Sunday, March 02, 2008

Post-Game (Exhibition Game 4)

Twinks 8, Red Snots 2 (Box Score)

  • Livan's big Twins spring debut will be viewed as, for all intents and purposes, successful. Joe Christensen writes that in his 2 innings of work, Hernandez deployed his full arsenal in his 42 pitches. Unfortunately, this would have placed him at 125-pitches in the 6th inning if he continued this paced. In full disclosure, Boston is a lot better than more teams at working pitchers however a pitcher that is being brought in specifically for 200 innings might want to work on efficiency. Witnessing this on, I can attest that it did appear that Hernandez was in command of the hitters, getting weak swings on his sweeping curveball. The ones that he failed to fool, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell, punished fastballs in the upper strike zone for a double and a home run, respectively. Lowell's home run came on a 3-2 belt high fastball.

  • As Christensen indicated in his blog, his velocity on his 3-2 fastball to Lowell read 83-mph at the City of Palms Park which he calls "disturbing". This is nothing surprising considering he is a pitcher that throws for contact (his WHIFF rating average on his four pitches was .160). What pitch f/x research revealed was that in 2007, Hernandez was averaging 84-mph on his fastball (a good indication of why he surrendered 30+ home runs). Hernandez has been marginally successful with this high school velocity fastball for several reasons. First, while the majority of pitchers tend to throw the fastball more frequently around 65% of the time or higher Hernandez used his only 57% of the time. Secondly, he does not live in the strike zone with his fastball. In 2007, Hernandez's walk rate was the league average of 9%, this is a relatively low number in spite of having his fastball in the strike zone for only 55% of the time. Finally, Hernandez offsets this velocity with a slow curveball that he throws at 65 mph, a 15-mph difference, making the 84 mph fastball seem deceptively quick. Unfortunately, as Mike Lowell proved today, in circumstances in which batters can anticipate a fastball in the zone (as was the case on the 3-2 pitch), it can be absolutely crushed.

  • Brian Buscher is putting together a very good spring. Though just 1 for 3 on the day, in his first at-bat in the bottom of the 2nd, following a Kubel's single off of Tim Wakefield, Buscher swatted a knuckleball that appeared to be a sure base hit that BoSox second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a diving snare on a hop fifteen feet away from right fielder JD Drew and threw out Buscher. Instead raising his average even further Buscher will have to settle for .400 so far on the spring. If he continues to hit well, there should be no excuse for the Twins not taking him north. As the old baseball adage goes: if you hit, we will find a spot on the field for you. Buscher's positional limitations would mean that his appearance in the line-up would come at the expense of Kubel or Lamb (dh or third).

  • Dispatches from the Race for Second Base: In the bottom of the third with one out and Boston catcher Doug Mirabelli on first, a normally level-headed Nick Punto fielded a hard-hit chopper off of the bat of Coco Crisp. Instead of tossing to Adam Everett at second, Punto attempted in vein to tag a surprisingly agile Mirabelli out in the basepaths. After whiffing on the tag, Punto was left with only one play at first. This missed double-play was significant for two reasons because (1) rather than getting Matt Guerrier out of the inning with the double-play, the Red Sox were given an additional out and (2) the batter that was on the on-deck circle was David Ortiz, now with a runner in scoring position, a hitter very susceptible to trading places with Mirabelli. Fortunately, the situation was rendered moot when Guerrier coaxed an out from Ortiz but a team like the Twins cannot be soliciting more scoring opportunities. This is why I believe it is vital to record "double-play opportunity" as an on-going statistic in order to properly assess middle infield talent.