Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Reasons that Aren't why the Twins are Winning

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.


Bear said...

Everything you wrote is completely contradictory to what Dick & Bert try to force down our throats every single night. Shame on you!

That picture is priceless, that is hands down my biggest problem with Punto. Why he continues to do it, and why he continues to be allowed to do it, only lends more credence to the fact that Gardy is a moron.

P.S. I have to defend Dawg's taste in movies. He has never once lead me astray with his selections. Snake on the other hand, is terrible. He once recommended Super Troopers, which he owned, (which tells you just about all you need to know) so at least I didn't have to rent it.

snacks said...

If your bet with Dawg was actually enforceable, you might want to start getting worried since Blackburn just picked up win no. 7 today.

Anonymous said...

Some of your points are legit, but I submit you're mostly wrong:

Yes - Dick, Bert and media do a good job of making the Twins look cute, in addition to giving Gardy's speech too much credit.

When it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position, as a former ballplayer I can attest that the Twins' relaxed approach (taking pitches, even finding it acceptable to take bad pitches with first base open) limits the at-bats they 'give away' with runners on. I remember 2005 when our couldn't buy a hit with runners on ... their approach was much more Gomez/Young-like. Hitters like Mauer, Kubel, Morneau and even Casilla seem to be going to the plate with a plan with runners on.

On chemistry: I think it's mostly a lot of smoke and mirrors. Plus, it's easy to love your boys when you're winning (It's also fun for Telly Hughes to talk about). More than anything, these guys seem to trust each other to the point where nobody seems to be pressing. To this end, I think chemistry has less to do with helping each other move and have BBQs on the weekend and more to do with the 'if I don't drive 'em in, the next guy will' idea.

Also: I think it should be pointed out that Gardy has done a nice job of putting his guys in positions where they can be successful. For example: limiting Monroe's at-bats, letting Buscher play every day before there's an established scouting report for him and letting Redmond hit against lefties with Morneau protecting him in the order. Although you might not call this 'fundamental baseball,' it is certainly a manager exposing his players in positions where they have the best chance to be successful. I think this strategy is what the media often confuses for 'fundamental baseball.'

The Sidler said...

A few notes:

I think you're' confusing a few players' hitting styles with a team-wide "relaxed approach" at the plate.

Exceeding your normal hitting abilities when runners are on is not a repeatable skill--guys who sucked at it one year will often be good the next, mostly regressing or progressing to their overall ability. It will be hard to sustain 4th best in the league with little power and limited patience unless the good luck continues, but crazier things have happened.

"Protection" in the batting order is a myth, particularly for a hitter of Red-dawg's caliber. But Gardy has been better at resting Mauer vs. lefties instead of just day games.

ENOUGH OF THE BUNTING, stop giving up so many outs!

WWWWWW, why didn't you bring up defensive efficiency to expose the defense? The Twins rank 27th in the league, ouch. Add that in with the errors, and it makes Baker, Blackburn, and lately Slowey's performances even more impressive.

But it is damn fun to watch this team right now.

Anonymous said...

"Protection is a myth" - Couldn't be more wrong. When Morneau is on deck and Redmond is hitting with two outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd (first base open, mind you), show me one major league pitching staff that won't take their chances with Redmond.

The Sidler said...

Thanks for clearing that up for me.

Thank God Morneau is there to prevent teams from adding to Mike Redmond's career IBB total of 22.

Theory said...

Gardenhire's speech, along with the Twins' great chemistry, especially on defense, and their solid fundamental skills during the past few weeks, have been clutch.