Thursday, June 10, 2010

Think, Know, Prove, revisited

About a month ago, I played the Think, Know and Prove game, and drew a fair amount of criticism in the comments. Some thought I was jumping the gun or drawing conclusions far too early. Some thought I was being conceited. And the truly rational were panicking because they thought I was jinxing the Twins.

I absolutely agree with the third criticism, and I sort of generally agree with the second one, though I think I can find better examples. But that first one – jumping the gun – I wondered about that one.

It might be true. I had never written a story like that after just one month. I wondered how it might change as the year goes on. And since it’s already half an hour after midnight and my life force has been sapped by consecutive nights at a Twins game with 13-year-old girls followed by 10-year-old boys, this seems like as good a night as any. So let’s revisit those statements and see if we want to make any revisions.

1. I think Oakland or Texas is going to find themselves in the postseason. By default.

Revision: It’s likely a three-horse race, but will likely come down to the remaining games between the Rangers and Angels..

The team that is still “out” is Seattle, who was 12 runs below .500 when I wrote the story, is now 52 runs below .500, as well as 23-36 and nine games back of first place. It might be hard to imagine how a team with that pitching (remember, they took three of four games vs our Twins last week) can be that bad. The truth is they haven’t been bad against the AL East (6 wins, 8 losses) or the AL Central (9 wins, 6 losses). But they have been dismal against the AL West, posting just seven wins in 27 games. They have tangled with each of the AL West teams and been emasculated.

The other team I thought was done, the Angels, are a half game back of first place as of today. More tellingly, they’re also almost even in run differential, a significant improvement from where they were a month ago. They’re still over performing at four games over .500, but teams do that, and they don’t give those wins back.

But the real reason the Angels are in such good shape, and the reason I have no idea who is going to win this thing, is that they just haven’t played the Rangers much yet. The two teams have played just two games so far (both won by the Rangers), meaning they have seventeen games left. Basically, the first half of the season has been one long spring training for these teams. Now things are going to get serious.

2. I think I was dead wrong about the White Sox.

Revision: none

Still true. I half expected them to rebound a bit, maybe even challenge the Tigers for second place and make a half-hearted run toward competitiveness in July. That doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. The Pale Hose have netted another negative 16 runs, are still eight games under .500 and are 9.5 games behind the Twins. Things may not get really, really ugly, but I can’t imagine GM Kenny Williams not being a seller at the trade deadline. And probably sooner, seeing as both AJ Pierzynski and Mark Buehrle will soon be achieving no-trade protection due to their 10-5 deadlines.

3. I know the Red Sox don’t matter.

Revision: I think the Red Sox don’t matter.

Back on May 6, the Red Sox had a .500 record, were about even in runs scored and runs given up, and looked like a .500 team. Now they’re +33 runs and +9 games over .500. They’re also just three games worse than the Yankees.

So they’re not totally out of it, and while they have a losing record so far this year against the Yankees and Rays, I guess they’re not totally out of it. In any case, they no longer look like a .500 team. Do they matter? I don’t think so, but that has more to do with the next belief than anything else….

4. I know that the Twins are the third best team in the American League. But they still need to prove to themselves and the rest of the baseball world that they matter.

Revision: The Twins are far behind the top two teams in the American League. And they’re a longshot to matter.

The Rays and Yankees run differentials dwarf the rest of the American League, as do their records. In the two series versus the Yankees, the Twins won just two of four, and that was without facing CC Sabathia or Phil Hughes. Unless Andy Pettitte breaks down or retires or has some demon driven out of him or something, he’s not going to lose to the Twins. The Yankees have better pitching almost across the board, and right now the Twins don’t have an answer to that.

I don’t want to write about this any more.

5. I can prove that the Twins will handily win the AL Central.

Revision: none

Since the last story, the Twins have mostly tread water, inching up slightly in wins and run differential. But the Tigers have inched the other direction, seemingly determined to show that they’re only a .500 team. As of today, they’re just two games over .500, -5 runs in run differential, and 4.5 games back of the Twins.

The good news for them is they still have 12 games against the Twins in which to make up ground. The bad news is that they are 2-4 against the Twins so far this year. And that’s after posting a 7-12 record last year. And a 7-11 record in 2008. The Tigers continue to be a mediocre team that doesn’t match up particularly well with the Twins. Their offense is 9th in the AL in runs scored. Their pitching and defense is 4th in runs given up.

The Twins are two notches above in each category. They’re also two notches above the Tigers and possibly one good surge from proving to Tigers management that Detroit might want to start selling off pieces for some future returns. But even if they don’t, the Twins should make September fairly anti-climactic.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Running Wild

Are opposing teams running more on the Twins, and especially on Joe Mauer? It sure seems like it has been more of a problem this year.

It turns out that Mauer has thrownout 9 of 32 stolen base attempts, which is just 28%. That's actually above last year's 26% rate, but below his career rate of 37%. But it appears that any stolen base problems the Twins are having aren't really the fault of the catchers. They fall primarily on one pitcher'a shoulders, which becomes apparent when you look at how many stolen base attempts and stolen bases each has faced.

Nick Blackburn - 1 attempt, 0 stolen bases
Scott Baker - 3 attempts, 1 stolen base
Francisco Liriano - 4 attempts, 3 stolen bases
Kevin Slowey - 7 attempts, 5 stolen bases
Carl Pavano - 17 attempts, 15 stolen bases

Pavano has given up 60% more stolen bases than the rest of the starting staff COMBINED.