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: