June 13, 2007

Twins Notes: Fivesomes, Sideshow, Johan, and Milton

  • I have serious doubts about how long Ron Gardenhire will stay with Joe Mauer in the No. 2 spot--he's all too predictably already talked about wanting to get Nick Punto back there eventually--but it's certainly a huge improvement. There are still four largely unproductive spots in the lineup on most days, which keeps the Twins from having an above-average offense, but trotting out this impressive fivesome in succession will do plenty of damage:
                              AVG      OBP      SLG
    1. Luis Castillo .330 .373 .364
    2. Joe Mauer .333 .417 .458
    3. Michael Cuddyer .298 .377 .471
    4. Justin Morneau .273 .347 .547
    5. Torii Hunter .312 .355 .571

    Without actually crunching any numbers, my guess is that's among the very best front fives in baseball. The fivesome went 7-for-20 with five RBIs and five runs scored last night.

  • After tossing a 1-2-3 inning Tuesday night, Pat Neshek now has the following career numbers:
     G     W     L       IP      ERA     SO     BB     HR     OAVG
    62 7 2 68.0 1.72 90 17 8 .150

    Who would guess that a 7-2 record, 1.72 ERA, 90-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .150 opponent's batting average could possibly come from something that looks like this on the mound?

    Remember when Neshek first came up from Triple-A last season and various people made a big deal about his supposed struggles against left-handed hitters? Sideshow Pat has held left-handers to a .176/.260/.353 hitting line during his career, including a ridiculous .100/.217/.175 this season.

  • I'm on record as saying that the constant effort being made by fans and the media to compare Kevin Slowey to Brad Radke makes little sense given Slowey's lack of a world-class changeup, but their numbers through three career starts are intriguingly similar:
                W     L       IP      ERA     SO     BB     HR     OAVG
    Radke 2 1 18.0 4.50 9 4 3 .288
    Slowey 2 0 17.0 3.71 6 2 4 .297

    Radke went 11-14 with a 5.32 ERA as a rookie in 1995, which is the sort of thing that should probably be pointed out once in a while when fans seemingly panic because guys like Matt Garza aren't great immediately. Also worth noting: Scott Baker had a 2.37 ERA, 15-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .209 opponent's batting average through his first three starts back in 2005.

  • Over at his blog, Sports Illustrated's Jacob Luft wrote an entry wondering "What's Wrong With Johan Santana?" Luft brought up the fact that "even no-names ... can stake a better claim to the Cy Young than Santana" at this point in the season and then delved into what he called "a couple of disturbing stats that stand out and may not bode well for Santana's pursuit of a third Cy Young." It's an interesting read and I respect Luft's work quite a bit, but he misses the point on Santana.

    Yes, Santana hasn't been the best pitcher in the league through mid-June. Guess what? He's never been the best pitcher in the league through mid-June. And yes, Santana's current numbers don't compare favorably to his overall numbers at the end of 2004, 2005, and 2006. Guess what? His numbers at this same point in 2004, 2005, and 2006 don't even compare favorably to his overall numbers at the end of those same seasons.

    To Luft's credit, he doesn't get caught up in Santana's 6-6 record, because he's smart enough to know better. Santana's record is due largely to the Twins' inability to provide him with run support, as they've managed three runs or fewer in nine of his 13 outings. Looking solely at Santana's ability to prevent runs, which is all he can control, his performance through 13 starts is nearly identical to where he stood through 13 starts in 2005 and 2006, and far better than his numbers through 13 starts in 2004:

    YEAR     GS       IP      ERA     SO     BB     HR     OAVG
    2004 13 75.2 5.11 71 23 13 .277
    2005 13 92.1 3.31 114 11 10 .209
    2006 13 88.1 3.16 91 16 10 .231
    2007 13 86.0 3.24 96 23 13 .228

    Whatever's "wrong" with Santana right now was also "wrong" with him in 2005 and 2006.

  • Presented without comment, Santana's Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) numbers:
    YEAR     xFIP
    2004 3.28
    2005 3.35
    2006 3.42
    2007 3.49

    Sorry, Jacob.

  • Last week, G.R. Anderson asked me to help him do some research for an article he was working on about Santana for City Pages. He ended up not using most of the information I passed along and failed to give me a proper plug, referring to AG.com as simply "a respected sabermetrics website" rather than actually providing an address that people could go to. Despite (or perhaps because of) that, Anderson penned an excellent piece on Santana that's a must-read. Seriously, it's really good.

    Here's an interesting stat that I stumbled across while doing some of the research that went unused: Since finally handing him a full-time spot in the rotation in mid-2003, the Twins are 91-38 (.705) when Santana starts. In games Santana didn't start over that same span, the Twins are 258-233 (.525). With Santana on the mound, the Twins have been the equivalent of a 110-win team. Without Santana on the mound, the Twins have essentially been an 85-win team.

  • Late last month, with Ramon Ortiz coming off a four-start stretch in which he posted an 11.74 ERA, Gardenhire chose not to skip his turn in the rotation, explaining that telling Ortiz he was being skipped "would be tough." Now, with Baker coming off a four-start stretch in which he posted a 6.45 ERA, Gardenhire has no problem skipping him. Ortiz is a 34-year-old veteran of nine big-league seasons, but apparently a 25-year-old with zero full seasons under his belt can better handle being bumped.
  • Along with Cristian Guzman, Brian Buchanan, and Danny Mota, the Twins acquired Eric Milton from the Yankees for Chuck Knoblauch in 1998. Over the next six seasons, Milton provided the Twins with 987.1 innings of 4.76 ERA pitching for the combined salary of $12.9 million. Then, with Milton coming off a major knee injury and scheduled to make $9 million in 2004, the Twins dumped his salary on the Phillies for Punto, Carlos Silva, and Bobby Korecky.

    Since leaving Minnesota, Milton has thrown 571.1 innings with a 5.45 ERA while making $34.5 million. And now his career is in jeopardy, because Milton will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery Friday. After one season with the Phillies, Milton signed a three-year, $25.5 million contract with the Reds, during which he went 16-27 with a 5.83 ERA. A pending free agent, Milton turns 32 years old in August, hasn't been good since 2001, and will likely miss at least half of next season following surgery.

    There's a chance Milton's career will end with a 5.01 ERA and Reds fans surely won't remember him favorably, but whatever happens going forward, he had a nice run for the Twins.

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

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