Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stats and Questions

It's worse than the offseason.

Spring training, I mean. In the offseason, we can at least examine possible signings and trades, but that's all gone in spring training. And we still don't get to really see any baseball, since its rarely televised. (Thankfully, that changes starting tonight.) And for us working stiffs, there isn't really the chance to listen to baseball.

Finally, there's the frustration of knowing that someplace people are watching your team - and that someplace is warm and sunny. It's enough to make a Twins Geek throw back a Drano cocktail.

I count 13 days until I finally get to watch my team up close, and in the meantime I'm reduced to reading spring training stats for anything beyond the newspapers' coverage (which has been pretty good, by the way). I understand just how limited an understanding a few numbers really provide, especially when they're in relation to games that don't count, against players that are still rounding into shape. So rather than try and provide insights, let's use them to generate some questions. We'll start with the stats, and follow up with the question.

5 Walks in 39 AB
1. Is Carlos Gomez going to be less confused at the plate?
There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that he will be. Coaches are saying it, players (including Denard Span) are saying it, and the stats are at least suggesting it. Last year during the regular season, Span didn't get his fifth walk until his 129th at bat. I can think of several reasons why that stat might be invalid, but maybe he's starting to recognize when a breaking pitch is being thrown. For now, let's believe that.

0 Walks in 48 AB
2. What can we expect from Delmon Young?
Young was criticized frequently in Tampa Bay for being a free-swinger, but after watching him for a year, his biggest issue seemed to be trying too hard to make contact. I don't know if the zero walks means he's finding his inner hairy man (which might be a good thing) or if he's given up on plate discipline (bad thing) or if he's just determined to get some swings in. Stay tuned.

7 hitters with more walks than strikeouts
3. Could this be the most disciplined offensive team we've seen under Gardenhire?
Something interesting is going on here, because suddenly each of these guys looks like Joe Mauer. Several are regulars - Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto, Jason Kubel and Mike Redmond. And three more are the guys looking for the last two bench slots - Matt Tolbert, Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris. This might be a fun lineup to watch, even before Mauer comes back.

33 Hits in 17 IP
4. Is something wrong with Scott Baker?
The eight home runs that Baker has given up has received most of the attention, and his unsightly 8.15 ERA has got the rest. But both of those can be explained away by a couple of bad outings with the wind blowing out. But 33 hits in 17 innings? That's consistency, and not in a good way.

22 Baserunners in 8 Innings
5. Will Jose Mijares come north with the team?
How bad has Mijares been? Bad enough that pitching a ninth inning where he gave up one hit (and was saved from another by a diving catch) versus Floriday Marlins scrubs elicited praise from his manager. More telling is that Brian Duensing pitched the inning before Mijares. That's a pretty good sign that he's passed Mijares on the depth chart.

15 strikeouts, 3 walks, 12.2 IP
6. Can we find a way to get RA Dickey on the roster?
I'm as susceptible to knuckleballers as I am to big brown eyes, so I'll admit to not being terribly objective here. But if this guy is twirling the ball around this well in Florida, just imagine what he might be able to do in the climate-controlled dome. Mabye with just a puff of air-conditioning blowing out from behind home plate. Mmmm.....

No, I don't have a way to get him on the roster. In fact, if I had my way, I'd probably carry an extra hitter over the second left-handed reliever. But if I was worried about a member of my starting staff, I might be more inclined to carry a second long reliever on this roster over either of them. Which brings us to...

5 IP
7. Is Nick Blackburn healthy?
OK, he was hurt early in camp. He hasn't been making starts versus National League teams because the Twins don't want him to run the bases, so he's been pitching in minor league games. And so we have a grand total of just five innings so far versus the major leaguers. We're left to assume he's healthy because nobody is saying that he isn't...

We'll get to find out tonight. Because he's the starting pitcher on that televised game. Looks like working stiffs can finally watch a game. And spring training will have a chance to redeem itself.


Twins Territory said...

I think this could be a very good lineup this season, and I cannot wait. Delmon, Span and Gomez all have some great potential.

As for the pitching side: I'm hoping this Baker stuff is a fluke and he'll be fine. Mijares is going to Rochester; I thought he was a near lock, but he's shown otherwise. And for Dickey: I like him, but does he beat out a Humber with no options?

Anonymous said...

I caught 4 of Baker's outings down in Florida. I know that the Blyleven mantra is "up in the zone, up in the zone, up in the zone" for Baker, as if nobody ever could succeed up there. But from my observation and comparing him to last year I think Baker's problems have been "up in the zone, up in the zone, up in the zone."

I had dugout adjacent seats for two of his outings down there and he rarely had a pitch at or below the knees...and he got rocked.

Hopefully, it is an issue of not being comfy with his control, but he is a very ordinary pitcher if he can't mix the altitude of his pitches. Very ordinary.

Fingers are crossed, but in actuality we may be talking about our third or perhaps fourth pitcher. Slowey and Liriano may be dual aces this year. And if Perkins gets that slider to work he may be pushing Scotty.

But I'm not worried yet.

Topper said...

I'm a little worried about Nick too. I went to camp day this past Saturday when I was on vacation in Florida and saw Blackburn pitch for the AA team against AAA and our AAA boys knocked him around for a little bit.

They might not have posted many runs against him but they still were hitting the ball hard and to all different parts of the field. Blackie didn't seem like he was in a really good mood when he walked off the field after the game, and really avoided talking to anyone and scooted out in a hurry.

Hopefully he can get back on track because he looked absolutely dazzling in that last game against the Sox. Made it even harder to swallow the loss because he had pitched so well.

** Another quick Blackburn side note from when I was in spring training. I was leaning over the railing of the bullpen during the Twins/Orioles matchup Monday and a Twins player wanders out from the clubhouse into the bullpen and starts mingling with some of the guys there during the game. He's young, brown hair, pretty handsome, not wearing his jersey obviously, and all the girls and people nearby start calling down to him "Joe! Joe Mauer! Joe can you give us your autograph!" I of course feel completely embarassed for him because it's Nick Blackburn and he just shakes his head and tries to ignore them and they won't stop and more people start calling out to him until he finally just looks up and lifts his hands in the air and says "Guys, I'm not Joe. Sorry." Poor guy.

TT said...

Geek -

You know better. Repeat after me. "Those stats are meaningless. Meaningless. Meaningless."

a) Its spring training.

b) Its the first half of spring training. Players are working on things, they are facing a mixture of minor and major league players etc. Its how they finish, not how they start.

c) There is not enough examples to get any real information from results. aka sample size, except its not a sample of anything. Certainly not what you would expect over the course of season.

In other words, The "stats" are just random noise. They don't tell you anything you don't know and if they do, it is just as likely to be wrong as right.

You might as well just take the players', coaches' and manager's word for it.

TT said...

One additional comment:

Everyone hears that "veterans" don't go on the long road trips very often. In fact, there are rules in place to require teams to include at least a few in every trip.

One of the consequences of that is that the veterans are usually playing at home against weak competition that includes a lot of young players who are on the road. And vice-versa. Young players, those trying to make the team, are often playing against the other teams best players.

That may become less true as rosters shrink. But you will notice guys like Joe Gaetti are still getting at bats on the road late in the game.

jjswol said...

The Twins have three pitchers in the top 25 this spring in strikeouts per inning. Dickey is 3rd overall with a KO rate of 1.25 per inning with a WHIP of 1.25 and an ERA of 3.09. Liriano is 18th with a KO rate of 0.90 per inning with a WHIP of 0.66 and an ERA of 2.95. Baker is 24th over all with a KO rate of 0.81 per inning with a WHIP of 1.92 and an ERA of 8.15. Zimmerman of Washington is first overall and Tejada of KC is second.

lookatthosetwins said...


I disagree that these stats are "meaningless". They show small trends that will be intersting to watch. Also, he didn't really draw any conclusions from the data, just showed some early trends that will be interesting to watch as the spring, and the season goes on. Assuming that RA Dickey is now a good pitcher would be stupid. Assuming that Carlos Gomez is now a patient hitter would be stupid. But there is no harm in noticing some early trends and watching them as the season goes on...

Kyle Eliason said...

As far as Spring Training stats go, what about Slowey's 20:1 K:BB?

Slowey had the lowest BB/9 of any pitcher to throw more than 80 innings in the Majors last season. If his control remains excellent and his strikeout rate increases at the same time, that'd be pretty exciting.

Kyle Eliason said...

T T:

The fantasy baseball folks have found there is a small correlation of improved power performance in the following regular season for players who post a SLG in Spring Training over 200 points higher than their career average.

As you said, lots and lots of noise, but there is at least a faint signal, somewhere.