Fire Gardy

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Patience Shows Immediate Impact in 12 Run Outburst

Over the past couple of days, Gardy has tried to revamp the Twins’ offensive philosophy by encouraging the players to work the count and wait for their pitch to hit, and he’s revamped the lineup by moving hitters down the lineup “because it stretches our lineup down there pretty good.”

I really liked the former move, and have been calling for it for a while. The latter, however, makes little sense to me; usually, when you construct a lineup, you want balance and you want the best hitters close to the top of the order. That’s why I don’t know why you’d want to move Tolbert and Harris up at the expense of Cuddyer, Kubel, and Young.

It’s only one game, but could Saturday’s 12-6 win over the Rangers showcase some early results of both decisions? Obviously, it’s only one game, and anything can happen. But you have to start somewhere, and I think it’s amusing that such an “example game” could happen so quickly. We’ll probably come back to this issue again later in the season and see how things have gone over a longer period.

Anyhow, how’d Gardy do? Read on!

Well, we scored 12 runs, so something must have worked! A big reason for the runs was the collapse of the Rangers’ defense, which committed three errors that led to 5 unearned runs. But there was more to it than that.

The Twins chased the starter — Sidney Ponson — from the game after 5.1 innings, having thrown 93 pitches. In all, the Twins saw 176 pitches in the game, from 5 different pitchers. This is despite the fact that the umpire seemed to be favoring the pitchers for much of the game, being generous with the corners (for both sides — consistency makes that 100% okay). The newfound focus on making opposing pitchers work showed immediate dividends; we get to see all their pitches and get deep into their bullpen, where inferior pitchers tend to live. I’d venture to say that it seems pretty obvious that this would result in increased offensive production, and I’m surprised any manager would be against it.

Interestingly, despite working deeper into counts and showing more patience at the plate, we only drew 3 walks (compared to 5 strike outs). That’s a good demonstration that the benefit of patience at the plate is not just walks, but the increased ability to hit (16 hits). Walks would help, but they’re not required.

So what about the decision to push the lineup down? The 6-9 spots in the order (Kubel-Young-Lamb-Monroe) combined to go 9-18 with 6 RBI. The 5 spot (Cuddyer) drove in 3 with a home run in the 8th. The 1 spot (Tolbert) went 0-6, but got on base via an error and stole a base (late in the game, mitigating the usefulness of “leading off”). He was the only Twins player not to collect a hit in the game.

I think it’s inappropriate to complain much when the offense is clicking like this. If this is the lineup that can score like this, then it works and we’d do well to stick with it. However, in the interest of constant improvement, might it not work better to try to push the productive hitters up in the order and move the plucky “gamer” to the bottom of the order where he can still be a sparkplug late in games? (By the way, the Rangers’ commentators described Tolbert as “David Eckstein, only taller!”)

I’m not complaining; instead, I’m offering what I consider to be constructive criticism. And when everyone in the lineup is hitting, it doesn’t matter that much what order they go in. So maybe I was wrong that this was a great game to judge the lineup choice — I was trying to highlight the fact that most of the offensive production came from the bottom of the order (which is true), but everyone was producing.

Finally, the offensive outburst gave us a chance to give Bobby Korecky a very low percentage inning for his major league debut. He struggled, requiring 25 pitches to get through the inning (only 11 strikes), while walking 2 batters and striking out 0. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Rick Anderson went to the mound and Korecky immediately got a double play ball (which scored the run from third) and then forced an easy grounder to Morneau to end the game. It would have been better to see him dominate and show better command, but I think this outing is acceptable for four reasons. One, it very well could have been first-time jitters, and those may now be gone. Two, he demonstrated the ability not to shut down in the face of pressure. Three, when he finally started commanding his pitches, he was getting guys to put the ball on the ground. Four, he was a closer in the minors, and it’s very possible that he’s not used to pitching in “non-save” situations. (Pitching is very mental, and it’s possible that this makes a difference for some guys — this is the one reason managers may legitimately have for saving The Closer for save situations, but I think it depends entirely on the mental makeup of the individual pitchers, making it the manager’s call. Just like some guys can’t be closers, it’s certainly possible that some guys have to be.) So the jury’s obviously still out on Korecky, but if we can start to trust him in high leverage situations in the 7th and 8th innings it’ll take a lot of the load off of Guerrier and Neshek. That would be fantastic.


5 Comments so far

  1. Texas April 28th, 2008 12:02 pm

    Korecky doesn’t have a very high ceiling and figures to be at best a 7th inning guy.

    That lineup sure was effective in managing 0 runs and being blown out of the water by the worst team in baseball!

    Watching and listening to the Twins this year has been nothing short of terribly frustrating! Poor decision after poor decision on Gardenhire’s part has been a major part of the frustration. However it’s Gardenhire’s non-calls that are the cause for most concern. Most notably in the bullpen as well as his desire to just let our guys swing or bunt away, regardless of count or situation.

    These are all ongoing problems, but have really to started to become obvious this year. While I don’t think this team can compete for a playoff spot this year. There is no way that with the talent we have and the way the starting rotation has performed should we win less than 82-83 games.

    Being outscored 22-17 and losing 2 of 3 to a Ron Washington led squad is unacceptable by any standards.

  2. sirsean April 28th, 2008 12:15 pm

    Korecky’s age and lack of dominating stuff are a problem for stats guys who want to project him out. They’re not a problem for Rick Anderson, who’ll turn him into an effective 7th inning guy (a team can use plenty of those).

    Gardy’s decision to keep Nathan out of the game Friday looks even worse (amazingly, that’s possible) after he put Nathan into a blowout just to get him work. (And Nathan even helped out my fantasy teams by giving up a Josh Hamilton bomb … continuing to look considerably worse in situations where it doesn’t really matter.)

    While the Rangers aren’t the worst team in the majors (um, Giants?), and they do have a more-than-viable offense … it’s definitely true that we should have been able to beat their pants off. We’ve now let them start a rebound after a 7 game losing streak. Just like we did for Detroit. Pathetic.

  3. Texas April 28th, 2008 1:46 pm

    I think the Rangers might be even worse than the Giants, but really that argument is semantics because you need to include the Nationals and the Pirates in that discussion as well.

    I see Korecky as an effective 7th inning guy, but that is about it.

    what concerns me most is how bad our offense is and how we seem to be willing to do nothing to fix that. I know it doesn’t help when the pitching staff gives up runs like they are going out of style. But scoring some runs early will take some pressure off of the pitchers to try and throw shutouts

  4. sirsean April 28th, 2008 1:59 pm

    Again, there’s nothing wrong with effective 7th inning guys. If Korecky turns out to be one, it makes us even less reliant on Rincon and Crain, which can only be a good thing.

    And yes, the offense needs to score runs early to help out the pitchers. What seems to be happening is a complete inability to adapt to what the pitchers are trying to do.

    Namely, on Saturday the offense looked really good because they were taking more pitches and making the pitchers work — effectively forcing deeper counts and waiting for strikes when they’re ahead in the count. That’s a good idea. The way to counteract that is by simply throwing it over the plate.

    And that’s what the Rangers did on Sunday. They threw strikes, and the Twins watched them go by, and then found themselves behind in the count and couldn’t do anything. After the patience was invalidated, the Twins fell out of their groove and couldn’t do anything, and couldn’t adapt to what the pitcher was doing to them. Of course, the way to counteract what Padilla was doing is to expect a first pitch fastball and smash it (a la “What everyone does to the Twins”). And the Twins just couldn’t seem to figure this out.

    I think this is a failing in general hitting instruction as well as a failure in in-game managing (and incompetence by the players themselves, of course). You have to tell the players what they’re doing. Not just sit there and think of quotes about how utterly fantastic every single pitcher in the world is. They’re not ALL hall of famers.

  5. [...] days of Gardy’s first (and thus far, only) team meeting about this very issue, the Twins scored 12 runs while seeing 176 pitches. Things were looking up for the offense. Of course, things quickly turned [...]

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