Since Buscher took over the third base job from Lamb, the offense has looked better and the team has been winning. This basically validates my claims over the offseason that the Twins don’t need a slew of new stars, they just need to upgrade to average production in a few of the worse spots in the lineup to complement the Mauer/Morneau core.
But Buscher’s hitting isn’t what I want to talk about today. Rather, it’s Lamb’s lack of it. Coming into the season, Lamb showed some promise as a guy who could produce a reasonable facsimile of 3B Numbers. He was coming off a few years of hitting 10-12 HR in half a season’s worth of ABs, and the hope was that the added consistency of playing every day would make a difference for him.
Instead … crater. Black hole. The same production as we’d get from Nick Punto, except that Lamb can’t pretend to be good in the field.
His line drive percentage is 16.7%, down from his career rate of 20.5%. Following this, his BABIP is down to .253. His HR/FB rate is just 1.2%, down from 10.6% last year. (Juan Pierre’s career HR/FB is 1.2%.) And 11.6% of his balls in play are infield popups.
He’s also seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance, 3.5 vs his typical 3.9-4.1 .
Decreased HR/FB is an indication that a player’s bat speed is decreasing; decreased pitches per PA is indicative of lost discipline or plate vision, and may account for the ugliness of his balls-in-play data: he’s swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone, and making weaker contact when he does manage to put the bat on the ball.
The same is true of both Gomez and Young, who are among the league leaders in “swinging at balls out of the strike zone,” and Young’s power/discipline numbers are also worse than expected. What is happening with these new acquisitions?
I don’t have any real answers, but my guess is that other teams have this thing called “batting practice,” where the players “practice hitting baseballs.” The Twins very cutely hold infield practice where they practice the fundamentals of fielding a grounder and throwing it to first base. So when we bring in players from other teams, they stop being able to hit because they don’t get to practice any more, they’re stuck in a lineup of similarly undisciplined and weak hitters which further drives down their performance, and then the manager gets mad at them because they’re bored with doing the same drill that their 8 year old son learned in little league two weeks ago.
It’s not Lamb’s fault that we signed him. It’s not Lamb’s fault that he got so much playing time to “prove” that he could live up to his “track record.” I would have thought that the “inability to perform at even minimal levels” would have been his fault, but I’m not so sure any more. It’s quite possible that Gardenhire just isn’t doing anything to help his players hit.
I ask again … what exactly do the Twins do in practice? Because it’s not translating onto the field.4 comments