Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bottoming Out

Circumstances put the Twins in a tough position yesterday. With Joe Mauer needing a day to rest, Denard Span dealing with illness and Joe Crede nursing a swollen hand, Ron Gardenhire had little choice but to put out one of the weakest Twins lineups you'll see all year in the team's series opener against the Red Sox. This lineup included Carlos Gomez and Matt Tolbert in the No. 1 and 2 spots, and a bottom third of the lineup featuring Mike Redmond, Delmon Young and Nick Punto. 

In spite of the brutal lineup and another poor outing from starter Francisco Liriano, the Twins still managed to play a competitive game with the AL East-leading Red Sox, ultimately falling 6-5. R.A. Dickey deserves credit for delivering four innings of one-run ball in relief of Liriano to keep the game within reach, and Gomez chipped in a pair of terrific defensive plays to help out the pitching staff. 

Meanwhile, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau and Mauer all came through with big run-scoring hits as the Twins worked to make up the big deficit stuck to them by Liriano. Of course, it's hardly surprising that those four would come up with key hits; the problem was that the rest of the lineup could do very little to pitch in. Delmon Young went 0-for-4 and has gone 0-for-8 with six strikeouts since returning to the team. He's now hitting a miserable .253/.296/.297 with a 28-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and two extra-base hits in 98 plate appearances, making it nearly impossible to justify his presence in the lineup on anything close to a regular basis. Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert have both been absolutely dreadful with the bat and are showing no real signs of improvement, leading one to believe that the team simply must make a move to get some sort of production out of the middle-infield spots. Whether that means finding someone in the minors who can help -- be it Alexi Casilla, Steve Tolleson, Luke Hughes or someone else -- or scavenging the trade market for a piece that could be acquired, there's no way Gardenhire can continue to trot out both Tolbert and Punto while they're hitting like this, regardless of how scrappy they are. It's not exactly worthwhile to continue to expounding on the team's failure to acquire an Orlando Hudson or Mark DeRosa on the cheap during the offseason, but the lack of foresight displayed by Bill Smith and Co. is becoming an increasingly large black mark.

I wrote yesterday about the premium quality of the top half of the Twins lineup, and it's unfair to expect the bottom half to mirror that type of production, but these guys have been gigantic liabilities and are showing no discernible signs of improvement. Those who read this blog back in 2007 may recall that I had a "Bottom of the Barrel" feature on the sidebar that summer that tracked the dreadful performance of the bottom third of the Twins' lineup (which, at that point, generally consisted of Rondell White, Nick Punto and Jason Tyner), and this current group seems to beckon a revival of that feature. Hopefully some of these guys can get their bats going or the Twins can make a move to improve this portion of the lineup so that won't be necessary.

11 comments:

TwinsFix said...

I missed the game today and had all intentions of watching it in full as soon as I could. I successfully avoided the final score long enough to bring up the game on MLB.tv. I settled in, happy with myself and content with life, when the starting lineups were announced. Span, Mauer, and Crede all out? Gomez leading off? Tolbert in the two-hole?

I stopped watching.

charlie harper said...

Call me an idiot, jump on me all you want, but I'd love to see Gomez in the lineup every day, batting ninth. Anything he does there offensively is a plus, and his defense is an extreme plus. I think if he knew he'd be playing every day he'd relax and start producing more offensively too.

Nick N. said...

"Call me an idiot, jump on me all you want, but I'd love to see Gomez in the lineup every day, batting ninth. Anything he does there offensively is a plus, and his defense is an extreme plus. I think if he knew he'd be playing every day he'd relax and start producing more offensively too."

If you read this blog with any regularity, I'm sure you're aware I would never call you an idiot for expressing that sentiment. Spot on.

Chris said...

Send Delmon to AAA and start Gomez every game. That's just fine with me. Call up Tolleson or Brian Dinkelman and see what they can do at second - at least they have on-base skillsets. Work like hell to find someone who doesn't yet realize Delmon is a collasal failure as a Major League baseball player and trade him for a shortstop or reliever.

I'm not especially concerned about the starters. They've got the talent and will come around eventually.

Bill Lindeke said...

Young looked dreadful yesterday, waving at pitches like a princess in a parade.

Anonymous said...

"Young looked dreadful yesterday, waving at pitches like a princess in a parade."

Ouch! Haven't heard that one before, that's pretty good.

Nick N. said...

It should be noted that sending Young to Triple-A isn't really an option since he'd have to clear waivers and that's not happening.

Aaron said...

Last 2 games: Gomez goes 2-8 and has pretty good at bats while playing amazing defense. Young goes 0-8 with 6 K's. So who does Gardy start Tuesday? Young of course. So frustrating.

neckrolls said...

Even worse than the weak lineup, having Crede out forced Buscher to play third base, which didn't do Liriano any favors in that big 3rd inning.

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