Sorry I've been gone. I honestly don't have a good reason. I just stopped writing, and I didn't start again. Kinda scary. Let's try and get back on the horse by throwing some various thoughts out there while watching this Twins/Red Sox game.
Mauer as DH
Mauer, Mauer, Mauer. If I'm in the Twins clubhouse, I might be getting a little tired of the Mauer talk, except that I expect they're too busy being in awe of this little streak he's on right now. Dan Barreiro described the feeling when he said today that every Mauer at-bat is "An Event". That's how it feels.
I'm surprised more isn't being made of Mauer playing designated hitter when he's not catching. Twins fans have griped about Mauer not playing DH on 'off days' for years, and it's something that the manager has defended for years, usually by talking about game situations where Redmond gets hurt. If that were to happen, if Mauer had to move to catcher from DH, the pitcher would need to bat for the rest of the game.
So what's the difference this year? Why is Gardy batting Mauer at DH on those days, even though he hasn't had a 3rd catcher for most of the month. It might be because Mauer is hitting crazy good, but Mauer was always a key offensive asset, better than whoever else was playing DH. So what's the difference?
One thing that Gardenhire seems to be aware of his his players personal goals. He often manages the length of a starting pitcher's outing based on whether he can get the pitcher a 'W'. Even last Saturday night, with a 6-1 lead, he used two of his top relievers to pitch the eighth and ninth inning. Why? Because he wanted to get Swarzak his first win.
That's why Mauer is DHing. It's to get him the plate appearances to get another batting championship. To qualify for a batting championship, a player needs 3.1 plate appearances for every team game played. Mauer came back after missing 22 of the Twins games, which means he needs to make up 68 plate apperances to 'catch up' to the requirement.
Playing every game, he can make up 1 or 2 of those every game with 4 or 5 at-bats. That's a month or two. If he only plays five of every seven games, he'll only make up about 4 at-bats per week. That's comes out to about four or five months.
So how's it going? Entering tonight's game, Mauer has 100 plate appearances. He needs 142.6. We're still about a month away from seeing his name on the leaderboard. Assuming he continues to DH.
Is Gomez Getting Better?
I watched Saturday's game with several bloggers and Phil Mackey told me during the game that Carlos Gomez has been showing improvement lately. Then, afterwards, Nick Nelson and John Meyer both said the same thing. I admited I hadn't been paying that much attention, so I'd try to look at his performance with an open mind. So let's look at his numbers since he started playing full time back on May 17th.
9 Games, 31 AB, 8H, 2BB, 4K, 1SB, 0CS, .258 BA, .303 OBP, .355 SLG
There is one very encouraging sign there. Prior to this stretch, Gomez had 16 strikeouts in 58 at-bats. That's stunningly bad. So it's very encouraging that he's only struck out four times in his last 31 at-bats. To some extent, that's damning with faint praise, but progress is progress.
As for the rest? Well, he's not hitting much. He's not drawing walks or getting on-base at a level where he's an asset. He's not even using his speed on the basepaths, or at least not stealing bases. Across the board, the numbers are better than they were earlier this year, but even during this "hot stretch" they aren't much different than what we saw last year (.258/.296/.360).
Sorry guys. He's not as putrid offensively as he was earlier this year, but other than the Ks, there hasn't been a lot of improvement either. Apropos of nothing, he now has 853 plate appearances in the majors, but I'm sure that step forward is right around the corner. I'll try and keep an open mind while he's here, but I'd rather keep that open mind while he develops his considerable talent in Rochester.