Friday, October 06, 2006

2006 Postmortem

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It would be nice to publish something about how great the year has been. This team deserves that. It may have been one of the most rewarding regular seasons any Twins team - and maybe any Minnesota team - has ever had. On the other hand, there are reasons postmortems are done immediately, and that's the way this is going to go....

Geez, it's hard to judge a team by their postseason
There's almost no truly analytical approach one can use. Most will claim the regular season is a more accurate view, and it's tough to argue with that. On the other hand, nobdoy dreams about just winning 95 games. The playoffs count. And you could make a fair argument that the last three games were worth the same as the previous 162. I mean, would we really have celebrated a pennant race and division championship if we would have know this week was going to go this way? Hell no.

But I'm sensitive to the overreacation that can result from watching three games against one team - and a very good team at that. Evidence is in short supply, so it becomes a vote by perception. That has a bad rap, but isn't necessarily a bad thing. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in Blink, instantaneous perceptions have likely been cultivated by millions of years of evolution to be invaluable. We should trust them, and we usually do. So let's go with some perceptions:

The team looked unprepared for the bright lights
That's not an easy thing to admit, frankly, but you'll have trouble finding anyone who disagrees with it. I've spend umpteen words pointing out how solid Jason Bartlett's defense has been, but he was terrible. For two years I've claimed that Jesse Crain should have been brought in for Game 2 of the 2004 ALDS, and today I couldn't feel more wrong about that. Joe Mauer had a number of weak swings, which I had previously chalked up to being worn down, but he had quite a bit of rest the last week plus. If you're looking for an LVP offensivly, he's at the top of the list.

The bottom line is that the Twins failed to make a a lot of plays, both offensively and defensively.

The Piranhas were overrated
And they likely have been since they got that nickname. Nick Punto and Bartlett didn't hit worth a damn in September, and probably should swap places depending on the pitcher. Jason Tyner lost his job, and I don't know I trust him to ever be more than a platoon center fielder on a winning team.

That leaves Luis Castillo. He was passable in Sept, but not great, and shaky in the playoffs. He showed some playoff savvy the first game, but really screwed up in not advancing a runner to third with no outs. he was terrible in Game 2. He wasn't particularly good in Game 3. I still don't know what to make of him. For most of the season I thought he felt like he was a little too cool to play aggressively. Later, I wrote it off to injury. Either way, I'm not sure I can trust him to be much above average next year.

It's a nice nickname, but I think we need less of them.

Johan Santana may need to focus more on winning and less on strikeouts
It might be time for Santana to consider how much he shows certain pitches early in the game, particularly that devastating changeup. It seems that every time the A's hit a ball hard, it was a changeup, like they were sitting on it, especially when they had two strikes. It's a great strikeout pitch, but I'd love to see his strikeout rate early in a game versus later. (Actually, I can check that. Wait a minute. Hmm, it looks like he strikes out 29% of batters in innings 1-9, 26% in innings 4-6 and 24% after six innings). OK, so the statistics don't support me. I still think that he needs to show less to good batters in early innings.

The bullpen might just need a hierarchy
God forbid I suggest that pigeon-holing a guy into a role might enhance their performance as the stakes are raised, but the bullpen looked as crummy as it's looked since the 2002 playoffs when they were clearly overworked. Coming into this series, this bullpen looked as deep as any the Twins had ever had, but they were crummy under the bright lights. Maybe, just maybe, the comfort level of having roles defined such as "I pitch the eighth inning" means something to these guys. Maybe more than "if I get this guy out, I might get to pitch to the next guy, but if I don't, the left-hander is coming in". Or maybe they were just overworked in the regular season. I don't know, but it's worth noting.

They were cold
I'll be honest - I don't know what this means, or if it makes any difference. But Sunday's excitement glossed over that this team absolutely backed into the division championship. IN fact, they weren't really challenged for the wild card after the middle of September when the White Sox were beat up by - oh, yeah, it was the Athletics. That explosion we saw on Sunday might have been more about relief than excitement. The players might have understood that they weren't quite that good. Or at least they didn't prove to themselves that they really were as good as they were.

So, anyway, after watching a sweep and having a couple of beers, that's one geek's take. Do with it what you will. Tomorrow (or maybe even later today) we'll be back with the 2007 GM Cheat Sheet filled out Twins Geek style - and then my best guess on how Terry Ryan will do it.


Batgirl said...


The comment about the bullpen is interesting. Rincon's slump at the end of the year appeared to shake Gardy and he began to use the bullpen much differently (match-ups, etc). I remember earlier in the season him saying how great it was that he didn't even have to call down there, people knew their roles and were up at the right time. That couldn't happen anymore.


TheBentKangaroo said...

Players that didn't make me shake my head at least once during the series:

Rondell White(!)
Michael Cuddyer
Pat Neshek
Joe Nathan (despite the WP)
Matt Guerrier

Jason Kubel even made me shake my head, and he didn't play.

And to be fair, Justin Morneau seemed very comfortable at the plate, perhaps even more so than he was in September.

Tdog said...

The three previous division championships came with 94, 90 and 92 wins against a markedly less competitive division. This team won 96 games in the toughest division in baseball. They played close to .700 ball during the 100 game sprint to the title. You say "The players might have understood that they weren't quite that good." I couldn't disagree more. And if you've got problems with Santana, give me the names of those you'd rather have pitching. The only credible list would include dead guys and HOFers.