I would rather not be revisiting this topic year it seems that Ron Gardenhire has forgotten how to construct the most efficient lineup possible. The lineup needs yet another overhaul.
The Twins lineup structure can be divided into four distinct epochs during the 2009 season. At the onset, the group that Gardenhire penciled in most frequently was known otherwise as the Mauer's Injured So No One Is Paying Any Attention Anyways Might As Well Have Casilla Batting Second (April 6th-April 29th), then there was the Yeah! Joe's Back So He'll Batting Third With - Egad - Tolbert Batting Second But Whatever, JOE'S BACK! (April 30th-May 20th), next there is the Enlightened Manager Has Epiphany, Mauer Batting Second With Morneau Batting Third (May 21st-June 20th), finally comes the present day and the Mauer's Back Batting Third Again Because of Interleague Schedule, Harris Will Suffice Batting Second (June 21st-Present).
1) Mauer's Injured So No One Is Paying Any Attention Anyways Might As Well Have Casilla Batting Second
Without his favorite number three hitter available, Gardenhire began the season with what he felt was the next best hitter on the team absent Joe Mauer. Michael Cuddyer. That experiment lasted the first four games before Justin Morneau was advanced to the number three slot where he remained until Mauer's return in May. In that time frame, the Twins hit .262 AVG/.328 OBP/.386 SLG while averaging 4.2 runs per game and coaxing just 3.1 walks. The team when 11-11 (.500) but managed to stay .5 games out of first place.
During this time, Alexi Casilla was slotted to be the number two hitter dispite hitting .174/.230/.217 in this 22 games. Gardenhire stubbornly refused to acknowledge his faults.
"We need [Casilla] up there," Gardenhire told reporters prior to the April 29th game against the Rays, "It's a great fit. I mean, you can stick everyone who's swinging bad at the bottom, but that doesn't stretch out your lineup. What we need is Lexi to get going offensively, use his speed, bunt the ball every once in a while. He hasn't done that at all because he's been working on his swing."
2) Yeah! Joe's Back So He'll Bat Third With - Egad - Tolbert Batting Second But Whatever, JOE'S BACK!
Joe returned to the Dome on May 1st and immediately crushed the ball over the left field wall for his first home run of the year. There was so much jubilation that no one paid attention to the fact that Casilla was moved back up from his day in the ninth spot to number two again only to finish Joe's homecoming 0-for-3. Casilla would receive three more starts (all while batting second and going 2-for-12) before being send down to work on his glove and was replaced with facsimile of Matt Tolbert. In the next nine games while following Span, Tolbert would hit .171/.268/.229.
The team hardly even noticed the automatic out batting second as Mauer (7 HRs, .750 SLG) and Morneau (7 HRs, .739 SLG) carried the offense to a .280 AVG/.365 OBP/.445 SLG ten days while scoring 5.4 runs per game (again, thanks M&M boys long ball abilities) and masking the rotting stench emitting from the second spot in the order. Even though they scored nearly 5.4 runs per game, the team went 7-12 (.368) during this stretch.
3) Enlightened Manager Has Epiphany, Mauer Batting Second With Morneau Batting Third
At some point, Gardenhire must have realized that Mauer and Morneau could not continue to pace of hitting 0.9 home runs per game as the season progressed. From May 21 through 6/20, Gardenhire implemented a lineup that feature Joe Mauer batting second. The Twins average five runs per game and win 17 of 29 (.586). With Mauer in the two spot, they have a hitter that goes .415/.463/.712 in this duration. The team as a whole hits .281/.348/.456. There is much rejoicing in Twinsville.
4) Mauer's Back Batting Third Again Because of Interleague Schedule Or Something, Harris Will Suffice Batting Second
Wuh? How did this happen? Things were going so good. Mauer was shifted back to third, Morneau back to cleanup. Brendan Harris, the latest light hitting infielder de jour, is beckoned for the number two slot and proceeds to hit .188/.188/.233. That means in 82 percent of his plate appearance, Harris made an out. While the rest of his number drop, Mauer still manages to get on base in nearly 40 percent of his plate appearances. The Twins win eight out of 14 but have scored just 4.2 runs per game.
The solution to the woes is to move Harris back down in the order where his bat is more potent and push the rest of the lineup forward. In addition to getting Mauer's on-base and contact bat directly behind lead-off hitter Denard Span, it also moves Justin Morneau's bat up one slot guaranteeing him an at-bat in the first inning. Legendary manager Earl Weaver wrote in his book "Weaver on Strategy" that he would intentionally cram his Orioles lineups was that he would place his most powerful hitter third to ensure a first inning at-bat. This he said, had the ability to change the game immediately.
With that in mind, Gardenhire needs to write in Span-Mauer-Morneau as the first three batters in every game.