"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Season Thus Far, Part 1

It's been a long, strange couple of months, my friends. Tomorrow, when it is June, I'll pick May apart. Today, let's look back at April, for comparison.

Twins team stats for April 2006:

CategoryStatValueAL Rank
(of 14)
ML Rank
(of 30)
HittingBA - Batting Avg .2501022
OBP - On-Base %.3111226
OPS - On-Base + Slugging %.6751429
H - Hits2031123
R - Runs971327
HR - Home Runs201225 (3 tied)
XBH - Extra-Base Hits511430
GIDP - Ground Into Double Play19813 (3 tied)
K - Strikeouts13869
BB - Walks691024
PitchingERA - Earned Run Average 6.281430
IP - Innings Pitched205.0n/an/a
H - Hits2761430
R - Runs1481228
ER - Earned Runs1431430
HR - Home Runs351226
BB - Walks Allowed5722
K - Strikeouts1361226
WHIP - Walks & Hits Per Inning1.621328
K/BB - Strikeouts Per Walk2.401 (3 tied)1 (3 tied)
P/IP - Pitches Per Inning16.3513
FieldingFPCT - Fielding %.9921n/a
E - Errors71n/a
DER - Defense Efficiency Rating.65514n/a
SB - Stolen Bases Allowed92n/a
CS - Caught Stealing65n/a
% Caught Stealing40%6n/a

Analysis: At the plate

The thing about the hitting that jumps out at me right away is that the ONLY thing our boys were above the median in was striking out. They didn't do a lot of that. Good for them. They also didn't walk, hit, homer or do much of anything else.

They stole a nice bunch of bases (15 of 19 attempts were successful), I'll give them that, but stealing is only useful when there's some slim chance that one of your teammates could then bring you home. They put a lot of balls in play, but flailing around up there like an overcaffeinated baboon will do that.

Analysis: On the mound

What the [BLEEP] happened here?! It's been nearly a month, and I still feel woozy when I think about April and pitching at the same time.

Here's a breakdown. Bullpen April ERA: 4.47. Starters April ERA: 7.30. Neither is very good, but the starters were just awful. Our pitching staff was worse than the Royals. Chew on that for a minute.

Like the hitters, they did only one thing well, and that was actually a matter of not doing something. Not giving up walks, in this case. They sure found lots of other ways to put guys on base, though, didn't they? Wham, bam, boom! After the first week, they were probably too dizzy from watching all the circling runners to pitch well.

Analysis: In the field

At least we're still great with the glove, right? Look again.

See that stat, "Defensive Efficiency Rating"? It basically measures the percentage of balls in play the defense "gets to"--prevents from becoming a hit. And, um...wow. We kind of suck. Enough so that this blogger really wonders how much of the pitching staff's inflated ERA is due to fielders' failure to convert balls in play into outs. I mean, the pitching was atrocious, but maybe it got a little unwanted assistance, too?

Having a great fielding percent and a crappy DER strongly suggests that while the Twins handle the balls they get to very well, they don't get to nearly enough of them. This, in turn, suggests a team full of fielders with a very limited range (or very limited effort) leaving large parts of the field essentially undefended.

Say you have two players with limited range playing next to each other. Third base and shortstop, for example. (I'm not ragging on anyone, this really IS hypothetical. Mostly.) And your pitcher gives up a ground ball to his right. Let's say this isn't a screamer or a ball that takes a weird hop, just your standard grounder. With me? Good.

Now, let's say that this ball zips along through a part of the field that could be covered by either the shortstop or the third baseman. If both have normal (not even above-average) range, the chance that this ball will be fielded for an out are pretty good. The lower the range of either of those two players, however, the lower the chances. And when both players have a below-average range, you've basically opened up a corridor on your field where balls can trundle along with very little risk of being stopped. That, my friends, is some very basic fielding range theory. Makes sense, right?

And honestly, how many times lately have you found yourself saying and/or thinking, "Why didn't somebody GET THAT DAMN BALL????"

I'm going to guess: too many.


On deck: The merry month of May

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