"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

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Season Thus Far, Part 2

In winning the last game of May, the Twins posted their first winning month in 2006 with a record of 15-13.

And now, the details.

Twins team stats for May 2006:

CategoryStatValueAL Rank
(of 14)
ML Rank
(of 30)
HittingBA - Batting Avg .28834
OBP - On-Base %.342713
OPS - On-Base + Slugging %.771613
H - Hits28124 (2 tied)
R - Runs149410
HR - Home Runs2412 (2 tied)24 (3 tied)
XBH - Extra-Base Hits84818 (2 tied)
GIDP - Ground Into Double Play259 (3 tied)18 (4 tied)
K - Strikeouts13724
BB - Walks781023
PitchingERA - Earned Run Average 4.19414
IP - Innings Pitched249.0n/an/a
H - Hits2791325
R - Runs129514
ER - Earned Runs1164 (2 tied)12 (4 tied)
HR - Home Runs31616
BB - Walks Allowed672 (2 tied)2 (2 tied)
K - Strikeouts22912
WHIP - Walks & Hits Per Inning1.397 (2 tied)16
K/BB - Strikeouts Per Walk3.4011
P/IP - Pitches Per Inning16.205 (2 tied)13 (3 tied)
FieldingFPCT - Fielding %.98012n/a
E - Errors2112n/a
DER - Defense Efficiency Rating.66114n/a
SB - Stolen Bases Allowed124n/a
CS - Caught Stealing83 (3 tied)n/a
% Caught Stealing.4003 (2 tied)n/a

Analysis: At the plate

Say, that's more like it. Now, they really need to work on taking more walks and hitting for extra bases, and the Twins' proud tradition of grounding into double plays at every conceivable opportunity especially with one out is still going strong. But scroll down, take a gander at April's hitting stats, and then look at May's again. Looks like a whole different team, doesn't it?

Which is good, because no one wanted to see the April Twins again.

Analysis: On the mound

The good news is, Twins staff shot up to #4 in the league based on ERA in May. The bad news is, #s 1, 2, and 3 are all in our division. Crap!

And yet, to practially halve the team ERA in a month is no mean feat, and our boys should be proud. They gave up a metric crapload of hits, but got so many strikeouts, double plays and well-timed infield flys that they managed to wriggle neatly out of most of their own jams. I personally would rather see the bags a bit more empty as we stride boldly into June, but if stranded runners are all they're offering, I'll take 'em.

Analysis: In the field

Holy meltdown, Gloveman. The Twins' hitting and pitching skyrocketed past the league median in May, and yet they barely posted a winning record. Here, we see a big part of the explanation. Errors abound! Lowest defensive efficiency in a league that includes the New York "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Gloves" Yankees!

And three--THREE!--of those 21 errors happened in the outfield. Only one was committed by a pitcher. None by the catchers. Which puts 17 errors in 28 games on the infield.

I promised myself I wasn't going to do this, but I just can't hold it in any longer.

Juan Castro has 7 errors in 41 games with the Twins and is hitting .238/.265/.580.
Jason Bartlett has 7 errors in 46 games with the Red Wings and is hitting .304/.320/.763.


[This post has been temporarily interrupted while the blogger receives treatment for self-inflicted cranial bruising.]




[We now rejoin our scheduled post.]

So anyway, we've got an infield displaying the approximate competence of Enron management. Which begs the question: What's to be done?

First base is not a concern here. Morneau's doing fine. He has two errors on the season and a .995 FPCT, which places him squarely in the middle of the AL pack for first basemen.

At second, Castillo is obviously having some trouble adjusting to the Dome. He's a Gold Glove fielder who is only one error shy of his 2005 total already. He's also missed a few days with nagging injuries which may be fouling him up in the field. I wonder if a rotating Punto/Rodriguez/Castillo platoon in the Dome for a few weeks, with Castillo making all feasible road starts, would help ease him into the Dome and out of those injuries?

At short, we have Juan Castro. This guy is an excellent defensive utility infielder, but the strain of the day-to-day grind is starting to show in both his hitting and his fielding. He had two errors in April, five in May. His range factor has decreased markedly in the last few weeks, another sign of trouble. As you all know, I'm for solving this by bringing up Jason Bartlett. Even if JB came up and did his best Bret Boone imitation, there would be a couple of weeks of much-needed rest for Castro before the next demotion.

At third, Tony Batista, who is doing as well as can reasonably be expected of a slightly pudgy guy in his thirties who's never borne any resemblance to Corey "MINE!" Koskie. Which is to say, he's a mediocre fielder, but he tries. He does quite well with the balls he gets to, really, but his range is only slightly larger than a postage stamp. Unfortunately, this infield needs a little more right now. Luis Rodriguez has performed well in the hot corner in the past, and Terry Tiffee is waiting in Rochester. But do the Twins then release Batista? He's not a BAD player, you hate to just toss him out on his ear. Another platoon situation, perhaps, with Batista backing up our fly-ball pitchers and Rodriguez getting the start behind the others? Or does Gardy just need to be more willing to pull him for a defensive replacement in the later innings of close games?

It's a conundrum, and I'm glad it's not my job to solve it. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be actively solved. Gardy has his guys he's stuck on, and the only way they come out of the lineup for more than a day is via injury. I think that stubborness cost us a lot of games last year, frankly. I think it's cost us some this year.

And maybe there's the biggest problem of all. We've got ourselves a manager who did a great job with a group of players that was primed to win, but seems lost and confused with a team that has struggles that are not temporary in nature, and will not change without decisive leadership.

We've got some damn fine young players marking time in Rochester because they need to "figure things out" and "work through some issues". But where do you send a manager to do the same?

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