Hold On Now, Reusses

July 16, 2010 at 12:24 am Leave a comment

Now, I normally don’t read the Star Tribune very much in depth. I certainly try not to read it when the Twins aren’t doing so well. Today I was reminded why. Souhan had an article about how Joe Mauer was trying his best, but due to extenuating circumstances (The pressure of playing under a huge contract, playing catcher, defensive shifts he’s not adjusting to somehow, not playing third base etc) there’s just no way we can hope for him to be a great player. He will merely be a very good one.

Reusse’s article was a cliche for him. He probably wrote it in spring training, hoping for everything to collapse. Here’s a summary: Span bad, Hudson bad, Mauer bad, Morneau good but Cuddyer Kubel Hardy Punto bad, Young and Thome good but Slowey Baker Blackburn Liriano bad. Pavano good.

What analysis. Now first let me point out that Mr. Mauer already has accumulated 2.1 WAR on the season. He’s not hitting for much power, and his BABIP is his lowest since his rookie year. His walk rate is a little down, but he’s making just as much contact, hitting the same amount of line drives. Yes, a lot of line drives are ending up being caught on the warning track. But is this Mauer’s fault, for not hitting his warning track line drives in the right place?

I like it when my players hit warning track line drives. Those are well hit balls that should be hits more often than not. And also, and this is a fundamental rule of statistics, bad luck (And good luck) can only last so long. Let’s say you’re doing something the kids do.. like shooting fish in a barrel. You may miss the first 15 or so shots you take, but eventually, you’re going to hit one. What Jim Souhan is suggesting, then, is that when you miss the first 15 shots, you get a different gun, alter your shooting technique, or maybe get someone new to shoot for you. This may result in a hit fish right away, it may not, but your odds are no different. You’re shooting fricking fish in a barrel, get over yourself!

This goes for Joe Mauer, as it goes for the whole team. Joe is going to improve in the second half, and even if he stays at his current pace, he’s going to be a 12M or so player in value. Wait a minute, as Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs points out, Mauer’s extension doesn’t kick in until next year. He’s making 12.5M this year. So before you lambast him for not playing up to his contract, realize that, as of right now, as a great catcher having a decent enough season with good defense, he’s worth every penny.

Now on to Mr. Liriano. Were you aware that his FIP is 2.18? Well, if you didn’t, let me remind you that that number leads the entire major leagues. Josh Johnson is second with a 2.31. The great Ubaldo Jimenez has a 3.13. What this means is that Liriano does a great job at the three things pitchers are truly responsible for, strikeouts (9.81/9), limiting walks (only 30 so far), and limiting home runs (2 and counting). He has an awful outfield defense, and a worsening infield one, with Cuddyer continuing to play third (Badly). Reusse referred to Liriano as erratic. I suppose he did just have his worst start of the year, not getting out of the second inning. But is it not the very definition of cherry picking, to pluck one bad start out of 16 better ones?

Carl Pavano has been fantastic. He has always known how to pitch, and by this I mean throwing the right pitch at the right time, setting up hitters, fooling them. But now, as he attests, he is gaining more velocity, which is making him even more effective. He is no fluke. We have the pre-Yankee Carl Pavano.

Scott Baker has a 5/1 K/BB ratio. That would be third best in the majors. The gripe with Baker is that when he has his good stuff, he’s awesome and his stuff is good enough to pitch up in the zone. However, when he doesn’t have his best, he can’t afford to pitch up and gets clobbered. So perhaps Sir Scott is showing how someone can be continuously ineffective despite having a stellar K/BB ratio. He needs to adjust his location when he doesn’t have it.

J.J. Hardy hasn’t gotten enough playing time to warrant much criticism. He has a wrist injury, not a hamstring pull or a broken nose. Wrist injuries make good hitters bad. And decent hitters into the .226/.268/.340 line Hardy currently has. But his defense has been remarkable, and he has yet to have a hot streak. Or even just a string of a few games where he gets some extra base hits and some multi hit games. Give him some time.

The bullpen has been really good. I agree with Aaron Gleeman that Gardenhire should not withhold Jon Rauch for only save situations. He’s wearing Guerrier down to a nub, while Rauch and his 3.32 FIP sit fully rested. That’s really bad bullpen management. Although if I were Matt Guerrier, I’d be getting sick of, every time I had a bad week it being blamed on me being overworked and tired. But either way, the bullpen has not been the problem.

It’s been Nick Blackburn. I feel like there’s something wrong with him. But most likely, it’s a simple lack of confidence. And as I alluded to in my previous post (Which was months ago), Blackburn seems to thrive on confidence and intimidation rather than throwing effective pitches. He really needs a stint in triple A.

What I’m trying to get at is that it seems as though people are wanting to hit the panic button. But the fact is, this is still a good team and bad luck combined with underperformance is keeping them in 3rd place. These things straighten themselves out. Mauer, Kubel Hudson, Span and Hardy will hit better in the second half. Liriano and Baker will pitch a lot better (At least in terms of results). And I think, assuming Morneau comes back strong from his concussion, the offense and the pitching figure to improve, because the only player who looks like they completely don’t have it is Blackburn. And he can be replaced if he keeps it up. So in summary, this is the happy little optimist reminding you that Twins fans needn’t worry. Not yet, anyway.


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