Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Power Infusion

In 89 games this year, the Twins have hit 54 home runs. Among AL teams, only the Athletics, with 50, have hit fewer. Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays has hit 31 on his own.

If they maintain their pace through the rest of the season, the Twins won't even reach 100 home runs as a team; it would be their first time failing to reach triple-digits in a full season since 1980. No team has made the playoffs while hitting fewer than 100 homers since the '88 Dodgers (who, ironically, would see Kirk Gibson hit one of the most famous home runs of all time in the World Series).

Fortunately, there are a number of reasons to believe that the Twins will beat their current 98-homer projection handily. Two of those reasons just rejoined the roster after Sunday's game.

When the All-Star break ends, the Twins will be carrying Delmon Young -- returning from a sprained ankle -- and Trevor Plouffe -- returning after terrorizing Triple-A for several weeks -- in place of Rene Tosoni and Rene Rivera.

Young had hit only two home runs in 217 plate appearances when he landed on the disabled list after an awkward collision with the outfield wall in Milwaukee, but he blasted 21 last year and is known as a player whose bat picks up as the season goes on.

His abysmal production this year after seemingly beginning to realize his immense power potential in 2010 has been baffling, but something clearly hasn't been right with the left fielder. Whatever it is, hopefully it was remedied along with his ankle during this latest DL stint. Young did homer twice during a nine-game rehab assignment in Ft. Myers, which is a good sign.

Meanwhile, Plouffe leads the organization in home runs by a wide margin this year with 18.  Michael Cuddyer, who is pacing the Twins in gopher balls and appeared in last night's All Star Game, has hit 13.

Plouffe has already rocketed past his previous career-best homer total of 15, which he set last year. Granted, he's been spending his fourth season in Triple-A, so it's not clear how much stock can be put into this shocking power outburst, but the former first-round pick did go deep three times while posting an impressive ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) of .183 in 18 games with the Twins back in May.

There are no guarantees with either of these players, but if Young can turn things around and Plouffe can just continue to do what he's been doing, they will add a serious infusion of power to this roster, which would go a long way toward bettering the Twins' slim postseason odds.


mister said...

But if Young starts hitting, he's a probable trade candidate.
And I don't see Plouffe being an everyday player, so his chances to homer could be limited.
Power infusion?....not so much.

Lester Bernham said...

It will be interesting to see how Young will respond this time around because his livelihood as a starter is completly on the line. If he doesn't respond to this challenge he's out and he knows it. I think if Plouffe is given the same chance in terms of ab's as Revere he will do fine. I dont see it happening though. But, he's a big man and he's filling out and getting stronger and the ball jumps of his bat. I know AAA numbers dont necessarily mean big league success but it's not like he's doing this in the pcl where guys like Mccarty, brito, and Michael Ryan were power hitters. Suddenly the Twins farm system doesn't seem so bad with revere, tosoni, and plouffe all showing signs of starter caliber major league ability.

mgraves said...

DY is swinging at the lowest percentage of pitches in his career, including a downward trend of O-Swing%. He's making contact above his career rate. He's also swinging and missing well below his career rate.

The problem lies in what he's doing when he makes contact: his line drive rate is at 15.9% (which is actually higher than last year, but below his career rate). His line drive rate has been trending downward since his trade to the Twins.

His flyball % is above his career rate and he has a 1.23 GB/FB rate, which for a power hitter is an improvement over his career numbers. Unfortunately his infield flyball rate is ridiculously high (as is his infield hit %). (This infield stuff would be okay if he could run, e.g. if he were Ben Revere, who has an equivalent infield hit%).

Maybe 200 ABs is a touch low for an assessment for the year, but his career contact numbers don't track with that of a power hitter (Kubel has a 20.9% LD rate and a GB/FB ratio around one; Morneau, Mauer, and Thome provide similar numbers). DY's career numbers: 1.44 GB/FB, 17.9% LD (a number he has not matched since 2007). DY has enough AB's in his career--I find it unlikely he is going to start hitting line drives and fly balls.

Statistics from Fangraphs:

mgraves said...

Re: My previous--
Mauer does not belong in the list of power hitters, for several reasons: one of which is that he is not a power hitter, and another being that he posts closer to a 2/1 GBFB ratio than a 1. If DY is to be a power hitter, it will have to be with HR/FB ratio similar to Mauer's 2009 campaign.

Matt said...

Well, I guess if you're already at rock bottom in terms of power, it's possible to consider Delmon and Plouffe a "power infusion." All I see is an infusion of poor fielding and missed potential, but that's just me. Hell, the way Delmon was loafing around earlier this year, I'm not so sure his addition is going to do ANYTHING good for this club right now, which was on a good roll without him.

Anonymous said...

I've been pretty pessimistic about this team since the ridiculous Hardy trade - but I'm going to take a little different tack now. I still think the Tigers are the team to beat (4 regulars over .300 with power) but I think the Twins can give them a good chase.
I believe Plouffe is going to be the every day 1B until/if Morneau returns. And I think he will add a jolt to this lineup. 15 HR's in 51 games is a very nice improvement for him. I would play Mauer a little there too. I would use DY and Slowey in a trade package for a quality BP righty like Heath Bell. But it has to be someone who is useable beyond this year - and I would not give up any top minor league talent. I still think this team can win 85+ games. That could be enough - who knows?

cy1time said...

On pace for 98 is just awful. We hit 142 last year with largely the same cast of players. Even if this "infusion" of power bumps our number, we're still looking at dropping 25-30% from last year. I thought losing the pines in the batter's eye was going to make Target Field more hitter friendly?

james paul mccartny jr. said...

All the power in the world won't make much of a difference as long as they have to rely on Alex Burnett 3 times per week. The guy is shell shocked and I cant believe the Twins keep running him out there. They should have went out and got Mike Trombley by now.

Kelly said...

All this talk about trading Young is just stupid. He is only 25, has a bona fide 40 HR per year potential and has a bright future.The best is yet to come with this kid.

I say lock him down for long term and pencil him in at 3-4-5 in the batting order for the next 5 years.

perkins said...

Not trying to be a troll here, Nick, but your optimism on Young is a pretty significant departure over how you felt about him just at the beginning of this season. I'm curious as to what changed your attitude on him. Personally, I'm still not sold that he'll amount to much of anything with the Twins. Although he was absolutely beastly at the plate last year, I envision him being an Ortiz case where Young lands on another team after underperforming here and recognizes his full potential. I agree, the ceiling is high on Delmon, but he's shown a lack of drive to reach that potential. If I remember correctly, you were upset about Young earlier when he wouldn't even run down a ball he misplayed in left, saying you preferred Cuddyer over him at the time because "at least Cuddyer has the appearance of someone that gives a damn". Obviously Cuddyer's play has improved drastically since that time, but has Delmon's fielding ability or attitude? Just curious as to why the change of heart. Like I said, I just don't see Young reversing his fortunes in any way enough to warrant a continued spot with this team, especially with the outfielders coming up from AAA with potential to make an impact within the next few years (Revere, Tosoni, etc..)

Joe said...

"Slim playoff chances..."??
The Central is so weak that based on the way the Twins have finished the last month I would almost call them the favorites to win it. I don't think that's blind optimism, it's just taking a look at what we're up against and not seeing much.

mgraves said...

DY is a "bona fide 40 HR per year potential"
Sarcasm, I trust. He does not hit the ball in the air, even when he's hitting above replacement level. Using B-R defense neutral oWAR, he has had four out of six seasons where he has played above replacement level, with only one year qualifying as a "starter". He is not a very good hitter. He is not improving. He is an abysmal defender. Trade him for a bag of balls or non-tender him. He does nothing for the team.

Kelly said...

What a bunch of negative fools. Delmon was the Twins MVP last year. And he is only 25. He has a very high ceiling and he will get there.

mgraves said...

DY was not the 2010 Twins MVP: seven position players, including four part-time or oft-injured players produced more Wins Above Replacement that did DY. Four pitchers produced more WAR than did DY. He drove in a lot of RBI because Mauer, Thome, Morneau, and Cuddyer had solid to excellent OBPs.

DY is a mediocre, at best, hitter, who does not elevate the ball frequently enough to be a power hitter. DY cannot play defense. He dogs it in the field. He threw a temper-tantrum as a 22 y/o man resulting in his throwing a bat at an umpire. I'd rather have broken down, retired Dmitri Young than DY.

pianoman16 said...

And infuse some power they did tonight: 2 doubles from Delmon and a clutch 2-run homer from Plouffe.

Delmon's only friend said...

Man, not quite sure what brings out all of the hate against Delmon in all these otherwise friendly Twins fans...

I'll be the first one to admit that Delmon looks a bit ridiculous off and on out in the outfield. A little slower, a few bad routes, etc. He's streaky, but has been an all around good hitter the last couple years.

mgraves - I have no idea who the 2010 Twins MVP would be, but you're letting the "hate on Delmon" bandwagon get the best of you. Last year he hit .298, with 21 home runs, and 112 RBIs. You say that it is only because of the people in front of him, but Morneau was out the second half of the season. Getting 112 RBIs is difficult, regardless of who is in front of you.

His WAR rating might be low. I have no idea. All I know is that he hit for better average, more home runs, and more RBIs than Cuddyer, Span, Kubel, and Repko. All of our replacements.

Maybe you can say he doesn't have a great attitude. Maybe you can say he hasn't lived up to his potential. But what you cannot say is that he wasn't one of the most important hitters on the team last year.

mgraves said...

Delmon's only friend--
For the record, I did not like DY when he played for Tampa. I've liked him less as he's played for the Twins. And, I am willing to stipulate that he was one of the most important hitters on the 2010 Twins. I go no farther, however.

Kel said...

mgraves is a biased fool. Letting your personal dislike cloud your judgment. Young can get hot and carry a team. Period. Mgraves doesn't know good hitting and the WAR stat is a joke. HR/RBI are still the most relevant stats. All that other stuff is just fantasy garbage stuff.

Truth is DY is just starting to learn to hit. He is 25 years old. We has a young guy that came up as a left fielder years ago. He was a defensive liability his whole career. His name was Killebrew.

Anonymous said...

Delmon and Trevor must have read your blog yesterday... and believed it!

Nick N. said...

Not trying to be a troll here, Nick, but your optimism on Young is a pretty significant departure over how you felt about him just at the beginning of this season

At the beginning of the season I was actually extremely optimistic about Young, projecting a 30-HR season. That optimism has certainly waned as we've gone along, but my takes in this column are basically just an acknowledgement that he's capable of a lot more than he's given, and he's known for going on some scorching hot streaks when he gets locked in around this time of year. It's more hope than expectation, I guess, but I think it's a fair hope (he did look good at the plate last night).

Of course, if he reverts to the way he was playing during the first half, the Twins will have an easy decision on their hands when Span returns.

Anonymous said...

any power infusion is going to be pretty insignificant if they keep sending Capps out to blow saves. Mijares and Burnett are pretty brutal too. Is there a relief pitching infusion somewhere down the road?

Anonymous said...

should Young be a trade candidate? Kubel and Cuddy are free agents this offseason, if they let both of them or even one of them walk and trade Delmon away then you have significantly decreased the power of this team, especially considering Morneau's uncertain status and Thome's retirement this offseason after getting to 600. Delmon is relatively young and still has plenty of potential and seeing how the roster is trending toward contact hitters with speed then Delmon's punch is sorely needed. Hope Kubel comes back before the trade deadline and catches fire.

Anonymous said...

how many Capps fans still out there?

Anonymous said...

I think the 12th year of life is when we grow out of thinking and saying "we hate" someone one. "Hating one someone" has become a dismal statement used by dimwits. Nobody hates Delmon. It's simply a fact that the guy seems like he throws his head out the window and is inconsistent. No doubt he hasn't reached his potential - but who really knows whether he will. Flashes of brilliance don't tantamout to the 'possible potential' anyway. Hitting is a head game as much as it is physical ability. Delmon appears to lack the mental game needed to be a good hitter. Good hitting is consistent hitting.. period. How long you wanna wait? Comparing him to Harmon invites ridicule. Harmon hit more home runs in the 1960's than ANY player in the majors. Delmon is a klutz in the field, pure and simple.

$.02 said...

Harmon Killebrew was one of the truly great all time hitters. He did not blossom until he was 23 years old. Delmon is 25. By the time they were 24, Harmon had 84 and Delmon 59 homers. That is a 25 homer difference and the Killer started younger. Still, its probably not fair to compare a young player to a HalloFamer. But even if DY is half the hitter the Killer was, that is solid. And he is way better than that.

My point is it is unwise to want to trade a guy with 40 homer potential and who is improving as a right handed power hitter, a spot that the Twins sorely lack.

This year he suffered injuries. I think the Twins see his potential as a number 1 overall draft pick and are willing to let it grow. But they have 5 outfieldrs with starter potential. Cuddy, Delmon, Kubes, Span and Revere. Something has gotta give.

The Pen is a mess. Capps does not have dominant stuff any more than Rausch did last year, and he keeps getting his fastball up and hit hard. Mijares and Brunett came cheaply, but are mediocre and these three guys are losing games in a year where we cannot afford that. Perk oughta be the closer and Nathan the set up. And we need to bring up James and Gibson.

My $.02

mgraves said...

1-Kel-I don't think "biased" means what you think it does.

2-In the season that Harmon Killebrew turned 23, his first full season, he hit 42 homeruns. It took DY almost four full seasons to reach that total. The "anonymous" who compared the two: congratulations on comparing kumquats to turnips.

3-for DY to hit 40 HRs, his HR/FB rate would need to be roughly 20% to 25%. That is unlikely. Mauer did it once, and will more than likely never do so again. Based upon DY's career #s, with room for improvement (career rate 8.7%), his rate should settle in around 10-15%, which makes him a 20-25 hr/yr kind of guy. Basically, Jacques Jones, without the ability to work a count, steal a base, play defense, or intangibles such as playing hard.

Nothing in DY's history indicates that he will become a power hitter. He's had almost six years of mediocrity. For those of you, such as semi-literate Kel, who insist on spouting bald, risible, assertions, without appeal to facts, statistics, or reality: goombe.

(Poorly transliterated Arabic is the way to go).

On occasion it occurs to me, that as I lacked the talent to play beyond H.S., perhaps, I cannot assess ball-players. Then it occurs to me that if I watched a terrorist wander down the street rather than do my job, or shot a hostage, rather than the hostage taker I would be justly criticized, and then pilloried and fired. At this point it occurs to me that what I do is important, what DY and the like do, is not. That said, the least that can be expected of people lucky and talented enough to play a kid's game for a living is to play hard. DY fails this basic requirement. He can sod off.