Sunday, April 30, 2006

On Big Dogs

by Twins Geek

The following is also included in this week's Dugout Splinters, which is inserted in GameDay, the independent program sold outside of the Metrodome prior to Twins games.

We spend a lot of time in GameDay and here talking about the minutia of baseball. We’ll debate the impact of Tony Batista’s on-base percentage. We’ll ponder whether Jason Bartlett’s range is more important than Juan Castro’s quick release. We’ll write a 1500 word story comparing the relative merits of swapping Shannon Stewart and Luis Castillo in the batting order. It’s fun and somewhat worthwhile, in the sense that the pursuit of excellence is worthwhile.

On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that if the big dogs aren’t hunting, then nobody’s belly is full, and all the navel-gazing in the world isn’t going to change that. Right now the Twins have six big dogs that aren’t just struggling, they’re enduring some one of the worst stretches of their career.

The middle of the Twins lineup is an absolute mess. The Twins cleanup hitter, Rondell White, went 5 for 33 (.152 BA) on the latest nine game road trip – and improved his batting average. The next hitter, Torii Hunter, had just two hits in thirty at-bats on the road trip. Which equals the numbers of hits that #6 hitter Justin Morneau had. Combined, the three of them are hitting .177 on the season.

And things are even worse in the middle of the Twins rotation. The Twins expected Kyle Lohse to show he can be one of the better pitchers on the staff. They were right. His ERA is the 3rd best of the starting pitchers, but it’s still 8.77. Terry Ryan claims that Brad Radke has the best stuff he’s had in years, but is struggling with his “location”. That’s true, since the ultimate location of Radke’s pitches has been the outfield bleachers. Carlos Silva has matched Bradke in giving up home runs but has made them count a bit more as evidenced by his 10.31 ERA. He also leads the league in hits against.

So, how exactly does one fix all that? The Twins AAA club has as many options as any in major league baseball, but they don’t have three starters ready to throw 200 innings, and they don’t have three hitters that can be plugged into the middle of the lineup. Nobody does. Nobody ever has. There is no quick fix for 2006. The Twins are going to need to play the hand they have been dealt.

Alternately, there is just as little logic in rushing to look forward to 2007. Each of these dogs is going to improve over the rest of the season, simply because they can’t do a whole lot worse (or if you want a more statistical explanation, they’ll “regress to the mean”). The Twins have three months before the trade deadline, so it’s not like they need to be in a hurry to rebuild.

There comes a point where there are no bold moves left to make and where refinements and adjustments just don’t have any affect. Instead, one simply must wait and watch and see what happens. After a series of player meltdowns that defy all attempts at prediction, the Twins have reached that point. So must Twins fans.


Anonymous said...

I think thats just it, there is too much going wrong right now that there is not an easy solution. We either have to keep it up with the same guys and hope they figure it out or at least create some value for the deadline. Radke and Hunter could bring a ransom and even Juan Castro has value at the deadline....but for the time being there is not much else to do but watch. I plan on shaving my head even closer so that I wont be pulling out any more hairs

AdamOnFirst said...

The changes that should be made now are the same ones that should have been made during spring. Kubel in right, Cuddyer at third, Liriano in the rotation, BARTLETT AT SHORT. Afte that, we just have to pray that White can recover, Hunter can recover, and Morneau cna recapture. Failing that, it is over.

One comment that roubled me is Ryan's saying Radke had god stuff but was struggling wiht his location. THat is a significant problem since the entire basis of the whole of his pitching ability and long career has been excellent location. No location, no career, no Radke. Very simple.

SBG said...

I couldn't have said it better, adamonfirst. But, I'll add this. If White doesn't turn it around soon, they'd be better off releasing him instead of letting him reach his incentives that based on plate appearances.

Pierre said...


I don't have access to this article anymore, but a long time ago, back when the Twins were a lock to win the division, you wrote something about the Shannon Stewart/Bobby Kielty (and who else?) trade, and how sometimes simply pulling the trigger can incite a club to do better.

I'm wondering if that time is now: the Twins were expected to do better, much better, and in almost any other city the manager would probably get canned. It happened in Florida, for God's sake, three seasons ago, Jack McKeown came in and we all know what happened. (Maybe McKeown would be an intriguing pick...)

All I'm saying is that it seems like these Twins need something, and that something, as you pointed out, is not going to be a complete overhaul in the form of new players. But a new manager might just be the ticket.

Jim H. said...

John and Pierre:

My daughter -- who has always liked Mr. Gardenhire -- said the same thing last night. With so many things wrong, minor adjustments won't be enough, and 'staying the course' just isn't an option. When you're this far off course, it's time for a new helmsman.

Jim H.

CosmoK said...

Obviously there is no trade market available in May, and there is no need to rush into "rebuilding," but I think we all agree that a rebuilding mode is inevitable as at least the two top teams in the division (jury's out on the durability of the Tigers resurgence) are far more talented than this Twins team, even when it resurrects from its current state (e.g. dead).

I would return Liriano to Rochester, make sure his service time does not equal a full year between last season's call up and this and prepare him for the rotation in about mid-to-late June or early July. This is a no-brainer, unless you really believe this club can contend for a wild card spot and I do not.

I'd recall Kubel after his service time "concerns" are alleviated...which should be in about three weeks and give him a chance to DH as well as play RF, perhaps in a platoon.

To me, Cuddyer should be once again given a shot at being an everyday OF, not a 3B. I understand why he'd be more valuable at 3B, IF he could field the position. Granted, T Bat ain't any better, but that's beside the point. If Cuddyer is to be a regular, he should hit .275/.350/.450/.800 and I would imagine the best possibility of that is in LF or RF.

Stewart should be shopped at the deadline, Hunter's departure is imminent as well, and probably one of Lohse/Silva must go. That should be able to provide a 3B and SS prospect, plus perhaps a bat of some sort that could eventually DH or platoon with Morneau in the event he never produces big league numbers against LHP. Rondell has to go also before his vesting option kicks in, at least unless there's a massive turnaround.

I love Castillo and think he could have at least a short term future here. With the subtractions of the three above players plus Radke, the payroll situation is point to this rant? Of course you can't really start "rebuilding" now, but the contingency plan should be forming...I'm not sure TRyan is yet convinced that he needs to rebuild. Gardentool will be no help in a rebuilding mode and would likely have to be sacrificed.

It's like I say about gas. We need 6 bucks a gallon to motivate people to change habits that will be beneficial long-term. The Twins need to keep losing big-time to motivate the powers that be to tear this facade down. I know that won't be popular here or elsewhere, but that's the way I see it. Laughs.

wontbelongnow said...

I don't see Hunter having any value at the deadline in his present form. Half a year at 5 million for a .200 hitter?

Trade Stewart and Nathan, who should bring some decent value.

frightwig said...

Adamonfirst, you nailed it.