August 17, 2005
The Johan and Fatty Show
Even having said all I've said over the last few days, sweeping the White Sox, in Chicago, sure is a lot of fun. It's just a shame that beating them down the stretch in 2005 doesn't mean nearly as much as it did in years past, because last night's game and the entire three-game series would have created some pretty good memories (and brought back some nice ones too).
The Twins completed the three-game sweep last night, as Johan Santana took a no-hitter into the seventh inning despite having the following defense behind him:
C Mike Redmond
1B Justin Morneau
2B Nick Punto
SS Jason Bartlett
3B Terry Tiffee
LF Brent Abernathy
CF Lew Ford
RF Michael Cuddyer
Now, I think more of Justin Morneau, Nick Punto, and Jason Bartlett defensively than most people probably do, but that's still a brutal group. It's particularly bad in the outfield -- with Lew Ford in center field and two mediocre defensive infielders in the corners -- and Santana is a fly-ball pitcher. Thankfully defense doesn't matter a whole lot when you strike out 10 of the 33 batters you face, although at the very least Brent Abernathy's inexperience in left field probably cost Santana an out.
Of course, perhaps more amazing than Santana taking a no-hitter deep into the game with that defense behind him is the fact that the above group -- which is probably worse offensively than defensively, as hard as that is to believe -- scored him five runs against Mark Buehrle. Actually, that's not quite true, because designated hitter Matthew LeCroy isn't listed above and he launched two solo homers in the first four innings.
LeCroy has basically been playing every day since Torii Hunter went on the disabled list, starting against both righties and lefties. LeCroy can't hit right-handed pitching at any sort of consistent level, but he has enough good performances against southpaws like Buehrle that Ron Gardenhire doesn't realize it. But while Gardenhire doesn't think numbers "mean a hill of beans," the proof is in the stats:
AVG OBP SLG OPS
vs RHP .223 .309 .322 .631
vs LHP .341 .443 .671 1.114
He's Albert Pujols against lefties and Tony Womack against righties, and this isn't just a one-year thing. For his career, LeCroy has an .882 OPS against lefties and a .697 OPS against righties.
The bad news is that there's no reason why Gardenhire has to play LeCroy every day against righties, except for the fact that he has no ability to understand something as simple as platooning. The worse news is that, even if Gardenhire turned into Earl Weaver overnight, he wouldn't have anyone good to platoon LeCroy with at this point anyway. When you're starting guys like Abernathy and Michael Ryan in outfield corners, you're pretty much just picking names out of a hat.
Why would I possibly bring this up after LeCroy had such a great game? Because at some point over the next few days Gardenhire will talk about how well LeCroy has done as the everyday designated hitter. Meanwhile, what he really means, without even realizing it, is that LeCroy has done an extraordinary job as the DH against lefties and a horrible job as the DH against righties. Added together it's a good performance, but it's also one of many situations where the Twins squander opportunities to improve.
That's probably enough criticism for one day, especially given how much negativity I've spewed over the last couple weeks and how well the team played against the White Sox. So let's end today's entry on a happy note, with a look at Santana's line for the season after an 8.1-inning, 10-strikeout, one-run performance last night:
GS IP W L ERA SO BB OAVG
25 173.2 12 6 3.37 182 32 .224
Everyone seems to assume that he's out of the running for the AL Cy Young this year, but here's an interesting little tidbit: After 25 starts last season, Santana was 12-6 with a 3.25 ERA. He now leads the league in strikeouts and Quality Starts, ranks second in batting average against and OPS against, third in innings pitched, fifth in wins and strikeout-to-walk ratio, and seventh in ERA.
One more tidbit to chew on while you send me angry e-mails for writing off a team that is now four games out of the postseason: Santana is 5-1 with a 1.82 ERA since the All-Star break this year, which means he is now 26-2 (yes, twenty-six and two) with a 2.02 ERA in 240 innings after the All-Star break during the past three seasons.
One of my favorite writers is coming to town today. Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders and ESPN.com Page 2 will be signing copies of Pro Football Prospectus at The Bookcase of Wayzata tonight.
Here are the details:
What? Aaron Schatz meeting fans, signing books, and kissing babies.
When? Tonight at 7 p.m.
Where? The Bookcase of Wayzata: 607 East Lake Street (Mapquest)
Why? Buy a good book, meet two guys named Aaron who write about sports on the internet, and get out of the house.
For more details, you can call the bookstore at 952-473-8341, check out the bookstore's website, or check out Football Outsider's website. If you're planning to go, look for the fat guy in the Twins hat who is arguing with people about the Vikings trading Randy Moss, and say hello.