Results tagged ‘ Delmon Young ’
- Twins hit four homers and lose anyway
ZOMG, this is the most unclutchiest lineup ever!!!11!! I mean, for the most part, clutch hitting has a lot more to do with luck than skill. In general, even the greatest hitters will fail more often than not with runners in scoring position, that’s just how the game works. It sucks, it’s frustrating, but that’s just the way it is. Which is why I find this article in the Star Tribune so irritating. To suggest that the problem is that the Twins are relying too much on the long ball and not speed or sacrifice hits (i.e., Twins baseball) is ridiculous. The power hitters in the lineup have been remarkably productive, with Joe Mauer batting .421/.490/.738, Justin Morneau .324/.398/.524 (which is pretty good, considering that he’s been in a slump recently), Jason Kubel .315/.377/.546, and even Michael Cuddyer is starting to pick things up, hitting .281/.360/.518 with 10 homers. Joe Crede has been kind of an exception since he has a paltry .228 BA and .303 OPB, but he also has a .451 slugging percentage and is on pace to hit 20+ homers this year, so he isn’t really part of the problem, either. The real problem has been the lack of production from the bottom of the order, and it has been all season. The Twins certainly aren’t lacking speed in the lineup, with Carlos Gomez, Matt Tolbert, and even Nick Punto all threats to steal, but the three have struggled to get on base consistently. Delmon Young hasn’t been living up to his potential, either, batting .258/.286/.302 while looking horribly uncomfortable at the plate. The good news is that Gomez, Punto, and Young have all taken huge steps forward this month (Yes, even Gomez. He’s drawing more walks and isn’t swinging at so many pitches outside the strike zone, he just hasn’t had much to show for it in the way of results). The bad news however, is that all three are still barely replacement-level position players.
After tonight’s loss to Houston, the Twins have fallen back to the .500 mark and are three games behind the Tigers. This time, the offense wasn’t the problem, since they hit four homers and scored five runs. No, this time it was the pitching staff, specifically the bullpen that fell down. The Twins had a 3-2 lead in the seventh, until Sean Henn came in to relieve Scott Baker. Henn surrendered three runs in the seventh (one was charged to Baker), including a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Jason Michaels, and was yanked in favor of Luis Ayala after recording only one out. I had written before that the pitching isn’t as bad as fans tend to think, and that’s true. But it hasn’t been that great, either. The starting rotation has started to settle down and pitch effectively, but the bullpen is still an issue. While Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan have been as reliable as ever, and R.A. Dickey is settling into the long relief role, the rest of the ‘pen is simply a disaster waiting to happen. Ayala has been much more effective recently, but he pitches to contact and can’t really be used in close games with runners on base. Jose Mijares hasn’t been too bad, posting a 2.57 ERA in twenty-four appearances, but he’s also been suffering from control issues (his 1.70 K/BB ratio isn’t good) and is bound to get hit hard eventually. The Twins clearly need bullpen help, but so does pretty much everybody else in the league, which will obviously complicate matters at the trade deadline. Still, I guess we should be glad that our bullpen isn’t as bad as the Indians’. Yikes.
- Speaking of homers
Mauer hit his 14th of the season, setting a new career record, and it isn’t even officially summer yet. It was an opposite-field blast (of course) that had given the Twins a 3-1 lead at the time. Someday, opposing pitchers will figure out that it isn’t a good idea to throw him fastballs on the outside corner. Hopefully he’ll hit 20 homers before they do. Obviously, Mauer isn’t going to put up such Pujolsian numbers all season long, since the physical demands of being a catcher will catch up to him eventually. As of right now, though, Mauer is the most valuable player in the league, and it isn’t even close.
In my previous post, I mentioned that the Twins’ had the tenth-ranked defense in the league (or a .700 Defensive Efficiency rating, the definition and formula for which can be found here) according to Baseball Prospectus and I guess I should elaborate on that. The Twins have committed the fewest errors in the AL, and have an AL-best .990 fielding percentage, but neither one of those stats really measures defensive efficiency. That is, they don’t measure how effectively a team converts balls in play into outs, at least not accurately. As I discussed in the Mauer post, in general I like to use Ultimate Zone Rating to evaluate player defense. However, because it essentially measures how many runs a particular player saves per game, the values sometimes fluctuate wildly from season to season, so it’s not the best metric for evaluating defense over the short-term. At least not on its own. To evaluate team defense during the season, I also like to use Defensive Efficiency and Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
(which, like the name implies, adjusts for ballpark factors that might
effect the Defensive Efficiency Rating) to get a full picture of how well the Twins are converting balls in play into outs. And, at least this season, they haven’t been very good at it. The team UZR is a 19th-ranked -6.5, on top of the .700 Deff Eff and 12th-ranked 0.4 PADE, so it’s clear that Twins’ defense has been mediocre at best. Which wouldn’t matter so much if they had more strikeout pitchers on the staff, but with a rotation full of contact pitchers, the defense needs to be better than just average.
I guess there isn’t a better player than Delmon Young to illustrate my point. Young has only made two errors this season, and his fielding percentage is .967, so one would think that Young is a pretty good left-fielder. However, Young has a poor -6.7 UZR this season, and his career -23.1 UZR is about as bad as it gets. So while he might not make a lot of errors, he doesn’t have much range and isn’t very good at converting balls in play into outs. But you really don’t need any fancy metrics to come to that conclusion. Anyone who’s actually watched Delmon lumbering around in the outfield can tell that he isn’t very good. The numbers simply support that assessment.
- Frankie finally has another quality start
Well, technically last night’s game against the Mariners was a quality start: one earned run on three hits over six innings but Frankie didn’t exactly pitch as well as that looks. He struck out six batters, but walked four and had to pitch himself out of a self-imposed jam nearly every every inning. He’s still struggling with his command, but at least he managed to not melt down when he got himself in trouble. He still needs to throw his changeup a little more, and needs to work on command of his fastball, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Of course, he had a similar performance at Yankee Stadium and then failed to make it past the fourth inning in his next three starts, so he’s going to need to string a few quality starts together to keep his spot in the rotation.
Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron has an interesting solution to the Delmon Young problem. Young wasn’t off to a great start before his mom died, but he’s been awful since returning to the team and just seems lost at the plate. The Twins can’t just send him down, since he’s out of options and almost certainly wouldn’t clear waivers even as bad as he’s been. It might be best for both sides to go the D-Train route: Young would have a chance to get himself together without the pressure of fighting for a playoff spot and the Twins would get to compete for the division title with their best outfielders.
What’s wrong with the South Side? Paul Konerko does his best to explain why nobody seems to want to come play for the Fightin’ Ozzies.
Justin Morneau finally made good on his bet with Strib beat writer LaVelle E. Neal, III. I guess he didn’t do too badly on his first-ever blog post, even if it is a little short (not everyone needs to write 25,000 word essays like I do). But don’t quit your day job, Justin.
Before I get into how awful the Twins have been away from the Dome, I just want to say: OMG THE BULLPEN MANAGED TO NOT BLOW A ONE-RUN LEAD FOR ONCE. ON THE ROAD TOO. TRULY THE END IS NIGH. Anyway, at 25-27, the Twins are currently two games under .500 and 4.5 games out of first in the AL Central. And it’s really no mystery why our boys are struggling to stay above the .500 mark: their 6-16 road record is abysmal. While there aren’t many teams in the league with winning records away from home, few have such a record of futility as the Twinks. There are only two teams in the league with worse road records than Minnesota: Washington (6-20) and San Diego (8-19), and obviously neither one is likely to make the playoffs this year. While the Twins had lost 11 of their past 12 road games before beating Tampa on Sunday, four of those losses had been by one run and six of their last nine losses have been by two runs or less.
The Twins, like most teams in the league, have always played better at home than on the road. Most people like to blame it on the obvious home field advantage the Twins enjoy at the Dome, but the disparity between their home and road records hasn’t been as vast as people tend to think (they usually have a league-best home record and a road record somewhere around the .500 mark). In the seven seasons under manager Ron Gardenhire, the Twins have posted a worse road record through the end of May only once: in 2006, when they were 8-20. The Twins had gotten off to a slow start that year and were 24-29 on June 1st, 11.5 games behind the division-leading Tigers, before riding an incredible hot streak and finishing 96-66 to capture the division title (they finished with a 42-39 road record, btw).
Pitching has obviously been part of the problem, though the pitching staff as a whole hasn’t been that much worse on the road. As a team, the Twins have a road ERA of 5.16 compared to 4.53 at home. In road games, opponents are batting .272/.345/.485 against the Twins and the pitching staff in general is posting a 1.45 WHIP, 1.70 K/BB, and 6.15 K/9, compared to .273/.322/.427 with a 1.33 WHIP, 2.50 K/BB, 6.06 K/9 inside the teflon confines. Obviously these numbers aren’t great, but they’re not bad for a team whose one and two starters have been pitching more like back-of-the-rotation starters through the first few months of the season. For the most part, the pitching has been good enough to keep the team in ballgames as long as the offense has been productive. Unfortunately, this hasn’t usually been the case.
The lack of offense has really been the heart of the Twins’ struggles away from the Dome. There’s a very good assessment of the offense to this point here, and while it’s hardly surprising that the bottom of the lineup has been ice cold, these problems have been exacerbated on the road. At home, the Twins are batting a decent-enough .278/.356/.447 with an OPS of .803. On the road, however, the Twins are a mediocre .263/.335/.406 with an OPS of .741. The best hitters in the lineup, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, have put up some very good numbers on the road, but with the likes of Nick Punto, Delmon Young, Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, and Carlos Gomez at the bottom of the order it’s not surprising that the Twins have averaged only 4.2 runs per game away from the Dome (which is actually skewed from the 20-1 thumping of the Pale Hose). And that’s an improvement over the 3.6 runs per game the team was averaging with Casilla and Tolbert batting second in the lineup. While Young, Casilla, and Gomez are all young enough that they should improve, it remains to be seen how much longer the organization will be patient with their development.
- Scott Baker manages to not give any home runs, Twins lose anyway
Scott Baker, who has had a lot of trouble keeping the ball in the park in his first two starts, had what was his most successful start of the season against the Rays last night (though he still surrendered four runs on six hits). Things got off to a rough start when he gave up two runs in the first (after he had retired the first two batters he faced). But then he settled down and retired ten straight batters before running into trouble again in the fifth. All in all, it wasn’t a terrible outing, as Baker struck out seven and walked only one, and his pitches had a lot more movement than in his previous starts, but in the end it just wasn’t good enough. Baker’s recent struggles, coupled with the fact that his mechanics were so awful, led to some speculation that he might be hiding an injury (he didn’t want to go on the DL in the first place). However, it seems as though his mechanics have been causing problems before his issues with shoulder stiffness (he gave up a league-leading nine homers during ST), and that perhaps these mechanical issues were what led to his shoulder issues in the first place.
Although the young pitching staff has had its share of struggles early on, it isn’t the starting pitching that concerns me. While all five of them might not exactly be Cy Young winners, they are a lot better than their overall records would indicate. However, the offense, or lack of it, is something to be concerned about. The Twins struggled to do much of anything against Jeff Niemann, who for his part, wasn’t all that impressive. They had runners on base with less than two outs in each of the first three innings, and yet each time failed to drive in a single run. Which wouldn’t be so bad, but this has really been a problem for the lineup (well, at least for the hitters not named Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel, anyway).
Even though Morneau and Kubel both struck out swinging against Niemann with RISP, it’s difficult to get too frustrated with them since both have been essentially carrying the offense. Actually, all of the left-handed hitters in the lineup (and switch-hitter Jose Morales) have been hitting pretty well. The righy bats, however, are a much different story. Outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gomez are struggling, with Cuddy batting a miserable .208/.275/.306 and Go-Go an anemic .195/.250/.293. Delmon Young has been a bit more successful, batting .255/.296/.333, but his focus on trying to pull the ball more has led to a lot more double-plays. The crowded outfield situation might be part of the problem, since only Cuddyer has seen much regular playing time (though he hasn’t exactly benefited from it). All of this depth in the outfield was supposed to be one of the team’s major strengths this season, but except for Denard Span, none of them have been very productive at the plate, and two of them are mediocre defensively at best.
While Joe Crede has only twelve hits in 66 plate appearances, half of those have been for extra bases and three have been home runs. Crede was always more of a power hitter with the White Sox and never really hit for average, so it will be interesting to see if his career numbers hold up outside of U.S. Cellular field. Right now, the Twins are 9-11 and in fourth place in the AL Central. While it is still very early in the season, the Twins should be concerned about the lack of production from all of the right-handed hitters in the lineup. They may be blessed with four very good left-handed hitters (Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and Span), but these four can’t carry the offense by themselves. For now, with such huge holes in the lineup and no major moves in the works, a fourth-place finish looks to be about right.
- You can’t spell V-E-Z-I-N-A without B-A-C-K-S-, dang it
On a non-baseball related note Niklas Backstrom, Boston’s Tim Thomas, and Columbus’ Steve Mason are all finalists for the Vezina trophy. While none are certainly terrible choices, they are a bit controversial since they do play for teams that implement a defense-oriented system (allegedly, more on that in a minute). Oh, I know there are some people who would disagree with me on this, but when you look into the numbers and examine the season in general, Backs is really the most deserving of the three.
While it’s true that Mason and Thomas have both had very good years, and that both have led their teams to the Stanley Cup playoffs, Backs is the only goaltender who has ranked consistently in the top five in GAA, save percentage, wins, and shutouts all season. And while he plays for a team that supposedly plays stifling defense, that certainly wasn’t the case this season. Niklas Backstrom faced 2,059 shots this year, second only to Calgary’s Miikka Kiprussoff (who saw 2,155), and yet he still put up a stellar 2.33 GAA and .923 save percentage. Considering all of the horrible defensive plays made in front of him on a regular basis, and the overall lack of offensive support (the Wild finished near the bottom of the league in goals scored), Backs had to perform a miracle almost every single night. And considering that his mediocre team wasn’t officially eliminated from playoff contention until after the second-to-last game of the season, it’s clear that Backs has been more valuable to his team than any other goaltender in the league.
And he did all that while playing with an injured left hip. But I guess if that isn’t convincing enough, maybe this is:
Actually, this game was pretty close through six innings, until the Sox bullpen forgot how to record outs in the seventh. The Twins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but then Chicago came right back, tying the game and then taking the lead on a solo homer by Paul Konerko in the third. That lead would vanish in the very next inning, however. Denard Span laced an RBI double to right-center, and then Alexi Casilla tripled and scored on a Justin Morneau single to put the Twins ahead for good. Morneau started the offensive explosion in the seventh with a solo homer to left field, and then things kind of fell apart for the Sox from there. The Twins would bat around on three different relievers in the inning without recording a single out.
Joe Crede picked a very good time to hit his first home run of the season, during is very first at-bat against his former team. As a joke, the Sox played Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” when he came up to bat in the second. The joke was his former teammates, though, as Crede promptly deposited a 2-0 pitch from starter Jose Contreras into the seats. The crowd, which had previously given him a standing ovation, quickly started to boo as he rounded the bases.
Catcher Jose Morales also had a very good night at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks. Morales was 3-for-3 in his previous appearance against Contreras at the Cell, his first major league game (and the one in which he injured his ankle). More importantly, he handled Dickey’s knuckleball very well, making several blocks with runners on.
Starter R.A. Dickey was a bit wild with the knuckleball, walking four batters in five innings. He gave up three runs on four hits, but was effective enough to get his first win of the season (and perhaps well enough to earn a spot in the bullpen when Scott Baker returns to the rotation). Brian Duensing pitched three innings of relief, giving up a two-run homer to Carlos Quentin in the seventh, but pitched two relatively uneventful innings before and after that. Philip Humber pitched a scoreless ninth.
Delmon Young was back in the lineup and had his first hit of the season, an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh. Unfortunately, he also misplayed a very catchable fly ball in the first, allowing Chris Getz to advance to second. Dickey managed to pitch out of the inning, but it does highlight one of Young’s biggest weaknesses: his defense. The outfielder has been criticized for his terrible play in the field (and not just by me). This is the second time in as many starts that Young has mishandled the ball on a very routine play. With the outfield situation being as crowded as it is, he is going to have to improve or he’ll just see more time on the bench.
In other news, Scott Baker is close to returning to the team. He pitched very well in his rehab start for the Ft. Myers Miracle, and should be back with the team by Wednesday. Kevin Slowey was devastated by the loss of Nick Adenhart, who he considered ‘a little brother‘. The two were teammates on the 2006 Olympic team, and were planning to catch up during the upcoming series in Anaheim. The driver who caused the fatal crash, Andrew Gallo, is apparently going to be facing murder charges.
Oh, yeah, and the Wild defeated the Predators in a blowout of their own, 8-4, at the X. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter as St. Louis and Anaheim both picked up vital points and have thus eliminated Minnesota from playoff contention. Too little, too late, boys.
- Scott Baker will start the season on the DL
First it was Joe Mauer and his aching back. Then Brian Buscher had a health scare. Delmon Young, Joe Crede, and Michael Cuddyer have all been struck with various hand injuries. Justin Morneau is battling stiffness in his back. And if all of that weren’t enough, now starter Scott Baker is going to start the season on the DL with stiffness in his right shoulder. It isn’t clear at this point how long he will be out, and he will be re-evaluated on Saturday, but things certainly aren’t getting off to a very good start for the Twinkies. Baker doesn’t think the stiffness is anything serious and would have preferred to pitch anyway, but the Twins have decided not to take any risks with their $15.25 million-dollar arm. In the meantime, Francisco Liriano has now been given the Opening Night nod opposite Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, and R. A. Dickey will take Baker’s spot in the rotation. With Baker going down, there is now an extra spot in the bullpen, so it looks like both Philip Humber and Brian Duensing will be coming north with the team.
The only real position battle left now for the Twins is the final bench spot. Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert, and Brian Buscher have all been competing for the utility role, with Harris having somewhat of an edge because he’s out of options. The Tenth Inning Stretch has raised the intriguing possibility of Buscher being traded to the Cardinals, as Troy Glaus’ recovery from shoulder surgery isn’t going as well as expected. While I would be sad to see Buscher go, he isn’t the greatest defensive infielder and he isn’t the most versatile, either. Still, I would be kind of surprised if the Twins did move him. Joe Crede is hardly a sure thing at third, and the organization might be more apt to keep Buscher around simply to provide more depth.
Speaking of Liriano, he was effective in his brief start against the Red Sox. He was only allowed to pitch three innings, as he will be starting right away on Monday, and gave up two hits and a run while walking one and striking out three. He wasn’t struggling with his command like he was in his previous appearances, which is very good news. Well, it’s good news for the Twins and bad news for opposing hitters. Unfortunately, Brian Duensing wasn’t as effective in relief, giving up a two-run homer to Jason Bay. Luckily the offense was able to bail him out to the tune of seven runs on twelve hits, with Michael Cuddyer doing most of the heavy lifting.
By the way, The Answer Man has an interesting interview with Joe Nathan.
- Wait, Sidney Ponson has a job?
Remember all those nice things I said about the Royals? Yeah, never mind. They’ve decided that Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez are going to be the fourth and fifth starters this season. Apparently Dayton Moore was so impressed with Ponson’s performance in the WBC that he thought the pudgy righty could be an effective major league starter, despite all of the evidence to the contrary. Horacio Ramirez is remembered very fondly on the South Side for being the worst reliever in Sox history. What either one of these two is doing in the starting rotation for a major league ballclub is beyond me, especially over the likes of Brian Bannister and Luke Hochevar. Perhaps it’s all part of of some elaborate, Major League-esque scheme to build the worst team in baseball and get out of their lease at Kauffman stadium.
- Twins hit four homers against O’s
The Twins teed off on Baltimore yesterday, bashing four home runs. Justin Morneau hit his second dinger in as many games, a two-run shot off of Jeremy Guthrie in the first. Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert(!) and Delmon Young all homered off of Adam Eaton in the sixth, though the wind did help out a little bit (except for Brendan Harris’ rocket off of the Walgreen’s sign in left field, and Morny’s laser to center). And while nobody homered in today’s contest against the Marlins, the offense managed to produce eight runs on twelve hits. Starter Kevin Slowey had two hits and three RBI of his own, while shutting down the Fish for five innings (his lone run was a Dan Uggla solo shot).
The Twins have now scored 29 runs in their past four games. While some readers thought that I was just being negative when I complained about the lack of offense, it turns out that a little tough love is what the guys really needed. You’re welcome.
- Chicago pounds Oakland, 20-5
Kyle Orton threw two touchdown passes, and Chicago added a couple of field goals on their way to a rout of Oakland. The Raiders couldn’t solve the Bears’ stifling D, and only managed to score a field goal and a safety.
Seriously, though, this has to be the ugliest boxscore ever. Paul Bako had four hits and three RBI even though he didn’t come in until the sixth inning. Oakland reliever Edgar Gonzalez barfed up seven earned runs in 2/3 of an inning, giving him a 94.50 ERA for the day. Andrew Bailey was the only Oakland pitcher who managed to toss a scoreless inning.
- Japan defeats Korea, 5-3 to repeat as WBC champs
I’m not going to lie, I fell asleep on the couch in the bottom of the eighth and didn’t get to see how the game ended. I can’t help it, I was tired! And it looked like Japan pretty much had this one in the bag, anyway. Luckily the good people at Ghostrunner on First were paying attention, so I didn’t have to. While I think that the tournament has its flaws (the timing is wrong, the formatting should be better, etc.) these games have to be some of the most exciting I’ve seen in a long time. After being deprived of baseball for four long months, it just felt really good to have that had all of the excitement and intensity of playoff matches. In March! Four years just seems way too long to wait for more.
- But what if you don’t really want either one?
The geniuses in the St. Paul Saints‘ public relations department have dreamed up another brilliant promotional scheme. These are, after all, the same people who came up with the Larry Craig bobble foot doll (in honor of National Tap Dance Day, of course):
In honor of Minnesota’s never-ending Senate recount, the Saints created the “Re” Count bobble head doll:
The “Re” Count doll will be distributed to the first 2,500 fans on May 23, prior to a game against the Sioux Falls Canaries. Hopefully this whole thing will be over with by then. But I wouldn’t count on it.