Monday, August 29, 2011

Quick Hits: Slowey's outing, Valencia's defense, Hughes' adjustments

Despite a promising outing from Kevin Slowey (7 innings, 6 hits, 2 earned runs with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts), the Twins starter managed to induce only two swing-and-misses the entire evening.  Admittedly, his mechanics look much better than they did thorough 2010 but I will always wonder if his wrist surgery will influence his ability to throw a decent slider – perhaps an explanation for why his swinging strike rate has dropped from a pre-surgery rate of 8.7% to 6.5% ever since including a low 3.3% this year. At this point, with the starting rotation in shambles, Slowey should get an ample opportunity to audition for a spot next season.

It had been 105 plate appearances since the last time Tsuyoshi Nishioka drew a walk before coaxing one off the otherwise precision-geared Mark Buerhle in the top of the third inning on Monday. It’s just another tidbit that illuminates how overmatched Nishioka has been at the plate.

In the eighth inning of last night’s game, Dayan Viciedo knocked a soft chopper between the mound and Danny Valencia. Because of the pace of the ball, Valencia needed to make a play on the run while charging across the diamond. Instead of fielding the ball, Valencia muffed it, allowing Alexei Ramirez to score when the ball trickled away. While the Twins pitchers absorb the brunt of it, the infield defense is one of the more substantial reasons the staff has seen a significant spike in ERA over last year. Going around the horn, the infield has seen a big jump in the amount of plays made – including going from saving 10 runs in 2010 to giving away 21 runs in 2011, the second-lowest total in baseball, at third base.

Luke Hughes who has had a sudden power surge, going 5-for-10 with a double and three home runs in the past three games, has made a slight mechanical adjustment (how much do I like pointing those out?) in which he has raised his hands above his head during his pre-swing position. This is a very similar adjustment to what Delmon Young did back in June (only to drop it for several series and then pick it up again). Reviewing’s video archives, this appears to be a change that Hughes made after he was sent back down to Rochester at the end of July. It has certainly worked well for him as prior to his recall he had 13-for-39 with four doubles and a pair of home runs in his previous 10 games before being summoned to the Twins.

After giving up 5 or more runs in 16 of the past 24 games prior to Sunday’s game against Detroit, the Twins pitching staff now has two consecutive games of holding opponents to three runs. Is it a coincidence that Rene Rivera was behind the plate the past two games