April 19, 2007

Twins Notes

  • Not only did Jeff Weaver let the Twins knock him around for seven runs Tuesday night, he provided an amusing quote afterward when asked about the slider Torii Hunter hit for a fifth-inning grand slam:

    That's the pitch that made the difference tonight. I've faced Torii a bunch of times, and I've had some success with the slider.

    I won't waste time quibbling over the definition of "some success," but it's worth noting that Hunter has hit .480 with an .880 slugging percentage in 27 career plate appearances against Weaver. Given those numbers, I'd love to see who Weaver doesn't think he's had "some success" against with his slider.

  • Justin Morneau returning to the scene of last season's supposed epiphany in Seattle means that stories about his turnaround haven't been hard to find this week. The two best versions that I've read are Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports with the national angle and the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, with the local angle.
  • One of the best local sports columnists in the country, Larry Stone of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, tells the interesting story of how good scouting and a little luck helped both the Twins and Mariners get their hands on Venezuelan aces. I'm hoping that the Mariners also have a little luck when it comes to Felix Hernandez's elbow injury last night.
  • It's nice to know that Scott Ullger isn't the only third-base coach in the league making questionable decisions in key spots, but how many more jams can a suddenly hittable Joe Nathan wriggle out of thanks to the other team's baserunning? Opponents batted .158/.212/.242 in 262 plate appearances against Nathan last season. So far this year, they're at .419/.455/.548 in 33 plate appearances.
  • Longtime AG.com reader Tim Kolehmainen covers the Twins' Double-A New Britain affiliate for the Meriden Record-Journal in Connecticut. He'll also be blogging about the Rock Cats, whose Opening Day roster includes AG.com top-40 Twins prospects Anthony Swarzak, David Winfree, Jay Sawatski, Jose Mijares, Trevor Plouffe, Brian Duensing, Brandon Roberts, and Garrett Guzman. With a bunch of good content already, Kolehmainen's blog is a must-read for prospect buffs.
  • For as much credit as pitching coach Rick Anderson deserves regarding Ramon Ortiz's strong start--and I'm willing to nominate him for sainthood if it continues much longer--it's interesting to note that Kyle Lohse has thrived away from Anderson's tutelage. Lohse tossed eight shutout innings while racking up a career-high 12 strikeouts Sunday, giving him a 2.53 ERA and a 19-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season. Since being dealt to the Reds last year, he has a 4.06 ERA in 84.1 innings.
  • As you might expect, I don't anticipate having to make that nomination. Within Ortiz's 3-0 record and sparkling 2.05 ERA are signs that his improvement is far from sustainable. For instance, Ortiz has managed to strand 87.2 percent of the runners he's allowed to reach base through three starts, which is simply not going to last. To put that in some context, consider that Johan Santana left about 78 percent of his runners on base over the past three years, while Ortiz stranded about 72 percent.

    Similarly, Ortiz has seen 80 percent of the balls put in play against him converted into outs thus far. The Twins' defense is good, but no defense is that good. Over the past three seasons, the Twins turned 70 percent of balls in play into outs and Ortiz himself also had about 70 percent of his balls in play find gloves over that span. If a team is able to convert 72 percent of balls in play into outs during a given year, it's typically good enough to lead all of baseball. Eighty percent is not even close to sustainable.

    None of that takes away from what Ortiz has already done, of course. In fact, for as much as I hated the decision to sign Ortiz, what he's done through three starts goes a long way toward making it a successful move regardless of what happens from here on out. With that said, all the talk of Anderson working a miracle and Ortiz turning into a new pitcher is extremely premature, because the underlying numbers within his performance suggest that he's been extraordinarily, unsustainably lucky.

  • For the second straight year Terry Ryan spoke to a sports law group at the University of Minnesota's law school, for the second straight year Ryan said a bunch of interesting, revealing stuff while there, and for the second straight year longtime AG.com reader Barry Metropolis blogged about being there to hear it.

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

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