August 12, 2004
Remember last week, after the Twins lost that painful 18-inning game to the A's? I wrote this:
Is there anything worse than an 18-inning loss? That's not a rhetorical question either, I'm actually wondering. In the world of baseball, is there anything worse?
Well, the Twins put that to the test last night, losing a regulation, nine-inning game by committing consecutive throwing errors. But rather than complain about that, let's set last night's loss aside and complain about something else ...
Honestly, how pathetic is the Twins' offense right now?
For the year, they rank 10th in the American League in runs scored and OPS. Before the All-Star break, they scored 4.7 runs per game. Since the All-Star break, they've averaged 4.7 runs per game.
It is just a pathetic, pathetic offense. With Joe Mauer on the disabled list and Doug Mientkiewicz in Boston, the team now has just three everyday players who I would classify as "patient" -- Corey Koskie, Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford. The rest of the regulars -- Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Luis Rivas, Cristian Guzman, Justin Morneau -- are pretty much just up there hacking.
Now, I know that's the Twins' style, and when it's working it's just fine, but when the doubles aren't flying into the gaps, the team is just pathetic at the plate. They swing at awful pitches, they don't get into hitter's counts, and when they actually do get ahead in the count, they blow it by swinging at questionable pitches.
All of which leads to getting shut down by very mediocre pitchers. Don't believe me? Here's a list of some starting pitchers who have had a "Quality Start" against the Twins since the All-Star break ...
That's 11 Quality Starts by guys who are questionable, for various reasons and to varying degrees, and the Twins have only played a total of 26 games since the All-Star break. And that's not even counting the Quality Starts they had thrown against them by guys like Mark Mulder and Pedro Martinez, or a bunch of seven-inning/four-run starts by other mediocre guys that don't qualify as Quality Starts.
It's just pathetic.
This is what happens when you have guys like Rivas and Guzman and Henry Blanco in the lineup every day, particularly when the team doesn't have a true superstar hitter to make up for their shortcomings.
As they showed last night against Madritsch, and as has been the case for the last several years, the team is particularly vulnerable to left-handed pitching. They are 19-19 in games started by a lefty this year, as opposed to 43-31 when a righty starts against them. Last year, they were 25-29 against lefties and 65-43 against righties.
This is a result of the bulk of the hitters -- Morneau, Koskie, Jones, Mauer, Mientkiewicz (before he was dealt) -- being lefties, plus the fact that righties (or switch-hitters) like Guzman, Rivas, Blanco and Hunter don't exactly destroy lefties. And Ron Gardenhire's refusal to bench Jacque Jones against southpaws isn't helping either. I literally get e-mails calling me an idiot every time Jones gets a hit against a lefty (like he did last night). Thankfully that's not too often.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that, right around the time we could start writing off the White Sox as a legitimate threat, the Indians come out of nowhere to put some serious pressure on the Twins. Cleveland has now gone 18-10 since the All-Star break, cutting the Twins' division lead to a slim three games.
The most disheartening thing for Twins fans, aside from how awful the offense has been, is that the Twins and Indians will play 13 more times before the end of the season. So while a three-game lead in the middle of August is nice to have, it can vanish in an instant.
The series against the Indians this weekend, in Cleveland, is going to be a big one.
New article at The Hardball Times: Fearsome Foursomes
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