Tagged: Delmon Young

Twins Weekend; DY and Pavano Keep Producing

The Twins took 2 of 3 from the Phillies in Philadephia, smashing home runs and recovering from ugly starts by both Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey to win a wild one on Saturday and kind of cruise to victory on Sunday behind a strong start by Carl Pavano, aka Luigi.  

Friday night’s game made me yell at my computer monitor and switch over to the Dodger-Red Sox game before settling in front of the tube for Cliff Lee’s masterful domination of the Reds.  Since the rumors say the Twins covet Lee I watched and daydreamed and drooled.
Saturday’s Twins-Phillies game was a wild one, with the Phillies busting out to a huge lead, but the Twins rallying for 5 runs in the top of the 9th–more Phillies’ bullpen woes–and then a crazy top of the 11th.  June-loving Delmon Young put the Twins ahead for good with an RBI single.  He was huge in this game, with a .376 WPA.  
Young has had a  huge June for the Twins, putting up the following numbers: 25 hits in 66 at bats with 4 doubles, 3 home runs, 12 runs scored, and 16 RBI, which comes out to a slash line of .379/.388/.576 with an OPS of .964 and a wOBA of .414.  His isolated power (ISO) is .197.  His walk and strikeout rates are career bests, and his BABIP is still below his career rate.  His season line stands at .306/.350/.502 with an OPS of .852, a wOBA of .367, and ISO of .196, and 17 doubles, 8 home runs, 32 runs scored, and 43 RBI which puts him second on the team.  Go DY!
Pavano paced the Twins on Sunday. contributing a mammoth .454 WPA, and dazzling the Phillies’ hitters, though, of late, it seems like almost all starting pitching is dazzling the Phillies’ hitters. But we’ll take what we can get!  Nick Nelson of “Nick’s Twins Blog” says Pavano’s is justifying his contract and then some.  The money shot quote:
After two young and relatively inexperienced starters were forced out very early over the first two games of a series in a tough opposing ballpark, Pavano faced off against one of the game’s most dominant pitchers and delivered a masterful complete-game victory, relieving a beleaguered bullpen and salvaging a series that at one point looked completely lost.

Pavano has completed seven or more innings in 11 of his 14 starts this season and has accumulated more innings than all but four starters in the AL. It’s no coincidence that he has factored into the decision each time he’s pitched this season; he’s routinely lasted deep into games and he has heavily impacted their outcomes. Talk about earning your paycheck. (That last sentence can be read with a not-so-slight tinge of irony by my friends who follow the Yankees.)

“I Like Ku-Bel in June, How ‘Bout You?”

Francisco Liriano was dominant with 11 K’s, including 7 in a row, tying a Twins’ franchise record, as he outdueled Atlanta’s Tim Hudson, who also turned in an excellent performance, inducing groundout after groundout.  In the end, Liriano was too much for Atlanta’s hitters as the Twins edged the Braves 2-1 at Target Field.
For the game, Hudson’s batted-balls-allowed included 17 groundballs, 7 flyballs, and 4 linedrives, putting his groundball percentage at a ridiculous 61%.
Liriano, by contrast, had Braves’ hitters completely baffled between the third and fifth innings, striking out the last two batters of the third (Prado and Heyward), the side in the fourth (Chipper Jones, Glaus, and McCann), and the first two hitters of the fifth (Escobar and Infante).  For the night, Liriano threw 71 of his 105 pitches for strikes, meaning that 68% of his pitches were strikes.
Braves’ rookie sensation right fielder Jason Heyward had a tough night, going 0 ro 4 with 4 K’s. 
The Braves scored their lone run in the top of the second, but the Twins were unable to answer until the bottom of the seventh.  In that inning, three Twins hit ground ball singles, two of them to the infeild, before Thome struck out.  Jason Kubel then lined one to right, scoring Joe Mauer.  Delmon Young, pinch hitting for Danny Valencia, then lined one to left, scoring Morneau, and putting the Twins up 2-1.
For the game, Liriano contributed .417 WPA, Kubel .188, and Delmon Young .122.  
Twinkie Talk’s Erin notes that Liriano is good.  Twinkie Town’s RandBall’s Stu writes up the game and 

notes that former Twins’ pitchers Carlos Silva and R. A. Dickey are a combined 12-0; it should be pointed out that both are now pitching in the National League.

This post’s title is a pun based on a line from a Sinatra song as mediated through one of the 1990s most underrated films, The Fisher King.

Twins Weekend

The weekend for the Twins was frustrating: the won one of the two games they played, but (a) in the game they won, they had to rally after the bullpen–Jesse Crain–allowed the A’s to tie the game in the 8th inning, and (b) on Sunday Nick Blackburn continued to realize it isn’t May and was, well, wildly ineffective as the A’s stuck it to Minnesota.

In Saturday’s game, the Twins were fortunate that A’s reliever Brad Ziegler was ineffective in the top of the 9th rather like Jesse Crain had been in the bottom of the 8th.  Actually, Ziegler wasn’t as ineffective registering a WPA of “only” -.333 compared the the -.425 WPA that Crain “contributed” in the previous half-inning.   
Crain pretty much negated a strong seven-inning, ten strikeout performance by Francisco Liriano in a mere two-thirds of an inning of “work”.  Crain’s stuff looked good, like it always does, with fastballs hitting 95 and 96 mph.  However, he lacks command, and I say that because his location is hittable.  Rosales’ game-tying hit came off a fastball just below belt high and right down the heart of the plate (check out MLB.com’s Gameday if you don’t believe me).  
Sunday’s game displayed a different form of depressing Twins’ pitching in the form of Nick Blackburn still realizing it’s not May and being pretty much terrible in his thankfully short outing;  Blackburn allowed 10 hits and 5 runs in 2 2/3 innings of “work” (make that, getting worked), “contributing” -.372 WPA.  The Twins’ bullpen rocked after that, surrendering no more runs and only three more hits over the next 5 1/3 innings. 
But the damage was done and A’s starter Gio Gonzalez was solid.   
Delmon Young paced the Twins with .099 WPA.  Actually, Young enjoyed his weekend in Oakland: 5 hits in 12 at-bats, with 9 total bases, a home run, 7 RBI, and a .453 wOBA. providing a glimmer of hope with a two-run home run in the top of the eighth to cut the A’s lead to a run.
One thing to be considered is that the Twins have multiple infield injuries that forced Gardenhire to use some creative lineups in this series.   With the prospect that both J. J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson could both end up on the DL, Twins fans ought to, uh, cross their fingers, light some candles, meditate intensely, or just pray their heads off as things might get even more interesting going forward.
Another area of concern has to be Blackburn’s inability to pitch well during months not named May.  Nick Nelson of “Nick’s Twins Blog” focuses on Blackburn’s inability to miss bats in what should be a must-read piece for Twins’ fans.  He writes:
Hitters are making contact with 96 percent of Blackburn’s offerings and they’re elevating plenty of those pitches, so it should come as no surprise that the league is hitting .338 against the right-hander. This isn’t the result of bad luck, as Blackburn’s batting average on balls in play isn’t too far above the league average and is basically in line with his career norms. It’s not that a ridiculous number of balls in play are turning into hits behind Blackburn, it’s that he’s allowing a ridiculous number of balls in play to begin with. 

Twins Snap Skid, Beat A’s in Extra Innings

The Twins entered play Friday night having dropped three straight to the Seattle Mariners.  Well, they recovered, and they won, 5-4, in eleven innings.  Yes, the Twins had to go extra innings in a game that looked like it might go easily for the Twins but which ended up looking really…hard for them.

(A more succinct game recap is available at “Twinkie Town.”)

Justin Morneau’s two-run home run in the top of the first off of A’s lefty Dallas Braden got things started on the right foot, and Twins’ starter Scott Baker pitched well.  

A’s starter Dallas Braden got himself in trouble in the top of the sixth, when the Twins strung some hits together, Mauer scoring on a Jason Kubel single, and Morneau scoring on a double by Delmon Young.  
Baker looked like he had things well in hand.
Uh, not so much.
Two late home runs by Kevin Kouzmanoff, in the seventh, and Rajai Davis, in the eighth, tied up the ballgame.  The second, by Davis, was a line drive rocketed out of left field off a total “cookie” by Baker, a hanging 80 mph breaking pitch, dead center of the plate at slightly below belt level, a pitched that begged to be slaughtered.  Davis complied with the ball’s wishes, and Baker was done for the night.
A’s relief ace Andrew Bailey offering the Oakland faithful little, if any, relief.  Thanks to leftfielder Greg Gross misplaying a Moreau fly to left into a double, the Twins finally had a leadoff man aboard.  One batter later, Delmon Young flicked a single down the rightfield line to both put the Twins up 5-4 and contribute .276 WPA.  Despite a blown pickoff attempt that sent Young to second with one out, Bailey managed to limit further damage.
Rauch came on for the Twins, and while Kurt Suzuki singled with two outs, bringing Three True Outcomes poster-boy Jack Cust to the plate.  Cust did not disappoint, striking out to end the game, and the Twins won.
The MLB.com game wrap is here, and WPA charting is here.
Baker ended up with a negative WPA (-.134) for the game since he surrendered a late game-tying home run that just about snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  The Twins’ big contributors were Delmon Young (.340), who drove in the winning run, and Justin Morneau (.331), who homered and scored three runs, including the winning run.  Twins’ reliever Matt Guerrier contributed .283 WPA in two innings of hitless relief.  Rajai Davis of the A’s registered at .191 WPA after his game-tying blast.
The Twins face off against the A’s tonight at 8:05 CDT, with Francisco Liriano starting for the Twins and Trevor Cahill starting for the A’s
Go Twins.

Twins Open Road Trip With Victory

The Minnesota Twins opened their seven-game West Coast road trip with a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

The Twins’ now ride a five-game winning streak.

Evidence is still mounting that Target Field is not a homer-friendly stadium as Twins’ hitters, who have only hit 13 home runs in 27 home games, launched three home runs in Safeco Field, a ballpark that has a reputation of its own for being unfriendly to the longball.
Michael Cuddyer played second base Monday night in place of the injured Orlando Hudson.  He made no glaring mistakes, though he definitely looks more comfortable in right field.  Although Cuddyer played eight innings at second in 2009 and another 55 innings at second in 2005, the Twins’ infield defense will be less heartburn-inducing to watch if they play, oh, say, a middle infielder at second instead.  Thanks, Michael for making the effort, but I’m sure all Twins fans will prefer seeing you in the outfield.  And while you were good at first last season, if you are playing there a lot, that means something bad happened to Justin Morneau, and we don’t want that either.  
Francisco Liriano pitched a decent ballgame for the Twins, though, like Scott Baker on Sunday, he had a couple of innings in which he really had to labor.  All in all, he scattered eight hits over six innings, striking out seven and allowing three runs, which, though it constitutes a Quality Start, still seems like less than that against a Mariners ballclub most notable for their Offensive Ineptitude (27th in runs/game [3.66], 28th in home runs, 27th in batting average [.240], 26th in on-base percentage [.313], 29th in slugging percentage [.348], 29th in OPS [.661], 28th in OPS+ [83], 28th in team wOBA [.298]).
“Twinkie Talk” refers obliquely to Seattle’s offensive woes in this post’s title.
In Win Probability Added news, Josh Wilson of the Mariners earned a game high .196, but just didn’t get much support from his ‘mates. Delmon Young (.172), Michael Cuddyer (.156), and Justin Morneau (.097) led the visiting Twins.  Morneau is currently seventh in the Majors in Win Probability Added for the season.
The Twins look to secure at least a split in this four-game series tonight, sending Nick Blackburn to the mound. The Mariners will start Jason Vargas.
I hope Blackburn thinks it is still May.
Go Twins!

Pavano Really Strong, Twins Offense Strikes Quickly Putting Minnesota on the Brink of a Series’ Sweep

A record crowd of 39,659 watched Rangers’ starting pitcher C. J. Wilson silence, or at least seriously muffle, the Twins’ bats for five and two-thirds innings Saturday afternoon at Target Field.  He was coasting along, with the Rangers holding a 2-0 lead.  And then things changed quickly.    

Denard Span singled, and second baseman Orlando Hudson followed with a home run, his  third in a Twins uniform, tying the game.  Hudson’s blast seemingly awakened the rest of the Twins’ bats, and the lineup suddenly came alive in the seventh, propelling the Twins to an 8-3 victory over the Rangers.
Meanwhile, as Wilson and the Rangers’ bullpen’s drama was playing out, Twins starter Carl Pavano was masterful, scattering seven hits over seven innings of work, walking one, and allowing only two runs.  He received ample help from his defense as the Twins turned three double plays, including a flyout-throwout gem from Jason Kubel to catcher Joe Mauer with one out and runners on second and third.  Mauer once again demonstrated his superior ability to show the baserunner an opening at the plate before sealing it off and tagging him out.  Pavano also helped himself out in the second inning by snagging a liner and throwing out the runner on first.   
Delmon Young continued to make me happy, ripping the first pitch he saw from Rangers’ reliever Chris Ray for a bases-loaded double during the Twins’ big seventh inning scoring rally.  If you’re into RBIs, take note that he already has 24 this season, putting him on pace for 80 or so.  If you’re not, take note of: his improving walk rate, the fact that his BB/K ratio is five times higher than it was last season, consider his career best slugging percentage and isolated power, and the fact that he’s still been unlucky as his BABIP is still .065 below his career rate.  I must sound like a broken record, but his slash line numbers will improve over the course of the season.  
“Twinkie Town’s” cmatheson emphasizes the “ambush” aspect of that seventh inning rally, and that post’s recap of the inning deserves reproduction:

The Twins could
barely get the bat on the ball against [Rangers’ starter C. J. Wilson] until
the sixth, when Denard Span singled
with two outs and Orlando Hudson homered
to left field to tie the game.

seemed to relax the boys, who came out swinging in the seventh and put up six
runs against Wilson and Chris Ray. It started innocently enough, with a Justin Morneau walk.
Then Michael Cuddyer launched
one towards the overhang in right that was dropped at the wall by David Murphy. With runners on second and third, Wilson
then walked Jason Kubel to
load the bases, earning an early trip to the showers. Delmon Young smoked
the first pitch he saw from Ray to the wall in left to plate two.  The
wheels came off for the Rangers when Josh Hamilton lost
a JJ Hardy pop up in the roof sun for another two-run double. When all was
said and done, the Twins had batted around plus one and scored six to put the
game out of reach.

“Twinkie Talk’s” recap, along with the obligatory WPA chart and best/worst assignments can be found here.
The Twins go for a sweep tonight on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball–my advice is to turn off the TV volume and listen to the radio feed so Joe Morgan’s bitter-old-man routine won’t piss you off–with Scott Baker starting for the Twins while lefthander Derek Holland takes the mound for the Rangers.
Go Twins!

More on Delmon Young

I think I really like Mike, but, once again, Confirmation Bias may be the reason why, for Mike writes:

Delmon Young has probably been the most frustrating member of the Minnesota Twins since the club acquired him in 2008, depending on where you fall on the Punto-spectrum.  Built like a bull, Young tantalizes Twins fans with his strong baseball pedigree and his athletic appearance.  He was the #1 overall pick in 2003 over Rickie Weeks and Nick Markakis.  God, if anybody could be a ballplayer, surely Delmon Young could.

Alas, in his two seasons in Minnesota, Young has quickly morphed from prospect to suspect.  After a troubling 2008 in which he hit 55% of his balls in play on the ground, Young’s walk rate plummeted and he lost playing time.  Plus, watching him play left field is actually considered an enhanced interrogation technique.  Whether he’s letting balls clank off his glove, taking routes that suggest he’s playing with his eyes closed, or letting the ball bounce 10 feet behind him, Delmon Young has been an abysmal defensive player, something truly frightening, give that he’s still only 24 years old and in his supposed defensive prime.  In his Twins tenure, Young has actually been below replacement level both offensively and defensively.

But there has been a subtle change this year.  Through his first 100 plate appearances, Delmon’s strikeout rate has been cut by more than half over his 2009 level.  His walk ratio, at 8%, is actually around the league average.  His strikeout to walk ratio has decreased by more than 600%, from 7.67 to 1.25, easily the best of his career.   So what’s happening?  Delmon Young is actually swinging less often.  Last year, he swung at 59.3% of the pitches he saw.  This year, he’s dropped that to 55.5%, and all of the difference is coming from pitches within the strike zone.  Young swung at 81.5% of strikes last year, but just 76.1% this year.  Despite giving away more strikes, his strikeout rate has fallen precipitously.  It’s counterintuitive, but by not swinging at more strikes that are hard to reach, Young has essentially saved his cuts for pitches that he can drive, and it’s making a great difference.  His HR rate is essentially unchanged, Young’s extra-base hit ratio is way up , from 27% to 42%.  While he had just 16 doubles last year in 416 PAs, he already has 7 this year.

So far, Young’s batting average remains relatively low for him, at just .267.  But his OBP is at .320 and his SLG is .444.  And, if Young maintains his current approach, those numbers are likely to rise significantly, as Delmon has only hit .266 on balls in play.  From 2007-2009, Young hit .338 on balls in play each year (amazing consistency, actually), and will likely approach that number again.

If you have read what First Pitch Strike has been thinking, then you’ll get the whole Confirmation Bias thing, but Mike, in his post, gives us an explanation, DY’s increasing selectivity at the plate, which makes his analysis a whole lot more compelling then mine.
Jesse, at “Twinkie Town” (make sure you bookmark that site, Twins fans), gets in on the Delmon Young appreciation, writing: 

The two categories most telling to me are contact rates and
swinging strikes.
  It’s representative of what we’ve seen through the
first six weeks or so of the season:  Young is putting the bat on the
ball.  He’s still lacking in strike zone discipline, but he’s been able to
take better swings and make contact as a result.  It’s resulted in fewer
strikeouts, and in spite of a much lower batting average on balls in play is
making his hits count.

still too early to say that Delmon has “finally” turned it all around
at the ripe old age of 24, but there are a lot of positive signs here. 
Hopefully he can keep it up, because if he can he’ll be a great hitter to have
in the bottom third of the order.