Friday, May 16, 2008

Notebook Dump

Game: Blue Jays 3, Twinks 2 (11 innings)

Box Score

Record: 20-20

Place: 2nd, 1.5 gb

* There is plenty of indication that the Twins lost these games by their own boneheadery notably base-running gaffs, overthrows and strange managerial options (Casilla? Really?), but don’t forget to give credit to the Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff, possibly the best in the American League. Jesse Litsch, Roy Halladay and Dustin McGowen combined with an average Game Score of 52 in those three games – Halladay was by far the worst of the three by giving up 4 runs in 6.2 innings yet he still struck out 8 and didn’t issue a walk. The Blue Jay bullpen only gave up 2 earned runs. On the whole, the staff limited the Twins to 2-for-19 (.105) with runners in scoring position.

* Souhan picks on the obvious, power outage by Delmon Young, Mike Lamb and Joe Mauer without stating that the numbers are down across the board in the American League. Young isn't that far removed from his production through the first 40 games last year. In 167 plate appearances with the Devil Rays in 2007 Young hit 6 home runs, 6 doubles, drove in 22 runs and hit .244/.287/.397 while striking out 35 times and walking 10. Through the first 40 games in 2008, Young has 162 plate appearances with 3 doubles, 1 triple, no home runs and has driven in 12. The power is down though he is getting on base more hitting .263/.309/.296, walking 9 times and striking out nine times fewer. Sure the power isn't there yet but it is only a matter of time before it starts clicking.

* I thought it was the more memorable of the Twins commercials to date and I have found myself actually singing the lyrics on occasion to anyone within earshot's dismay, but the NY Times Bats Blog considers it a “goofy commercial” (true) with “terrible pitching-centric lyrics” (debatable). Okay, I still don't understand the Crain-Rincon part where they sing: "You need outs? We get you more." Is that what is said? "More"?

* The Ballad of Lenny Faedo. I love thinking about the bad-old days, thanks to Tony, The Killer and Carew for reminding us.

* Speaking of dark times in the Twins history, tomorrow is the 10-year anniversary of David Wells’ perfect game (a Game Score of 98) over the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. If you looked at that day’s lineup, one might be inclined to consider it a perfect-game waiting to happen. Surprisingly enough, Twins starter Latroy Hawkins actually threw fairly well. Over the course of seven innings, Hawkins struck out 5 and didn’t walk anyone. Unfortunately for Hawkins though the Twins offense were nowhere near touching the slightly hungover Wells (11 strikeouts) and once Bernie Williams, after hitting a double to lead off the 2nd inning, scored on a Hawkins wild pitch to Jorge Posada the game was all but over. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence as Hawkins who was 9th in the majors with 10 wild pitches that season. Late in the 4th Bernie deposited a pitch into the seats as well just to make sure the Twins wouldn't get any designs on sneaking in a run. Williams, who went three for three that game, scored three of the four runs.

* Seth Speaks has a good interview with Brian Dinkelman that you should read. This past winter, I spent time analyzing the Twins minor league system to determine who had the highest increase in walk rate. Dinkelman, who went from a walk rate of 4.7% in 2006 to a walk-rate of 11.5% in 2007, had the largest increase among players with regular playing time in the system. The impressive part is that he did this while ascending levels too; the majority tends to better themselves after an initial year at one level. In 2006 he had 211 plate appearances with Elizabethton in the Appalachian Rookie League where he walked 10 times. The following year Dinkelman split 570 plate appearances between low-A Beloit and high-A Ft Myers where he walked 66 times. This 11.5% walk rate led to an on-base percentage of .367. As I had mentioned in December when I originally wrote the piece, Dinkelman faces the problem of being older than his competition. This age discrepancy often makes people question the validity of a prospect’s ability - meaning that Dinkelman hasn’t been challenged yet. This season, placed again back at high-A Ft. Myers he has replicated his numbers (11.8% walk rate) but also has lowered his strike out rate (from 13.5% in 07 to 8.2% currently). What’s more is that in 170 plate appearances he has a 24% line drive rate resulting a .319/.417/.438 batting line, significantly better than his first season in the Florida State League’s batting line of .255/.356/.389. The problem is that Dinkelman, now 24, is two years older than the average batter in the league (22.9) and a year older than the pitching (23.4). If the Twins are serious about Dinkelman, once they promote Luke Hughes to Rochester (which should happen quite soon) they should insert Dinkelman into Hughes’s New Britain roster spot.

* Vanquish any concern that once existed about sneaking Garrett Jones through the waivers at the end of spring training. As it stands right now, Jones is batting .177/.229/.300 in his 144 plate appearances. His three home runs are overshadowed by the fact that he is not hitting the ball squarely. His line drive rate is at 12% while he is hitting groundballs in excess of 50%. Yes he has shown that he has a strong swing, belting 126 career minor league home runs in 3,127 at-bats and maintaining a .434 career slugging percentage but his near 800 career strikeouts was a detriment to his on-base percentage (.301 career obp). Ultimately he is probably on his swansong with the Twins organization as plenty of talent is amassing in double-A and high-A.

* How many times will Bert Blyleven mention Coors Light during the Rockies series? Over-under?