Tagged: Carlos Gomez

Revisiting the Santana Trade

johan-santana-4.jpgWith the recent call-up of right-hander Kevin Mulvey, now seems
like a really good time to re-examine the Santana trade.  Here is a
look at what the Twins got:

Carlos Gomez:

2008:  .258/.296/.360/.657 OPS   2.3 WAR
2009:  .253/.291/.358/.649 OPS   0.1 WAR

Gomez’s
horrible numbers at the plate are sort of neutralized by his defense. 
With a career 23.5 UZR in center, he is one of the top defensive CFs in
the league.  If he could just learn to hit, he would be one of the better
all-around players in the league, much like Grady Sizemore.  One of
the things Go-Go really needed to work on was plate discipline, and he
has indeed improved in this respect.  Last season, he swung at 36.8 %
of pitches outside the strike zone, while this season he has only
chased 27.6%.  Thus, his BB/K ratio has subsequently improved from 0.18
to 0.36.  So far, he has little to show for his improved plate
discipline, but he hasn’t seen much playing time this season with the
crowded outfield situation, either.  It’s doubtful that Go-Go will ever
develop much power, but given his age and a continued improvement in
plate discipline, it’s not unreasonable to expect league-average production from him eventually.

Philip Humber:

2008: 

Twins:     4.36 ERA   1.371 WHIP   1.20 K/BB    4.6 K/9   3.9 BB/9   11.2 IP
Rochester:  4.56 ERA   1.423 WHIP   2.16 K/BB   7.0 K/9   3.2 BB/9  136.1 IP

2009: 

Twins:     12.45 ERA   3.231 WHIP   1.33 K/BB   8.3 K/9   6.2 BB/9    4.2 IP
Rochester:   5.86 ERA   1.575
WHIP   1.97 K/BB   7.2 K/9   3.7 BB/9    73.2IP

Humber
was once the Mets’ top pitching-prospect, until he was sidelined with
Tommy-John surgery in 2005.  He’s been a mediocre starter for the Red
Wings, and at this point (he’s 26) doesn’t project to be more than a
long-reliever in the major leagues.  Not only have walks been an issue
for Humber at the major-league level, he’s also had trouble keeping the
ball in the park (his HR/FB% is 18.2).  The fact that nobody claimed
him when the Twins put him on waivers earlier this season (and that
they were willing to risk losing him this way), probably says a lot
about his value.

Kevin Mulvey:

2008:  3.77 ERA   1.351 WHIP   2.52 K/BB   7.4 K/9   2.9 BB/9   148.0 IP
2009: 
3.93 ERA   1.427 WHIP   2.13 K/BB   7.1 K/9  3.3
BB/9   103.0 IP

Mulvey
has spent the past two seasons as a starter in Rochester, and though
he’s been pretty successful, he’s struggled to pitch effectively on a
consistent basis.  Still, his K/9 rate is good enough to suggest that
he might make it as a fifth starter or middle reliever in the major
leagues.  If anything, a good performance with the big club would
probably increase his trade value should the team dangle him in an
effort to upgrade the bullpen or middle infield.

Deolis Guerra:

2008 (Ft. Myers): 
5.47 ERA   1.608 WHIP   1.00 K/BB   4.9 K/9  4.9 BB/9   130.0 IP

2009:

Ft. Myers:   4.69
ERA   1.390 WHIP   2.28 K/BB   5.9 K/9   2.6 BB/9   86.1 IP
New Britain:   5.59
ERA  1.655 WHIP   2.67 K/BB   7.4 K/9   2.8 BB/9   9.2 IP

Guerra
is the youngest and most intriguing of the three pitching prospects the
Twins got in the deal. The fact that he’s spent four years in A-ball
isn’t particularly inspiring, but he’s still only 20 years old and is
quite young even for that level.  Guerra was recently promoted to AA,
despite his poor numbers, in the hopes that a change in scenery will do
him some good.  It’s unlikely that he will ever develop into an ace,
and it’s questionable whether he will ever even reach the major
leagues, but it’s also too soon to give up on him just yet.

And here’s what the Mets got:

Johan Santana:   2.53 ERA   3.83 xFIP   1.15 WHIP   3.27 K/BB   4.8 WAR

Note
that I am only including his 2008 numbers.  I did this because, let’s
face it, his leaving was a foregone conclusion.  There is no way the
Twins were going to re-sign Johan, they would undoubtedly have been
outbid for his services by one of the larger-market teams.  This is
also why it’s not really accurate to say the Mets fleeced the Twins in
this deal:  the Twins were going to lose Santana anyway, and the Mets
gave up a ton of prospects as well as a ton of money to acquire him. 
Obviously, the Mets have come out on top so far, but dealing a
superstar near free agency is always an iffy proposition and teams
rarely get an adequate haul in return.  It’s not like the Delmon Young
trade, in which the Twins gave up two very talented young players who
were under their control for the next several years and got three
barely replacement-level players in return (and the centerpiece of that
deal is considerably below replacement-level).  That is highway robbery.

Now,
one can certainly make the case that the Twins didn’t have to trade
Santana, even though losing him was inevitable.  It’s true that the
Twins might have been better off with the additional draft picks they
would have gotten from whatever team he eventually signed with.  The
team almost certainly would’ve made the playoffs with Johan anchoring
the rotation last year, though I doubt very much they actually would
have won the World Series (having an unusually-high BA with RISP only
gets you so far).  But from all accounts, Bill Smith was left with
little choice but to deal the superstar, since Santana wanted his
contract situation resolved before the start of the season.  He didn’t
want to have to endure the media circus and speculation that dogged
Torii Hunter during his final season with the team, which is perfectly
understandable.  He also made it clear that he had no intention of
being a rent-a-player (like C.C. Sabathia last year) and since he had a
full no-trade clause in his contract, waiting for a better deal to come along at the trade deadline would have been out of the question. 

Smith was in his first season as GM
after Terry Ryan abruptly resigned, and was stuck with the unenviable task of trading the staff ace.  As far as whether or not they
would have gotten a better package from the Yankees or the Red Sox,
it’s possible.  However, we don’t really know what offers were on the
table, and if either team were really serious about trading for him. 
It sounds to me like Boston and New York were willing to wait for
Santana to enter free agency, rather than lose their top prospects in
a trade.  If both teams were serious about dealing for Santana, though,
and players like Ellsbury, Lester, Hughes and Cabrera really were on
the table, then Smith likely made a huge mistake in not pulling the
trigger. 

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F*ck!

  • Slowey suffers setback in rehab

520x

Well, there goes the season 
Ugh, I hope it’s just a slight one.  The Slow Man was supposed to throw
a bullpen session today, but his wrist injury flared up again and was unable to do so
He’s supposed to try throwing again on Wednesday, and the Twins are
holding off on any further decisions regarding treatment until then. 
So I’m going to hold off on any further panicking until then.  What is
certain, however, is that he won’t be making his next scheduled
start on July 21 at Oakland.  Anthony Swarzak will get the nod instead. 

  • Casilla up, Tolbert down, Harris back to the bench?

122280_Mariners_Twins_Baseball

As LEN3 reported,
Alexi Casilla has been recalled from Rochester, while Matt Tolbert has
been sent back down.  It’s essentially Casilla’s last chance to prove
he can stick in the major leagues, or the Twins will probably be moving
him in the off-season.  Casilla struggled mightily at the plate earlier
this season, batting a mere .180/.242/.225, and all of the defensive
miscues certainly didn’t help his case.  But he’s been on fire since
his demotion to Rochester, batting .340/.379/.449/.827 OPS for the Red Wings.  Still, as Jason
Bartlett can attest, it’s very difficult to get out of Gardy’s doghouse
once you have been banished there.  Casilla will probably have to magically
turn into Chase Utley overnight to keep his job, and even that wouldn’t
be enough.

With Casilla getting the start at second, this begs
the question as to who will be the everyday shortstop.  Gardy says he
will try to find playing time for both Punto and Harris, but this is
highly unlikely.  Punto will most certainly be the starting SS, and
Harris will almost certainly be back to the bench. The Twins are paying
Punto $4 million this year, so he and his .201/.319/.223 line won’t be
playing the utility role.  Gardy has already said as much
And really, when you look at the numbers, neither one is exactly running away
with the starting job.  Punto is terrible at the plate, but he’s a
career 21.0 UZR at the position, so his defense is good enough to make
him at least replacement-level.  Harris isn’t very good on defense (he’s a
career -11.9 UZR) but his .275/.318/.392 line makes him just a little
better than replacement-level, but not enough to just hand him the job,
either.  Now, if only there was a way to combine Harris’ bat with Punto’s glove

  • Gomez goes 3-for-4 with a home run and 5 RBI in series finale against White Sox

That goofball is bound and determined to make me love him. 

Carlos-gomez-kisses-bat

Actually, I pretty much already decided that the first time I saw him sniff his bat.

Is There Such a Thing as a Bad Win?

  • Francisco Liriano has his worst outing of the year and still gets the win

Thumbnail image for p1franciscolirianosi.jpgEven though he only surrendered three runs, this really was Frankie’s worst performance of the season.  It took him a career-high 117 pitches to make it through five innings, and he faced no less than five batters in almost every single inning.  He gave up seven hits and walked more batters than he struck out (six Ks vs. five BBs).  That he only gave up three runs speaks volumes about the Brewers’ offense, and not so much about his ability to pitch out of a jam.  Unlike his previous start against the Pirates, in which he was only a couple of meatballs away from pitching a gem, Frankie was only a couple of bad pitches away from a complete meltdown.  It’s been so frustrating to watch him this season because he shows so much talent, and just when it starts to look like he’s starting to turn the corner, he has a performance as awful as this.  The Twins have been patient with Frankie thus far, but obviously they can’t continue to do so and hope to catch the Tigers and win the division title.  Moving him to the bullpen probably isn’t going to help either Frankie or the Twins much, since he struggles to pitch from the stretch and would likely fail in high-leverage situations.  If he fails to show any progress in his next couple of starts, perhaps the Twins should consider sending him to Rochester.  Working with pitching coach Bobby Cuellar seemed to do wonders for him last year, and he could be sent down with the promise that he would be called back up no matter what happens.  Whether he would be called up as a starter or reliever would depend upon how well he does with the Red Wings.

This game was so difficult to watch I had to keep reminding myself that the Twins were actually winning.  As awful as Frankie was, Milwaukee starter Jeff Suppan was even worse, giving up seven runs (four earned) on nine hits while walking three.  The Twins jumped out to an early lead in the first, when Michael Cuddyer struck out but reached first on a wild pitch, loading up the bases for Joe Crede.  Crede then lashed a double over the head of Mike Cameron, plating three runs.  Carlos Gomez (who had a pretty good night, going 3-for-5 with a pair of runs and RBI) later singled and then hustled to second when Cameron took his sweet time getting the ball back to the infield.  He then scored on a single by Brendan Harris, putting the Twins up 4-2.  A fielding error by J.J. Hardy opened up a three-run third inning, giving the Twins a 7-3 lead they would never relinquish.  Good thing the Brew Crew decided to play more like a beer-league softball team, allowing the Twins to reach the .500 mark for the umpteenth time this season and keep pace with the Tigers.

  • Jinx!

Mauer_on_SI.jpgJoe Mauer is SI‘s cover model this week, for only the second time in his career.  The issue dealt with his pursuit of .400, so naturally he’s gone 0-for-8 in his past two games and dropped his average to a mere .395.  The SI curse probably has little to do with it though, since hitting .400 is really hard to do in the first place and Mauer was starting to show signs of slowing down even before the issue hit the stands.  Still, you’d better start sleeping with one eye open, Tom Verducci.

Losing in Style

  • Twins hit four homers and lose anyway

Thumbnail image for kubel_homer.jpgZOMG, this is the most unclutchiest lineup ever!!!11!!  I mean, for the most part, clutch hitting has a lot more to do with luck than skill.  In general, even the greatest hitters will fail more often than not with runners in scoring position, that’s just how the game works.  It sucks, it’s frustrating, but that’s just the way it is.  Which is why I find this article in the Star Tribune so irritating. To suggest that the problem is that the Twins are relying too much on the long ball and not speed or sacrifice hits (i.e., Twins baseball) is ridiculous.  The power hitters in the lineup have been remarkably productive, with Joe Mauer batting .421/.490/.738, Justin Morneau .324/.398/.524 (which is pretty good, considering that he’s been in a slump recently), Jason Kubel .315/.377/.546, and even Michael Cuddyer is starting to pick things up, hitting .281/.360/.518 with 10 homers.  Joe Crede has been kind of an exception since he has a paltry .228 BA and .303 OPB, but he also has a .451 slugging percentage and is on pace to hit 20+ homers this year, so he isn’t really part of the problem, either.  The real problem has been the lack of production from the bottom of the order, and it has been all season.  The Twins certainly aren’t lacking speed in the lineup, with Carlos Gomez, Matt Tolbert, and even Nick Punto all threats to steal, but the three have struggled to get on base consistently.  Delmon Young hasn’t been living up to his potential, either, batting .258/.286/.302 while looking horribly uncomfortable at the plate.  The good news is that Gomez, Punto, and Young have all taken huge steps forward this month (Yes, even Gomez.  He’s drawing more walks and isn’t swinging at so many pitches outside the strike zone, he just hasn’t had much to show for it in the way of results).  The bad news however, is that all three are still barely replacement-level position players.

After tonight’s loss to Houston, the Twins have fallen back to the .500 mark and are threehenn.jpg games behind the Tigers.  This time, the offense wasn’t the problem, since they hit four homers and scored five runs.  No, this time it was the pitching staff, specifically the bullpen that fell down.  The Twins had a 3-2 lead in the seventh, until Sean Henn came in to relieve Scott Baker.  Henn surrendered three runs in the seventh (one was charged to Baker), including a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Jason Michaels, and was yanked in favor of Luis Ayala after recording only one out.  I had written before that the pitching isn’t as bad as fans tend to think, and that’s true.  But it hasn’t been that great, either.  The starting rotation has started to settle down and pitch effectively, but the bullpen is still an issue.  While Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan have been as reliable as ever, and R.A. Dickey is settling into the long relief role, the rest of the ‘pen is simply a disaster waiting to happen.  Ayala has been much more effective recently, but he pitches to contact and can’t really be used in close games with runners on base.  Jose Mijares hasn’t been too bad, posting a 2.57 ERA in twenty-four appearances, but he’s also been suffering from control issues (his 1.70 K/BB ratio isn’t good) and is bound to get hit hard eventually.  The Twins clearly need bullpen help, but so does pretty much everybody else in the league, which will obviously complicate matters at the trade deadline.  Still, I guess we should be glad that our bullpen isn’t as bad as the Indians’.  Yikes.

  • Speaking of homers

Thumbnail image for joe_mauer.jpgMauer hit his 14th of the season, setting a new career record, and it isn’t even officially summer yet.  It was an opposite-field blast (of course) that had given the Twins a 3-1 lead at the time.  Someday, opposing pitchers will figure out that it isn’t a good idea to throw him fastballs on the outside corner.  Hopefully he’ll hit 20 homers before they do.  Obviously, Mauer isn’t going to put up such Pujolsian numbers all season long, since the physical demands of being a catcher will catch up to him eventually.  As of right now, though, Mauer is the most valuable player in the league, and it isn’t even close.

Why is there this tingling in my left arm?

  • Twins survive ninth-inning nightmare to beat Oakland 10-5

HomerHA.jpgThis game was much, much closer than the final score would indicate.  The Twins had a 10-0 lead going into the ninth.  Scott Baker had pitched brilliantly, holding the A’s two just two hits in eight innings, and since he’d thrown only 96 pitches, was going for a complete game.  And that’s when things got a lot more interesting than they really needed to be.  Baker was obviously gassed, and loaded up the bases without recording an out (although he didn’t get any help from Alexi Casilla, more on that in a minute).  Jesse Crain was brought in to relieve Scotty, but ran into trouble of his own.  After Alexi Casilla again failed to field a routine ground ball that allowed a pair of runs to score, Crain had trouble finding the strike zone.  He walked Jack Cust with the bases loaded, and was yanked in favor of Jose Mijares.  Mijares struck out Jason Giambi, but then suffered some control issues of his own.  He walked the next two batters and forced in a pair of runs.  With the score now 10-5, and the bases loaded with only one out, Joe Nathan was brought in to complete what had suddenly become a save situation.  He struck out Jack Hannahan and Rajai Davis to end the threat and pick up his 12th save of the year. 

I’ll admit that I was nervous before Nathan came in.  If there’s any team that can screw up a 10-0 lead in the ninth inning, it is the Twins.  They’ve had such awful luck on the road this season and it really wouldn’t have surprised me if they ended up losing 11-10.  Besides, it’s not like this kind of thing has never happened before.

The horrorshow that unfolded in the ninth overshadowed what had been a rare quality road win.  Not only did Baker pitch a gem, but the bats sprang to life and gave him some much-needed run support.  Delmon Young, who’s really been having a rough season both on and off the field, went 2-for-4 with a double (his first extra-base hit since April 22) and three RBI.  Justin Morneau made me look silly for suggesting he might be in a slump, going 4-for-5 with a solo home run.  Jason Kubel hit a three-run homer.  Brendan Harris, who saw his career-high 12 game hitting streak come to an end on Monday night, went 3-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.  Even Carlos Gomez, who was put in the leadoff spot when Denard Span was forced to leave the game, came up with a big two-run double (though he also struck out twice).  It’s a good thing too, because the Twins needed every single one of those runs to hold off the A’s and get the win.

  • Bert Blyleven is an a**

OK, here comes a mini-rant.  I’m not really a fan of the Twins’ broadcast team, but I don’t usually complain about them here because it’s a waste of time.  The Twins aren’t going to fire Bert and Dick simply because I don’t like them, and rehashing ad nauseum all the dumb things they say is enough to give me a headache.  And since most of my readers don’t have to listen to Dick and Bert, they’d probably have no idea what I’m talking about, anyway.  But when Blyleven called out Scott Baker during the broadcast for failing to pitch a complete game, I felt I needed to make an exception.  It wouldn’t have been so bad, but he made it sound like the ninth-inning collapse was all Scotty’s fault, and it wasn’t (Alexi Casilla had a lot to do with it, but I’ll get to that).  Baker was on his game all night: he struck out eight batters, didn’t walk anyone, and allowed only one extra-base hit.  He retired fourteen straight batters coming into the ninth inning, and considering how much Baker has struggled this season, his performance had already exceeded expectations.  The complete game would simply have been icing on the cake.  But Bert ripped into Scotty when he loaded the bases without recording an out (again, not really his fault), accusing him of lacking the mettle to pitch a complete game.  Ridiculous.  If Baker truly wasn’t interested in trying to finish the game, then what the hell was he doing out there in the first place?  It was obvious that he was exhausted, and one would think that if Baker didn’t care about finishing the game himself, he would’ve simply told Gardy that he was done for the night.  Scotty didn’t deserve the public tongue-lashing Bert doled out from the safety of the broadcast booth, not after pitching eight innings of two-hit ball.  And it will never happen, but Bert owes Scotty an on-air apology.  Maybe I should change the title of this blog to “Fire Bert Blyleven”.

Worse yet, there was little rage directed at the true goat of the game:  Alexi Casilla.  The second baseman booted a couple of routine ground balls, one of which might have been a double-play. If Alexi even made one of those plays, Baker likely would’ve escaped the ninth having pitched a three-hit, maybe one-run complete game.  But because of Casilla’s incompetence, Baker had to settle for eight innings and three unearned earned runs.  And the Twins had to use their closer to save what should have been a complete blowout (of course, Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares could’ve pitched better, too).  Ugh, I never thought I’d be so happy to hear that Nick Punto is coming back soon.  I will take a sub-.200 middle-infielder who can make routine plays over a sub-.200 middle-infielder who can’t any day.
        

Good News: The Pitching Doesn’t Completely Suck

Thumbnail image for kev_slowey.jpgOh sure, just as I was going to post something reassuring about the performances of our young staff, they done blowed up real good against an anemic Cleveland lineup. At home, no less. Well, I’m going to put it up anyway, because it’s the truth and I wasted an entire evening on this goddam thing.  Both the starters and the bullpen haven’t been as bad as their overall records would indicate.  The starting pitching in particular is about as good as it was last year, even though it kind of seems worse because of the disappointing performances by Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano to date.  But even Scotty and Frankie haven’t been quite as bad as their respective 6.32 and 6.60 ERAs make them look.  The Twins’ defense is ranked tenth in the league, and both Baker (4.74 xFIP) and Liriano (4.94 xFIP) appear to be getting burned the most by shoddy defense behind them.  It’s been particularly bad for Baker, who also tends to give up a lot of home runs (he’s surrendered a career-high 14 going into today’s game against Cleveland).  His last start against Tampa Bay was a good example of the problem he’s faced all year:  the defense behind him failed to make a routine play, which put two runners on for the dangerous Evan Longoria.  Baker naturally gave up a home run and was charged with three earned runs since the misplay behind him was ruled an infield hit rather than an error (never mind, it was ruled an error, but what was a tie game was quickly a three-run deficit due to poor defense).  Same thing for Frankie, whose last two starts (especially the one against Boston) probably would’ve been quality starts were it not for the defensive miscues behind him.

Defense doesn’t account for all of Frankie’s misfortunes, however.  His 1.619 WHIP and poorFrankie_fail.jpg 1.79 K/BB ratio show that he’s not exactly pitching like the ace he was expected to be going into the season.  The Twins have been reluctant to pull Liriano from the rotation, and for good reason. His 4.3 BB/9 rate is horrendous, but his 50 strikeouts lead the team and he often pitches well through the first four innings or so.  His stuff still looks pretty nasty when he’s on, which makes his struggles just that much more frustrating.  And he was really good after being called up from Rochester last year, posting a 2.74 ERA, 1.188 WHIP and a very good 3.16 K/BB ratio.  Part of the problem is that he’s throwing his changeup a lot less, 14.2% compared to about 20% in 2008.  Whenever he gets into trouble, he relies heavily on his slider as an out pitch.  And this worked well when he was still throwing around 95-mph before his surgery, but now that his velocity is somewhere in the low-90s he really needs his changeup to compliment his fastball and slider (although even then he was still throwing his changeup about 16-18% of the time). On top of all that, Frankie appears to be suffering from a lack of confidence in himself and his stuff, which is often much more difficult to fix than mechanical issues (although he seems to have those, too).  The mediocre defense behind him is just making matters worse.

The other reason the Twins have been reluctant to move Frankie to the bullpen is that they don’t really have a suitable replacement.  With a 2.08 ERA, Anthony Swarzak had looked pretty good coming into last night’s game against the Indians and was threatening to take Frankie’s spot in the rotation.  But his 1.50 K/BB ratio and unsustainable 98.5 LOB% indicated that he’d probably just been more lucky than good, so it wasn’t really all that surprising when he got beat up by the Indians.  He’ll probably move to the bullpen once Glen Perkins comes off the DL (which isn’t a bad thing, the ‘pen still needs help).

As for the much-maligned bullpen, they got off to a rough start but have been pitching better as of late.  Joe Nathan hasn’t surrendered a run since blowing a save against the Yankees on May 15th (Although he probably will now that I just jinxed him. Sorry, Joe).  Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares have been reliable, but not quite as good as their 3.55 and 2.60 ERAs would indicate (Guerrier has an xFIP of 4.12 and Mijares 4.56).  Unfortunately, the rest of the ‘pen can’t be counted on for anything other than long relief, with R.A. Dickey posting a 1.42 WHIP and 4.88 xFIP despite his relatively low 3.06 ERA and Luis Ayala posting a 4.07 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, and 5.02 xFIP.  Dickey has some value as a spot-starter, but Ayala’s been useless for anything other than mop-up duty.  Jesse Crain looked a lot like his pre-surgery self early in the year, but he hasn’t been anything but terrible no matter how you look at it since coming off the DL (eep: 7.88 ERA, 5.44 xFIP, 1.63 WHIP, 1.22 K/BB). 

  • Carlos Gomez, sabermatician

Thumbnail image for mlb_g_gomez_300.jpgGomez may not be the best hitter in the league, but he clearly understands the value of defense and on-base %.  He told the Star Tribune after Tuesday’s game:  “Denard, me and Casilla — all we need to do is try to get on base and
try to play good defense,” Gomez said. “I know I do nothing with the
bat today, but I make a good catch. If I don’t do well with the bat, I
can do better with the glove and this helps my team. When you’ve got
Mauer and Morneau in the lineup, it makes a big difference. I know
they’re going to make some runs if I don’t get on base.”

Of course, with a mere .276 OBP Go-Go still needs to work on, you know, actually getting on base, but at least he grasps the concept.  Which is more than can be said for Jeff Francoeur.

Road Woes

126676_Royals_Twins_Baseball.jpg
Before I get into how awful the Twins have been away from the Dome, I just want to say:  OMG THE BULLPEN MANAGED TO NOT BLOW A ONE-RUN LEAD FOR ONCE.  ON THE ROAD TOO.  TRULY THE END IS NIGH.  Anyway, at 25-27, the Twins are currently two games under .500 and 4.5 games out of first in the AL Central.  And it’s really no mystery why our boys are struggling to stay above the .500 mark:  their 6-16 road record is abysmal.  While there aren’t many teams in the league with winning records away from home, few have such a record of futility as the Twinks.  There are only two teams in the league with worse road records than Minnesota:  Washington (6-20) and San Diego (8-19), and obviously neither one is likely to make the playoffs this year.  While the Twins had lost 11 of their past 12 road games before beating Tampa on Sunday, four of those losses had been by one run and six of their last nine losses have been by two runs or less.  

The Twins, like most teams in the league, have always played better at home than on the road.  Most people like to blame it on the obvious home field advantage the Twins enjoy at the Dome, but the disparity between their home and road records hasn’t been as vast as people tend to think (they usually have a league-best home record and a road record somewhere around the .500 mark).  In the seven seasons under manager Ron Gardenhire, the Twins have posted a worse road record through the end of May only once:  in 2006, when they were 8-20.  The Twins had gotten off to a slow start that year and were 24-29 on June 1st, 11.5 games behind the division-leading Tigers, before riding an incredible hot streak and finishing 96-66 to capture the division title (they finished with a 42-39 road record, btw). 

Pitching has obviously been part of the problem, though the pitching staff as a whole hasn’t been that much worse on the road.  As a team, the Twins have a road ERA of 5.16 compared to 4.53 at home. In road games, opponents are batting .272/.345/.485 against the Twins and the pitching staff in general is posting a 1.45 WHIP, 1.70 K/BB, and 6.15 K/9, compared to .273/.322/.427 with a 1.33 WHIP, 2.50 K/BB, 6.06 K/9 inside the teflon confines.  Obviously these numbers aren’t great, but they’re not bad for a team whose one and two starters have been pitching more like back-of-the-rotation starters through the first few months of the season.  For the most part, the pitching has been good enough to keep the team in ballgames as long as the offense has been productive.  Unfortunately, this hasn’t usually been the case.

The lack of offense has really been the heart of the Twins’ struggles away from the Dome.  There’s a very good assessment of the offense to this point here, and while it’s hardly surprising that the bottom of the lineup has been ice cold, these problems have been exacerbated on the road.  At home, the Twins are batting a decent-enough .278/.356/.447 with an OPS of .803.  On the road, however, the Twins are a mediocre .263/.335/.406 with an OPS of .741.  The best hitters in the lineup, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, have put up some very good numbers on the road, but with the likes of Nick Punto, Delmon Young, Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, and Carlos Gomez at the bottom of the order it’s not surprising that the Twins have averaged only 4.2 runs per game away from the Dome (which is actually skewed from the 20-1 thumping of the Pale Hose).  And that’s an improvement over the 3.6 runs per game the team was averaging with Casilla and Tolbert batting second in the lineup.  While Young, Casilla, and Gomez are all young enough that they should improve, it remains to be seen how much longer the organization will be patient with their development.