Archive for April, 2011

Liriano’s Struggles and Pitching To Contact

April 27, 2011

Several weeks ago, Ron Gardenhire said a quote that has received a bunch of scorn ever since:

We’ve told him forever that he’s a strikeout pitcher. We understand that he can strike people out, but if he really wants to become a pitcher, pitch to contact. Use that two-seamer and use that slider down and in every once in a while, and that changeup, but pitch to contact early. That’ll get him deep into games.

Because his stuff is so good. There’s times when you need to go for the strikeout. That’s when you save your Mr. Nasty, as they say. You throw the nasty pitches then. But those other times you need to pitch to contact to get you deeper into games. When you want that big strikeout, maybe with a man on second, and you’ve got an open base, take your shot with your stuff.

If we go back to last year, this would have been a puzzling comment by Gardy. While he only averaged a little more than 6 innings per start, Liriano had an above-average 2.72 BB/9 (major league average was 3.28) and threw only 3% fewer pitches in the strike zone (43.3% vs. an average of 46.5%) last season. If anything, Liriano had average to above-average control in 2010.




April 22, 2011

Once again, it appears as though Justin Morneau and Delmon Young will not be in the starting lineup, and it’s possible that neither will be available to play once again. This has become a frustrating trend not just for these two players, but for the Twins in general.

Every season, it seems like there’s at least one player that suffers an injury/illness and is tagged with the “day-to-day” label. However, what was first viewed as a player needing a couple days to get healthy becomes a week or longer without ever being put on the DL. We’ve seen this with Joe Crede, J.J. Hardy, and now Morneau and Young, and that’s just in recent years.

To the Twins’ credit, they did put Joe Mauer on the DL almost immediately rather than benching him for a few games before admitting that the DL was probably the best route for him, but that’s assuming his bilateral leg weakness just popped up recently. Mauer himself admitted that his legs weren’t as strong as they needed to be, and with his slump to start the season, it’s possible that his leg weakness was affecting his hitting. In this case, this doesn’t really differ much from the aforementioned players, except that Mauer attempted to play through his struggles. As we witnessed these first few weeks, playing through pain (assuming this is true) is not always as admirable as we like to think it should be.


The Savior?

April 18, 2011

Prior to the 2010 season, the Twins signed Jim Thome with the original intent of him being a pinch-hitter and occasional starter for the team. However, once Justin Morneau suffered his concussion in Toronto, it created an opening for Thome to become the full-time designated hitter. All Thome did with this opportunity was turn in his best offensive season (in terms of AVG/OBP/SLG and wOBA*) since 2002 when he was still a member of the Cleveland Indians, as he hit .283/.412/.627 with 25 home runs in only 340 plate appearances. Extrapolating those 25 home runs over 600 plate appearances, Thome could have theoretically hit 40+ homers last season.

* “Weighted on-base average, ” an all-encompassing offensive statistic on the same scale as OBP. Thome’s wOBA was .437, which was by far much better than the league average .321 wOBA.

This year, we have a similar situation as Thome was re-signed to again man the same role he was supposed to have last season. However, Tsuyoshi Nishioka broke his leg in the first full week of the season and Justin Morneau has been working himself back into game shape, and these issues have created openings for Michael Cuddyer to move to second and first base, creating the domino effect again with Jason Kubel to get Thome into the lineup as the DH.

Thome has yet to catch fire this season (like the majority of the offense) but if he does, he could be the savior to a hurting offense for the second consecutive year.

Notepad Scribbles, 4/12/11

April 12, 2011

First Notepad Scribbles of the year, and I’ve got a wide variety of stuff to share today.

Blaming The Victim

Earlier this month, 42 year old Brian Stow was brutally attacked by two Los Angeles Dodger fans after a game at Dodger Stadium, seemingly because he was wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey. Earlier today, this article from John Steigerwald of the Observer-Reporter in Washington, PA surfaced on several websites, and Steigerwald basically claims that Stow should have expected to be attacked after wearing a Giants jersey in Dodger Stadium, a ballpark that is becoming overrun by gangs.

Looking past this idiocy, it appears as though Steigerwald’s point was supposed to be that adults shouldn’t be wearing jerseys at games (after all, the title of the article is “Know when you’ve outgrow (sic) the uniform”). However, using an assault as evidence for this article was tasteless and a terrible decision.


Putting Sabermetrics To The Test: The Fielders

April 11, 2011

Fielding is perhaps the one thing that is difficult to quantify by use of sabermetrics. While several systems are available in evaluating a fielder (Dewan’s +/-, UZR, etc.), they don’t always agree and a single season often isn’t enough. Some people were surprised to see Denard Span rate so poorly in center field by UZR in 2009, after he rated well all over the outfield in his rookie season, but 2010 showed that ’09 was likely the outlier as he was rated as an above-average fielder again.

Even with this knowledge, I’m going to completely ignore it and attempt to predict the UZRs for most of the 2011 starters, using their ratings from their career compared to the previous season. Since this could be considered the hardest thing to predict, I’m going to give a range of 5 instead of an exact number. Also, I won’t include Joe Mauer and Drew Butera since UZR does not currently exist for catchers.


Verdict On Swisher’s Takeout Slide: Not Dirty

April 7, 2011

I would just link to the video I found on YouTube, but knowing MLB’s policy on videos such as this, it will be down anywhere between tomorrow and four days from now. Therefore, I’ll just stick to screenshots of the video.

I’ve seen a debate going on over whether Nick Swisher’s slide into Tsuyoshi Nishioka was dirty, and I think the fact that a lot of people were blacked out from the game (thanks, FSNorth and Mediacom et. al) and it being an afternoon game has caused some people to assume that Swisher deliberately tried to hurt Nishi. However, I’d like to point out that Swisher did nothing wrong.

Take a look at the picture below.

This is right around when Swisher makes contact with Nishioka. In the MLB rule book, a baserunner is allowed to attempt a takeout slide as long as he can still touch second base with any part of his body. Here, we see that Swisher could almost hug the base with both arms if he had wanted.

Another issue is that Nishioka, in the 7 games we’ve seen so far, will step towards 3rd base when attempting to turn the double play.

Yes, I understand that Swisher’s leg is raised. But he’s attempting a takeout slide. If you go straight for the feet, Nishioka still can make a strong throw to first base. If you hit him a little higher, you not only knock him over, but you can also take away some throwing momentum by knocking him backwards. I’m also willing to argue that this was simply a freak accident. There will be dozens more of these during the season, and rarely will a player be seriously hurt.

Finally, I want to point out one other thing. Remember how Justin Morneau got hurt last season? By doing the exact same thing as Swisher.

All You Need To Know About Yesterday’s Win

April 6, 2011

Well that’s a slight exaggeration… anyway:

Pretty cool website if you only care if the Twins won (plus you get to see about 3/4 of my Firefox bookmarks), paired with the FanGraphs win probability from last night’s game.

PS: Putting Sabermetrics To The Test: The Fielders should be up in a few days. Apologies for the laziness (again).

Putting Sabermetrics To The Test: The Hitters

April 1, 2011

Now is when I take a look at the hitters. I’ll be able to make some easy predictions for some of these guys, and a few others are shrouded in mystery. I suppose I’m lacking in ideas for a better introduction, so let’s just dive in.

Joe Mauer

2010 stats: 137 games, .327/.402/.469, 9 HR, 75 RBI, .141 ISO, .348 BABIP, 11.1 BB%, 10.4 K%

There’s not really much to say about Mauer without repeating what we already know. He hits and hits and hits, and demonstrates great patience at the plate. He set a career high in doubles last season, despite the well-chronicled stories that his home run total suffered by moving into Target Field. His BABIP was right around his career average, and although it appeared once again that Mauer’s power hasn’t fully developed, we can’t be disappointed if he repeats his 2010 numbers.

2011 predictions: .331/.409/.480, 11 HR, 84 RBI