Thursday, June 17, 2010

Twin Killings Are Killing the Twins

The Twins didn't manage to do much offensive damage today in a 5-1 loss to the Rockies at Target Field. That's partially because they were facing Ubaldo Jimenez, who has been the best pitcher in the majors this year. But one can also point to the Twins repeatedly wasting early rally opportunities by grounding into three inning-ending double plays over the first four frames, pushing their MLB-leading total to 78.

The Twins have scored significantly fewer runs than one would expect based on the number of runners they put on base. They rank third in the American League in team OBP, trailing only the Yankees and Red Sox, yet they rank seventh in runs scored -- barely above the AL average. They are wasting too many baserunners.

At one point, this could have been pinned on their ineptitude with the bases loaded, as they hit .160 in such situations over their first 34 games. Yet, the Twins have predictably reversed that unlucky trend by going 10-for-30 with the bases juiced in their past 32 contests. Now, a dizzying double play rate has become the chief source for the club's offensive headaches, and it's not showing any signs of going away. They tapped into nine twin killings during their three-game series with the Rockies this week.

The Twins' current pace would have them grounding into 191 double plays by season's end. That would shatter the single-season major-league record of 174, set by the 1990 Boston Red Sox. This is an epidemic. But, as frustrating as it is, the Twins' jaw-dropping DP tendency is hardly surprising.

As mentioned above, the Twins rank third in the AL with a .348 on-base percentage, largely because they rank third in the league in walks. Yet, they don't hit for much power (seventh in the AL in SLG) and they don't steal many bases (10th in SB). That means they're putting an awful lot of runners on first base. When you factor in a team ground ball rate of 46.2 percent that ranks second in the AL, it's not difficult to see why the Twins have been getting doubled off with such frequency.

While the underlying reasons for the Twins high GIDP total aren't difficult to see, the hitters still can't be let off the hook completely. They are grounding into double plays at a higher rate -- per opportunity -- than the league average. (Twins: 15 percent; league: 12 percent.) Given that they've had more opportunities to hit into DP's than any other team, that increased rate is especially damaging.

It's time for the hitters in this lineup to take it upon themselves to elevate the ball with a runner on first rather than succumbing to the pitcher's will and firing a hard grounder right at an infielder. Similarly, Ron Gardenhire needs to start putting runners in motion more often; we actually saw the Twins avert a possible fourth GIDP today when Jason Kubel took off from first on a full count to Michael Cuddyer and reached second safely despite the ball being grounded directly to the second baseman.

It's great that the Twins are getting on base at such a strong rate this year, truly it is. But there's nothing more frustrating than wasting baserunners and between their early struggles with the bases loaded and their continual GIDP issues, the Twins are wasting an exorbitant number of them this season.

16 comments:

Rich said...

Amen. Amen.

Benjamin D. Aaker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Benjamin D. Aaker said...

Great blog, good data analysis! :)
-@greenaaker

Anonymous said...

Paralysis by analysis, we all know how this goes by now, the second half of the season is when balls start to come off the bat with more convinction, the gap is open for business, the defense tightens up, and an x-factor from the farm system or trade comes into play. And Ubaldo Jimenez was reason A, B, and C why we lost today, pitchers as good as him create thier own luck.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Just hit the damned ball in the air, especially with runners on 1st and 3rd. Everyone always says that it is not as easy as you think to hit a fly ball in the majors, but it is also not as easy as you think to induce a ground ball. They know what the pitcher is trying to do. He is trying to get a grounder. Of course, with our stupid baserunning, a lot of them will end up as line drive double plays and fly ball double plays.

David said...

The GBDPs are getting really irritating, and I think you're right to say the hitters have to take it upon themselves to elevate the ball - this is getting beyond that point where we can just say "eh, bad luck." However, when Mauer lined into a DP in the 8th, I couldn't help but think the team might just be a little snake-bit right now. They seem to have lined into an inordinate number of DPs as well as the high GBDP rate.

rghrbek said...

Excellent post, considering the twins actually had some nice at bats against this pitcher, they should've scratched across another run or two.

I am surprised though, that more has not been made about Span's feeble attempt in the 1st in center. Span has not been good in center field. He just cannot make the "very good" catch. He can get to a ball, but then drops it, or lets it get by him. I think many of us knew that he was above average at the corners, but man he has not been good in center.

He also has been making more base running mistakes.

I'm not saying the twins made a mistake in signing him, as he is young, but he is definitely not a center fielder, and since he is our only real base stealing threat, we need him to be smarter on the pads.

I don't think he hurts us enough out there to be a huge issue, if he is batting close to .300 with his .370 ob%.....

Jack Steal said...

Nick,

I am really happy you have a blog my friend. At least somebody is not afraid to call out this pitiful offense for not producing more. Can you imagine how many wins Pavano and Liriano would have if the offense acutally scored when they pitched.

Manager Ron Gardenhire had his team prepared to lose because Jimenz was on the mound. What a joke. How long can Target Field be used as an excuse??

Anonymous said...

The '90 Red Sox went 88-74 and won a 7-team division. I think that record is sort of like Mark Reynolds' strikeout record. If the Twins stay in the top 5 in OBP they'll score plenty of runs between now and October.

CA said...

Another reason for this, I think, is that both Cuddyer and Mauer (two of the big GIDP offenders this year) have a tendency to hit the ball on the ground when they pull the ball.

Of Mauer's batted balls to the right side this season, about 78% are grounders. Cuddyer is nearly as extreme--71% of his batted balls to the left side are hit on the ground.

Mauer's more extreme tendency is mitigated somewhat because he has been pulling the ball only 23% of the time; still, that ground ball rate is ridiculous. Cuddyer pulls the ball 43% of the time, so his GB tendency to his pull field is perhaps more of a problem.

I don't think a change in approach at the plate is warranted--Mauer needs no lecture about hitting--but these tendencies are going to result in a solid number of grounders and hence more DPs. In fact, as an opposing pitcher, I'd be tossing these guys tons of inside pitches with runners on.

Parker said...

"It's time for the hitters in this lineup to take it upon themselves to elevate the ball with a runner on first rather than succumbing to the pitcher's will and firing a hard grounder right at an infielder."

You there, Strawberry! Hit a home run.

Aye-aye skip.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

Let me get this correct.

You are proposing swing changes to save 16 DP's (to get to league average) in 66 games or 1 DP every 4 games, OR 3 DP's every 2 weeks.

Are the DP's annoying, ABSOLUTELY. So what? Stuff happens.

I suspect the Twins are NOT INTENTIONALLY hitting into double plays.

Regards,

David McGraw

Anonymous said...

of course they are not intentionally hitting into DPs, but they are also not intentionally trying to hit the ball in the air, which they should be in a lot of these situations. they don't have to drill the ball to get a run in from 3rd either. the double plays are annoying, but doing it with the bases loaded or RISP is what is killing us. yes, they should change their swings in double play/RISP situations. it's called situational hitting. this is usually taught at the high school level. it's not enough to just "make contact" in these situations. especially when it is better to strike out than to hit a solid grounder at an infielder!

Anonymous said...

"Are the DP's annoying, ABSOLUTELY. So what? Stuff happens.
"

stuff happens? another believer in the stupid luck theory.

Nick N. said...

Do I believe that double plays are largely the result of bad luck? Yes.

Do I believe measures can be taken to actively avoid them, especially when it's becoming an epidemic? Yes.

Many things that happen in a baseball game aren't under the direct control of the players. But if nothing was under their control then the games wouldn't be worth watching.

Some people don't understand that importance of "luck" in baseball while others take it way too far. I think it's important to find a comfortable medium.

Ben said...

This has to be one of the slower Twins teams too - at least the guys who get on base.