Thursday, August 28, 2008

Notebook Dump (08.27.08)
Game: Twinks 6, Marinerds 5
Record: 75-58, 2nd place, 1 game back
Streak: 1 win
The Quote: "[Twins outfielder Carlos] Gomez ran that ball down in left-center earlier, and then Span threw our guy out, and it's athleticism. They can run, they can throw -- that's what got them here, their athleticism -- and they're making a name for themselves out there." - Mariners manager, Jim Riggleman
The Inning:
In the bottom of the seventh Twin killer Raul Ibanez tagged a 92-mph fastball that was left up in the zone for his 21st home run of the year. As a background, the left-handed hitting Ibanez has absolutely crushed same-sided pitching, batting .319/.387/.513 against them in 181 plate appearances equal, if not better, than his right-sided opposition (.293/.359/.501). Conversely, in his limited venture past the 6th inning, Glen Perkins has seen little success. In innings 1 through 3, opponents were hitting .277/.328/.417 in 256 plate appearances. The middle portion of the game, innings 4-6, 225 batters have combined to hit .284/.318/.441. In 10 games this season, Gardenhire has allowed Perkins to continue into the 7th inning. The results have been less than good. Facing 54 batters under those circumstances Perkins has suffered through a .354/.396/.646 batting line. If these trends weren't reason enough to second-guess, his pitch count should have been factored in as well. From pitches 75-100 Perkins has surrendered the majority of his home runs, 8 or half of his total, while having opponents treat him like batting practice, slugging .578 as the game wears on. True, Perkins had retired the previous two batters yet both Ichiro (.270/.326/.325 vs. lhp) and Yuniesky Betancourt (.250/.262/.363) are not capable of doing damage against left-handed pitching. With a 3-3 tie, Gardenhire opted to continue on with Perkins even as he encroached on 97 pitches.
Now with a 4-3 lead, staring down a sweep at the hands of the last-place Mariners, the Twins needed to mount on last rally. Thankfully, Jim Riggleman was compliant and inserted Sean Green into the game. Green, born in Louisville, Kentucky and attended the local University of Louisville, was selected in the 12th round of the 2000 draft by the Colorado Rockies. In the winter of 2004, the Colorado Rockies sent Green to Seattle for Aaron (Big Country) Taylor, a relief pitcher of equal value but two years Green's elder. Taylor, after 21.3 innings with the Mariners, never saw Coors Field with the Rockies nor did he pitch a minor league inning in 2005 or beyond. Green, on the other hand, has made over 150 appearances with the Mariners, accumulating 166.3 innings with 122-78 strike outs-to-walks and a career 3.90 era. The right-handed reliever has seen his deployment change from mop-up (0.47 pLI in 2006) to an 8th inning guy (1.20 pLI in 2008). His 89 mph fastball is complimented by his 76 mph slider. In terms of splits, Green has fared much better with the righties (.217/.296/.268) than the lefties (.257/.367/.367). Morneau has hit right handed pitchers with a .314/.409/.531 clip. Beyond Green, Riggleman had little option in his relief staff. The only lefty remaining in the bullpen was Ceser Jimenez who had been punished by left-handed batters as well (.348/.400/.478). "Out left-handers just haven't been getting left-handers out," Riggleman said when asked after the game why he didn't bring Jimenez in to face Moreanu. "If the left-on-left thing worked, then I would have brought in Jimenez to face Morneau. But the Twins wear out left-handers." Had he had the option, Riggleman would have used Brandon Marrow who had been an effective 8th inning guy and was sent back to AAA Tacoma to retrain his arm in preparation to start. Marrow had tossed 36.7 with 47 strikeouts and 15 walks with a 1.47 era.
Green worked outside to Morneau then worked a strike past him to even the count 1-1. On his third pitch Green used a 90-mph sinker that Morneau crushed on a line to left-center for a his 36th double of the year. This brought Randy Ruiz to the plate. Ruiz had failed to advance a runner from second the night before in the Twins loss. After a first pitch ball, Ruiz fouled off two pitches - both fastballs. The fourth, Green presented Ruiz with a 77 mph curveball which Ruiz laced to left field. 10 feet to the right or left, the ball would have found the third baseman or shortstop and had the same results as the night before. This one made its way to Ibanez in left field.
Gardenhire made his first move of the afternoon, pinch running Adam Everett for the stout Randy Ruiz. Meanwhile another left-handed batter, Jason Kubel, strode to the plate. Since the beginning of the month of August, Kubel has had 7 extra base hits and batted .301/.346/.493. For the record, his third straight batter Green started with a ball. Trying to work Kubel in, Green fell behind 2-1 when he threw a 90 mph fastball up and in on Kubel. Kubel smashed the ball to Ichiro in right scoring Morneau from third to tie the game and moving Everett to 3rd as he pulled in second with his 15th double of the year. The game now knotted at 4 a piece and no outs with runners on second and third, Gardenhire went to his bench for the second time, replacing Kubel with Carlos Gomez. In response to questioning the use of Green Riggleman said, "I just didn't see the point. I felt the eighth inning should belong to Sean Green and that's the way it went.''
Green coaxed a grounder out of Delmon Young to first base to obtain the initial out of the inning without succumbing to another run. Gardenhire reached down for his third maneuver, recalling Branden Harris for Brian Buscher. As expected, Riggleman responded with Jimenez. To his credit, Riggleman made a wise decision: Buscher has been baffled by lefties, hitting just .100/.129/.100. Gardenhire admitted after the game that he was not aware that Jimenez was warming up. "Their lefty was hiding in a corner over there," Gardenhire said. Jimenez introduced himself to Buscher with an 80 mph changeup low and away that Buscher drove to left-center, emptying the bases.
"We had talked and said, 'If a lefty gives you something out and over the plate, you can't go deep in the count, just go after it and hit it,'" Gardenhire said. "Buscher put a good swing on it, and that was huge."
The Links:
- Not surprising to those who know what a LOOGY is, Dennys Reyes leads the majors in most one-pitch appearances. To date, he has thrown 530 pitches in 60 appearances. To this end each pitch has cost the Twins roughly $1,886. Not a bad way to make a living.
- Judd Spicer's Secretary of Labor is Justin Morneau. Nice.
- TwinsGeek takes a look at the bullpen using the BaseballProspectus statistic, Average Runs Prevented.
- Randy Ruiz, not only making his presence know at the tender age of 30 with the big club, swooped up the International League Rookie of the Year honors. He had the fourth highest qualifying OPS in the league with a .902 ops. In his limited time with the Twins (44 plate appearances) his hit .318/.362/.432 and his first major league home run. "I've waited my whole life to be here, and to have a moment like that was special," Ruiz said of his game-tying solo home run in the sixth. "This year has been unbelievable. Winning Rookie of the Year in the International League at 30 years old and then getting called up here, I'm thinking, 'Wow.' Stuff happens for a reason, and the man upstairs says this is my time to shine, so I'm happy." The front office also thinks highly of Ruiz. "Here's a guy who, when we were talking to him in the offseason, his agent said 'The dollars are important, but he really wants an invite to big-league camp, because he's never had one,'' said Minnesota Twins general manager Bill Smith, in town to scout the Red Wings. "That shocked us, given his history. It's outstanding that he won (the award).''
- The Beloit Snappers will not be making an appearance in the Midwest League postseason thanks to an extra inning loss to the Kane County Cougars. To add more pressure, Twins advisor Terry Ryan was in attendance scouting the Twins low-A talent. “You are kidding yourself if it doesn't make a difference to you because you want to impress,” said prospect Marc Dolenc. “As a minor leaguer, you are always trying to get better and with Terry Ryan here, you want to show that you have ability.” Even though they didn't make the postseason, the Snappers Ben Revere was named the league's MVP after batting nearly .400 for most of the season and finishing .379/.433/.497.
- When the Royals signed Jose Guillen to a 3-year, $30-million dollar contract, they did so under the premise that he would replicate his 2007 season with the Mariners, one in which he hit 23 home runs and batted .290/.353/.460 in 593 plate appearances. What the Royals front office did not take into consideration was that he posted a .330 batting average on balls in play - well above the American League average of .305. What else wasn't considered was that his line drive rate of 16% was below the MLB average of 19% as well. So far in 2008, he's basically put the ball in play the exact same, yet has witnessed a huge dip in his batting average on balls in play to .276 - below the AL average of .300. This season he's hitting .249/.285/.426 with 17 home runs, which frustrates a notable amount of fans, bemoaning his lack of on-base skills. This isn't surprising considering that his walk rate has never been good (a career 5.0% walk rate) so his .353 on-base percentage in 2007 was built around his inflated amount of hits. When the groundballs stopped leaking through, the on-base percentage dropped to a lowly .285. If you gamble $10 million dollars a year on a 32-year-old outfielder that his grounders will continue to bleed through, you're gonna get burnt. On top of his poor numbers he has been vocal in a negative way saying things like “We stink right now. Nothing is going right, and we’re not doing anything right," causing clubhouse problems. As if that wasn't classy enough, Guillen had to be restrained from attacking a fan in the Kauffman Field stands for heckling him. General Manager Dayton Moore was furious with Guillen saying "It doesn't matter what a fan says -- you've got to respond in a way that's professional and the best response is no response, most of the time." Field manager Trey Hillman used quite possibly the ultimate excuse replying "I was actually in the toilet so I didn't see it. Managers do have to use the restroom so I picked a bad time. I found out about it a half-inning later and we talked about it briefly and there's no sense commenting on it."
- Gotta hand it to Joe Pos for finding the new team to hate in the playoffs: the Chicago Cubs. After reading the article, I found that the criteria to hate this team seems to be, according to Joe Pos, 1) you are from the Southside of Chicago, 2) you are from St. Louis, 3) you are from Milwaukee. Geography is the determining factor? There maybe a hint at payroll in the article what with the star-studded lineup, yet at $118 million they are the 7th highest payroll in the major leagues - succeeded by the team from the Southside team (5th) and the LAA Angels (6th), both playoff caliber teams. So why hate the Cubs? Because they have an obnoxious victory song? Or is it because they are steamrolling teams with their .621 winning percentage - the best in baseball?
Know Thy Enemy:

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Breakdown of Eddie Guardado

After hurling just 13.7 innings in a forgettable season with Cincinnati in 2007, Eddie Guardado had found a home in the Lone Star State when General Manager Jon Daniels took a flier on the former closer to a 1-year, $2 million dollar contract. Instead of having Guardado chew meaningless innings or retiring a solitary left-handed batter per outing, the man that had amassed 183 saves between 1995 and 2006 with Minnesota, Seattle and Cincinnati was once again tasked with meatier roles.
Guardado sports a 1.31 leverage index, essentially the equivalent role as Dennys Reyes (1.42 pLI) or Matt Guerrier (1.33 pLI), but where those two failed to provide adequate performance (0.28 wpa and 0.33 wpa, respectively), Guardado's pitching has assisted his team towards victory (2.53 wpa). Guardado spent April and May being deployed in the seventh innings in 10 of 18 appearances. His 15.1 innings of work that produced a 2.93 era earned manager Ron Washington's trust. In June and July Guardado was the Rangers main set-up man for closer CJ Wilson, holding 18 games. He received a vote of confidence by the manager by working the eighth inning in 20 out of 28 appearances in that time. By August the Rangers had promoted him to closer in place of the injured Wilson. "I've been pitching this year like it was the ninth inning, like I was the last man standing," Guardado said. "That's given me an edge to get the job done. Pitching in the ninth, that's pressure, no doubt. In the eighth, you know there's someone behind you to pick you up if you fail. In the ninth, you've got to close the door." Guardado's set up success did not parley into a dominate closer though. In 8.1 innings of work in August under his new title, Guardado has allowed 11 hits and 5 walks leading to 5 runs - saving just two games.


Batters Face



































He readily admits that he is showing his age, but his ascending opponent numbers as the season grows support the hypothesis that Guardado may be breaking down. "I'm going to leave my arm on the mound one day," Guardado said with a laugh. "I'm going to turn around, pick it up and say, 'Let's go.' But that's what it's all about when you're playing for something special. You never know when you'll get to that spot again."
The 2008 Eddie Guardado is an anomaly of a pitcher. It is hard to isolate any particular statistic that reaffirms his success though a great number of them deserve a second look. The 37 year old lefty no longer possesses the ability to miss bats as he did in 2002 when he accumulated 45 saves while striking out 67 of 270 batters faced (24.8%) or the following season when he locked down 41 saves while whiffing 70 out of 270 (25.9%). This season, after being shut down by the Reds in 2006 and signing the short-term contract with the Rangers, Guardado has managed to strike out only 28 of 194 batters faced (14%). As cliche as it sounds, Guardado reinvented himself as a pitcher. Instead of batters making contact 76% of the time, as was the case in 2002, now batters are making contact in 86% of match-ups but rather than see his numbers skyrocket (especially given the conducive nature the Ballpark at Arlington is to offense) Guardado has remained consistent - opponents hit .215 off of hin 2002 and they have hit .220 in 2008. He now unleashes a subdued 85-mph fastball, down 2-mph hour from 2006. Yet in spite of that large contact difference, Guardado's 2008 results, a WHIP of 1.15, do not vary that much from his 2002 season when he produced a WHIP of 1.04. What is the differences between Eddies?
"I don't know, bro, I wish I had an answer for you," Guardado said. "The best I can tell you is I pound the strike zone, I keep the ball down and, for the most part, I stay ahead of hitters. I'm not afraid, I know what I've got and I trust it."
Guardado's self-analysis notwithstanding, his numbers would suggested that he is actually not within the strike zone as much as he would like you to believe. In 2002, 70% of his pitches were strikes, both swinging and called. By 2008 there was a 5% decrease in the amount of pitches within the strike zone. However the notable difference is that Guardado has experienced a growth in called strikes, going from 20% in 2002 to 36% in 2008, suggesting that Guardado is indeed better at locating his pitches therefore getting batters to swing at "his pitches". How has this effected his results?









Line Drive



One explanation for Guardado's resurgence could be partially credited to his defense, as difficult as it is to believe. It is no small secret that the Texas Rangers have shown the worst defense since Bonds claimed flax seed oil was responsible for his muscular build. The team has committed 108 errors and are the proud owner of a .668 defensive efficiency ratio (meaning that roughly 66% of all balls in play are converted to outs) both the worst in the American League. Even knowing that his team might covert less than 67% of balls in play into outs with a substantial odd that they might muff the play altogether, Guardado still boasts a .243 batting average on balls in play. This is marginally better than his .259 batting average on balls in play while with Minnesota in 2002 (a team that committed a league low 74 errors and converted nearly 70.3% of balls in play into outs) but at a time when 25% of his opponents were striking out. Normally one would argue luck as the reason behind Guardado's batting average on balls in play - particularly without any strikeouts to justify defensive swings - but his ability to show control within the strike zone as led to more flyballs (52% of the time) which typically obey Newton's Law and returns as an out as indicative of the opponents' .122/.118/.297 batting line on flyballs.
What does this study tell us about Eddie Guardado's potential in Minnesota? The Twins will provide better defense in the outfield (Span, Gomez and Young) over that of Texas (Boggs, Hamilton, Murphy) so if he continues to incite flyballs, Guardado stands a better chance of those being coverted to outs. On the other hand, the change in opponent average over the past two months could also indicate that Guardado's arm is tiring. If the trend is accurate, Guardado's .355/.444/.548 opponent line in August would only exacerbate the bullpen problems at the cost of a decent relief prospect. Nevertheless, the gamble on acquiring Guardado is worth taking as the bullpen appears to be in a freefall. In the event that Guardado cannot revert to his June-July performance, the Twins will certainly regret not bringing in either Chad Bradford (7 innings, 1.63 pLI, 0.63 wpa) or LaTroy Hawkins (7 innings, 0.83 pLI, 0.60 wpa) both of whom as thriving at their new homes in Tampa Bay and Houston.

Notebook Dump (08.25.08)
Game: Twinks 3, Angels 5
Record: 74-56, half-game back
Streak: Two losses
The Quote: "You never want to drop the last two games but I feel like we battled them every game. They are one of the best teams in the league -- record-wise, talent-wise, lineup-wise. ... It's good for us to see that we can definitely play with a team like this for nine innings for four straight days." - Kevin Slowey.
* One move that calls for questioning was Gardenhire allowing Dennys Reyes to face Mark Teixiera in the 8th inning. The obvious decision was to bring in Craig Breslow or Dennys Reyes to turn Teixeria around to his slightly weaker side (.290/.410/.471 as a right-handed batting average). Reyes has been the "hotter hand" if you will over Breslow. In the month of August had yet to give up an earned run in his 8.1 innings of work, striking out 11 and posting an .182/.229/.182 average against. Breslow, however, had the better average against versus right-handed batters: .224/.338/.239 vs. .276/.354/.397. Gardenhire chose Reyes. Reyes worked ahead of Teixeira, 0-1, with a 90 mph fastball on the outside corner. The portly lefty threw Teixeira the indentical pitch which he drove to right field for a double to start the inning and he would eventually score the tying run after Reyes was pulled in place of Jesse Crain.
* In order to recall Alexi Casilla from his rehab stint, the Twins outrighted Brian Bass to Rochester. With Bass's recent minor league pedigree coupled with the Twins lack of bullpen options, it was not at surprising that Bass was included on the roster and used liberally as the long-relief/mop-up pitcher. After throwing 838.1 innings in the minor leagues with a 4.34 era, the Twins decided that Bass - who lacked options and would have needed to pass through waivers in order to assigned to AAA after spring training - would be a solid candidate to work innings that did not qualify for either Crain, Rincon, Reyes, Guerrier or Neshek. Bass




walk %

strikeout %

home runs



groundball %

% of relief innings worked





























































As you can determine from the month-to-month breakdown, Bass's performance was ineffective at best. When the 2008 season concludes and analysts descend onto the data attempting to explain why the Minnesota Twins did or did not make the postseason, one area will be criticized more than all the others: the bullpen. The front office addressed needs pertaining to defense (Adam Everett), power (Delmon Young, Craig Monroe), the starting rotation (Livan Hernandez), and the ability to hit left-handed pitching (Monroe, Brendan Harris) during the winter but the make-up of the bullpen was neglected and overlooked entirely. While no one could have predicted a disasterous injury to Pat Neshek early in the year, yet there were signs of cracks in the foundation:
1) Both Pat Neshek and Matt Guerrier were given an early offseason when they were ultimately shut down due to overusage.
2) Juan Rincon had a third straight season in which his peripheral numbers declined. (Though the difference between 2006 and 2007 did not provide much reason to show concern, his velocity had shown a steady drop since 2005 along with his strikeout rates.)
3) Jesse Crain would be shut down for the entirety of the season in mid-May of 2007.
Brian Bass, with his lack of options and his 2007 season in Rochester where he tossed 103 innings with a 3.48 era, entered as the only new member of the relief staff. The Twins were hopeful that Bass would continue his development in the major leagues after his strikeout rate increased from 11.6% in 2006 to 18.8% in 2007. Bass began the season working extremely low leverage innings but begin to experience more challenging innings as Neshek and Rincon both disappeared from the the roster. In June, it appeared that the 26-year-old Bass had turned a corner posting lows in walk rates (4.3%), home runs allowed (2) and batting average against, on-base percentage and slugging in 18 innings of work. The Twins went 17-11 on the month, thanks to one of the bullpen's best months (3.21 era) and Bass handled 21% of the relief innings that month. The team's relievers regressed in July as indicated by the 5.21 era and Bass, like his brethern, contributed to that with a 6.75 era in 10 appearances in his least amount of innings worked (15.6%) since the season began. The August 4th game at Seattle possibly sealed his fate. After Glen Perkins had gone six solid innings, the lefty hit a wall, culmanting in a grand slam to Raul Ibanez that brought the Mariners within one run. Bass came on only to give up a double to Adrian Beltre followed by a single to Jose Lopez to knot the game at six a piece. Lopez later scored when Guerrier gave up a single to Jeff Clement and Bass was branded with the loss.
* In order to make room for Bass in Rochester the Twins released Casey Daigle, one of the few offseason spring training invitees, from the organization. Daigle, in 44 relief appearances in AAA, went 1-5 with a 3.78 era, striking out 65 batters in 69 innings of work. Of course, the most disappointing part of this move is that Daigle's wife and Olympian hottie Jenny Finch will not be making an appearance at the Metrodome. Boo-urns.
* One of the questions that came up during Sunday's Twins broadcast was what is the likelihood of Denard Span winning the Rookie of the Year award? Bert Blyleven touted Tampa Bay Ray third baseman, Evan Longoria, suggesting he was the obvious winner. The sentiment across the mainstream media seems to favor him as well. Cearly Evan Longoria has the spotlight thanks to an All-Star as well as a Home Run Derby appearance, but the fact that the Rays are heading from Worst to First is providing him with additional accolades whenever writers attempt to find an explanation. Longoria has done well producing ridiculously high power numbers (.255 isolated slugging average) and has driven in many (71) batting 5th in a very good Rays lineup while Span has sparked the Twins offense as the leadoff hitter with his on base percentaged indicates (.398).

plate appearances



home runs



win probability added

E. Longoria








D. Span








* The Twins are keeping a close eye on Hernandez's Colorado performance as they will be responsible for his contractual bonuses which take effect after he tosses 160 innings. Fortunately, Tracy Ringolsby reported that the Rockies are considering replacing Livan Hernandez after his third start. When the Rockies agreed to take on his contract, they were hoping to add a pitcher that would give the bullpen a rest. Instead, in Hernandez's three starts, the bullpen has pitched more innings than Livan (14 innings to 12 innings). "He has pitched better in the past, and we need him to pitch better to keep him in the rotation," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We got him to eat innings, but the bullpen has worked quite a few innings (in Hernandez's three starts)." Hernandez has posted a 15.32 era in those three starts as opponents have hit .424/.469/.661 in that duration adding Game Scores of 5, 29 and 23.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Brilliance of Brad**

With a pitching style and personality that were filled with as much flash and flair as the Metrodome, Brad Radke may be one of the most underrated and under-appreciated pitchers to those who reside outside the 494/694 beltway. Yet Radke, like the Dome, was equally functional, reliable and provided production far exceeding the cost. His demeanor, workman-like and unassuming, played well in a land like Minnesota, whose inhabitants appreciate the aw-shucks-humble-as-pie persona in our athletes. He reciprocated the Northland's good nature by remaining a Minnesota Twin for his career, an uncommon feat in an age where payrolls rival the gross national products of European principalities.

Control is to Radke what alcohol-intake is to a Brewer fan: it is his lifeblood. The Eau Claire, Wisconsin native walked just 445 batters out of a pool of 10,244 batters faced, leading to an absurdly low career walk rate of 4.3%. To put that statistic into context, Radke's walk rate is better than future Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux who has a walk rate of 4.9% in his 23-year career. Radke ranks 33rd all-time in walks per nine innings with 1.63 (his name comes within four pitchers of touching pitching legend Christy Mathewson) and he could dismantle an opponent with tactical precision, striking out 14% of batters faced in his career, inducing empty swings with a devastating circle change-up. His 1,467 strikeouts rank third all-time for the Twins.

Naturally, that kind of zone dominance does not come without some blowback. Due to this consistency, Radke’s pitches were often teed-up by opponents. In his career, Radke watched 326 batters circle the bases from the mound, slightly less than one per game, earning him the affectionate nickname "Bombs-Away Brad." He leads the Twins all-time in that dubious statistic.

The man drafted by the Twins in the 8th round of the 1991 draft out of Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida would spend three seasons in the minor leagues getting acclimated to professional hitting, never getting above AA Nashville before being introduced to major league hitters at 22 years old. For the next dozen seasons, Radke would start 377 games for the Twins including nine opening day games in his twelve seasons. He ranks fourth all-time in the franchise with 148 wins, trailing very good company in Bert Blyleven (149), Jim Kaat (190) and Walter Johnson (417). He finished above .500 six times, four times in the latter part of his career when players like Corey Koskie and Torii Hunter emerged and scored runs for a team who had in the mid-to-late 1990's provided as much offense as the Swiss Army.

His contributions to the organization go beyond just statistics, even though the numbers were outstanding in their own right. His contract negotiations during the 2000 seasons changed the paradigm of the front office, which had all but forgotten how to sign a paycheck. Reflecting back, what is most memorable about Radke's tenure with the Twins – outside of his circle change-up – is the way he finally coaxed money out of the heavily guarded vault. And he did so without alienating the Midwest fan base that is typically appalled by the ransom requests of people who play games for a living (see: Spreewell, Latrell). There was still fallout remaining from the Chuck Knoblauch fiasco and it was a foregone conclusion among local fans that the Twins would inevitably trade Radke or watch him walk via free agency. Either of those scenarios would been a PR disaster for the Twins, a team that had not had a winning record since 1992 and were also attempting to get a stadium built. It was this realization that may have coerced the Twins into extended talks.

In February of 2000, Radke and his agent rejected a 3-year, $21-million dollar offer hours before the self-imposed deadline, demanding a no-trade clause and an opt-out clause. For obvious reasons both parties were adamant over the inclusion of the no-trade clause. Understandably Radke had spent the better half of six season mired with teams that were losing in fantastic fashion. He and his agent requested the clause to hold the team accountable for improving the quality of the team and added the opt-out clause if they felt that the organization was heading in a different direction. After all, the then 27-year-old right-hander did not want to spend what would be his prime years for a team in constant rebuild mode.

Meanwhile the Twins front office felt as though the contract, one of the richest to a Twins player not named Kirby Puckett, would hamper the team's finances, especially if Radke declined in the later part of the three-year deal. Plus there was the distinct possibility that some of the developing prospects such as Hunter and Pierzynski might not pan out, forcing the Twins to liquidate their commodities that had trade value (i.e. Radke, Brad).

In July 2000, the team and Radke agreed upon a contract extension that would give Radke his no-trade and opt-out clause for four-years and $36 million dollars. Radke's contract begat the retention of other players via long-term deals, like Torii Hunter, Joe Mays and Johan Santana, that helped fuel competitive runs. The signing signified a new era for Twins baseball. It was a watershed event for the team and Twins fans should embrace Brad Radke as the player who got the front office to expand the penny-pinched budget.

Needless to say, the gamble by the organization paid off. From 2001 to 2004, Brad Radke went 49-34, logging 775 innings. The Twins surged in the American League Central with the newly stabilized rotation and returned to the postseason for the first time in eleven years in 2002. You could argue that the economic realities of the game would have forced the Twins into signing someone eventually as the products of the minor league system developed. Still if there is one takeaway from this, it is that without Radke's contract enabling him to fortify the rotation, the Twins may not have reached the playoffs in successive years. Plus, his success made it easier on the front office when it came time to extend contracts to Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Radke's contractual demands helped foster a winning franchise and reminded the front office that what seems like today's high price is tomorrow's bargain value. That is the brilliance of Brad.
** This originally appeared in the August 2008 GameDay. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

2008: 3rd Quarter Review

With 122 games finished in the 2008 season, the Twins are in the middle of a dog-fight for the American League Central with the last quarter of the season remaining. If anything, the play of the Twins at the end of the first quarter of the season (21-20) proved that the competition within the division was not shared between Detroit and Cleveland as most experts expected. Certainly the Tiger's dreadful 16-25 was an early canary in the coal mine that the Tigers were not destined for the 2008 postseason. Meanwhile the Twins, Indians, White Sox and even the Royals were separated by just one game at the conclusion of the opening quarter of the season. During the second quarter of the season (24-17) the Twins feasted on National League pitching and went 14-3 during a stretch of baseball between June 11th and June 29th. As the second quarter played out, the standings in the American League Central mprphed over the course of these 41 games: Cleveland, unable to gain momentum at the plate coupled with injuries to Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, dropped from first to the bottom of the division going 15-26, slightly worse than the Tigers first quarter record. Conversely Detroit rebounded from the dehabilitation first quarter going 26-15, clawing their way out of the cellar and over the Indians and Royals, performing the way that most analysts anticipated when they acquired Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. The Royals declined significantly in second quarter capped off by a 12-game losing streak and finished 17-24 in that stretch of games. The White Sox powered their way to first by going 26-15 while hitting 62 home runs in those 41 games (1.52 home runs per game).
In the third quarter, the Twins managed to win 24 games while losing just 16 in spite of watching their bullpen deteriorate. After game 122, the Twins are knotted with the White Sox at 69-53 atop the Central with nine and a half games separating the two teams from the third place Tigers making it quite apparently that it will come down to either the South Siders or the Twinks (especially given the state of the Tiger bullpen) to claim victor. What contributions helped the Twins to climb into a first-place tie?

* Twins go on the offensive. As each quarter progressed, the Twins have improved with each of the passing three quarters. In the first quarter, the Twins were scoring 4.36 runs per game. In the second, they had improved the output by just under one run per game. By the third quarter of the season, the Twins were churning out runs, scoring a run more per game then the first quarter:
games avg obp slg hrs runs per game
1st Quarter 41 .264 .313 .374 23 4.36
2nd Quarter 41 .280 .341 .422 33 5.24
3rd Quarter 40 .288 .354 .429 31 5.45
Minnesota Twins right fielder Denard Span, right, reacts with centerfielder Carlos Gomez after Span robbed Seattle Mariners' Adrian Beltre of a home run in the seventh inning, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008, in an MLB baseball game at Safeco Field in Seattle.
* Three Words: Keiunta Denard Span. One of the best improvements the Twins made all season came at Ron Gardenhire's pen stroke. On July 22nd in the Bronx Gardenhire started his day by writing in Denard Span's name at the lead-off spot. There has not been a better offensive catalyst out there. When Span reaches base as a lead-off hitter the Twins typically score 1.27 runs per inning. For comparison's sake, when Carlos Gomez would reach base leading off an inning, the Twins would score 1.22 runs. The difference is that under those circumstances, Span was reaching base 35% of the time while Gomez was doing so only 29% of the time. When he was recalled on June 30th with the injury to Michael Cuddyer, Span immediately became an immediate impact player for the Twins offense and defense. Since his promotion from Rochester part duex, Span has hit .318/.399/.480 with 16 extra base hits in 174 plate appearances. His high walk rate (11.4%) and low strikeout rate (11.4%) made him an ideal candidate to replace Carlos Gomez at the top of the order when Gomez's continued unsatisfactory lead-off at-bats amassed. Having Span in right field (.958 rzr) complements Gomez at center field, making it almost impossible for opponents to find flyballs finding the turf - and if they do manage to find the right-center the closing speed limits the possibility for an extra base.
* Releasing Livan Hernandez and Craig Monroe... These were maneuvers were a season in the making. Unlike Sidney Ponson in 2007 who was a disaster each of the seven times the ball was handed to him, the problem with Livan Hernandez was that his winning record (10-8) masked the reality that he was the worst pitcher in the league (6.34 xFIP). In his five starts in the third quarter, Hernandez went 2-3 with a 6.44 era as opposing batters hit an MVP-like .336/.372/.512 scoring 4.2 runs per game. In his outings leading up to the third quarter Hernandez was essentially the same pitcher except that he possessed an 8-5 record with a 5.22 era but the opponents mashed him just the same, hitting .342/.366/.503 but scored just 3.5 runs per game. Admittedly the 6-1 start helped the Twins out of the gate and allowed for Francisco Liriano to polish the finishing touches on his rehab in the minor leagues, but when he was finally deemed ready, it was time to jettison Hernandez. Craig Monroe was just a disappointment, plain and simple. His acquisition was based on obtaining a power bat to hit left-handed pitching. Unfortunately the opposite was true, he slugged just .230 against the southpaws and .605 against his right-handed counterparts. He did against the righties what was desired of him against left-handed pitching, hitting a home run every 13.8 plate appearances, making him a somewhat useful pinch-hitter but that was the extend of his use. With no place in the field and Jason Kubel doing just fine against right-handed pitching (.520 slugging) Monroe proved to be a waste of roster space. In 43 plate appearances in the third quarter of the season, Monroe hit just .162/.279/.297. It was apparent that Monroe's days in Minnesota were numbered.
Minnesota Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano throws against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 15, 2008 in Minneapolis.

* ...Gaining Francisco Liriano and Randy Ruiz. No, it is not the F-Bomb of 2006 nor is it the F-Bombed at the beginning of the 2008 season either fortunately. In his first three starts, just 10.1 innings of work, opponents hit .366/.509/.415 - with a horrendous 13 walks to 7 strikeouts. After the demotion to Rochester, Liriano returned with better velocity and a bit more confidence in his off-speed pitches. His next three starts since his return on August 3rd look like a different person. In those three starts Liriano went 18.2 innings and held opponents to a .167/.247/.273 batting line. Additionally he has struck out 15 batters and walked just 7. Scouts have said he still has a long way to go to get back to the 2006 form (if ever) but his location is down in the zone resulting in more groundballs (54% in August). When the Twins dropped Craig Monroe, they fished out possibly the best power-hitting right-handers in the organization. Some will hesitate to say that Ruiz should have been deserving of playing time at the onset of the 2008 season because of his lack of plate appearances above AA, but he continued his Van Damme-like assult on left-handed pitching in the International League with Rochester, hitting .315/.386/.495 off of them forcing the Twins to consider giving him his first major league at-bat. Since the Twins did not make a trade deadline deal, the Hernandez/Monroe for Liriano/Ruiz is looking like it could be the blockbuster that milks out a few more wins than the latter could have.
Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer and closer Joe Nathan, right, celebrate the Twins' 4-0 shutout of the New York Yankees in a baseball game Monday, Aug. 11, 2008, in Minneapolis. Nathan picked up his 32nd save.

* Just Joe Nathan. It is easy to look past Nathan's contributions because he is doing what he is suppose to do with his 4-year, $47-million dollar contract but in the third quarter of the season, he IS the bullpen. Forgetting about his August 5th appearance in Seattle in which Gardenhire wisely deployed him from the bullpen in the eighth inning, but Nathan was unable to fix Matt Guerrier's mess - he has been downright nasty dominate. In the 18 appearances in the third quarter of the season, Nathan pitched 18 innings and struck out 20 (29% of batters faced) while walking 6 (8% of batters faced). Opponents hit just .131/.221/.230 with the one run surrendered coming on a home run that was meaningless to everybody minus the Swisher family. The problem is ensuring that the ball gets to Nathan, which did not seem to have a defined path this past quarter as Matt Guerrier (19 innings, 19 runs, 8.52 era) and Jesse Crain (16.2 innings, 11 runs, 5.40 era) failed to adequately safeguard late-inning leads. If this continues, Joe Nathan might be forced to be his own set-up man.
Seattle Mariners' Wladimir Balentien, bottom, is forced out at second as Minnesota Twins second baseman Nick Punto, top, makes the throw to first base for the double play in the fourth inning, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008, in an MLB baseball game at Safeco Field in Seattle.
* Having Nick Punto on the roster. In 2007, that sucking sound heard at 34 Kirby Puckett Place wasn’t originating from letting the air vacate through the doors but rather the source was Nick Punto’s swing. His season wasn’t just bad. It was beyond the pale. The word “Puntoesque” became tantamount to the term “Mendoza Line”. Fans clamored to hold him down and tattoo EPIC FAILURE on his forehead. Sure, condemn Nick Punto's 2007 all you want, but when it comes to 2008 he has been an integral part of the team, especially in the third quarter when Alexi Casilla was forced onto the DL with a thumb injury. In 144 plate appearances between June 29th and August 16th, Punto has batted .269/.319/.400 while scoring 17 runs and driving in 15 more. In his limited time in the third quarter of the year, Casilla was hitting .313/.337/.385 in 103 plate appearances. You could certainly conclude that Casilla's on-base presences is more valuable, but Punto has had a OPS of .719 while Casilla's was .722. In this regard, Punto has been more than a suitable replacement number two hitter in Casilla's stead.
* Rays of Hope. One could have casted an eye of doubt on the winter trade of Delmon Young and Brendan Harris. After all, Matt Garza has been a fixture in the Rays rotation, compiling 143.2 innings and going 10-7 with a 3.63 era. Numbers that would have looked damn good on the Twins side of the ledger. But this quarter more than ever proved to be an ever increasing valuable. Prior to the third quarter of the season Harris was hitting .249/.309/.352 in 294 plate appearances with 4 home runs and 34 runs scored. Post-June 29th, however, Harris began muscling up. In 116 plate appearances Harris has batted .298/.353/.481 with 2 home runs and 14 runs scored. In the first two quarters, Harris had an extra base hit rate of 28%, this past quarter he had a 45% extra base hit rate. Delmon Young, like Harris, took 82 games to figure out his swing. In the first two quarters of the season, Young hit .281/.329/.378 with 2 home runs. After June 29th, Young has hit .320/.358/.469 with 5 home runs in 160 plate appearances.
Looking towards the last stretch of the seasons, what factors could come into play as we progress into the fourth quarter of the year?
Minnesota Twins pitcher Matt Guerrier stands on the mound in the seventh inning against the Seattle Mariners, Monday, Aug. 4, 2008, in an MLB baseball game at Safeco Field in Seattle.
* Passing on Chad Bradford. As noted early, the Twins bullpen is in rough shape. Not Detroit Tiger rough, but definitely ragged. The 7th and 8th innings appear to be, at best, a roulette situation between Guerrier, Crain and Dennys Reyes. Since the all star break, the relievers have produced a 4.42 era, inflated above the American League average of 4.29 in the second half of the year. Without any emerging bullpen candidates ready to assume set-up role in Rochester, the Twins had the opportunity to claim Chad Bradford off the waivers from the Baltimore Orioles. Bradford, the underhanded slinging righty, has induced groundballs on nearly 70% of the balls put into play. The Twins have said that their scouts looked closely at Bradford, but ultimately decided that he was not suitable for the Twins and passed allowing the Rays, a direct competitor for the AL Wild Card, to claim him. Whether or not this non-move proves crucial to the Twins playoff push remains to be seen but Bradford has already contributed to the Rays bullpen as in 3.2 innings of work, he has not be scored upon although he did allow one inherited runner to score.
Minnesota Twins pitcher Nick Blackburn throws against the New York Yankees in the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008, in Minneapolis.
* Can the starting rotation hold it together? Nick Blackburn is flirting with the threshold for most innings thrown in his professional career. Currently with 144.7 innings logged he is encroaching on his season high of 159.7 rapidly. The reason the Twins took the opportunity to claim Jarrod Washburn was to place Blackburn in the bullpen to ensure he would be fresh for the playoffs. Needless to say, a deal could not be brokered between Seattle and Minnesota so Washburn remains in the Puget Sound area. The fact remains that the Twins have a lot of pitchers that are reaching the maximum amount of innings pitched in a given season. Glen Perkins is at 110 with his max of 134 which he threw in 2005 on the horizon. Francisco Liriano has thrown 152 innings combined between the minors and majors in 2008 - no one has to be reminded of how many innings he logged last year. It is the youth coupled with the concern that their arms could breakdown come September that makes front office's give pause when a pitcher like Jarrod Washburn floats across the waiver wires.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Friday Flotsam
* Joe Christensen reported that the Twins claim both right-fielder Raul Ibanez and starting left-handed pitcher Jarrod Washburn but negotiations to complete a trade came back fruitless. The interest in Ibanez is justified as the combination of Carlos Gomez's futile at-bats pile up and Michael Cuddyer's compounded injuries has left the offensive production in the outfield flat. In 472 plate appearances this season, Ibanez is hitting .292/.356/.496 with 19 home runs. Playing in the Metrodome that favors left-handed batters with the inviting Baggy within reach would certainly improve the offense. His defense, however, leaves something to be desired as USS Mariner has often highlighted this: "His defense is, of course, horrible. There’s no denying this - he’s one of the very worst defensive players still being allowed to carry a glove. Every advanced defensive metric shows this to be true. His Fielding Bible +/- is -14 plays (or about -12 runs) so far this year. His UZR is -18. This follows exactly in line with what we’d expect, considering how bad he’s been with the glove the last few years." As bad as he has been, he has proven to be better than Delmon Young this season. As a left fielder with the Mariners, Ibanez has had 237 expected outs in 1031.0 innings and has converted 231 of those outs (-6). Meanwhile Young, In 990 innings in left has made 217 outs from the 230 expected outs (-13). Furthermore, Ibanez's revised zone rating of .887 bests Young's .840. That's a sad realization. Dave Cameron, one of the writers at USS Mariner, continued in that article to theorize that despite Ibanez's impending free agent status at the end of the season, it behooves the Mariners to retain him. Ibanez will undoubtedly be labeled a Type A Free Agent. A Type A Free Agent, when signed by another team, would net the Mariners two draft picks. Hence not trading Ibanez would provide the Mariners with a $5.5 million off of the payroll and two prospects to be named later. Therefore, trading him away would result in the Twins getting a half-season of Raul Ibanez (at the expense of Carlos Gomez's defense, which is decision to move the best defensive center fielder in the league) and two draft picks in next season's draft. Seattle, aware of trading Ibanez means two prospects, was probably requesting what they believe Ibanez's current value plus two low-level prospects. The Twins could have flipped three prospects in exchange for Ibanez only to replenish them in the next draft. Still all of this speculation is moot since a team with a lower record than the Twins claimed Ibanez prior to the Twins and did not reach an agreement.
* Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Not long ago, the Twins cut tied with the ineffective Livan Hernandez and possibly felt naked without the "veteran presence" or "innings eater" in the rotation and decided to claim Jarrod Washburn when the Mariners posted him. The only difference between Hernandez and Washburn is that Washburn is still under contract in 2009 for $10.35 million - a disastrous amount to dedicate to a pitcher of this caliber especially when the Twins have an assortment of pitchers to bring into the rotation from within the system. SI's Jon Heyman speculates that the entire maneuver of the Twins claiming Washburn was to block the White Sox from obtaining him as they need to find a replacement for Jose Contreras. This is a curious theory. As you can see by the chart below, Washburn is essentially a left-handed version of Livan Hernandez. Inserting Washburn into the White Sox rotation would mostly likely benefit the Twins. In addition to that, the block (if that was indeed what Bill Smith was attempting) could have backfired and the Twins could have actually wound up with him like the San Diego Padres and their ill-fated claim of Randy Myers in 1998 which cost the Padres $12 million dollars and two years of Myers not pitching. A pitcher of declining talent on the payroll at $10 million 2009 is not the route the franchise wants to take.
























* Speaking of Livan Hernandez, ESPN's Jason Stark noted that the agreement between the Twins and the Colorado Rockies included the Rockies paying for the remainder of the $1 million left on his contract. Turns out this move could come back to haunt the Twins after all. The problem is that the Twins are accountable for his incentives. According to the contract, once Hernandez reaches 160 innings (he's currently at 142 innings), the Twins will owe him $133,333 for every five innings he pitches the rest of the season. If he does get to 200 innings this season - as he has done each season this century - it would mean the Twins would be liable to pay him $1.1 million.
* The Twins square off against Carlos Silva to open the series against Seattle. Silva, who was quoted by the Seattle press as saying "Maybe half of the team wants to do the best they can. Every time (the starters) cross that line, we want to do our best. No matter how many games we are behind. But maybe half of the team doesn't have that mentality. They are only thinking of finishing strong, and to put up their numbers. That's great, but that affects us. As a team, that doesn't work out." While it "takes balls" (as Aaron Gleeman appropriately labeled it) when you call out your entire team in a post-game locker room interview as you sport a 4-13 record with a 5.93 era, but in an odd way he is right. Nobody has ever claimed Silva to be a superstar pitcher. Seattle misguidedly handed him his 4-year, $48-million contract and those that executed it are now looking for employment. Here's what is factual about Carlos Silva:
1) He is a groundball pitcher (50% groundball rate on his career),
2) that rarely strikes hitters out (3.78 per 9 innings),
3) but doesn't walk them either (1.63 bb per 9 innings).
His era fluctuated between 2004-2007 with the Twins, but it also coincided with the Twins defensive abilities. In 2004 the Twins posted a .684 defensive effieceny ratio. Silva posted a 4.21 era. In 2005 the Twins posted one of the league's best defensive efficiency ratio of .701 while Silva matched that with his career best 3.44 era. In 2006, the Twins pitching staff suffered a half-season with Tony Batista and Juan Castro before exchanging that for the superior defensive of Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett finishing with a .684 defensive efficiency ratio. Silva clearly was the biggest negative recipient of the Batista/Castro defense as through his first eight starts that season resulting in an era of 8.80, a WHIP of 1.69 and a demotion to the bullpen. After several outings in relief Silva returned to rotation and pitched more typical of his track record as indicated by his 4.95 era and 1.45 WHIP. In 2007 the Twins matched their previous season's defensive efficiency ratio (.684) resulting in a very family 4.19 era. It was this consistency, the ability to pitch a lot of innings and a dried-out pitching market (Lohse or Silva? Lohse or Silva?) that sent his price to the moon. Unfortunately the Mariners did not have a strong defensive infrastructure equipped to handle a groundball pitcher. Seattle has a .672 defensive efficiency ratio, second to last in the American League, meaning that additional groundballs are leaking through the infield. Whether the Mariners DFA Silva or eventually find a trading partner that is willing to take on that contract, it is clear that in order to obtain production out of Carlos Silva, his next team better be solid defensively.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We All Make Sacrifices


Sac Bunt












































Since baseball has no time measurement the sport relies on the increment of outs, particularly 27 outs per side (or 24 if you are the home team with the lead after the top of the 9th), to act as the clock. Researchers from George Lindsay to Pete Palmer have discovered long ago the value of not giving away outs, condemning the practice of sacrificing, the act of exchanging an out for 90 feet. Data has shown that foregoing the sacrifice will help produce more offense over the course of a season. Bill Felber in his analysis of the game of baseball wrote in his book "The Book on the Book" that there are just a few times in which a sacrifice is useful. In short specifically when a) a your pitcher not named Micah Owings is batting or b) you have shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (.259/.273/.358) batting and you are playing for one run. This is because on the whole trading one of your outs for a base decreases the likelihood that a run will score. Probability wise, when there are no outs and a runner on first, the team batting will score an average of .907 runs. Giving up an out for second base decreases the amount of runs scored by -.187.
Armed with this knowledge, why do managers - especially American League managers that do not have to suffer from the dreaded offensive void from a pitcher batting - choose to surrender one of the precious 27 outs? Ron Gardenhire has implemented the sacrifice bunt 39 times thus far in the 2008 season leading the league in the category. The practice allow infuriorates some statheads. Gardenhire has readily accepted 39 outs. Why? More importantly, if sacrificing bunting impedes the ability to amass runs, how are the Twins discarding this commonly accepted theory and are still fifth in the league in runs scored per game?
Gardenhire's main perpretrator for the bunt has been whomever is batting in the two spot (15 sacrifice bunts). The two-hitter has been used without discrimination, it does matter whether it Alexi Casilla (8 sac bunts), who was batting a productive .315/.352/.414 while hitting second, or Brendan Harris (4 sac bunts), who was batting an inferior .250/.327/.354 following the lead-off batter. The decision to ask a batter who has been hitting .250 to lay down a bunt certainly lends credence over requesting someone batting .315 to, but it becomes slightly more logical to bunt when you consider that with a runner on first, both Harris and Casilla have grounded in doubleplays 7% of the time. The choice of sacrificing one out instead of the cost of two is more reasonable: With two outs and no one on base, the chances of scoring a run in that inning decrease from .907 with a runner on first and no outs to .114 with no runners on and two outs.
Casilla is not the only hitter batting over .300 that Gardenhire would rather bunt then swing. Denard Span has recorded 6 sacrifice bunts as well while batting .309 on the season. In addition to the 18 sacrifice bunts by Casilla, Harris and Span, Gardenhire has had the light-hitting Adam Everett to square up on five pitches. Recent power surge notwithstanding, Everett has been as close to dreadful at the plate as possible. His .214/.273/.347 batting line does not inspire much confidence that he will successfully reach base and advance the runner simultaneously. This, of course, was not news. The Twins invested a significant amount of time in the spring getting Everett to hone his bunting skills. Situationally, however, three of Everett's sacrifices have come while he was batting eight with a statistically similar Carlos Gomez (.254/.291/.344) hitting behind him. Technically Gomez has only recorded 2 sacrifice bunts, though he has attempted 56 bunts, reaching base successfully 48% of the time. Not only does Gomez advance a runner, but he also increases the opportunity of converting what would be a sacrifice to a hit with his speed. Under the circumstances with runners on first and second and no outs, the offensive team typically score an average of 1.515 runs.
As described previously, moving a runner up to second at the expense of an out costs the team -.187 runs. When considering how to deploy a hitter like Adam Everett or Carlos Gomez with a runner on first and no outs one must determine what is the chances he will either a) reach first successfully through a hit in turn advancing the lead run, b) record an out but put the ball in play in a manner that would advance the runner on first (a rarity considering the events that have to transpire in order to have a fielder's choice happen while avoiding a doubleplay), c) strike out or d) ground into a doubleplay. Though Everett rarely strikes out (11%) he is prone to hitting plenty of infield flyballs (11%) and his batting average on balls in play (.229) suggest that he will be converted to an out without advancing the runner (or worse recording two outs). Similarly Gomez is a strikeout machine (23.5%) and matches Everett's infield fly propensity (14%) suggesting that the possibility of Gomez propelling the leading runner forward to be minimal. To waste an out with a low level of advancement success can me more detrimental to a ball club than the -.187 at the expense of a sacrifice. If Everett or Gomez fail to move the runner to second at the same time recording an out, the run possibility decreases from .907 to .544 (-.363 net loss). That said a successful sacrifice bunt would gain a potential +.176 runs over a failed plate appearance that resulted in an out with a runner on first.
So why hasn't the excessive bunting cost the Twins runs? Without reviewing a season's worth of play-by-play data, it is hard to determine how many runners that were advanced on those 39 sacrifices ultimately scored but it would be easy to assume that a good percentage did cross the plate. A possible explanation for this has been the Twins' gaudy batting average with runners in scoring position. 31.3% of at-bats the Twins have managed to hit safely, driving in 465 of their 592 runs under those circumstances. Having Casilla or Harris move Gomez to second or third with one out in front of Mauer (.351 with risp) or Morneau (.376 with risp) ensuring that one run will score. Certainly this disregard for 39 outs could have a negative effect on the runs that COULD HAVE scored if Casilla or Span were allowed to swing away as the season progresses but Gardenhire appears to be playing the numbers and it is working for the team.