April 30, 2008

Twins Notes: Bunting For Hits and Letting It Fly

  • Carlos Gomez went 3-for-4 in yesterday's win over the White Sox, making him 7-for-15 with a homer, a double, and two steals since a one-game benching last week. He's already bunted for a hit eight times this year, which accounts for nearly one-third of his total hits and puts him on pace for 50. During Tuesday's broadcast Dick Bremer and Ron Coomer brushed aside a question about Gomez topping the all-time record for bunt hits in a season, which they said was 42 from Brett Butler in 1992.

    Given their reaction to the topic my guess is they simply saw the huge total from Butler and assumed Gomez wasn't close to being on that sort of bunt-hitting pace. In reality, he's actually on track to top Butler's mark. According to Baseball Prospectus, since 1959 only Butler, Willy Taveras (38 in 2007), Kenny Lofton (31 in 1992), and Alex Sanchez (31 in 2003) have bunted for more than 30 hits in a year, so Gomez has a chance to make some history even if his pace slows considerably.

  • Twins fans might be surprised by Rod Carew's absence from the bunt-hitting leaders, but Baseball Prospectus' historical data shows that he never bunted for more than 30 hits in a season. However, despite Carew never producing a historic number of bunt hits in a single year, his 190 career bunt hits ranked fourth among all players from 1959-2007 and Dan Fox of Baseball Prospectus--who has since joined the Pirates' front office--awarded him the crown of "Best Bunter of the Past 40 Years."

    Fox showed that among players who attempted to bunt for a hit at least 100 times from 1959-2007, Carew was the only one to be successful more than two-thirds of the time. Carew's success rate? An astounding 80 percent. To put that in some context, Butler, Lofton, and Otis Nixon were the only three players to have more bunt hits than Carew from 1959-2007 and their success rates were 51, 59, and 46 percent, respectively. So far, Gomez has successfully bunted for a hit on 53 percent of his attempts.

  • Francisco Liriano made his first post-demotion start yesterday afternoon at Triple-A and struggled, allowing four runs without getting out of the fifth inning. Liriano was chased from the game with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth frame, but reliever Ricky Barrett kept his final line from being even uglier by wriggling out of the jam without any further damage. Liriano needed 94 pitches to record 13 outs and just 54 percent of his offerings went for strikes.

    He walked five and allowed five hits, including a homer to Jeff Bailey, a 29-year-old veteran of 4,000 plate appearances in the minors who has appeared in three career MLB games. Liriano has made a total of 11 post-surgery starts if you include spring training along with his time in the minors and majors, posting a 7.03 ERA, 36-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 1.94 WHIP in 40 innings. If you ignore his spring starts, he has a 9.00 ERA, 21-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 2.25 WHIP in 24 innings.

  • Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote an article earlier this week focusing on what should be incredibly obvious by now, which is that on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and runs scored are a whole lot more important to an offense than batting average. Of course, that point is far from obvious for most fans and far too many media members (including just about everyone covering the Twins on television or radio) equate batting average to offense on the team level.

    To show the difference between team batting average and team offense, Christensen noted that the White Sox came into this week's series against the Twins leading the league in runs per game despite ranking dead last in batting average. He could have just as easily and perhaps even more convincingly used the Twins as the example, because they've shown for years that "batting average" and "offense" are often very different things.

    From the time they re-emerged as a competitive team in 2001 through last season, the Twins ranked among the AL's top five in batting average five times in seven years. During that same span, they never ranked among the AL's top five in scoring and were in the bottom half of the league all but one year. On average from 2001-2007, the Twins ranked sixth in batting average and 11th in scoring, including a 2006 season that saw them lead the league in batting average while ranking just eighth in runs.

    None of that is a coincidence, because few organizations place more emphasis on batting average while focusing less on power and plate discipline. All of which is why the Twins haven't finished with a higher ranking in runs scored than batting average since way back in 1987. For 20 years the team has been better at hitting for average than actually scoring runs--and often significantly better--yet no one in the organization seems to view that as a problem.

  • Two decades passed in between the Twins producing a 30-homer hitter and the David Ortiz saga provided a glimpse into why that was the case, as the team tried to take a young hitter with tremendous power potential and essentially mold him into just another slap hitter. Back in 2004, when Ortiz was putting together the second of what is now five straight (and counting) 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons for the Red Sox, he said the following about his time in Minnesota:
    When I first came to Minnesota, that's when I was told, "Stay inside the ball, hit the ball the other way." I always was a power hitter in the minor leagues. Everything changed when I went to Minnesota. I would take a hard swing and my first manager would be in the dugout, saying, "Hey, HEY, what are you doing?"

    Beyond the apparent lack of interest in encouraging slugging and inability to develop power hitters, the organization also repeatedly makes it clear that they care little about plate discipline, acquiring players who struggle to control the strike zone and seemingly refusing to coach them differently. When told last week that Delmon Young had chased more pitches out of the strike zone this season than any other hitter in baseball, Ron Gardenhire said:

    I watched Torii Hunter for like 10 years. You think Torii hasn't swung? You know what? There's nothing wrong with swinging. That's why they give you a bat. This kid's 22 years old. He's got everything ahead of him. So let it fly. Learn as you go. He'll learn the strike zone.

    To start telling a guy to just "take, take, take," sometimes that's just not human nature. You don't get to the big leagues, and you don't become a big league player, by "take, take, take" and get walks.

    Some people are paid to drive in runs. You think David Ortiz goes up there to walk? He's paid to drive in runs. He walks because we walk him. On purpose. And that's what's going to happen to Delmon as he goes along, too. Right now, they know he's going to chase a little bit, but that's OK. I'll take my chances with him letting it fly.

    Gardenhire acting like he knows what makes Ortiz a great hitter while dismissing his outstanding plate discipline is amusing given what Ortiz has repeatedly said about the Twins stifling his development. Torii Hunter is a fantastic all-around player and succeeds offensively despite lacking plate discipline, but possessing that ability is fairly unique and pointing to him as the model for Young hardly inspires confidence given Hunter's lowly .325 career on-base percentage and unspectacular .795 OPS.

    Beyond that, why are the only choices to "go up there looking to walk" or "swing at everything"? What happened to being disciplined, showing patience, working the count in your favor, and putting together a good at-bat? How many seasons in a row does the Twins' offense need to rank in the bottom half of the league while everyone in charge downplays the importance of plate discipline before people do the math? And why do they love pitchers who avoid issuing walks, but not hitters who coax them?

    The Twins have failed to draw an above-average number of walks every year since 1988. On average during the 20 seasons since then they've ranked 10th in walks, never placing higher than seventh. So far this season they rank dead last in walks and on-base percentage, plus second-to-last in homers and runs. Oh, and as usual they also rank fifth in batting average, for all the good that does them. As for Young, he's "let it fly" to the tune of .265/.306/.314 this year and .290/.317/.407 for his career

  • The names and faces change plenty on both sides, but beating the White Sox never gets old. After sweeping this week's two-game series, the Twins are now 74-61 (.548) against the White Sox dating back to 2001 and have had a losing record against them in just one of those eight years. Meanwhile, the White Sox have gone 61-74 (.452) versus the Twins during that eight-season stretch, compared to 547-478 (.534) against everyone else.

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    April 28, 2008

    Me on FOX's "Sports on Demand"

    Here's the video of my appearance on FOX's "Sports on Demand" show yesterday:

    "Sports on Demand" - April 28, 2008

    Thanks to sports director Jim Rich and producer Seth Kaplan for inviting me down to the FOX studios and having me on for the full 30-minute live show. Aside from me looking not totally unlike a whale on camera, it went well and was a lot of fun. We covered a wide range of Twins topics in some pretty solid depth and also discussed the Vikings, so please check it out.


    Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    April 27, 2008

    Twins Notes: Liriano, More Liriano, Korecky, and Waldrop

  • Francisco Liriano struggled for much of spring training before posting a 6.75 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in a pair of minor-league starts, at which point Triple-A manager Stan Cliburn suggested that he needed more time to regain his pre-surgery form before returning to Minnesota:
    I would say maybe one more start here to get a little bit more command, maybe build a little bit more strength. That would be my call. Of course, I know it's going to be a group decision. His health is good. His strength is good. His mound presence is good. He just pitched backwards, and maybe he just wanted to find out if he could use all his pitches.

    Instead, the Twins called up Liriano shortly after Cliburn uttered those words and stuck him right back into the rotation. He looked shaky in his first two starts and then completely fell apart in his third outing Thursday against the A's, allowing six runs on five hits and three walks without making it out of the first inning. Liriano's first two post-surgery outings were recapped in plenty of detail here, and the third start featured the same decreased velocity and lack of command.

    After going 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA, 13 walks, and a .366 batting average against in three starts, his comeback was aborted Friday and Liriano was sent back to Triple-A. He rarely looked comfortable on the mound or capable of consistently getting big-league hitters out with the stuff he was working with, and Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com LaVelle E. Neal III reports that Liriano will stay in Rochester "for a while." Here's what pitching coach Rick Anderson had to say about the three-start comeback:

    Confidence comes with success. He's got to get down there and clear his mind, and he admitted to me that he's thinking too much about what he's doing. I asked him, "How did you feel before you were hurt?" He said, "I didn't think, I just threw." He's not to that point yet. When he does get to that point, he will have success, and success breeds confidence.

    What Anderson said is true, but no amount of confidence is going to make up for Liriano's missing velocity. General manager Bill Smith said Friday that "there's no harm done" in calling up Liriano when the Twins did, but Anderson's quote about his current lack of confidence may contradict that somewhat. Smith also admitted that the Twins rushed Liriano's return timetable "just a bit" due to Kevin Slowey's biceps injury, which seems incredibly short-sighted.

    "I think we did the right thing," Smith said. "Maybe the best thing that will come out of this is everyone realizes he's not ready." Fair enough, but given how he pitched this spring and during his abbreviated stay in the minors, it's unclear exactly what made the Twins think that Liriano would have success in the majors to begin with. Of course, my MinnPost colleague Pat Borzi recently wrote that the Twins may have wanted Liriano in the majors just to keep an eye on him regardless of his performance.

  • Given how Liriano pitched during his three-start comeback, it's interesting to look back on offseason reports about his status. Early offseason updates included quotes like "everything is perfect" and "there are no problems at all." In February, as spring training neared, Ron Gardenhire said that Liriano was "letting it fly" while throwing at the Twins' academy in the Dominican Republic: "He threw two innings at the academy and they said he was averaging 93 and throwing it up to 96. Free and easy."

    It seems pretty obvious now that those reports were completely false, because Liriano averaged 88-91 miles per hour with his fastball this month, reached 93 MPH on maybe a handful of pitches in three starts, and never came anywhere close to "throwing it up to 96" at any point. Nearly every report about Liriano prior to his arrival at spring training noted that he was looking good and throwing as hard as ever, which is astounding given what we know now.

  • Interestingly, a rare winter report suggesting that Liriano wasn't looking anything like the pitcher from 2006 came via Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News. In the middle of a long column covering a variety of subjects, Ringolsby wrote the following one-sentence note about Liriano under the heading "overheard": "Left-hander Francisco Liriano, 24, is rehabbing from the reconstructive left elbow surgery he underwent a year ago, and it appears he will not be ready until midseason."

    That got my dander up at the time, because it differed dramatically from every other Liriano report, yet Ringolsby didn't see fit to expand upon his note. My response here opined that the Liriano information "would be worthy of more than a one-line note buried midway through Ringolsby's column if it was based on serious reporting" and suggested that "if Ringolsby has solid information about Liriano being behind schedule, it'd be nice to engage in a little journalism by sharing with the rest of the class."

    For the most part my feelings on Ringolsby's report haven't changed. It seemed to me that "he will not be ready until midseason" implied that Liriano wouldn't pitch until then, let alone pitch multiple times in April. Beyond that, Ringolsby dropping that little tidbit into the middle of a column without going into any further detail still seems odd to me, but while engaging in an extremely long, testy e-mail discussion with me over the past few weeks Ringolsby explained that his non-Rockies coverage is limited.

    Of course, the column that the Liriano note appeared in contained 1,300 words of non-Rockies content, so Ringolsby certainly could have offered up another sentence or two if he felt that the news he was passing along had major importance. Whatever the case, my dismissal of Ringolsby's note was due partly to it differing from what later proved to be totally inaccurate reports, making the whole situation an interesting reminder not to believe everything you read regardless of the source (among other things).

  • Because a fifth starter won't be required for a while thanks to multiple off days, the Twins replaced Liriano on the roster with reliever Bobby Korecky. He didn't come close to cracking my annual ranking of the Twins' top 40 prospects, but Korecky has a chance to carve out a decent MLB career as a middle reliever. Originally taken by the Phillies in the 19th round of the 2002 draft, the Twins acquired Korecky along with Carlos Silva and Nick Punto in exchange for Eric Milton back in December of 2003.

    He's spent parts of three seasons at Triple-A, posting a 3.31 ERA and 111-to-54 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 149.1 total innings. Korecky has been a closer in the minors, saving 110 career games, but he's already 28 years old and his low strikeout rate combined with mediocre control make it unlikely that he'll succeed as a late-inning option in the majors. With that said, Korecky has a 3.04 ERA in 365 pro innings and induces a high percentage of ground balls, so a middle-relief gig seems doable.

  • After blowing a 5-0 lead and losing in extra innings Friday, Gardenhire said: "We deserved to lose that game." We're in agreement, except Gardenhire wasn't talking about his misguided, oft-repeated decision to leave the team's best pitcher unused in the bullpen for 10 innings while lesser relievers combine to face 16 batters and allow the game-winning run. Saving Joe Nathan for a save situation that never arrives and then needing to "get him work" in a blowout days later is a Gardenhire tradition.
  • Johan Santana is off to a nice start with the Mets, posting a 3.12 ERA, 32-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .209 opponent's batting average in 34.2 innings spread over five starts. He's also smacked three doubles, which gives him one fewer extra-base hit than Delmon Young, in 87 fewer plate appearances. For his career, Santana has now hit .250/.283/.386 in 46 trips to the plate. As a team, the Twins have hit a combined .263/.303/.364 this year, for a slightly lower OPS than Santana's career mark.
  • After being benched Wednesday and called "not an MLB-caliber hitter at this stage of his career, let alone an MLB-caliber leadoff man" in this space Thursday, Carlos Gomez led off that night's game with a homer and collected four hits over his next seven at-bats. Unfortunately, that simply raised his overall hitting line to a still-horrible .255/.271/.362 and he exited Friday's game with a calf injury that kept him out of action for both weekend games.
  • Thanks to the Minneapolis Star Tribune's decision to bring back LEN3's weekly minor-league report after a long hiatus, there's news of Kyle Waldrop being out for the season following shoulder surgery. Waldrop was a first-round pick back in 2004 and many people considered him one of the team's top pitching prospects initially, but he ranked just 32nd on my list of the Twins' top 40 prospects heading into the season. Here's part of my write-up on Waldrop, from back in February:
    The closer he's gotten to the majors the more difficult it's been for Waldrop to succeed on that mediocre stuff, which is evident by his sub par strikeout rates and the deterioration of his once-great control. With that said, it's important to note that he's only 22 years old despite logging over 500 pro innings already and has induced two ground balls for every fly ball over the past two seasons, which shows that he's still capable of having a solid big-league career as a fourth or fifth starter.

    It's possible that a year of lost development time won't hurt Waldrop's long-term outlook as much as it would an elite pitching prospect, because he's relatively polished and seemingly doesn't have a ton of projection remaining. Of course, he'll have to come back from the surgery first and that's certainly no sure thing. Along with Waldrop's season-ending shoulder injury, LEN3 reports that No. 13 prospect Deibinson Romero will miss 3-4 weeks following surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee.

  • Analyzing pitching mechanics is a growing trend among bloggers and there are a pair of new entries about Twins pitchers that are worth checking out. Kyle Boddy of Driveline Mechanics examines Nick Blackburn's delivery, while Kiley McDaniel of Saber-Scouting looks at Deolis Guerra's form.
  • Speaking Guerra, he was part of an eclectic mix of pitchers who worked a game at high Single-A Fort Myers last weekend:
                         IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR
    Kevin Slowey 3.0 1 1 1 1 5 1
    Deolis Guerra 4.0 4 3 2 2 3 1
    Danny Graves 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0
    Tim Lahey 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0

    Making his way back from a strained biceps, Slowey began his rehab assignment by starting the game and tossed three solid innings. Guerra came on in relief and worked four innings to pick up the win. Danny Graves, who was an All-Star closer with the Reds and is now little more than minor-league filler at the age of 33, pitched a scoreless eighth inning. And Tim Lahey, who was briefly lost via the Rule 5 draft before returning to the organization earlier this month, closed things out.

  • Livan Hernandez: 5.05 ERA. It was fun while it lasted, at least.

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    April 24, 2008

    Link-O-Rama

  • FHM recently revealed their annual list of the "Top 100 Sexiest Women in the World" and I'm proud that two former Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com title-holders and one current OFGoAG.com candidate rank second, third, and fourth, respectively. My baseball analysis may be stats-driven, but my taste in women apparently shows some pretty decent scouting skills.
  • OFGoAG.com candidate Marisa Miller somehow managed to place just 58th on FHM's list, but the rankings were obviously compiled before she threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game last weekend:


    Setting aside the fact that Miller wearing a baseball uniform might be the greatest thing I've ever seen, it's very impressive that she made the throw all the way from the mound while showing off an arm that would make Shannon Stewart and Rondell White jealous.
  • As a fat person and Twins fan, this idea intrigues me.
  • Fresh off receiving surprisingly non-horrible reviews last month for my first ever on-camera work for NBCSports.com, I'm going to be a guest on the local FOX affiliate's "Sports on Demand" show Monday. The show is hosted by KMSP sports director Jim Rich, who also serves as the sideline reporter when Twins games are on WFTC each weekend. You can watch the show live on the station's site Monday afternoon and hopefully I'll be able to post a clip here afterward.
  • For years now my favorite meal in the world has been "hunan chicken with carrots, baby corn, and extra rice" from Yangtze in St. Louis Park. I can say without even an ounce of hyperbole that I've ordered it 500 times. The other day they raised the price a couple dollars, informing me that the cost of rice had risen too high for them to stick with the old amount. That didn't bother me at all, especially after seeing a "Skyrocketing rice prices has Sam's Club limiting sales" headline on CNN.com.

    However, the good people at Yangtze then informed me that even before the price increase the cost of each order had already included $5 to account for the seemingly minor "extra rice" part. So now, after ordering the exact same thing from the exact same restaurant multiple times per week for the past 7-8 years, I've come to the startling, highly disturbing realization that I've likely spent somewhere around $2,500 on white rice. If only Guinness had a category for carbohydrate-based stupidity.

  • How is a lowly Twins blogger who spends a fortune on white rice supposed to have a chance when professional basketball players start invading his turf?
  • Finally, some compelling video evidence to support the New York Times' hard-hitting investigation into blogging sweatshops.
  • Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star has long been my favorite newspaper sports columnist and like me the people who read his blog are big fans of Lori Loughlin (although sadly not enough to make her a first-ballot Pozcar winner).
  • Speaking of Posnanski, friend of AG.com Chris Jaffe interviewed him over at The Hardball Times.
  • Over 1,800 votes were cast in this week's poll to determine the best submission from the AG.com logo/header contest and there's an overwhelmingly clear winner:


    With 45 percent of the vote and nearly four times as many votes as the second-place finisher, "Double Stitches" from Dan Olson is the winner:


    With over 50 submissions the response to the contest was far beyond my expectations, so thank you to everyone who sent in a design. You'll notice that the new logo hasn't been added to the site yet, mostly because my extremely limited web-design skills guarantee that it'll take me a while to figure out how to actually make that happen.

  • Curmudgeonly, blog-hating Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse wrote the following tidbit about himself earlier this week:
    Answer never changes when someone asks if he read a Bill Simmons column: "No. What newspaper is he with?"

    Bill Simmons isn't with a newspaper, of course. Instead, he writes for a media outlet that people under the age of 50 actually read. One of the most rewarding aspects of blogging or creating a website like The Hardball Times is that your writing has to speak for itself and your audience has to seek you out. Unlike Reusse's column this blog isn't thrown onto someone's doorstep each morning along with a bunch of local news, advertisements, and coupons, so people read it solely because of the content.

    There's something satisfying about that, even if it means old-school newspaper writers like Reusse are automatically dismissive of your work because it doesn't appear as ink on a page. Meanwhile, his column appears alongside the brilliant prose of Sid Hartman and Jim Souhan in a medium that sees its audience decline further each day. The shift has already begun to some degree and in a few years people may be dismissive of writers like Reusse because they work for a newspaper.

  • Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe established himself as one of the best, most respected baseball writers in the country during his 35 years in the newspaper business, but he'll apparently now have to cross Reusse off his list of readers. It if makes Edes feel any better about losing Reusse's respect, the "no, what newspaper is he with?" club has expanded pretty rapidly over the past year.
  • Speaking of Minnesota's elite group of local newspaper sports columnists, Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote this nugget the other day:
    One longtime Twins fan is willing to bet that, at season's end, Twins rookie pitcher Nick Blackburn wil have a lower earned-run average than ex-Twins starter Johan Santana of the New York Mets.

    That sentence is fascinating on a number of levels, beginning with the notion that the opinion of "one longtime Twins fan" is somehow noteworthy enough to deserve space in a newspaper. Walters gives no hint about who the "one longtime Twins fan" might be and that one sentence is the entire extent of the note, which is found in the middle of a lengthy column made up of similarly random tidbits such as "the Gophers are trying to close a deal to schedule a home football game with Texas in 2015."

    As if Walters devoting column space to an anonymous, random thought from "one longtime Twins fan" isn't absurd enough--seriously, think about that for a moment--the Pioneer Press' editors failed to catch an obvious misspelling and "wil" made it to print, as if the newspaper is some lowly, unedited blog. Of course, as 10,000 Takes pointed out, the most amazing aspect might be that "there are actually people who pay money to have this kind of incredible sports insight 'dropped' on their doorstep each day."

  • He previously struck me as annoying because my first exposure came via the forgettable XFL, but after staying up into the wee hours listening to him call last Thursday's amazing 22-inning game and making a point to hear him work several times since then, Padres play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian is quickly becoming one of my favorite baseball announcers. He's extremely laid back, witty, smart, and has a great on-air rapport with partner Mark Grant.

    If all my money wasn't currently tied up in rice, I'd pay a decent price to have him replace Dick Bremer.

  • Friend of AG.com and Rotoworld football guru Gregg Rosenthal passed along the following note while working on the annual Rotoworld Football Draft Guide: On passes that traveled at least 20 yards, Tarvaris Jackson went 4-of-36 with two touchdowns and four interceptions last season. Me opining repeatedly that Jackson "throws a nice deep ball" now seems sort of silly, but as Rosenthal pointed out: "Well, it looks nice and goes far. It just lands on the ground."
  • Perhaps realizing that it's tough to justify cutting content when you're printing articles devoted entirely to my mom attending basketball games, the Star Tribune is bringing back Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com LaVelle E. Neal III's weekly minor-league reports.
  • I've never read the Mankato Free Press before, but if my names keeps showing up in articles it might become my favorite local newspaper.
  • A new(ish) Twins blog to check out: Tuesdays With(out) Torii.
  • Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Mike Doughty doing a live version of "Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well":


  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    Twins Notes: Bonser, Gomez, Cuddyer, Thomas, and Krivsky

  • Boof Bonser turned in his fourth Quality Start in five outings this season by tossing six innings of two-run ball against the A's last night, but his record fell to 1-4 when the Twins once again failed to provide him with decent run support. After being shut out last night the lineup has produced a grand total of seven runs in Bonser's five starts and he also ranked second-to-last among AL starters in run support last year. In Bonser's last 35 starts, the Twins have scored more than four runs just 11 times.
  • Carlos Gomez had a memorable Twins debut--doubling, bunting for a single, walking, and stealing two bases on Opening Day--and hit .326 with five steals through his first 10 games. Unfortunately, he's been completely lost at the plate since, batting 6-for-44 (.136) with zero walks in 10 games. Gomez went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts Tuesday before mercifully receiving last night off, but his problems offensively shouldn't come as a surprise given his various projections heading into the season:
                                   AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
    Baseball Prospectus .249 .301 .361 .662
    Baseball Think Factory .241 .299 .346 .645
    The Hardball Times .247 .293 .337 .630

    Gomez was handed an everyday job in the majors as a 22-year-old despite having a month's worth of experience at Triple-A and his minor-league track record suggested that he was anything but ready to thrive against big-league pitching. Sure enough, he's hitting .230/.247/.310 with a horrendous 24-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 20 games, underperforming even those modest projections and making him a .231/.272/.307 hitter in 78 career games once his time with the Mets last season is included.

    He's drawn a total of eight non-intentional walks in 228 career plate appearances while striking out 51 times, which isn't the type of ratio that lends itself to being a quality leadoff man, especially when it accompanies a .272 on-base percentage. Nearly one-fourth of Gomez's career hits have come via bunts and he's unsuccessfully laid one down plenty, which leaves him as a .202 hitter with a measly .278 slugging percentage and 50 strikeouts in 203 plate appearances when he swings away.

    That works out to a strikeout in 25 percent of his non-bunt plate appearances, which would've ranked as the eighth-highest strikeout rate among AL hitters last year. Even with the bunt attempts included, Gomez has whiffed in 22 percent of his career trips to the plate, which would've ranked 14th-worst among AL hitters last season. Gomez's speed makes him plenty exciting, but he's been rushed to the majors despite having huge holes in his game and has predictably been overmatched at the plate.

    Gomez can wreak havoc once he reaches base, but that rarely happens because he has horrible plate discipline, struggles to make consistent contact, and possesses little power. He has loads of potential and has shown flashes of brilliance, but isn't an MLB-caliber hitter at this stage of his career, let alone an MLB-caliber leadoff man. Perhaps the Twins feel that he'll learn more in Minnesota than Rochester, but in the meantime he's burning through pre-free agency service time while dragging the lineup down.

  • Michael Cuddyer is scheduled to return from the disabled list Friday and figures to resume batting third in the lineup, which hopefully means that Ron Gardenhire will move Joe Mauer back into the No. 2 spot. Sliding Gomez to the bottom of the order while making Brendan Harris the leadoff man would also make sense given that Harris is hitting .297/.352/.406 this year and batted .286/.343/.434 last season. Of course, as Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com LaVelle E. Neal III reports, it'll never happen:
    Gardenhire said he's against moving Gomez from the leadoff spot, reasoning that he needs at-bats and he'll be better off down the road if he stays at the top of the order.

    Gomez would still get plenty of plate appearances at the bottom of the lineup and staying at the top of the order won't help anyone involved if he doesn't actually perform well enough to warrant being there. Gardenhire views speed as having tremendous importance atop the lineup and regardless of what you think of that stance Gomez's wheels do have plenty of value, but Harris figures to get on base about 20 percent more often and that's far more important.

  • Had Cuddyer's finger injury been more serious it would have made sense for the Twins to pursue Frank Thomas after the future Hall of Famer was released by the Blue Jays earlier this week. Thomas would have provided an upgrade to the Twins' lineup, but with the team committed to playing Cuddyer, Delmon Young, and Jason Kubel nearly every game and Craig Monroe already around to take starts against left-handers away from Kubel there would've been limited work available.

    Interestingly, Thomas is rumored to be negotiating a return to Oakland, where he'd presumably replace Mike Sweeney as the A's designated hitter. Sweeney revealed yesterday that he "had some talks with the Twins early in the offseason" and "was pretty excited about the possibility" of coming to Minnesota before "talks calmed down" and he signed with the A's for just $500,000. He then went 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs in the A's 3-0 victory last night, improving to .309/.391/.418 on the year.

  • Monroe was in the starting lineup Tuesday because of his previous success against A's starter Joe Blanton and went 3-for-4 with a homer, a double, and three RBIs to raise his OPS from .656 to .897. He was back in the lineup last night, but without Blanton to smack around went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Monroe costs nearly eight times as much as Sweeney, but when not facing Blanton this season he's 6-for-29 (.207) with 12 strikeouts and a .310 slugging percentage.
  • Mauer's durability is questioned by fans, media members, and self-proclaimed tough guys who sit with sore toes, but he's started 18 of the first 21 games, catching 158 of a possible 185 innings. He's on pace to catch 1,220 innings, which is noteworthy given that Jorge Posada led the AL by catching 1,111 innings last year. Even his limited rest hasn't been optimal, as Mauer has started four of the five games against lefties while two of Mike Redmond's three starts have come against righties.
  • While Gomez struggles, Jacoby Ellsbury has been great for the Red Sox, hitting .308/.456/.538 in 20 games. Ellsbury was my preferred position player from the various Johan Santana trade rumors this winter, and including last season's playoffs has now hit .342 with a fantastic 23-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio while going 19-for-19 stealing bases in 64 career MLB games. On the other hand, my preferred pitcher from the Santana talks was Phil Hughes, and he's 0-3 with an 8.82 ERA for the Yankees.
  • Wayne Krivsky's underwhelming stint as Reds general manager ended yesterday, as Terry Ryan's former right-hand man was fired after two-plus years on the job. Cincinnati went 161-184 (.467) under Krivsky, who hired Dusty Baker as manager despite his being horribly miscast to lead a young team and too often filled the roster with players like Juan Castro after honing his love for veteran mediocrity in Minnesota. Krivsky is respected enough to land on his feet, but hopefully not back with the Twins.

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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