Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Drop Off

Red Sox 6, Twins 5

I was disappointed that the Twins' offense didn't have a better showing against Brad Penny. Part of that was because, unlike the other time they faced him in April, his fastball had some movement and he was throwing his breaking stuff for strikes. The other part had to do with the Twins' lineup. With Denard Span still recovering from the flu, Joe Crede with a swollen hand after being HBP yesterday and Joe Mauer just getting a day off, the lineup began with Carlos Gomez and Matt Tolbert in front of Justin Morneau. Span's OBP is .100 points higher than Gomez' and Mauer's OBP is literally double Tolbert's. Not surprisingly, the table wasn't set. Span's absence also forced Delmon Young into the lineup - he went 0-4 with 3 K for the second straight game. I guess I'll be charitable and write that off to him losing his timing after being out for a week and a half. Anyway, this was not the lineup that has been putting up so many runs this month.

And yet, they still managed to knock Penny out after 5.1 IP and score 5 R in the game. The last 2 came on Mauer's 2-out, PH HR off of Jonathan Papelbon. In just 23 games and 81 AB, Mauer already has 11 HR, 25 R, and 31 RBI while hitting .444/.530/.914. I don't think he needs to get another hit this week in order to win the AL Player of the Month award. Mike Redmond, in 2/3 the AB, has 0 HR, 2 R and 3 RBI while hitting .259/.322/.315. Obviously, Redmond wasn't going to be anywhere near as good as Mauer this year, but that's as drastic a drop off in production as we'll see from any starter to his backup.

Francisco Liriano got hit around a bit, but he pitched better than his line indicates. The big positive I'll take away from that outing was the 7 K and 0 BB in 4 IP. Remember, it was when he started limiting his walks last year at AAA when things started to take off for him. As for the 11 H, almost half of them were grounders that found their way through. In his 4 IP, Liriano didn't have a single ground ball turned into an out - that's unusually bad luck. And we can point the finger again to the lineup, where Brian Buscher was manning the hot corner instead of Crede. In the 3 run 3rd inning, there were 3 sharply hit balls that got by Buscher - one that went right through him, one just out of reach to his right, one just to his left. It's not difficult to imagine Crede at least knocking down all of those balls, 2 of which went for 2B and the other an RBI single. Maybe Liriano could have hung around a little longer with the Twins' best defense on the field.

All of this brings into stark relief something that might be easy to overlook when the Twins are scoring 5.3 R/G: there are actually only 6 productive hitters in the Twins' lineup (Span, Mauer, Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Crede). None of the other 7 position players has an OPS over .650. Nick Punto and Carlos Gomez at least contribute with above-average fielding, but it's a pretty weak team on the whole. That just goes to show what an incredible level of production we're seeing from the top 6. If they cool off at some point - and they almost certainly will - somebody else had better step up or it's going to be a long summer.

Minor League Notes

Danny Valencia drew 3 BB yesterday to raise his season line to .339/.432/.597 with a 26/20 K/BB ratio in 124 AB. He's hit .305/.367/.521 in 433 PA at AA, and has clearly improved from '08 to '09. Send him to Rochester already.

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