Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tuesday Notes

The Twins chose a bad time to crawl into their shelves offensively this past weekend. The Mariners are a weak offensive team that can be beaten pretty easily if you can put a few runs on the board. Unfortunately, the Twins managed just five runs in the three-game series and came away with yet another road series loss in spite of some solid work from the pitching staff.

It wasn't that the Twins were completely shut down all weekend, it's just that they couldn't deliver hits at crucial moments. They managed plenty of baserunners in the series, tallying 25 hits and 14 walks in the three games, but went just 2-for-24 with runners in scoring position. The Twins entered last night's contest hitting just .259 with runners in scoring position, a massive dropoff from their .305 average in such situations a year ago. Joe Christensen suggested that Twins hitters might be pressing too much in scoring opportunties -- particularly on the road where their struggles are well documented. Whether the problems stem from this or just a major regression to the mean, there's no denying Christensen's conclusion: "if this funk lasts much longer, it’ll throw a serious crimp into the Twins’ playoff hopes."

A few notes on Twins-related topics...

* Today marks the opening of the 2009 ML amateur entry draft. The Twins pick at No. 22 in the first round and have another supplemental pick at No. 46. I've heard a variety of names mentioned as possible candidates for the Twins to take with their first-rounder, including high school pitcher Matt Hobgood, high school third baseman Brian Borchering, college closer Drew Storen and high school shortstop Jiovanni Mier. I'm going to go on a limb and predict that right-hander Tanner Scheppers falls due to signability concerns and the Twins nab him at 22. That wouldn't be a characteristic move for this organization, but the Twins have shown a bit more willingness to open the checkbook on draft day recently and Scheppers has some local ties. Expect hefty draft analysis on this page tomorrow.

* After struggling immensely over the first several weeks of the season, the Twins' bullpen has quietly settled into a very nice groove lately. Check out the numbers for Twins relievers since the beginning of May (coming into last night's game)...

Joe Nathan: 14.2 IP, 1.84 ERA, .192 BAA, 17/3 K/BB
Matt Guerrier: 17 IP, 2.12 ERA, .140 BAA, 13/4 K/BB
Jose Mijares: 15 IP, 3.00 ERA, .259 BAA, 9/7 K/BB
Luis Ayala: 14 IP, 2.57 ERA, .308 BAA, 7/4 K/BB
R.A. Dickey: 23.2 IP, 1.52 ERA, .217 BAA, 16/8 K/BB
Sean Henn: 7.2 IP, 3.52 ERA, .231 BAA, 5/3 K/BB
Jesse Crain: 11.1 IP, 7.15 ERA, .326 BAA, 7/5 K/BB

Even accounting for the continued struggles of Crain, that's a collective 2.79 ERA from current members of the Twins bullpen since the start of May. That's excellent. Of course, it's important to note that a few of these guys (most notably Ayala) aren't remotely likely to maintain this current pace, but the bullpen does deserve a lot of credit for showing tremendous improvement after a terrible first month.

* Does Ron Gardenhire read this blog? The answer, almost certainly, is no; yet, out of coincidence he has seemingly picked up on some of the themes I've been writing about. On May 14 I posted an article titled Saving Guerrier's Arm, in which I pointed out that Guerrier -- who has fallen apart toward the end of the past couple seasons due to overuse -- had appeared in 17 of the Twins' first 34 games, putting him on a pace to pitch in a career-high 81 games. Since the day that post went up, Guerrier has appeared 10 times in 24 games -- a more reasonable rate of usage which would extrapolate to 68 appearances in a full season. He has been used on consecutive days on only one occasion during that span. This reduced dependence on Guerrier may have as much to do with the overall improvement of the bullpen (and starting rotation) as it does with any conscious decision made by Gardenhire to ease up on Guerrier's arm, but nevertheless it's pleasing to see.

Also, I complained last Friday that Delmon Young had started eight times in 11 games since his return from bereavement leave in spite of his extraordinary struggles at the plate, and now Young has been in the starting lineup just twice in the past five games and in left field for only one of them.

With Gardenhire managing the bullpen fairly well, starting Gomez over Young and batting Joe Mauer second rather than any of the weak-hitting traditional middle-infield options, I find myself with rather little to complain about as far as team management goes. What is a blogger to do...

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tanner Scheppers isn't a lefthander.

D'Luigi said...

One thing I don't see anyone talking about is the bottom of the order over the last week or so seem to have picked up a bit. Usually the 7-8-9 batters are almost automatic outs but lately Gomez & Casilla particularly have shown some signs of coming into their own. We need them to get on base for Span, Mauer, and Morneau.

Nick N. said...

Tanner Scheppers isn't a lefthander.

You're right, my bad. Fixed that.

One thing I don't see anyone talking about is the bottom of the order over the last week or so seem to have picked up a bit. Usually the 7-8-9 batters are almost automatic outs but lately Gomez & Casilla particularly have shown some signs of coming into their own.

Casilla has a few more hits than usual over the past week, I guess, but Gomez has a 522 OPS in the past seven days. I'm not exactly ready to get excited about them yet.

Jewscott said...

If I were the Twins, I'd have Scheppers as the #2 player on my board after Strasburg.

This is why he won't be there, though.

http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/draft/?p=964

Death Rattle said...

Scheppers at number 2, are you kidding me?

Nick N. said...

If I were the Twins, I'd have Scheppers as the #2 player on my board after Strasburg.

This is why he won't be there, though.


I know you're high on Scheppers and I am too. He's got a great arm. You may be right that it's a pipe dream to imagine the Twins could end up with him, but I've seen him falling past 22 in quite a few mocks.

Nick N. said...

With Gardenhire managing the bullpen fairly well, starting Gomez over Young and batting Joe Mauer second rather than any of the weak-hitting traditional middle-infield options, I find myself with rather little to complain about as far as team management goes. What is a blogger to do...

Dear lord, I spoke too soon. Matt Tolbert batting second tonight...

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