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.