Tagged: Twins

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.)
Advertisements

The Mauer Power Story: Further Evaluation

Bllomberg Sport’s blog here at MLBlogs evaluates the evidence surrounding Joe Mauer’s power outage.  

They pose two possible explanations–the home field he plays in and the notion that pitchers have altered their approaches–and they find that he probably won’t repeat his 2009 power binge, but that he also won’t continue in his 2010 power outage to date.  

As they put it:

Target Field’s low home run
rate and the new approach by pitchers may be hurting Mauer’s home run numbers.
But the statistical variation in his HR/FB rate also helps explains the drastic
difference between 2009 and 2010. That rate suggests that Mauer’s MVP-type
numbers may have been affected by a statistical outlier, and that fans and
teams may have to reassess their expectations for Mauer’s power numbers. In
regards to how pitchers are approaching Mauer, it seems unlikely that the
recent adjustments can explain this year’s low home run total, as he has been a
top player in the league since 2004, and pitchers have been adjusting to his
tendencies every year. Meanwhile, Target Field has been playing like a large shopping
mall – but it does not explain Mauer’s low road home run total, or the fact
that he has yet to hit any homers at home.

Expect a middle ground to
emerge between the home run binge Mauer showed last season and the drought he’s
experienced in 2010.

Regression to the mean, baby, regression to the mean.

AL Central

Note: a “straight
run differential projection” is based on a team’s actual runs scored and
runs allowed.  A “component runs projected” is based on
basic runs created and component ERA without the adjustment to make it an ERA figure (i.e. IP and
the multiplication by 9 not included).  I then applied the
Pythagorean
Formula
with an exponent of
1.83.

In American League Central
Division news, the supine Pirates and the battling Braves combined to help
knock a couple of games off the margin between the second-place Tigers and the
division leading Twins.  The White Sox may yet make a move, but whether
it’s towards the division lead or in the trade market remains an open question.
 The Royals and the Indians appear a bit lost, but more on that below.

 

INDIANS

The Indians are 25-40
with a .385 winning percentage, 12.5 games behind the division lead.  They
are 11th in the AL in scoring at 4.25 runs/game, and they are 12th in the AL in
run prevention at 5.05 runs allowed per game.  Their straight run differential
projection is for 65 wins with a .404 winning percentage; their component run
projection puts them with 61 wins and a .378 winning percentage.  Cover
your eyes, Indians fans, it kind of gets worse from here.

Over the past two
weeks, the Indians are 6-8 and, though things were looking up as they went 6-5
over the first eleven games of that stretch, they just got
 swept by the Mets.  In fact, the Tribe has dropped four straight games.
 (Informally and on a sad note: the curse of Rocky Colavito sure is living
on.)  In the last fourteen games, the Indians have scored 80 runs, 5.71
runs/game, which is impressive, and they have allowed 69 runs in that stretch
(4.93 runs allowed per game).  They have been unlucky, since they scored
11 more runs in the past two weeks than they’ve allowed, but, on the other
hand, they have “wasted” some other offensive output, winning two
blowouts, 10-1 over the White Sox and 11-0 over Red Sox.  Outside of those
two games, and over the other twelve, they have scored 59 and allowed 68, which
projects out to a .429 winning percentage, or about two games under .500 over
that stretch, which mirrors their actual record.  Clearly, however, their
runs scoring and run prevention has been better over the past two weeks has
been better than it has been over the season as a whole.  I don’t know if
this a reason to be optimistic in Cleveland, as their component run
differential is pretty sad (a net [that is runs scored – runs allowed] of -86
versus -66 in the actual runs scored vs. runs allowed figures), which bodes ill
for the future.  And then there’s that whole Rocky Colavito thing…(hey,
I’m a Twins fan, and I still hate Frank Lane just for Cleveland’s–and Terry
Pluto’s–sake).

The Indians’ upcoming
schedule has them headed to Pittsburgh–which, given the pathetic, Orioles-like
mess that is the Pirates, could help the Tribe out–then on to Philadelphia and
Cincinnati before retuning home to face the Blue Jays in bringing June to a
close.

Indians fans may again
want to hide their eyes, for the Royals have quietly crept out of the cellar
and passed them for fourth place in the division.  In fact, it looks like
Cleveland will be preparing for the old player roulette once again; that is,
they will likely be dealing, and Matt Kaassen at FanGraphs
 makes the case for just such action.  John Parent also makes the argument, and I really like the
idea of Russell Branyan going to the Angels.  

Rookie catcher Carlos
Santana has experienced both the
 good and bad in his first week of Major League experience.
 
Mitch Talbot is experiencing some growing pains, though he’s been one of the few real rays of sunshine in
Cleveland so far this season, aside from the awesome and underrated
 Shin-Soo Choo.  My problem with Talbot is his, well, terrible K/BB rate.

Finally, after
watching Sunday’s game, Is there
 trouble with the mound in Progressive Field? 

 

ROYALS

The Royals are 29-38,
with a .433 winning percentage, 9.5 games behind the division lead.
 Despite having an exceptional team batting average (.278 to lead the AL),
they are only 8th in the AL in scoring at 4.62 runs per game.  They are
13th in AL in run prevention at 5.14 runs allowed per game.  Their
straight run differential projection is for 72 wins and a .445 winning
percentage, with a component run projection of also 72 runs and a .445 winning
percentage.  Hey, the Royals actual run differential and component run
differential actually match up.

Over the past two
weeks the Royals are 7-6.  They have scored 74 runs, or 5.69 runs per
game, while they’ve allowed 67 runs, which would 5.15 runs allowed per game.
 First of all, their run prevention is as consistently bad as it had been
all season.  Second, while their offense appears to have performed much
better over the past two weeks, they
 did put 15 on the board in just one of those
games, meaning they scored 59 in the other twelve games, or slightly less than
5 per game.  With their consistently dismal run prevention, it is actually
quite impressive that they are over .500 in the last two weeks.  Having
crept out of the cellar and passed the Indians for fourth place in the
division, the Royals’ month-ending series with the White Sox may have some
(small) significance, most likely for trade-market activity by one or both of
those teams later this summer.

The Royals’ upcoming
schedule takes them first to Atlanta for the weekend before traveling to
Washington; they will then return home to face the Cardinals and the White Sox
to end the month of June.

Fortunately for the
Royals and their woeful run prevention,
 Zach Greinke may be getting back on track.  With the Royals actually giving him some run support
Greinke might well chalk up more wins for Kansas City.  Greinke will start
Sunday in Atlanta against their unknown new rotation piece,
 Kris Medlen

Most of the news out
of and/or concerning the Royals, however, concerns their
 willingness to deal.  GM Dayton Moore apparently said he expects to be busy.  One point of concern will be maximizing
the value the Royals can get for David DeJesus
.  Matt Klaassen considers what the Royals should do, and it makes for some bleak reading since
the best piece Klaassen identifies as potential trade-bait is the Royals pride
and joy, closer
 Joakim Soria.

 

TIGERS

The Tigers are 34-29
with a .554 winning percentage.  The 1.5 games behind the division lead.
 They are 9th in the AL in scoring at 4.41 runs/game, and they are 5th in
the AL in run prevention allowing 4.40 runs per game.  The Tigers’ straight
run differential projection is 86 wins and a .532 winning percentage; their
component run projection is for 89 wins and a .550 winning percentage.  

Over the past two
weeks, the Tigers are 9-4, and they’ve scored 73 runs (5.63 runs/game) while
allowing 60 runs or 4.62 runs allowed per game.  One thing to consider is
that they allowed 15 runs in one of their losses, meaning that if we exclude
that game they have allowed an average of 3.75 runs/game over that two week
period.  The Tiger are hot, the
 winners of six straight, and they have been scoring a lot more runs per game and
allowing a lot fewer than they have over the season as a whole. 

The Tigers’ upcoming
schedule has them hosting Arizona this weekend; the D-Backs  that just got
swept by Boston.  Following that series, the Tigers visit the Mets, Braves
and Twins to finish June.  Now,
 that’s a challenging road-trip.  Leyland will be chaining
them down for the duration.

In their last win, the
Tigers got both a strong start from Jeremy Bonderman while also
 bashing 19 hits.  Bonderman’s strong performance in their latest win must
be encouraging for both the Tigers and their fans, for given that they trail
the Twins by only a game and a half, consistent pitching from another starting
pitcher would be a happy sign.  

In a surprising item,
one that defies the baseball conventional wisdom as filtered to us by color
analysts and lazy columnists,
 Jim Leyland completely dissed the concept of team chemistry in
a fashion–and language–that reminds of certain sabermetric analysis that
similarly disses that unmeasurable intangible–clubhouse chemistry–in almost
the same terms.

 

TWINS

The Twins are 38-20
with a winning percentage of .576, and they lead the AL Central Division,
though their lead is down to only 1.5 games.  They are 5th in the AL in
scoring with 4.75 runs/game, and they are 2nd in the AL in run prevention
allowing only 3.88 runs/game.  The Twins’ straight run differential
projection is 94 wins and a .582 winning percentage.  Their component run
projection is 90 wins and a .558 winning percentage.  Component run
projections thus have the Twins and Tigers neck-and-neck for the division
title.

Over the past two
weeks the Twins are 7-6, scoring 54 runs (4.15 runs/game) while allowing 50
runs (3.85 runs/game).  So, the offense has been down over the past two
weeks, and while
 Delmon Young has
had a great June (.937 OPS) so far, both
 Denard Span (.526
OPS)
 and Joe Mauer (.773 OPS which isn’t bad, but it’s not Joe
Mauer-ish) have not, and in the absence of Orlando Hudson, the second spot in
the lineup has been
 absolutely awful, and is a glaring concern.  The upcoming schedule has the
Twins on the road versus Philadelphia, Milwaukee and the New York Mets before
they return home to close the month by hosting the currently second-place
Detroit Tigers.

While Francisco Liriano has been spectacular, and while there has also been some talk
among the Twins’ faithful regarding
 whether or not Liriano deserves to start the All-Star Game, Liriano was outdueled by Rockies’ super-stud Ubaldo Jimenez on Thursday morning.   Scott Baker overcame some recent
inconsistency to
 pitch a true gem on Wednesday night, contributing a mammoth .430 WPA as the Twins edged the Rockies 2-1.

The Twins are currently sizing up their needs entering summer and the heart of the pennant
race.  One rumor making the rounds is whether or not the Twins should
pursue Mike Lowell of the Boston Red Sox;
 Aaron Gleeman ponders here, noting that’s he’d be a definite upgrade over what the Twins
have now, while
 Parker Hageman discusses over here, noting that Target Field will not help
Lowell’s power figures at all.

If you’re curious
about the Twins’ organization’s position players,
 this may be helpful, and if you’re curious about the organization’s pitchers, this might help.

 

WHITE SOX

The White Sox are
31-34, with a .477 winning percentage, and they are 6.5 games behind in the
division  They are 10th in the AL in scoring at 4.33 runs/game, and also
10th in the AL in run prevention at 4.76 runs allowed per game.  Their
straight run differential projection is for 76 wins with a .471 wining
percentage, while their component run projection is for 74 wins and a .455
winning percentage.

Over the past two
weeks, the White Sox are 9-4, including taking 2 of 3 from the Tigers, 2 of 3
from the Cubs, and sweeping the supine Pirates in their last three series. They
have scored 64 runs (4.92 runs/game) and they have allowed 50 runs (3.75 runs
allowed per game) over that period of time.  Clearly they have been
 much  better at scoring and preventing runs
over the past two weeks than over the season as a whole.  This improved
performance is the likely cause for GM Ken Williams walking back earlier
indications that he might be willing to turn over the roster, and his recent
indication that he’ll
 stand pat rather than trading pieces off.  (Williams is also downplaying reports of friction between him and manager Ozzie Guillen.)

Chicago’s upcoming
schedule has them heading to Washington, where they will have the delight of
facing Stephen Strasburg on Friday; they will then return home to host the
Braves and the Cubs before heading to Kansas City to end the month of June.

The White Sox would like to see Carlos Quentin return to his 2008 form.
 In other quarters, however, there is a question as to
 whether Quentin’s career can be saved at all.

While Quentin has been
surprisingly bad,
 Alex Rios has also been a surprise as
he’s been performing extremely well.  

In bad news, Jake
Peavy has been experiencing
 right shoulder pain.  

For their sake, Peavy needs to be healthy, for the Sox have a chance towards the end of the month the pick up some ground on the division leaders, for the face reeling Washington, the Cubs, and the Royals over the same period of time that the Tigers have to face tough teams including the Twins.

 

 

 

“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.

Baker’s Tough Start Too Much to Overcome

Scott Baker’s flirtation with inconsistency continued Thursday night.  His start against the Royals was less than impressive and the Twins lost 8-9 despite a late comeback, dropping the final game of the series.  Nevertheless the Twins took 2 of 3 from Kansas City before opening up a weekend interleague series against the Atlanta Braves.

Baker was credited with the loss and a -.227 WPA, which is pretty much horrid for a starting pitcher.
Twinkie Talk has a recap here, and Twinkie Town recaps over here.
While I endured through Bakers’ innings, I was thoroughly disgusted, and I fled the room during Crain’s tenure in the game.  Granted, the runs he surrendered were “unearned” due to unusually wretched Twins’ fielding, but it may be the case that I’ve watched as much Jess Crain as I can endure in 2010.
Oh, and what was up with the Twins’ lapses i fundamentals last night?  Some wretched fielding a wildly horrible baserunning error by Denard Span, one that would have been laughable were I not a Twins fan.  Gadzooks! but it was hard to watch.  I sure hope they got those sorts of mistakes out of their systems for the season.
Parker Hageman suggest that Mauer should be shifted upwards in the lineup in the absence of Orlando Hudson and given the absolutely dreadful production the Twins have gotten from the 2-spot since Hudson was injured against the Rangers.  The piece he links to is pretty sold, though it is presented as managerial “gut” talk rather than talking a look at the numbers or, to put a finer point on the matter, the sabermetric logic behind the reasoning.  
Baseball researchers Tom Tango, Michael Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin argue in their book,The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball (TMA Press, 2006) that the #2 hitter in the lineup should be one of a team’s best 3 overall hitters.  After evaluating run values in the 24 base/out states (situations) on pages 121-127, they argue (page 128):
What if we compare the cleanup hitter to the #2 hitter?  Here, it gets interesting.  The cleanup hitter has a .02 run advantage per extra-base hit (double, triple, home run), while the #2 hitter has a .02 run advantage per walk or hit batter.  This is not much of a difference.  What does this mean?  This means that the overall quality (as measured by wOBA) of your #2 and #4 batters should be about the same!
That’s right.  The advantage that the cleanup hitter has over the #2 hitter (all those runners on base) is mitigated by the 5% extra P[late] A[ppearances] that the #2 hitter has.  Five percent may sound small, but everything we’ve seen so far shows that we’re dealing with small differences anyway.  
When deciding between the #2 and #4 slots, if you have two batters of similar overall quality, put the guy with more extra-base hits in the #4 slot, and the guy with more walks in the #2 slot.
Let’s compare the #2 and #3 hitters. The run values of each event favor the #2 hitter over the #3 hitter by .02 to .03 runs.  And this is across the board, except for the HR (which is even).  Likewise, the run values of the #4 hitter’s events are all higher than those of the #3 hitter.  This means that the #3 hitter should be worse than the #2 and #4 hitters.  For most teams, the gap in talent between the hitters in the #3 and #2 slots is enormous and that talent is concentrated in the #3 slot.  This is simply wrong. 
Yes, yes, the conventional wisdom/dogma is that the #3 hitter should be the best overall hitter on the team.  Joe Morgan says it all the time.   If we were ask John Kruk about whether putting a better hitter in the 2-hole than the 3-hole, he would growl that if it really worked, people would already be doing it.  So much for bitter old men appreciating innovation. This is yet another point at which I would like to point out how hidebound and absurd the baseball punditocacy is: they just won’t listen to ideas that haven’t been anointed with the oil of being done to death.
In the Twins’ case, this argues in favor of batting Mauer in the 2 slot.  Given the gaping wound that Gardenhire has been utilizing in the 2 slot since Hudson went down has been costing the Twins runs.  Since winning games…you know the rest.
Gardenhire and the Twins organization generally is sooo resistant to advanced statistical analysis–one reason Slama languishes in Triple-AAA–that I doubt they’ll make such a move.
Too much is made of the managerial gut (Grady Little, anyone?) and not enough is made of probability and its impact on the game.  Oh, well. 

Wednesday Night at Target Field

The Twins beat the Royals 6-2 Wednesday night in front of the largest crowd in Target Field History.  The Twins are averaging attendance of 38875 at home, good for 3rd in the AL, and hosted over 40000 in their 26th consecutive sellout.

Starting pitcher Carl Pavano was great for the Twins–a far cry from his last start at home versus Kansas City–contributing a game-high .290 WPA in the win as he allowed six hits and two walks in eight solid innings of work, improving his record to 6-6 and his ERA to 3.92. It’s gotta’ be that mustache.
 Jon Rauch worked a scoreless ninth, even though it was not a save situation.  The Twins nickled-and-dimed the Royals, scoring a run here and a run there as they improved to 35-24 on the season, opening a 4.5 game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central; the Tigers got smoked by the White Sox, 3-15.  
The other two Twins top WPA contributors were Joe Mauer (.,140) and Delmon Young (.126).   
In ex-Twins news, we find that Boof Bonser is up to his old tricks for the Red Sox: not getting outs while giving up runs.  His WPA “contribution” for the day came in at “only” -.017, but he was still horrible, with 4 earned runs allowed off of 2 hits and 2 walks in 0 (zero) IP.  
Additional evaluations are available from both Aaron Gleeman, who says the Twins added college arms and high school bats, as well as from MLB.com where it’s noted that the Twins drafted an incredible 30 pitchers over the course of the 2010 draft.
The Twins look to complete a sweep of the Royals tomorrow night with Scott Baker starting for Minnesota while lefty retread Bruce Chen will start for Kansas City.

Tuesday Twins OmniPost

Despite injuries hampering their starting middle infielders and having to face Kansas City’s Zack Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young Award Winner, the Twins soundly beat the Royals 7-3 at Target Field on Tuesday night using help freshly brought up from the farm.

Ironically, the Twins had to return to the North Star State to remove their bats from the deep freeze, their offense returning to life in Target Field, where they bashed out twelve hits and plated the most runs the Twins have scored since their May 29th game against the Rangers.
Kevin Slowey was reputedly dominant and masterful, actually perfect over the first 4 1/3 innings as he retired the first thirteen batters he faced.  He complete seven strong shutout innings, allowing only three hits while walking none.  I say reputedly, since I missed the first five innings of this game, mesmerized instead by Stephen Strasburg’s impressive debut.  
While Slowey was dominant, the Twins’ bullpen continued it’s, uh, inconsistent ways, pouring gasoline on the Royals’ barely flickering hopes, with Burnett entering a 7-0 game in the top of the eighth and proceeding to give up 2 hits and a run before handing the reins over to Jose Mijares in the ninth.  For his part, Mijares surrendered 2 hits, a walk, and two runs over two-thirds of an inning, setting up a save situation for Matt Guerrier.  Guerrier threw two pitches in one-third of an inning and managed to end the game with the tying run on-deck, thus earning a save.  Thank goodness Gardenhire didn’t put a call in for Crain.  *Shudder*
Slowey contributed a game-high .243 WPA, with Kubel, who drove in 3 runs with a double and a solo home run, added .159 WPA and Michael Cuddyer chipped in another .096 WPA.  Greinke, who has had a very tough year thus far following last year’s utterly dominant performance, ended up with -.257 WPA.  Ouch.
In other news, with the Twins’ middle infield hurting, Brendan Harris will likely see more playing time.  He has not been good at the plate so far this season.  While some of that is a function of his .193 BABIP, there are other issues as well.  Andrew at the Twins’ blog “Off the Mark” offers some semi-humorous advice on how to deal with his struggles.  It is worth a read.
While it seems like every baseball site is focused on the Nationals’ new Next Big Thing, Bryce Harper, the Twins also drafted themselves some amateur talent.
Claiming it’s “Another Arm to the Stockpile,” Over the Baggy highlights some scout-talk about the Twins first round draft pick, Ohio State University right-handed pitcher Alex Wimmers.  Twinkie Town has more writing, kind of an extended scouting report.  Aaron Gleeman also chimes in, with quotes comparing Wimmers to Brad Radke and Kevin Slowey.  (Gee, guess the Twins’ record was too good to be in a position to draft the next Stephen Strasburg, though I suppose I’d settle for the next Mike Leake.