Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Psychic Blows and Pondering the Hypotheticals (With Tables)

I know he was facing the Royals, but Scott Baker's stuff looked very sharp last night. Low 90's fastball which he could dial up to 94-95 when he wanted, a change-up in the low 80's which had batters reaching, and a curveball to make Bert proud. Now why couldn't the club tap him to face Chicago last week? Oh, right. Probably the same reason Gardy didn't trust Jesse Crain to relieve Joe Nathan in Game 2 of the ALDS last year.

Here's hoping that Baker never sees the minor leagues again. He ought to stick in the Twins rotation for good.

The Twins offense, on the other hand, looks so, so sad. The only guys I really want to watch at the plate now are Joe Mauer and Jason Bartlett. Well, sometimes Ford and Cuddyer. The rest, I find myself zipping through their at-bats, thanks to the power of TiVo, until I see the ball put in play. I hate to watch a game that way, but the current pitch-by-pitch alternative is slow torture. Have you really thought about the fact--I mean, let it sink in--that the #1-2 hitters in the order right now are Michael Ryan and Nick Punto? Then, compounding that blow to the psyche, it's particularly depressing when you see the #3 hitter intentionally walked twice in a game because the opposing manager actually wants the cleanup hitter up to bat with runners in scoring position. That's the tumble Justin Morneau has taken since his mighty April.

Today I looked at Morneau's numbers for the first time in awhile; and although I knew he'd been struggling, it still seems hard to believe that he's really hitting .237/.304/.432 now. His EqA is .259, and by VORP he rates as the worst regular 1st baseman in the American League. Those who used to chortle, "Dougie Who?" where are you now?

Speaking of the intentional walks, either the manager needs to move another hitter behind Mauer again, or he might want to rethink his strategy when the #9 hitter gets into scoring position with no outs. Last night, after Bartlett doubled to lead off the 8th, Gardenhire had Michael Ryan lay down a sacrifice to move Bartlett to 3rd base--which Ryan did nicely. The trouble was, that left Little Nicky Punto (.241/.302/.333 coming into the game) with the responsibility of bringing him home with a hit or deep flyball. When he got swept under by the percentages, the Royals promptly gave a free pass to Mauer and dared Morneau to get a 2-out hit. Instead, he grounded out to Denny Hocking at 2nd base.

The whole scenario is depressing on so many levels, including the coup de grace of Denny Fricking Hocking appearing at the end to haunt me like the spectre of so many nightmares past. Was it only invented by my subconscious mind? I feel like I should write it down to have the scene analyzed. Did anyone see if Hocking was smoking a cigar? Was Morneau, in fact, swinging a banana at the plate? Or, perhaps an 18-inch State Fair Corndog? Luis Rivas wasn't lurking down at the end of the clubhouse tunnel, wading in a pool of water, was he?

Anyway, I know the team is having trouble scoring runs. But when you have a runner in scoring position with no outs, at this point, maybe you don't want to give away an out and leave Punto and Morneau even less of a margin for error than is really necessary.

Thankfully, the Twins finally did break through the KC bullpen in the 10th inning--or the Royals rather gave the game away. Shawn Camp, the fourth reliever out of the pen, walked Bartlett and Ryan. Then Punto hit a high fly into the Left-Center gap, which looked like a catchable ball, but Terrence Long could only wave at the ball as it landed and trundled to the wall, scoring both runners. Afterwards, the camera caught Long making a face as he shook his head at his Centerfielder. Maybe he thought the CF should have had it, or maybe he didn't like what his CF was saying to him. Maybe he was just reflecting on what kind of Supreme Being might have brought him to play in Kansas City this season.

Well, fortunately for the Twins and us fans, our bullpen is awesome--especially when it's Rincon and Nathan wrapping up the proceedings. So, Twins Win.

Still, watching the Twins lineup go through its paces this evening got me to wondering what the Twins' expected record might be if the team could swap offenses with the Red Sox or any other AL team.

Here are the expected team records, through 131 games, if each team's offense were supported by the Twins pitching staff:

Offense
W-L
Pct.

RS
RA
Red Sox
88-43
.669

746
525
Yankees
85-46
.647

711
525
Rangers
83-48
.637

695
525
Athletics
79-54
.599

642
525
Indians
78-53
.594

635
525
Blue Jays
77-54
.586

625
525
Devil Rays
77-54
.586

624
525
Tigers
76-55
.579

616
525
Angels
75-56
.575

611
525
White Sox
73-58
.557

592
525
Orioles
73-58
.555

586
525
Mariners
71-60
.545

575
525
Twins
71-60
.538

567
525
Royals
67-64
.512

538
525

Each team in the league would have an expected record above .500 if it had Twins-level pitching this season. The top team, Boston's offense + Minnesota's pitching and defense, would be on pace for 108 wins. If the Twins had the Devil Rays' 7th rated offense, right now they could be leading the Wild Card race by 2.5 games.

Here are the expected records if each team's pitching staff were supported by the Twins offense:

Pitch & Def
W-L
Pct.

RS
RA
White Sox
72-59
.548

567
515
Angels
71-60
.541

567
522
Twins
71-60
.538

567
525
Athletics
71-60
.537

567
526
Indians
67-64
.514

567
551
Blue Jays
65-66
.496

567
571
Mariners
60-71
.461

567
613
Tigers
59-72
.451

567
626
Yankees
59-72
.447

567
631
Orioles
57-74
.437

567
644
Red Sox
56-75
.428

567
656
Rangers
53-78
.402

567
691
Royals
48-83
.366

567
750
Devil Rays
46-85
.351

567
771

Most of the league would be drowning if attached to the anchor of the Twins offense. Only four teams besides the Twins have pitching good enough to keep afloat above .500 with that kind of run support. AL East powers Boston and New York would already be far out of contention by now--and imagine all the angst and heads exploding in the Northeast if that were the case. If the Twins actually had the Mariners' 7th rated pitching, right now they could be 4th in the AL Central.

Even the stingiest pitching & defense in the league, paired with the Twins offense, now would be on pace for just an expected 88 wins.

The Twins have a pitching staff that might be worthy of a pennant run, but it's tied to an offense that belongs locked in the cellar. This can't go on. A team simply cannot expect to win with this kind of offense. There are younger players who should be back and given a chance to show progress next year, out of necessity if for no other reason. But at the same time, some major revisions to the lineup plan are in order, too. Upgrades at 2B or 3B, DH, and throughout the outfield must be a priority. Nobody but Joe Mauer should be Untouchable. If we get another winter of controlling roster attrition and maintaining the status quo, it's a shame. Both the pitching staff and the Twins fans deserve better than this.

2 Comments:

At 8/30/2005 8:59 AM, Blogger SBG said...

Nobody but Joe Mauer should be untouchable. Amen. As you know, this team needs an impact bat. What ever it takes to get it. Outside of Mauer. And Santana.

 
At 8/30/2005 10:51 PM, Anonymous spycake said...

Excellent tables. I guess we all know the pitching's great and the offense sucks, but it's still to cool to creative expressions of that.

 

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