Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tuesday Notes

Lately it seems I've been spending all my time breaking down prospect performances, marveling at Joe Mauer's greatness and complaining about Alexi Casilla, so today I'll get caught up on a wide range of Twins-related topics with a bunch of notes...

* For those who wonder why I put so much value into Carlos Gomez's center field defense, Sunday's game provides a good example.

In the seventh inning, with the Twins leading 5-3, Luis Ayala came in to relieve Scott Baker with two on and nobody out. Ayala promptly surrendered a line drive to deep left center field, and the ball sailed past the outstretched glove of a diving Denard Span. Two runs scored, tying the game. In the next inning, Jose Guillen hit a liner to deep center; Span again chased the ball but had it bounce of his glove and off the wall for an RBI double. Now, this is just my opinion, but I believe that both of these balls would have been caught were Gomez in center field. That's not a dig against Span, who made a hell of an effort on both plays, but Gomez's range is unparalleled among players on this team and I've seen him run down balls hit to those areas on numerous occasions.

So, that's three runs that may have been prevented from scoring if Gomez were in the game, and perhaps the difference between a win and a loss. Now, given that neither of these plays occurred with two outs in the inning, it's entirely possible that all those runs would have scored anyway. All of these hypotheticals and probabilities are part of what makes defense so difficult to measure and value.

* Of course, we wouldn't be talking about who could hypothetically catch these monstrous 400-foot line drives if Ayala and R.A. Dickey weren't allowing them in the first place. The Twins bullpen has been rather disastrous so far, and these two are clearly looking like the weakest links. It's early yet, but Ayala has thus far proven to be a horrible signing and there's not much reason to hope he'll improve a whole lot. In spite of his misguided "sinkerballer" label, Ayala has induced ground balls at a mediocre 41.9 percent rate while opponents have slugged .556 against him.

Dickey, meanwhile, has remarkably allowed 10 of 12 inherited runners to score while posting a 2.19 WHIP and 10-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 2/3 innings. His vaunted rubber arm hasn't even been particularly useful, as he's appeared just four times in the Twins past 14 games and totaled just five innings during that span. It's awfully tough to see what value Dickey has for this team, which is why I was somewhat frustrated when the Twins demoted and risked losing Philip Humber to waivers a couple weeks ago in order to preserve Dickey's spot on the big-league roster.

* Gomez was held out of the Twins' starting lineup for the sixth time in the past seven games last night, while Alexi Casilla once again started and batted second. Baffling.

Gomez has gotten off to a rough start offensively this year, but Casilla's been considerably worse. It's inexplicable that Ron Gardenhire is showing so much confidence in one while burying the other. It can't be that Casilla is doing "the little things," as he cost the Twins a game on Saturday night with a careless error in the field, and last night hit into an infuriurating double play because he failed to run to first base on a popped-up bunt attempt.

Casilla was only moderately more productive at the plate than Gomez last season, and Gomez brings much more defensive value when he's in the lineup. There's no reason Casilla should getting such preferential treatment.

* While Baker worked through six innings of hitless ball to start Sunday afternoon's game, I observed multiple fans complaining about Dick Bremer repeatedly making mention of the no-hit bid on the television broadcast. I find it somewhat amusing that rational, adult baseball fans -- even the statistically oriented ones who I'd hardly describe as traditionalists -- can get so worked up over a silly superstition.

I can buy into the idea that some superstitions may yield actual benefits. If a player wears the same "lucky socks" for every night game, perhaps on some deep mental level it gives them an extra measure of comfort or confidence while they're playing. But the notion that a pitcher's bid for a no-hitter can be sabotaged by a random announcer in the press box or a random fan in the stands mentioning the fact that he hasn't allowed a hit yet is downright ridiculous. Bremer is a commentator and his job is to talk about what's happening in the game, not ignore the biggest storyline in observance of an arbitrary superstition.

* Seth Stohs has been on a roll lately when it comes to recruiting podcast guests. Last Thursday, he had Glen Perkins sit in as co-host for the MN Gamenight show. Last night, for his own SethSpeaks.net weekly podcast, Seth was able to recruit Pat Neshek, Democrat and Chronicle scribe Jim Mandelaro (an authority on the Twins' Triple-A affiliate), and -- most impressively -- me.

OK, obviously I'm the least impressive name on that outstanding list of guests, but both shows are definitely worth listening to for Seth and the other guys. Check them out.

11 comments:

Jack said...

it's not really fair to compare carlos gomez with casilla because they play very different positions. when gomez isn't hitting well, there are significant other options, especially with Cuddy hitting so well and Delmon starting to turn it up a bit. When Casilla is hitting poorly (like all of this year) the Twins only option is Brendan Harris. Now I agree that Brendan Harris should be playing more at second base but the doesn't make any comparison between gomez and casilla more accurate.

You also have to take into consideration the expectations for different spots in the outfield. A centerfielder is expected to hit for more power and average than a second baseman, that's just the way baseball works. As horrible as Casilla is, I imagine he's closer to the league average for second baseman than Gomez is for outfielders/centerfielders - especially when you consider the offensive power loss the twins take by moving span to a corner outfield spot when Gomes comes in in center. Span's offensive output is much more typical of a centerfielder and much more valuable when he is serving in that role.

The twins log jam in the outfield means gomez isn't going to play, at which point i think you can make a strong argument that he should be in AAA playing every day. and maybe casilla should join him.

Nick N. said...

"You also have to take into consideration the expectations for different spots in the outfield. A centerfielder is expected to hit for more power and average than a second baseman, that's just the way baseball works. As horrible as Casilla is, I imagine he's closer to the league average for second baseman than Gomez is for outfielders/centerfielders"

Last year, the average AL center fielder had a .269/.334/.412 hitting line; the average second baseman hit .282/.339/.410. So second basemen actually had an OPS five points higher. I think you're overestimating the offensive output of a typical CF.

"especially when you consider the offensive power loss the twins take by moving span to a corner outfield spot when Gomes comes in in center."

"Power loss"? The guy who will normally be left out of the lineup at Gomez's expense is Young, who has a whopping two extra-base hits this season (three fewer than Gomez). I'd argue that the offensive difference between Gomez and Young isn't nearly as great as the offensive difference between Casilla and Harris, while the defensive gap is far larger.

I'm not saying Gomez should be playing over Young everyday, but he shouldn't be sitting six out of seven games. Harris should be playing most days over Casilla at this point, though.

Ben K said...

Even though, for some reason, you write about Casilla in every post, I thought I may as well heap on my take.

The thing that still baffles me is fans' claims that it is Casilla's defense which is keeping him as the starting at second (even though they refuse to acknowledge that Casilla is hitting SECOND in our order.)

Looking at Casilla's UZR/150:
2007:-8.0
2008:-0.8
2009:-13.5

Harris' UZR/150:
2007:-2.4
2008:-1.8
2009:10.6 (only six(!) games started)

Now I understand that one statistic does not fully measure fielding ability, but UZR seems to be the most logical.

Currently, Cassila's defense is NOT making up for his offense at all. Let alone covering for his .430 OPS and .211 wOBA.

But lets see if we can find any positives:

*Casilla's BABIP is a super low .200, so we should see that climb up at some point.

*His fly ball percentage is higher than it ever has been (but what hurts is the career low line drive percentage.) So if he can keep his new found 1.55 GB/FB ratio, and his line drive percentage increases, that may help.

Other than that, there do not seem to be ANY positive indicators. So, we will just have to hope that he hurts his finger or something.

lookatthosetwins said...

Small sample sizes of UZR are even worse than small sample sizes of hitting lines. But I agree that Casilla hasn't shown anything to think he's a premier defender. I think gardy just doesn't like how Harris turns double plays, which in the long run has such a small amount of effect on wins and losses over the course of a season.

lookatthosetwins said...

Also, besides the point that Casilla should just not be playing in general, and definitely shouldn't be hitting second, how could Gardy possibly rationalize not pinch hitting for him yesterday? It was a left handed reliever against our worst hitter against left handed pitchers. He has below a 600 ops for his career against LHP and I don't think he had a hit yet against them (he had a hit as a RHB, but I think that was against Wakefield). Harris has a career 800 OPS vs. lefties. The bases were loaded, and we had a chance to put a much needed nail in the coffin. Yes, Casilla did "come through" with a bloop single to score two, but that doesn't change the fact that he had no business hitting in that situation.

I get the feeling that Gardy thinks Casilla is "breaking up the lefties" when all he's doing is compounding the problem. Now they have 5 straight guys they'd rather throw a lefty against.

Nick N. said...

That's a great take.

Casilla had one hit against LHP prior to that AB, but I believe it was a bunt single

David said...

Casilla's bad hitting seems to be affecting his overall play. He has been making uncharacteristic errors, and he couldn't even get a sacrifice bunt down a couple games ago. I hope his 2-RBI single on Sunday gets him started, but it's a pretty thin hope.

I think you might be overcounting the number of games that Gomez has sat on the bench. His first child was born last Wednesday, and gardy gave him some time off for that. He rejoined the team on Friday.

I saw those extra-base hits that Span couldn't reach, and saw the same thing: Gomez would have caught those. It seems like we win more games when he starts in CF.

The Baseball Bat said...

Put Harris at short and Punto at 2nd for now

Gil said...

Casilla just got sent to Rochester.

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