April 16, 2008

Twins Notes: Livan, GoGo, Pretty Girls, and Parmelee

  • Yesterday in this space my entry was about how Livan Hernandez's early success this year came largely from uncharacteristically throwing strikes and keeping the ball in the ballpark, but noted that "his track record suggests that's going to very difficult for Hernandez to keep up." Sure enough, he took the mound last night against the Rays and walked three batters while serving up three homers on the way to allowing five runs (three earned) in six innings.

    The clock certainly hasn't struck midnight on Hernandez yet and he'll likely stave off a collapse longer than Ramon Ortiz did last season, but last night's performance was more along the lines of what can be expected from him than the strike-throwing, ground-ball machine who began the season 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA. As Ortiz showed, it's tough to out-run a well-established track record for long and Hernandez still figures to struggle keeping his ERA below 5.00 all year.

  • Carlos Gomez went 2-for-4 with a pair of stolen bases last night, giving him nine steals through 15 games. That puts him on pace to swipe about 95 bases on the year, which would shatter the Twins' record of 62 that Chuck Knoblauch set in 1997. The last player to swipe 90 bases? Rickey Henderson, with 93 in 1988. All of that thievery has come despite Gomez getting on base just 28 percent of the time and his lone caught stealing came via pickoff. Never before has .262/.284/.369 been such fun to watch.
  • Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com LaVelle E. Neal III reports that Michael Cuddyer's finger injury has been slow to heal and he's unlikely to come off the disabled list when eligible Sunday. Denard Span went 0-for-4 last night and is now batting .250/.333/.250 overall, but the Twins will continue to trot out the league's lightest-hitting right fielder until Cuddyer returns.
  • Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports recently wrote a nice profile of Pat Neshek, including all the usual stuff about his blog and overall fan-friendliness. One of Neshek's quotes stood out given his struggles over the past week: "I'm a middle reliever. The only time I'm in the paper is when I blow a game." Neshek's two ugly outings are a little concerning given that he faded down the stretch last season after racking up a heavy workload, but his 8-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six innings suggests that he'll be just fine.
  • Quote of the Week, from Ron Gardenhire talking about Nick Punto:

    He'll come back and be a great player. He already is to me because he's so valuable everywhere you play him.

    Gardenhire's "he already is to me" comment is awfully sweet in an aw-shucks kind of way, sort of like a husband saying that his wife of 50 years is "the prettiest girl in the world to me." Gardenhire must deluge his wife with compliments, because "great player" and "so valuable everywhere you play him" aren't exactly the first things that come to my mind when describing a .246/.315/.322 career hitter who had the lowest OPS in all of baseball last season.

  • Former first-round pick Chris Parmelee hit just .239/.313/.414 at low Single-A last year, falling from No. 2 to No. 11 on my annual list of the Twins' top 40 prospects. That line was far better than it appears given the extremely pitcher-friendly nature of the Midwest League, but was still disappointing enough for the Twins to send him back to Beloit for a second stint this season. Parmelee got off to a horrible start there, going 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in his first game, but has been killing the ball since.

    Since whiffing five times on Opening Day, Parmelee has gone 13-for-32 (.406) with four homers, nine total extra-base hits, six walks, and 14 RBIs in 10 games. Even with the five-strikeout opener included, his overall hitting line is an amazing .351/.432/.838, which adds up to a 1.270 OPS that leads the team by 340 points. In fact, if you take Parmelee out of the mix, Beloit has hit just .246 with a .343 slugging percentage. He has the same four homers in 37 at-bats that the rest of the team has in 353 at-bats.

  • Doug Deeds was sent to the Cubs last week to complete the winter deal for Craig Monroe. Trading for Monroe and handing him $3.82 million was an ill-conceived move on a number of levels, but losing Deeds isn't of much consequence. He was 37th on the 2007 version of my prospect list and seemed capable of being "a solid left-handed bench bat or platoon starter" at the time, but hit .243/.306/.404 at Triple-A last season and at 27 years old is now a long shot to have any sort of big-league career.
  • Speaking of Monroe, he channeled Tony Batista when discussing his return to Detroit:

    I'm excited to see those guys and talk to them. I'm also excited to get a chance to do some damage and beat them, too. I'm bitter. I'm disappointed when I think about the situation. ... And to do some of the things I've done, I felt like I would like to have some of it back, when I scuffled the first half. I think I struggled every first half, but when you look up at the end, every September, my numbers are right there.

    "When you look up at the end, every September, my numbers are right there" reminded me of Batista saying: "Everybody doesn't like the way I hit, but everybody likes the results." Meanwhile, no one liked Batista's "results" and "when you look up at the end" Monroe hit .219/.268/.370 last season, including .210/.262/.328 in the second half. Shockingly, washed-up hackers whose careers were extended by the Twins' never-ending search for veteran mediocrity struggle a little bit with self-assessment.

  • Garrett Guzman, R.A. Dickey, and Tim Lahey were each plucked from the Twins' organization during the Rule 5 draft back in December. Guzman and Dickey both failed to make Opening Day rosters and would have been offered back for $25,000, but the Twins decided to trade them anyway. Lahey actually made the Phillies out of spring training, but was waived just a few days into the season and the Twins decided to welcome him back into the organization last week.

    He'll join the bullpen at Triple-A and could be a middle-relief option at some point, but doesn't have an especially bright future after posting a mediocre 3.46 ERA and 56-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 78.1 innings at Double-A last season as a 25-year-old in a pitcher-friendly environment. Meanwhile, Dickey has been called up by the Mariners after starting twice at Triple-A and the knuckleballer will replace the injured Erik Bedard in the rotation Sunday. Guzman is off to a 5-for-39 (.128) start at Triple-A.

  • Earlier this week my look at Francisco Liriano's first start back from Tommy John elbow surgery was based primarily on results--such as his pitch breakdown and decreased velocity--but over at Baseball Intellect there's an examination at Liriano's mechanics that arrives at largely the same conclusion.

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

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