Monday, June 14, 2010

Off day banter

With the Twins having an off day today before resuming interleague play on Tuesday versus the Colorado Rockies, here are a few things to digest (or regurgitate) between now and then.

Left side of the infield still a problem. Defensively, the Twins left side of the infield has been one of the best in Major League Baseball. According to, J.J. Hardy ranks first among all SS in UZR and Nick Punto sits in 6th in UZR among all major league third baseman.

However, the issue lines within the offensive production that both the shortstop and third base positions have provided the Twins this season. Both positions were an offensive liability in 2009 as well, despite the mid-season acquisition of Orlando Cabrera - so not much has changed for the Twins in that regard.

With that said, most expected the Twins to get solid offensive production from Hardy in his first season in the American League. However, injuries, bad luck, a declining walk rate, and decreasing power have hampered that from happening so far in 2010.

As for Punto, well - the guy just is not an everyday player at the major league level; despite what Ron Gardenhire or fans of the Twins want to believe. This was supposed to be the year that Punto provided decent offensive output since it was an 'even calendar' year. We have all seen how that has worked out, right?

UZR says the Twins are a good defensive baseball team. We have continued to hear how great the Twins are defensively because of their lack of errors, but most statistic driven baseball fans would probably question just how good the Twins are defensively. However, the most popular and highly used defensive metric in today's game is UZR - which puts the Twins as the fifth best defensive team in all of Major League Baseball.

As mentioned above, the Twins infield defense is terrific. However, despite holding a 16.2 team UZR, the Twins outfield defense is among the worst in Major League Baseball. Holding a -6.2 UZR, the Twins outfield ranks in the bottom ten in all of baseball.

The worst among the outfield regulars for the Twins? Michael Cuddyer. But let's continue to run him out there in center field, especially with one of the most fly ball heavy starting pitchers (Kevin Slowey) on the mound.

Joe Mauer's power - where art thou? Much has been made about the Twins lack of home run production at Target Field so far this season - with the most significant being that of Joe Mauer.

To put it into a bit of perspective - Atlanta's Troy Glaus has played 3 games in Target Field so far and has hit 2 home runs. On the other hand, Mauer has 96 at-bats at home so far and has recorded 0 home runs. You may be asking why? Well, let's break it down:

FB%: 25.5 (29.5% in 2009)
LD%: 28.3 (22.6% in 2009)
GB%: 46.2 (47.8% in 2009)
BABIP: .346 (.373 in 2009)

So what does that all mean? Well, it is tough to point out a reason for Mauer's lack of power so far this season based on those numbers; but those should be the most telling numbers of all.

Mauer is hitting less fly balls than he did a year ago, which allows for less opportunities to put the ball into the seats. Despite the early season struggles as far as grounding into double plays, Mauer's ground ball percentage is down as well compared to 2009. With that said, he is hitting more line drives, which should result in more XBH's and a higher BA - but Mauer boasts just a .319 batting average so far in 2010.

So where has Mauer's power gone? Well, maybe 2009 was such an outlier and amazing season that we all become a bit spoiled. Mauer's isolated power (SLG - BA) is .132 so far this season - which, coincidentally, falls right in line with his career norm if you ignore his MVP performance from a season ago. Perhaps this is the power that one should expect from Mauer.

Francisco Liriano is back. To claim he is back to the form of 2006, as some people continue to claim, may be a bit ridiculous. However, if one had any questions as to whether this Twins staff lacked a bonafide ace and front line starting pitcher, Francisco Liriano's performance on Friday versus the Atlanta Braves should erase all doubts.


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