Wednesday, July 2, 2008
So the Twins won again last night, bouncing back from the previous evening's soul crushing defeat against the Tigers to play like a bunch of idiots, hitting into five double plays and getting two guys tossed out at home, but pulled it out against Detroit in a big win. As they keep winning and keep being one of the hottest teams out there, you hear a lot of chatter about why they are winning. Most of the reasons are wrong. Here's why.
1. Chemistry - I've talked on here before how overrated chemistry is, and it still is - especially in baseball. How much of an effect does Jesse Crain being buddies with Alexi Casilla have on Casilla's hot hitting? Does he go up to the plate thinking, "well, Jesse and the guys invited me to the bonfire at his house last weekend, I better get a hit here?" Again, chemistry in baseball matters a little tiny bit in fielding and communication, but that's it. It's about .000000000001% of the game. Shaq and Kobe hated each other, yet they managed to win three championships. You want a baseball example? Read the book "The Bad Guys Won" about the 1986 World Champion Mets. Those guys weren't friends, they hated each other, but they were one of the best teams of the decade. My softball team the last few years has been a bunch of good guys who are really close, but our record has been something like 20-50 over the past four years. And if Chemistry is fueling this run, why does every body like each other now, but hated each other earlier? Was there a big group retreat in the boundary waters nobody heard about?
2. Defense - We've been inundated with talk about the Twins' defense for years and how awesome it was, and that may have been true with Hunter in center and Mientkewicz at first, but now? Please. Brendan Harris is a second baseman being forced to play shortstop because the other shortstops all hit like third graders. Have you seen Delmon Young try to track down a fly ball? He waddles around out there like a fat chick chasing down a piece of cake. And when Kubel is in the outfield because Cuddyer is apparently taking most of the season off he makes Pete Incaviglia look like a gold glover. You want numbers? Fine, even though defense is very difficult to quantify. The Twins rank 11th in the AL in fielding percentage and fourth in errors. Young ranks dead last in fielding percentage amongst all major league left fielders.
3. Fundamentals - Enough with this one already. How often do we have to hear it? The Twins are not fundamentally sound, not at all. Start with defense, which is above so I won't get back into it. How about base running, which they've been brutal at for years going back to Sweet Lew Ford. Gomez and Casilla run around the bases at Mach 8 with little regard for where they're going but they're fast enough to generally get by with it - until last night, when Casilla took off on a ground ball from second to head to third, except Gomez was on third. So he had to head home where he was tossed out, killing a nice little rally. Punto CONTINUES to slide into first base, probably the least fundamental move in all of baseball. You know why everyone is stuck on fundamentals? Because they don't hit homeruns and they bunt a lot so they do it "the right way." I have no idea why the media hates homeruns so much. I blame Bonds. Who the Twins should figure out a way to sign.
4. Gardy's Speech - I heard about this one on the radio, but apparently Gardy gave a big speech and ever since the Twins have been on fire. This goes back to chemistry, but seriously, that shit doesn't matter. Correlation does not imply causation.
5. Clutch - Clutch does not exist - generally. Mostly it's all small sample sizes, and a player who is "clutch" in one season generally does not sustain that "clutchitude" through multiple seasons - with a few exceptions, none of which reside on the Twins. This year Morneau is hitting .333 in "clutch" situations - last year he hit .222. Jason Kubel this year is .349, last year .284. And so on. I will grant that a portion of why the Twins' are winning is "timely" hitting, as they are collectively batting .313 with RISP, which is insane since they hit only .270 as a team. But let's call that timely hitting, not clutch hitting, and let's also expect that to regress as the season continues on. I'd also like to mention that there is an article out there that concludes that clutch exists, but it doesn't turn .250 hitters into .400 hitters, but it turns .285 hitters into .300 hitters. I hope I don't have to explain just how absurd that is, but a basic understanding of statistics should make it clear that that is not a significant number. It's a difference of about 1 hit every 23 games.
6. I can't remember what number six was because I'm all riled up, so instead I'll just mention that Jumper was a stupid movie, and once again Dawg can't recommend movies for shit.
The Twins are winning, and it's pretty obvious why - they're scoring runs and stopping the other team from scoring. It's the whole object of the game. They rank fourth in the AL in runs scored (I still don't know how this is happening) and although they are ninth in runs allowed, lately the starters have turned into the second coming of the 1971 Orioles. It's been 18 games since they've allowed more than six runs in a game.
They are winning because they are hitting and pitching well. There's no magical mysticism at work here. Stop trying to find weird reasons.