Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Late Night Musings

Stuff I looked up during the Twins game today.

1. Before the game I wondered if there was an easy way to show that the Twins hitting is a much bigger problem than their pitching. Despite being last in the league in runs, the answer is “no,” because the Twins are last in ERA, too. They’re also second to last in total runs given up. And their starters are third to last in the league in ERA while also logging the third fewest innings. And they're 27th in quality starts. That about does it.

2. Justin Morneau gets the scoring started when he singles on a breaking ball from Brandon McCarthy. Giving Morneau a breaking ball seemed like an odd choice. Sure enough, according to, he is only hitting .208 on fastballs this year. The MLB average is .290.

3. Oakland gains the lead on a single following TWO fielding gaffes. With two outs, Casilla makes a great play to range far to his left to field a ground ball, but Morneau was also trying for the ball and Pavano didn’t cover the bag. Then, on a routine groundball, Plouffe absolutely air mails a ball that would’ve ended the inning.

I haven’t seen Plouffe’s defensive metrics yet because he hasn’t logged enough time to make them meaningful. But his error total went down from 26 in 111 games in 2009 to 11 in 92 games last year. That doesn’t speak to his range, but he looks like he’s certainly worked on his consistency. That was his first error in the majors this year.

4. Want some good news? The Twins batters BABIP is just .264, also last in the majors. Why is that good news? Because it suggests there is some tough luck going on, too.

5. After retaking the lead 3-2, the Twins had their inning cut short by an odd 3-6 double play. The ground ball was hit by Morneau to the A’s first baseman who tagged first base, then threw it to second base where the runner (Trevor Plouffe) was tagged out before he got to the base.

I was asked why the runner had to be tagged. The answer is that once first base was tagged, Morneau was out, so that base was open, so Plouffe had the option to return to it. Thus, it wasn’t a force play and Plouffe needed to be tagged - just stepping on the base wasn't enough. I thought that was instinctual, but the answer wasn’t instinctual to the person I was talking to. I wondered what the rule really was.

In particular, it made me wonder what would’ve happened if Plouffe had gone back to first – but that Morneau (perhaps the fielder missed the bag) had not been forced out. Obviously they can’t both be on the bag. I knew the rule said that one runner was out, and I assumed it would be the lead runner – which is why the lead runner runs. That is the answer, by the way, by rule 7.08:

7.08 A runner is out when
"(e) He fails to reach the next base before a fielder tags him or the base, after he has been forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner.

But that’s only because of the force out. The rule changes if two runners end up on the same base where it isn’t a force out. For example, imagine a runner is trapped in a run down and forced back to a base that already had a player on his own team. However, one of the other bases before that base is open, so it isn’t a force out. In that case, it isn’t the lead runner that is out. It’s the other runner, but only after he is tagged:

7.03. "Two runners may not occupy a base, but if, while the ball is alive, two runners are touching a base, the following runner shall be out when tagged. The preceeding runner is entitled to the base."

Or at least, I think that's how I read it. Unless they're talking about which runner got to the base first.

6. I’m at the point now where I trust Glen Perkins as much, if not more, than anyone else in the bullpen. I didn’t look anything up to confirm that. I just feel the need to say it.

7. Twins versus the AL Central so far this year – 5-6. That means they have 61 games left to play in their division, and since the split to three divisions per league, that’s been a helluva strong indicator of who wins the division. Remember that the next time someone tells you the division race is already over.


frightwig said...

Right now, the Twins are 14-27. To finish with 90 wins requires a 76-45 (.628) mark the rest of the way. To get to 95 wins, a 81-39 (.669) mark.

The 2006 Twins at this point were 17-24. To finish with 96 wins, they had to post a 79-42 (.653) record the rest of the season. So for this year's team to wind up with ~93 wins is within the realm of the possible, but it would be pretty amazing, and probably unlikely considering how bad both the pitching and hitting have been to this point.

Cleveland's Pythagorean pace has them on target for 109 wins. To get 110 wins, the Twins need to... ah, screw it. That's never happening. We really need a big collapse in Cleveland, and also hope that the Tigers never really get hot.

If the intradivisional matchups are key: let's say the Twins go 30-30 in their remaining games outside the division (so far, they are 6-18 vs. the East, 3-3 vs. the West). To get to 90 wins, then, the Twins would need a 46-15 (.754) record vs. the Central from here on out; or, for 95 wins, a 51-10 (.836) mark.

So, to finish up with a mark that might win a respectably competitive division, either the Twins can just hold their own outside the Central while becoming total ass-kickers against their division rivals, or they'll have to start kicking a bit of ass outside the division, too....

TT said...

The Twins will obviously need to get very hot at some point to have a chance. But a team with Mauer, Morneau, Young and Kubel in the middle of the order has the ability to do that.

I think the comparison of the hitting and pitching is an example of the limits of averages in evaluating performance. There have been several blowouts and bullpen meltdowns that have had an inordinate effect on the averages, but they matter only for that one game.

Its hard, without a good database of individual games, to evaluate whether those blowouts are the reason for the bad averages. But I wouldn't put much stock in Nathan's current averages as a good indicator of what to expect from him over the rest of the season. I would apply that to the overall pitching staff averages as well.

The only way the Twins have any chance is to get their offense healthy. This team still has the ability/potential to be an offensive powerhouse. But for that to be true, they need Mauer, Morneau, Nishioka and Thome to produce.

Jarrod said...

Ok, guys. We won 2 nights ago and we won last night, that’s 2 in a row.
If we win again tonight, that’s a winning streak, it has been done before.

... sad thing is, I've been wanting to say that all season (missed the opportunity once or twice, but a W2 in the streak column shouldn't be this rare).

walter hanson said...

I think part of the problem has been individual players have been feeling the pressure to carry the team. You know hit the five run homer or get the ten inning complete game shutout. A couple of wins and the players won't be feeling that pressure anymore.

A second problem has been health. Justin has missed time along with Delmon, Mauer, the Jap guy. We have had problems on the pitching end. The team has been getting healthier and the play has been improving.

A third problem has been performance. We expected Justin M to have more than 2 homers by now. As Justin and the others get back to what we expect that will drag up the performance.

Right now lets do it in stages. We're fifth in the centeral. Lets get to fourth first and then get the next benchmark.

Walter Hanson
Minneapolis, MN