skeptical about whether such a trade would happen and if it is worth it. The Twins are competing this year, but they have a lot of young talent building towards the next few years.

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