April 24, 2003

The FoN(s)

Just a few quick words on the Twins because, quite frankly, they don't deserve any decent amount of words for the way they're playing right now.

After yet another anemic offensive performance through the first 8 innings of yesterday afternoon's game against the Royals, the Twins found themselves down 2-1 in the top of the 9th. Torii Hunter singled to lead off the 9th and quickly found himself on 2nd base with 0 outs, after Mike MacDougal uncorked a wild pitch.

So, they had the tying run on 2nd base with 0 outs. Yet, this team that prides itself on "doing the little things" was unable to score the tying run and ended up losing 2-1. Doug Mientkiewicz struck out and then Michael Cuddyer hit a bloop into left field, at which point Hunter just took off running and was eventually doubled off of 2nd base for the final out of the game when the ball was caught by Raul Ibanez in LF. The game wasn't on TV, so I didn't see the play, but I have a hard time imagining how the tying run gets himself doubled off of 2nd base for the 27th out of the game, but that's just me. Torii had this to say:

"I was trying too hard, just wanted to get across home plate and tie the game up, but at the same time I thought he was jammed and it was going to drop in. But it stayed up. I made a big mistake, that's all."

Ron Gardenhire also said this after the loss:

"We're trying to force things right now. We can't seem to get relaxed at the plate. We're just not a very good team right now and I can't tell you why."

The whole "we are forcing things" when a team (in any sport) is playing poorly has got to be one of the most often used cliches in sports. Is that what's really happening here? Who knows. I am sure they are putting pressure on themselves to score some runs, but is it really affecting their ability to do so? What was affecting their ability to score runs earlier in the year, before they realized they weren't scoring?

The fact that Gardy says he "can't tell you why" they are playing poorly is probably BS too. I am sure he gets stat reports and I know he's watching the same games I am watching (and more obviously).

This offense is officially doing 3 things:

1) Not hitting for power.

2) Not being patient/drawing walks

3) Not doing those little things, like scoring someone from 2nd base with 0 outs in an inning.

Brad Radke finally had a good game (8 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs) and they wasted it. And the team continued to hit incredibly poorly with runners on the bases.

They are hitting .220/.286/.322 with runners on base and .200/.262/.300 with runners in scoring position - which are both beyond awful.

The biggest culprits so far (w/RISP)?

Torii Hunter - .179/.194/.286 (28 ABs)

Corey Koskie - .238/.360/.333 (21 ABs)

Doug Mientkiewicz - .095/.136/.143 (21 ABs)

A.J. Pierzynski - .250/.368/.313 (16 ABs)

Luis Rivas - .143/.200/.214 (14 ABs)

Michael Cuddyer - .000/.083/.000 (11 ABs)

Jacque Jones - .182/.143/.182 (11 ABs)

Dustan Mohr - .000/.000/.000 (6 ABs)

Denny Hocking - .000/.167/.000 (5 ABs)

That's a sad bunch.

I was looking at his stats and wondering how the heck Torii Hunter had 13 RBI in 20 games by hitting .216 with 1 homer and I guess now I know the reason is that he has gotten 28 at bats with a runner in scoring position already!

Koskie and Pierzynski are hitting only .238 and .250 with RISP, but at least they are avoiding making an out 36.0 and 36.8% of the time. Mientkiewicz has always been the one guy I would want at the plate with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th and the winning/tying run on 2nd base. I'm not exactly sure how to explain why I feel that way, but I always have. Meanwhile, he's hitting .095 in 21 ABs with runners in scoring position.

And then you have Cuddyer, Mohr and Hocking, who are a combined zero for 22 with RISP.

There are a few guys who are doing well with RISP:

Cristian Guzman - .267/.267/.467 (15 ABs)

Bobby Kielty - .333/.375/.467 (15 ABs)

Matthew LeCroy - .429/.467/.786 (14 ABs)

That's it. How do you know the team isn't hitting very well? When you make lists of the guys performing well with RISP and another with the ones that aren't, and the "ones that aren't" list is 3 times as long!

I'll be the first to tell you that the "ability" to hit in "clutch" situations is not really an ability, but simply random results based on a player's overall ability to hit. But still, when a whole team in goes in the crapper at one time, it isn't a whole lot of fun to watch.

One final (depressing) stat: The Twins are 2-9 with no extra base hits and no walks with the bases loaded this year (.222/.222/.222).

I am really getting frustrated with this team, so I think maybe I'll take a few days off from being a Twins fan and check back in on Monday - when hopefully a few bloop hits will have found holes with runners on base or something.

Moving on to a much more pleasant subject...

While the Twins are off to a horrible start offensively, Yankee second baseman Alfonso Soriano has picked up right where he left off after his incredible 2002 season and is hitting .379 with 8 homers, 4 doubles, 5 steals, 21 RBI and 22 runs scored - in 22 games.

I bring this up for 2 main reasons:

1) He is an incredible and incredibly unique baseball player who is off to an incredible start (wow, that's a lot of incredibles).

2) A lot of people have emailed me lately about the number of walks he has drawn so far this year.

Point number one is something that I think we can all agree upon, so I'll skip it for now and come back to it in a moment. Point number two is a little more in need of examination...

Alfonso Soriano currently has 7 walks in 22 games played, after drawing a grand total of 23 in 156 games (741 plate appearances) last season.

That 7 walks in 22 games pace would put him at 50 walks over the course of 156 games played (the amount he played in last season). 50 walks is certainly not a great number for someone that will probably get well over 700 plate appearances like Soriano will, but it would make him look like Eddie Yost compared to his walk totals in his first 2 seasons.

Before you get all excited that Soriano has finally learned a little bit of plate discipline, let me ruin everything by pointing this out: 4 of his 7 walks this season are intentional.

This is something new for Soriano, as he was intentionally walked only one time in 741 PAs last season. But this is what happens when you hit .300, slug .547 and draw only 23 walks the year before. People are scared to pitch to you in key situations AND they know they can't "pitch around" you, because you will swing at (and hit) a pitch thrown anywhere even resembling the strike zone.

Now that we know Alfonso has really only "drawn" 3 walks in 22 games, let's adjust our "pace" a little and list only his non-intentional walks...

2001 - 29 non-IBBs in 614 PAs

2002 - 22 non-IBBs in 741 PAs

2003 - 21 non-IBBs in 802 PAs (*Soriano projected for 156 games at his current pace)

So really, Soriano's patience at the plate has gone down, which brings us back to the first point - that he is an incredible and incredibly unique baseball player!

The Fons walked once every 21.2 PAs in 2001, once every 33.7 PAs last season and is currently on pace to walk once every 38.2 PAs this year.

By the way, the "802 PAs" for his projected number is not a misprint. Leadoff hitters just happen to bat a lot when their team scores like 500 runs a game.

I will admit to being one of the people who thought that there was just no way Soriano could continue to hit like he did last season while never walking and striking out in bunches. And while I will gladly admit I am wrong, I do so while still in complete and utter disbelief of what he is doing.

Here are his total numbers, projected to 156 games:

  G    PA    AVG    OBP    SLG   HR   2B   NIBB    SO   RBI   RUN   SB

156 802 .379 .434 .670 57 28 21 128 149 156 36

("NIBB" = Non-Intentional BB)

Those numbers are the numbers of someone who is nothing but a complete freak of nature - and I mean that as perhaps the highest compliment I could ever give a baseball player. I mean seriously, 21 non-intentional walks and 128 strikeouts?! You've gotta be kidding me!

Since Soriano will basically swing at and hit anything that is thrown close to the strike zone (and by "close" I mean within 5 feet on either side and from the tops of his shoes to his helmet), many people have wondered "why pitchers ever throw him strikes." I have also wondered this, particularly after seeing this stat last season...

Alfonso Soriano putting the first pitch of an at bat in play in 2002:

97 at bats

45 hits

.464 batting average

.825 slugging %

6 homers

15 doubles

Those are just about the freakiest freak numbers that ever freaked the earth.

After looking at the numbers so far in 2003, it appears as though pitchers have come to the conclusion that throwing him something decent on the first pitch of an at bat is a mistake. Last year he swung at and hit the first pitch in 13.9% of his at bats and he took the first pitch for a ball in 35.2% of his at bats.

Here are his percentages from this season (through Wednesday):

Swung at and hit the first pitch - 15.3%

Take the first pitch for a ball - 43.9%

So he's still hitting a ton of first pitches (more than last year even), but he is also being given a lot more pitches out of the strike zone on pitch #1. But guess what? I think throwing him crap at the start of ABs is actually backfiring on pitchers, because after Soriano takes ball one, they are suddenly in the hole 1-0 and then feel the need to give him something to hit anyway!

He is currently hitting .419/.500/.721 in at bats where the count reaches 1-0!

So what can a pitcher do? If you throw him anything decent on the first pitch, he hits the snot out of it. If you don't throw him something to hit on pitch #1, he takes it for a ball, gets ahead of the count and then hits the snot out of one of your next couple of pitches that are probably going to be good ones because you are now pitching from behind in the count!

I still say a guy can't walk once a month, strike out 150 times a year and hit like Soriano does. Of course, I just said "and hit like Soriano DOES," so I guess maybe I should start believing it, huh?

By the way, I think I now have 3 official nicknames for people on this blog:

Barry Bonds = Superman

Luis Rivas = Luis Oh-For-Three-Vas

Alfonso Soriano = Freak of Nature (or "FoN" for short, which goes very nicely with "Fons" too)

Am I missing any others?

Finally...

"Y'all may be a little tired Friday morning, but it was worth it."


-- Ernie Johnson, following the Wolves/Lakers game last night/this morning.

I just finished watching game 3 of the Timberwolves/Lakers series on TNT. The game went into overtime and just ended at 1:35 am. But Ernie's right, I will be tired...but it was worth it!

I thought the Wolves got fairly screwed on an awful lot of calls by the refs down the stretch and the officiating was incredibly bad overall. Danny Ainge (TNT's announcer) was complaining about them all game long and as soon as the post-game show started, Charles Barkley, never one to pull any punches, said:

"That was the worst officiated game I have seen in the NBA in a long time."

But the Wolves fought through the awful calls against them (LA shot 25 free throws in the 2nd half, to the Wolves' 6), fought through Kevin Garnett fouling out of the game on the first possession of overtime (on an incredibly bad call) and won the game 114-110. They now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 and have taken back homecourt advantage.

KG so far in the post-season:

 MIN     PTS     REB    AST    BLK    STL     FG%

44.0 30.3 16.0 6.0 2.3 2.0 56.2

(MVP...MVP...MVP...MVP...MVP...)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go to bed, because I have to wake up in about 6 hours and finish an assignment that is due at noon. For future reference, a plan that I will "work on the assignment during the Timberwolves game" is not the greatest idea in the world.

GO WOLVES!

Today's picks:

Los Angeles (Perez) -110 over Pittsburgh (Wells)

San Diego (Peavy) +105 over Cincinnati (Austin)

Milwaukee (Sheets) +175 over Atlanta (Reynolds)

Toronto (Halladay) -155 over Kansas City (May)

Chicago (Buehrle) -170 over Minnesota (Mays)

Total to date: + $685

W/L record: 45-46 (1-4 yesterday and 3-10 over the last 3 days! I am in a free fall and have dropped below .500, although I am still up $685 thanks to some good underdog picks)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.