Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Twins Are Not Good Role Models

The Minnesota Twins are the kid on your street that smoked and failed math. The kid who's dad would buy you beer all the time. Are they a good example of how to balance a budget? Yes, they are. But the Twins team that is competing for the Central division title, it just isn't that good. The scumbag from down the street may have helped prepare you for life, and he was certainly the baddest man in grade 8, but that was pretty much it for him. Hopefully you went on to bigger and better things, while he's watching NASCAR, waiting for his next "disability" check. Cutting corners simply doesn't pay!

Defense may not win you games, but it will certainly lose you some

Like last night, for example. The Twins rank 22nd in the league in defensive efficiency, the Blue Jays 4th. Fluke errors are bound to happen, but last night the Twins made 3 errors, twice allowing the Jays to tie the game on unearned runs late in the ballgame. Conversely, Scott Rolen made a great play to end the 10th inning, stranding the go-ahead run on third base. The Twins lost a game in Oakland the other night after Joe Nathan threw a sac bunt into left field (a play that Brendon Harris really should have made.) While time spent practicing bunting (aka making sure you're throwing your valuable outs away correctly) is gritty, kicking the ball around and handing your opponents victories is sloppy.

Defense is that much more important when your pitching isn't great

The Twins certainly have some excellent arms. Joe Nathan and Franciso Liriano, both stolen from the Giants, are outstanding pitchers at the top of their games. The Twins as a staff are much more middle of the road. Nathan is certainly dominant at the back of the bullpen, but without Pat Neshek, they've blown 20 saves already this year. Their BAA is one of the worst in the league, but overall they're pretty middling. But the combination of poor defense and meh pitching can't be a good combination, especially on Fieldturf. They must have a real powerhouse offense to compensate.

Fundamentals are all well and good, but luck runs out

As any Blue Jay watcher can attest, long home run droughts are bad for your soul. You think to yourself "Man, a big fly would really come in handy right here" but it never comes. The Twins have hit even fewer home runs than the Jays! Ouch, burn. The Twinkies do have a much great OPS than the Jays, but where does their offense come from? They have a few more extra base hits, fewer walks, almost as many GIDPs. Must be fundamentals.

They lead the league in sacrifice flies you say? Now that is a telling stat, and in no way conditional on dozens of factors beyond the players control. What about their average with RISP? "Timely" base hits etc., the stuff good teams do. Why their average is an astounding .311! That is surely sustainable, and surely independent of luck. Good teams hit with runners in scoring position, just like good team Baltimore (2nd in RISP), the excellent Rangers (fifth), and the world-beating Royals (8th). The Rays, feel good story and breakout stars, have the 2nd worst RISP. They must be lucky. The only teams between the Rays and Jays are the NL East leading Mets, and the NL Wild Card leading Brewers.

What am I trying to say here? I think the Twins are full of shit. It's a nice story, they have some good pieces, but they are playing over their heads. Trading Santana I understand, Carlos Gomez will be just fine. Trading Matt Garza for Delmon Young on the other hand, I question. Isn't young, cheap pitching the cornerstone of a cash-strapped franchise? The Twins will likely beat up on poor Jesse tonight, and may just sneak into the playoffs. That doesn't mean they're somehow the model franchise.

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