Monday, May 2, 2011

How bad are the freaking Twins?

Holy crap you guys, how bad are the Twins? I think we've gone beyond slow start at this point and have officially reached "gunning for the top pick in the lottery" status. I mean, what's been remotely promising so far? They can't hit or pitch, and they're making up for it by running the bases like a bunch of third-graders and fielding like absolute garbage, not to mention everybody who gets hurt needs an ambulance to carry them to the DL for half the season. Twins' baseball used to mean pitchers who threw strikes, fielders who made plays, and just enough offense supplemented by rarely making mistakes on either side of the ball. Now it means getting swept by the Royals.

Granted injuries have left them a bit short handed at times, but it's hard to just chalk up this many hurt players to bad-luck or the training staff - pretty sure it's a big ole contagious case of pussy-itis started by Morneau last year which has now affected half the roster. A week off for the flu? A couple of weeks for sore ribs and the flu, including pulling yourself from the starting lineup because "you can't get loose?" Several months (or more) off because of sore legs? It's baffling, but it fits their candy-soft mentality.

Worse, the players that do play can't hit. Jason Kubel's resurgence closer to his 2009 form after a sub-par 2010 is literally the only positive thing you can say about any position player:

Denard Span seems to have settled into a career role of "completely average lead-off who erases half of the good things he does by being really really fucking stupid running the bases." The problem is who could take over for him? Nobody on this team can handle center field (including Span), and the most likely candidates on the current roster are Jason Repko, a career back-up, and Rene Tosoni, who looks like a smaller, and possibly dumber, Lew Ford. I'm afraid we're stuck with Span until Revere is ready (and I wouldn't mind Denard in LF).

The middle infield is a complete mess, with someone too slow to play first playing at second and two subpar defensive second basemen alternating at shortstop. At least Cuddy can occasionally mash one - neither Tolbert or Casilla is anywhere near a major league quality hitter. (as mentioned here, combined they are the third-worst hitting middle infield since 1980). To make it even worse, Casilla might be the worst fielding shortstop in the league (and gives Span some competition for dumbest player), and the only the reason it isn't clearly him is because Tolbert gives him a run for his money.

The corner infielders should be ok, but Morneau can't seem to figure this whole "baseball" thing out. His power is basically completely gone along with both his patience and his aggressiveness, which sounds like it doesn't make sense but it does. Not only is he swinging at too many pitches (decreased patience) he's also swinging more like a slap-hitter and making contact more often, but poor contact (decreased aggressiveness). Basically he's a complete mess out there, and his drop of Tolbert's throw in that disastrous eight inning against the Royals over the weekend was one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. I'm not worried about Valencia, at least. His numbers aren't great but if you did into the nerd stats (I'll spare you) he looks like he's just been unlucky and should be ok.

Catcher, geez, where to begin. Either Butera or Holm would make a fine back-up. Lots of teams carry a very good defensive catcher who can't really hit so no big deal. But when you hamstring yourself so severely by trading your two major-league ready back-ups in Jose Morales and Wilson Ramos, this is the situation you create when your dandy of a starter gets hurt for the one hundredth time. I get they thought they needed Capps and had to give Ramos to get him, but why then trade Morales? Mauer is a huge injury risk and they know this, so why guarantee having a guy back there who can't outhit most pitchers? Just a stupid, short-sighted move. Probably the most irritating thing of the entire season.

I don't even know where to being with the pitching. Basically all the starters have decided to stop throwing strikes because when they do throw strikes they're just getting crushed all over the yard. The only two starters with numbers that don't look like they should be an auto-trip to Rochester or the waiver wire are Duensing and Baker, and nerd stats tell us that Duensing is the only one who can remotely even hope to have keep it up.

We all know Blackburn sucks, and Pavano is Pavano and will giveth and taketh away, but this regression by Liriano from promising to disaster could very well be the logo for this season. He's been absolutely dreadful, and he's taken his always maddening approach of nibbling around the corners of the plate to a whole new level. Unfortunately for him, however, the scouting report is out and nobody's chasing. He's tripled his walks from last year, and with him being behind in basically every count to every batter they're pulverizing the ball when he finally puts it in the strike zone. He's already a third of the way to last year's walk total and half way to last year's home run total, all while allowing nearly two baserunners per inning. And sadly, there's no reason at all to think this is going to get better.

Then, if by some miracle, a starter does put together a nice outing there's nobody in the bullpen who bothers getting people out other than Glen Perkins, and if you believe he's suddenly become a good pitcher then go ahead and email me your home address so I can drive over and hit you in the face with a hammer. Joe Nathan is obviously broken, Jose Mijares has seemingly completely lost sight of the strike zone, and the rest of the guys (Hoey, Hughes, Burnett, Manship) are exactly as advertised - terrible and probably don't belong on a big-league roster. Hughes is particularly troubling because he sucked with the Royals yet the Twins jettisoned the promising Rob Delaney to make room for him, and he's suck even worse since joining the team.

That leaves Matt Capps, a competent closer, but the kind of player people who overrate the save stat love and people who love nerd stats underrate a bit. He's serviceable and can get outs but is always a candidate to get completely throttled because his stuff is underwhelming and if he isn't razor sharp with location he's very hittable. All that means he is a thoroughly mediocre bullpen arm, which also he means he's very clearly the Twins' top reliever.

Where does that all leave the team? A terrible hitting team that ranks last in the AL in runs scored, batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS (and second to last in OBP). A terrible pitching team that ranks dead last in the AL in ERA, opponents' batting average, and strikeouts. A terrible fielding team with a corner outfielder playing second, a couple of poor second basemen playing shortstop, a left fielder in center, and DHs playing corner outfield. A team with the worst run differential in baseball (outscored by 64 runs this year - more than 2 per game) and the worst record in the game.

Maybe things will turn around when (if) everyone gets back from injury. Maybe those who are struggling will get it figured out. I don't know. What I do know is that no team in history has every made the playoffs after a start this poor. I also know that I totally made that up because I don't actually know where to find that information, but it sounds like it's probably correct, doesn't it?

Seriously, this sucks. I don't know how to handle a summer without meaningful Twins baseball. I may just need to adopt a new team. I think I'm a Royal fan. They at least have hope for the future.

1 comment:

John R said...

I have to say I'm somewhat excited for KC and Cleveland. If I am able to look at the AL Central from a non-Twins fan standpoint, it would be fairly enjoyable to watch one of those teams take the division away from a team (the Twins) that seems to think their job is done the moment they win it.

But I am a Twins fan, unfortunately, and this is not the brand of baseball I signed up for. Nor is this the brand of baseball they've shlepped for the last decade. We've become more and more dependent on runs the last couple years, and when you shift the paradigm like that you cannot expect the pitching and defense to keep up unless some changes in philosophy are made on that end as well. We've stuck with the Brad Radke mold without the Brad Radke mentality.

Nolan Ryan seems to have spear headed a trend that is spreading quickly - find quality starting pitching (whether it's to contact or over-powering) and stretch them out so as not to be dependent on the least dependent part of most baseball teams - the bullpen. The White Sox appeared headed in this direction at a frightingly successful pace until their once promising lineup crapped its pants. Cleveland's starters are going deep into games and have been the main reason for their suprising success. It's happening all over the league.

But regardless, how do you blow up a $100+ million team in its second year of an undeservedly georgeous home ballpark? This I do not know. But if we're sitting in this same position a month from now, I wouldn't mind seeing the Gibsons, Reveres, Bensons, etc. come up and show us what its like to WANT it again. And trade Kubel for a flame-throwing starter who is effectively wild... just to see what it's like for once.