September 25, 2005

The Little Things

According to Jason Williams in Saturday's St. Paul Pioneer Press, we might as well get used to Jason Tyner:

Jason Tyner is at least giving the Twins' front office something to think about in the offseason.

In the lineup as the leadoff hitter and left fielder for the fourth consecutive game Friday against Chicago, Tyner continued to impress the Twins in his bid to win a 2006 roster spot. The September call-up led off with a single, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. He is batting .300.

While not a good player -- he's hit .259/.296/.302 in 257 big-league games and .303/.360/.353 in 514 Triple-A games -- Tyner wouldn't be the world's worst fifth outfielder. With that said, here's something from the same article that bugs me:

Gardenhire likes that Tyner does little things well, such as running the bases, playing solid defense and executing bunts. The Twins' inability to execute fundamental plays is big reason why they will not make the playoffs.

It doesn't surprise me at all that Ron Gardenhire likes how Tyner "does little things well." However, for Williams to write that not being able to do those things well is a "big reason why they will not make the playoffs" is a pretty questionable statement.

The Twins rank dead last in the American League in runs scored. Is it because they haven't done a good job bunting, moving runners over, and taking the extra base? Sure, that would have helped. But when a team ranks 12th in on-base percentage, dead last in slugging percentage, and dead last in extra-base hits, can't we pretty safely conclude that they won't make the playoffs because they can't hit?

That's like saying bad set design is a big reason why Jennifer Lopez's movies are horrible. Sure, it might be a factor on some level, but there are so many things in front of it on the list of stuff to fix that it shouldn't even be mentioned. The Twins could be the greatest team of all time at "doing the little things" and they'd still have trouble scoring more runs than the Royals this year.

In fact, two categories the Twins rank relatively well in are stolen bases (fifth) and sacrifices (third). If a team ranks near the bottom in nearly everything having to do with hitting a baseball and near the top in running and bunting, is not doing the little things really a big reason for their disappointing season? Or perhaps is the team's focus on "doing the little things" a reason why they don't do the big things, like hit?

* * * * *

I almost feel bad for Joe Mays. From all accounts he appears to be a nice guy and a good teammate, except for the fact that he hasn't pitched effectively in four years. Yanked from the rotation in favor of Scott Baker earlier this season, Mays was given a chance to start in place of the injured Brad Radke Saturday against Chicago.

Mays, who will become a free agent this offseason when the Twins decline his expensive option for 2006, sounded very excited about getting another chance to show that he can still pitch after a little time off for his surgically repaired arm:

Hopefully I can go out there and get a couple of good starts. Looking toward the future, I get an opportunity to let everybody know that, with a little break, my arm is going to bounce back pretty good.

And then Mays went out and got shelled by the White Sox, giving up six runs on nine hits in two innings. The loss dropped him to 6-10 with a 5.54 ERA on the year, including 1-7 with an 8.15 ERA since the All-Star break. He is scheduled to get one last start in place of Radke Thursday, but at this point it seems unlikely that Mays will get more than a spring-training invite from a team in need of a fifth starter for next season.

* * * * *

One of the problems with finding ways to improve the Twins' offense this offseason is that the team simply doesn't have much payroll room to work with. It's easy to find solutions when you can go out and sign a free-agent hitter or two, but as John Bonnes has shown a number of times over at Twins Territory, the Twins are essentially already maxed out in salary for next season.

However, a recent article about the Royals in the Kansas City Star gives me a little optimism that perhaps Carl Pohlad will open up the wallet a bit this winter. Royals owner David Glass says that he will be able to increase Kansas City's payroll by about 35% because of the added revenue the team will receive from MLB. Here's a little of what he said:

Because of the improving revenue picture in Major League Baseball we have more funds available to us. ... The opportunities are getting better, and that gives us some flexibility to go do some things that will allow us to put a competitive team on the field.

Glass reportedly plans to add around $15 million to the Royals' payroll, taking it from about $37 million this season to somewhere in the $50-million range. A similar increase for the Twins would make a massive difference. Another $15 million could buy two impact hitters on the free agent market or allow the team to target someone like Alfonso Soriano in a trade. Even an extra $5-6 million could give general manager Terry Ryan significant room to maneuver with.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- And Down the Stretch They Come! (by Aaron Gleeman)

Today's Picks (108-97, +$875):
Kansas City +3 (-110) over Denver

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