Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Twins Notes

  • Michael Cuddyer found himself on the DL after a hard slide into the back of Royals' third baseman Alex Gordon's cleat. The injury will cost Cuddyer a 15-day stint on the DL and will also remove a potent bat against left-handed pitching. This creates a vacuum at the number 3 spot, one that Cuddyer had not satisfactory This season Cuddyer has come to the plate with runs in scoring position six times and only once did he manage to drive in a run (Gomez from third). In two of those instances, he struck out. Even though he had a slow start and lacked production at the beginning of the season, Cuddyer was still the logical choice to bat third over Delmon Young.

  • Interestingly enough, the Twins opted to recall Denard Span over the hot-hitting Garrett Jones in response to losing their number 3 hitter. Jones, in his first three games at Rochester, compiled 12 at-bats and accumulated 6 hits (2 extra base hits) while driving in 4 runs and scoring 4 more himself. Span, meanwhile, in his two games has received 9 at-bats and has managed to assemble a bell curve-like batting line of .333/.400/.333. All of his hits have been singles but he added two stolen bases while scoring once and driving in one. A year ago, the organization might have been tempted to recall Jones strictly on his current hitting streak only to receive offensive futility and defensive liability at the major league level. While I believe that Jones could be a useful part on a team that needs a left-handed bat in a pinch, Span offers more defense and on-base abilities that have been lacking in the early part of this season. Because he is left-handed, it makes Span less of an ideal replacement. As was the case on Monday's game against the White Sox, Gardenhire had a lefty-dominated line-up of Span, Mauer and Morneau batting 3-4-5.

  • The definition of a mutually beneficial relationship: Through 8 games, Carlos Gomez has scored five times and was driven in by Joe Mauer in all instances except one. The local pundits have often made a point of degrading Mauer's ability strictly because he finishes with a low rbi number for a typical three hitter. While I hold the philosophical praise of the RBI in contempt, I do believe that Mauer could eclipse the 100-rbi mark for the first time in his career if the duo continues this pace. In previous seasons, Mauer lacked the runner positioned on second base who could easily score on a single. Gomez completes that piece of the puzzle. It will be interesting to see how the revised Cuddyer-less line-up effects this dynamic what with Joey Jo-Jo shifting to the three hole and Span and occasionally Matt Tolbert shifted into the two spot.

  • You got Blackburn'ed: The new term for when Nick Blackburn strikes you out. In his full seasons Blackburn's strike out rate was typically at 10-13% while in the minors. So far in 2008, he's dispatching batters at a 21% strike out rate -- this output is not likely to sustain but it still proves that he very much belongs in the rotation even when Liriano comes back. Blackburn has been the recipient of both silent bats and imploding bullpens otherwise the rookie might be staring down a 2-0 start to his career instead of the 0-1 he currently has. In his 2008 debut, Blackburn limited the formidable Angels to one run - on his wild pitch - and struck out Vlad Guerrero three times. He scattered five hits in his 7 innings of work, compilign a Game Score of 68. In that game Blackburn was able to get groundballs on 80% of the balls put in play. The unfortunate part for Blackburn is that the Angels starter Joe Saunders who held the Twins scoreless while pitching to what amounted to a Game Score of 77. Last night against the White Sox, Blackburn pitched 5 innings and accumulated 5 strikeouts. His results were not necessarily ideal as he proved by his Game Score of 48, but he did leave the game with a 3-2 lead before the bullpen turned it over. Although two starts is not a proper measurement of skill, Blackburn, who is known as a groundball pitcher, induced groundballs at a 67% rate in those games.