Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Let's overreact to: one game

In this landmark, new, award-winning feature, I overreact to stuff.  I really wanted to do this after a win and go positively crazy and overboard, but alas, I can't control the outcome of the game.  

The Twins are officially in last place.  They are winless.  They are literally the worst team in baseball.  I can't let this stand.  As an esteemed blogger, it is my duty to take the team to task for these horrible failures.  If I don't, how will the team ever be inspired to play better and try to move out of the embarrassing hole they have dug for themselves?  If I don't take a stand, the Twins will think that mediocrity is fine; that stagnation is acceptable; that complaining won't happen.  A lot.  Here's what cheesed me off in the season opener.

Kurt Suzuki batting second?

Oh, I'm sure everyone is just loving the fact that Suzuki had three RBI in the two-hole on Monday.  I can smell the smug comments.  "Oh, look who leads the team in RBI!  I guess the Twins know better than a bunch of Cletes on Twitter."  I'm not one of the smug!  Process is more important than results.  So Suzuki happened to come up with runners on base and got a few hits, does that mean it makes sense to bat him second for the rest of the season? 

The next time you're eating, just start throwing food up in the air wildly and see how much you get in your mouth.  If you do it enough, you'll catch some food, but most of it still ends up on the ground, ruined, soiled and no longer edible.  Suzuki is a piece of pie that you threw wildly in the air, hit the ceiling fan, did a couple of cool spins and ultimately ended up splattered on the floor.  Just because the pie could end in your mouth doesn't mean you should keep trying it.  Just eat the pie.  Find a real number two hitter, Gardy!

Ricky Nolasco, more like Ricky No thank you!

One of Nolasco's calling cards is his durability.  Oh goody, more opportunities to watch this dude try to get American League hitters out!  Hey Ricky, the pitcher isn't going to bat, you're going to have to get a few actual hitters out.  If I'm paying someone $12 million of my hard-earned money, I expect nothing but success.  A bad start is not an acceptable outcome.  My only experience with Nolasco ended in a ruined Opening Day.  I could barely finish my Twizzlers' Pull 'n' Peels.  I ate the whole package, don't you worry, but I didn't feel good afterwards.  Thanks, Ricky! 

Was Joe Mauer born on April 3rd or June 3?

I ask because he seems to really like the old 4-3 and the old 6-3.  My goodness, he's the best groundout-specialist $23 million can buy!  I remember reading a bunch of drivel about how Mauer doesn't pop out and what a medical marvel that makes him.  It seems impossible to pop out when the ball doesn't go in the air.  But hey, at least you could see on his face that he was upset about it.  Oh wait, that would only happen if the guy who programmed him put in the "I'm sorry for sucking the life out of the payroll" chip. 

They ran some random interview clips where Twins' players answered questions about topics like facing Chris Sale and Opening Day and the like.  Mauer, the face of the franchise, only appeared once.  He was asked about Opening Day and his eyes blinked red twice and he said "response option number 9 missing" in a very monotone voice.  $23 million...

Why is Aaron Hicks batting 8th and Brian Dozier batting 1st?

I have a blind test for you:

  • Player A - 2-3 with a double, looks fast, runs hard, long legs, great athlete, seems nice
  • Player B - 0-4 with two strikeouts, said Oswaldo Arcia's name weird in the lineup intros, short, short hair
Which player do you prefer?  Player A is Aaron Hicks and he batted 8th yesterday.  He was on deck when the game ended (prematurely, which I'll rant about later).  Player B is Brian Dozier and he didn't make a noticeable impact on the game despite being handed the leadoff spot on a silver platter with a silver spoon by the Silver Surfer (my new nickname for Gardy because he has gray hair and I think he probably likes the idea of surfing but he'll never try it).  Hey Gardy, try surfing, it's fun and while you're out, amongst the waves, consider moving Hicks up in the lineup!  What's the worst that could happen?

Why is Anthony Swarzak toiling in the bullpen?

Swarzak took over for the wildly ineffective Nolasco and completely shut down the top of the White Sox' order.  Swarzak recorded two strikeouts in one inning while Nolasco needed six innings to record four strikeouts.  I'm not the best math guy, but someone has a significant edge in strikeout rate.  Swarzak was hitting 96 on the gun.  It's not like this is a one-year or one-game development.  Swarzak had a 2.91 ERA in 96 innings in 2013.  He was arguably the Twins' best pitcher and he's just tossed into a 5-2 lost cause like some sort of Jack Links wrapper that doesn't contain anything but those really little shreds of beef jerky that you can't get past the ziplock part of the bag.  Swarzak should be in the rotation tomorrow. 

(Note, I actually do believe that Swarzak deserves a bigger role in the bullpen.  Ok, back to the fake anger.)

9th inning "management?"

I was making dinner while listening to the 9th inning.  I was peeling potatoes and preparing some cranberry sauce and I knew exactly how to handle the 9th inning.  AND, I was watching my 9-month-old.  AND, I had to feed the dog.  What were you preparing Gardy?  I didn't see any babies or dogs in the dugout.  So why is it that I know exactly how that inning should have been managed while our veteran skipper was sitting on his hands or more likely, chomping sunflower seeds without a care in the world.


Now, here's the situation.  With one out and the Twins down two, Chris Colabello doubled to right field.  Colabello looked great doing it and Twins' fans had life.  On deck, Trevor Plouffe and his .227/.284/.382 career batting line against right-handed pitching.  Matt Lindstrom, just announced as the White Sox's closer and a right-handed pitcher with a 25 point OPS-against split in favor of left-handed batters, is on the mound.  Here are the options for Gardy:

  • Option A - Stick with Plouffe, brace yourself for the inevitable strikeout. 
  • Option B - Pinch hit Jason Kubel, since you insisted on having him on the active roster
  • Option C - Pinch hit Josmil Pinto, since he's arguably the most talented hitter on the bench, lose the back-up catcher and faint. 
Gardy chose to keep munchin' seeds and go with Plouffe.  Shockingly, Plouffe did go down on strikes, leaving the game in the hands of Oswaldo Arcia with two outs.  After a quick groundout to the pitcher, the Twins took their rightful place in the basement of Major League Baseball and I served a delicious turkey dinner to my family, shaking my head with food in my mouth the entire time. 

Here's the thing.  The Two Jasons (Kubel and Jason Bartlett) didn't earn their spots on this team.  They both played poorly in Spring Training and neither one had a good 2013 season.  Kubel made it because he can hit right-handed pitching and Bartlett made it because he has positional versatility.  Great.  Better players will play less, but if this all works to that plan, it could turn a negative into a positive.  However, if you aren't going to use Kubel in that spot, with Bartlett ready to go into the game at short (slide #Eddie400 to third), then why are those two actually on the roster?

The counter-argument is that if the Twins pinch hit Kubel for Plouffe, the White Sox counter by getting Scott Downs from the bullpen, thus setting up lefty-lefty match-ups with Kubel (career .235/.305/.375 against lefties) and Arcia (.254/.274/.386 against lefties).  That's a legitimate concern.  However, the White Sox literally just named Matt Lindstrom as their closer.  Yanking the closer after two batters in his first save opportunity?  That doesn't seem like something a traditional manager like Robin Ventura does on Opening Day.  Not convinced he's traditional?  Then why did the White Sox bunt roughly 8 billion times last year?

Fine, perhaps Ventura does grab Downs to face Kubel.  You can see in the figures above that Kubel hits lefties better than Plouffe hits righties.  It's a win-win no matter what.  Arcia obviously hits righties better than lefties, but you still have Pinto on the bench if you want to use him there.  Sure, that throws all the fielders into flux, but that's only a problem if you actually tie the game or take the lead, and that's getting ahead of things just a tad.  Or, you just ride it out with Arcia against Downs.  

But I called that Plouffe strikeout from space.  Now there's two outs and the White Sox have no reason to make a move.  They could have brought out Downs to face Arcia, but they didn't.  Next time, force their hand Gardy.  Take the offensive.  Make them make an extra move.  Make them make a move they might not want to make.  It's a chess game and you just moved your pawn forward one space because you didn't think any other move would work.

I'm done ranting.  Hopefully Game two will be less of a complete embarrassing debacle.  


  1. It's time for Gardy to go. The Twins need a manager like Joe Maddon who knows how to use sabermetrics to his advantage.

    1. I would love this, by the way. I am a fan of anyone trying something new. Baseball seems to be particularly afraid of innovation, but a new and different voice might make a world of difference.

  2. I totally agree. Giving up five runs normally isn't that bad, and only scoring three on a good pitcher like Sale happens, but Nolasco didn't look that sharp.

    I agree with Joel about Gardenhire, but not so much about his managerial style as his whole regime - especially their development of pitching. Quick - name the last fully home-grown Twins pitcher that has had multiple respectable years for them (and not somebody else). By my estimation, that would be Brad Radke. Am I missing anyone?

    1. I mean, you could count Scott Baker, he had two above-average seasons in '08 and '11 and then two average seasons in '07 and '09, but yeah, the track record isn't great. My worry is that if a new regime comes in, they'll clean house and actually extend the rebuild. That might be good in the long run, but it will make things painful for the next few years.

      I'd be open to a new manager, but I'd probably stay the course in the Front Office. Although, if you meant his whole coaching staff, then yes, they all need to go if Gardy goes.

    2. Yeah, I guess we can give the Gardenhire pitching regime credit for Baker, but the landscape is littered with Twins pitching prospects who didn't pan out. Yeah, some of it has been bad luck (such as Baker's injury), but it's dubious that so many prospects have done so little for the Twins (other than a respectable season or so). I'd be okay with the Twins retaining Gardenhire, but they definitely need a new philosophy and instructors for developing their hurlers, and I know that is not typically the way the baseball world works.

    3. I think that is fair. I am somewhat worried that Gardenhire is not the right manager for the next wave of talent. He's already showing hesitation in starting Pinto, although he did roll with Hicks and Arcia for most of last year. The pitching is a concern. I'm not sure you can separate Rick Anderson from Gardy, so I guess if one has to go, they both have to go.