August 29, 2005

Dr. Gleeman

A guy is riding his bike when a truck veers off the road and hits him. A passer-by calls 911, the biker is rushed to the emergency room, and after a few minutes a doctor pronounces him dead. Wanting to give it one last shot, another doctor takes out the defibrillator paddles and shocks him. Suddenly his heart starts beating again and everyone in the room yells at the original doctor, telling him how silly he was to have overreacted and how wrong he was about the biker being dead. Then, after 10 seconds the biker flat lines again, this time for good.

I feel like that original doctor today. I've been saying for the past month or so that the Twins were "done" and right now, at 68-62 and 5.5 games behind the Wild Card-leading Yankees, they are. They have too much ground to make up on too many teams, not enough time to do it, and their offense is simply not good enough to support the playoff-caliber pitching staff.

Yet for a very brief moment their heart started beating again. Just long enough to get hopes up, and just long enough for me to catch some flak for writing off the team. The funny thing is, if someone had taken a vacation to a deserted island the day Torii Hunter broke his ankle and returned to the civilized world this morning, they would have looked at the Twins' playoff chances upon their return and said, "Well, it looks like they were done after all."

We can still argue about whether or not they were "done" weeks ago (or whether or not I was "right"), and I'm sure we will. After all, maybe it'll take our minds off of just how disappointing this season has been and just how frustrating it is to watch the offense come up empty time after time. This pitching staff, from Johan Santana and Carlos Silva to Brad Radke and Kyle Lohse, deserves better, and it's been painful to watch the lineup be held in check by guys like Chris Young far too often this season.

Here are the Twins' current ranks among the 14 American League teams:

Runs Per Game         13th
Batting Average 11th
On-Base Percentage 11th
Slugging Percentage 12th
Ground-to-Fly Ratio 14th
Double Plays 12th
At-Bats/Home Run 13th
Extra-Base Hits 13th
Isolated Power 13th
Line Drive % 14th

Only the lowly Royals have less power than the Twins, and no team in the AL hits a higher percentage of their balls on the ground or a lower percentage of line drives. They also don't hit for average or get on base, and when they do get a runner on they've hit into the third-most double plays in the league.

* * * * *

And on that depressing note, here's an excerpt from my "News, Notes and Quotes" column over at The Hardball Times today:

It's a shame the Minnesota Twins can't score any runs this season, because Johan Santana is making a second-half run that looks an awful lot like the amazing stretch he put together on his way to winning the American League Cy Young last season. After shutting down the Rangers yesterday afternoon, in Texas—where they average a league-leading 6.0 runs per game at home—Santana now has a 1.54 ERA and 52-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in nine second-half starts. Dating back to 2003, Santana has the following extraordinary numbers after the All-Star break:

GS        IP      ERA      W      L      SO      BB
38 255.0 1.94 27 2 269 57

That includes second-half records of 8-1 in 2003 and 13-0 last season, plus this year's 6-1 mark since the break. He may not be Mr. October, but Santana is definitely Mr. July, August, and September. Unfortunately, while he was holding the Rangers to one run over seven innings, the Twins' lineup was held scoreless. They finally scratched out a run in the eighth—single, sacrifice bunt, ground out, single—to tie the game at 1-1, which at least gave Santana a no-decision instead of a loss when the Rangers eventually won the game 2-1 with a run off reliever Jesse Crain in the bottom of the ninth.

Had Santana been given a few runs to work with, he would have improved to 7-1 since the All-Star break and 14-6 on the season. Instead, he's stuck on 13 wins while guys like Bartolo Colon make a charge toward the magic 20-win mark. Regardless of whether or not Santana ends up as the most valuable pitcher in the AL this season, he's going to have a very difficult time getting the votes necessary from the win-obsessed Baseball Writers Association of America to repeat as the league's Cy Young winner.

Santana has started 14 games this season in which he's either gotten a loss or a no-decision, and he is 0-6 with a 4.67 ERA in those 14 starts. To put that in some context, Rodrigo Lopez of the Orioles has a 4.61 ERA on the season ... and he's 13-7. In fact, a total of 14 big-league pitchers—Lopez, Jeremy Bonderman, Tim Wakefield, Jeff Weaver, Jeff Francis, Chan Ho Park, Jason Schmidt, Matt Clement, C.C. Sabathia, David Wells, Jamie Moyer, Gil Meche, Bronson Arroyo, Horacio Ramirez—have at least 10 wins and a winning record with an ERA of 4.25 or higher.

Now, Santana has certainly had a few clunkers this season—either three or four in 27 starts, depending on your definition of "clunker"—but the point is that he has had to be nearly flawless just to squeeze out a win. Twice he's lost despite giving up just two runs (once in eight innings, once in seven innings) because the Twins' lineup was held to one run each time. In his eight no-decisions, Santana has averaged seven innings a start with a 3.60 ERA and he has nothing to show for it.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- News, Notes and Quotes (August 29, 2005) (by Aaron Gleeman)

Today's Picks (93-81, +$1,020):
Chicago (Buehrle) -135 over Texas (Dominguez)

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