Thursday, May 27, 2010

Stranded Again

On Sunday, the Twins lost 4-3 to the Brewers, seeing a ninth-inning comeback effort fall just inches short. The close loss could have been avoided; they left 14 runners on base.

On Tuesday night, the Twins battled the Yankees through five scoreless frames before heavy rain forced a delay and eventual suspension of play. The two teams picked up on Wednesday afternoon and Brian Duensing, making a pseudo-start after having worked out of the bullpen all season, gave up a tie-breaking solo home run to the second batter he faced. Duensing settled in after that, completing three innings of work with no further damage, but the Twins offense could muster no support and the Yankees notched a 1-0 victory. The Twins stranded 10 runners on base in the game.

In the nightcap of an impromptu semi-doubleheader, the Twins sent their ace Francisco Liriano out to face Andy Pettitte. The Twins were seemingly up to the task -- they took an early lead, they got a great performance from Liriano, they received a big game-tying knock from Delmon Young in the seventh inning -- but ultimately they fell short. The hitters failed in numerous key situations and Jon Rauch left a fat pitch over the plate for Nick Swisher in the ninth, propelling the Yankees to a second win on the day. In their third straight one-run loss, the Twins went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Last night, the Yankees one two games on home runs. The Twins, meanwhile, can't seem to hit the ball out of their home park. Hitters continue to see their soaring drives fall into fielders' gloves at the warning track, and it's pretty clear that frustration is building.

That frustration is reflected in a fan base that will be very unhappy if the Twins can't break the Yankees' spell and avoid an embarrassing home sweep against New York for a second season in a row.


David said...

Seems to me that this "Balls don't go out in Target Field" thing is a bit overstated. Swisher has plenty of power but he's not an elite power hitter, and that home run was a mile long. Opposition is outhomering the Twins at a 2-1 clip. I don't really buy into "clutchness" being much of a skill, and I think eventually things will turn around for the Twins, but I think it's pretty clear right now that the hitters are getting very unlucky and maybe pressing a bit. You need look no farther than Mauer's DP on a 3-1 count last night; I was shocked that he swung at all, with Morneau on deck and Petitte maybe being a bit rattled, and at a pitcher's pitch at that.

The team needs to take a deep breath and just go have fun and play.

David said...

*Outhomering the Twins at a 2-1 clip at Target Field. Should have included that.

Anonymous said...

I think you meant to say "won" instead of "one" at the bottom of your latests post, Nick. Love the blog, sorry to nitpick. Just the inner gramar nazi in me.

Ed Bast said...

David, clutchness is most certainly a skill, one sorely lacking on this club.

And the team doesn't need to "just go have fun and play." This isn't Little League. They are paid professionals. They need to suck it up, start holding themselves accountable for their hitting failures (it isn't Target Field's fault), and go win some ballgames.

Andrew said...

The best way for the twins to "have fun" playing is to win the game.

David said...

David, clutchness is most certainly a skill, one sorely lacking on this club.

Various studies have demonstrated that players tend to perfrom only marginally better or worse in "clutch" situations than they do overall. I actually think the notion that a player is "clutch" or should be "clutch" is detrimental, such as in the case of the Twins hitters. Mauer swung at a pretty marginal pitch against Petitte last night in a situation where he should have been sitting on something good. I just think no good can come of player's focusing on being "clutch." Just do your thing and let the chips fall where they may.

And I didn't mean to suggest that winning is unimportant. It just seems that the players are focusing too much on the bad breaks they've been getting (especially the frustration with how the park is playing) and they would benefit from forgetting about how the park is playing and just playing their game. The balls will start to fly out soon enough.

All that said, obviously the hitters have been failing in clutch situations. I'm all for someone stepping up and demanding accountability, but more in the form of, "Don't change your approach if there are runners on base. Keep taking good at bats. Wait for your pitch. Focus. Trust your skills, trust your teammates, and trust that you'll get the job done. We're pressing, and it needs to stop." But then again, that's me, and I'm not a pro athlete and don't have the personality of one. Maybe busting chops would be a better approach; seems rather silly to me.

steven said...

David, well said in both posts.

The LAST thing this team needs is to start worrying about getting clutch hits. Continue to take a good approach to the plate, and good things will happen. I've always seen a walk in an important situation just as "clutch" as a big hit. This stretch has been a combo of bad luck and playing against good teams. Things will turn around, as long as they keep doing the things they are doing.

Ed Bast said...


"This stretch has been a combo of bad luck and playing against good teams."

First, they've had some bad luck, but much more plain bad play. For example, between Sat. and Sun. vs. the Brewers, the Twins struck out 5 times with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs. That's not bad luck, that's choking.

Second, gee, shouldn't the Twins strive to be a good team too? If they really want to contend this year, they're going to have to beat some good teams. Or should we be content with competing for the division again, only to bow down to a "good team" in the playoffs?

Nick N. said...

For example, between Sat. and Sun. vs. the Brewers, the Twins struck out 5 times with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs.

This season, the Twins also have a .203 batting average on balls in play with a runner on third and less than two outs. League average BABIP in that situation? .311.

Bad, bad luck.

Leslie said...

I find it amusing Dick Bremer whined about Target Field psyching hitters out. He went on and on and on for three innings.

I had enough of Dick. From now on, I am listening to the other teams' announcers or I will listen to John Gordon. At least, Gordon gives his due. If anything, Gordon should be the TV voice of the Twins. I am so sick of excuses and homerism that Dick spews out often. It's getting old.

Ed Bast said...


Look beyond the numbers, man. Don't you think it's possible that the reason their average is lower than the league average is because, I don't know, they are swinging at bad pitches? Have you ever watched Michael Cuddyer hit in a "pressure" situation? Have you ever watched Nick Punto hit, period?

To hear you say it, hitting is basically about closing your eyes and making contact, independent of the situation, the pitch location, everything. Anything after that is up to the gods.

Ed Bast said...

Also, with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs you don't even need a hit. Hit a fly ball! The Twins haven't even been able to do that. So that batting average statistic is basically worthless.

Kind of like how the Royals are leading the league in batting average.

Shockingly, sometimes you have to go beyond statistics. You might have to think more, but stats don't tell the whole story.