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“He would have never done that with the Twins”

Published 10:24am Sunday, October 16, 2011

    It has been fun to watch the baseball playoffs as it has been enjoyable to watch good baseball especially after the kind of season the Twins have had. I mentioned in my last blog how important pitching is to get to the playoffs but after watching the Rangers it helps if you can hit too.

    After watching Delmon Young hit so well in the playoffs it has me thinking of a couple of things. Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune recently wrote that as Twins fans we shouldn’t think much about how well Young is doing because” he would have never done that with the Twins.” I have heard that said about a lot of departing players over the years and in fact may have used it myself.

    That same thing has been said about the success of David Ortiz, J. J. Hardy, Kyle Lohse and a few others over the years. So just what does that mean this “he would never have done that with the Twins” thing mean?

    Does it mean that the player just needed a change of scenery because he didn’t get along with his Twins teammates or coaches? Did the Twins coaches and upper management under estimate his abilities? Was the Twins staff not able to hone in on helping him mentally and physically to get the best out of them? Does the Twins pitching and hitting philosophy not work for everyone and does the Twins staff fail to recognize that and make adjustments for that player?

    I don’t know the answer. Maybe it’s a combination of all those things, maybe there are a few more reasons, maybe the Twins should look at this and try to figure it out too so they can correct it. I know, I know, there have been players who have left who have not played well, but I am commenting on the ones who have played well and the “he would have never done that with the Twins” quote attached to them.

    Delmon Young has come out and said a couple of things on why he has done so well since leaving. One was the Target Field. He said the balls didn’t carry as well to the power alleys and he had to adjust his swing. He also stated he didn’t adjust the way he wanted to because he felt he was still fighting for his spot in the lineup. Reading between the lines, is this saying the Twins hitting philosophy didn’t work for him but he didn’t dare go away from it?

     Another thing Young has said is that he is hitting better because he is hitting between Miguel Cabrerra and Victor Martinez two good hitters. He is now seeing better pitches to hit. Right away after he was acquired by the Tigers he was put between these two and batted third in the lineup so what did the Tigers see in Young that the Twins didn’t? The Twins have two good hitters in Morneau and Mauer so why was he not ever put between them on a regular basis? The Twins hit Young near the bottom of the lineup most of the time right in front of Nishioka.

    The other thing about Young just isn’t about him but others playing in the playoffs and that is they are playing injured. This was brought up by another Star Tribune writer Patrick Reusse. Young has a torn or bruised muscle in his side, Josh Hamilton is playing with a pulled groin and hitting doubles all over the place and Reusse mentioned a few more.

    After watching the Twins limp through a season with injuries you have to wonder even more on what is going on. It was mentioned in the Tribune article that is started in Spring Training. Young had a bad toe and was going to play but he looked at the Twins star players, Morneau, Mauer, and Cuddyer and they were not playing because of some injuries so he didn’t play either. This may be ok to a point in Spring Training but this continued all season for the Twins. Now is this the fault of the players, coaching staff, upper management, agents, or medical staff? I don’t know, and I understand that is one thing the Twins are looking at as they should be.

    One good thing I heard about the Twins this week is that they claim that there really is now top on their budget for players this next year. At first they said they would decrease the budget but after meetings they have now come out and said differently. I think they finally figured out that with this new stadium, and with the way this last season went, and with the fans being upset, they need to do something.

  • Tracy Mitchell

    Nice to see your column, Tom. Lots of good topics that I hope to respond to over the course of the winter – Delmon, components of playoff teams, where the Twins are going, etc. But I really need to comment on the occasion of the chance for Punto to get a ring before Santana, Morneau, Cuddyer, Mauer etc.

    The first two games of the WS have really been something. I think this is what was envisioned on day 6, when God said, “Let there be baseball. . . . ” I usually have Mike & Mike on in the background morning. After game #1 they were debating whether LaRussa is the greatest manager ever. The consensus seemed to be no, but there is no one better.

    After game #2, well, they weren’t able to walk too far away from that. No one talked about his nice touch with the players, or being a team guy/player’s manager. They focused on his analytic abilities and deeper nderstanding of the strategies of the game. Perhaps his moves don’t always result in wins, but he never gets out-managed. No one has seen the game on the levels that he does.

    On the Punto thing, we all know the accepted theories. His regular season career BA is .250, but we know that he’s never a .250 hitter in the regular season — never has been, never will be. He’s either a .220 hitter or a .275 hitter. He first started getting significant AB’s in 2005. He established the pattern of good hitting seasons in the even-numbered years and sucky seasons in the odd-numbered years. That blew up in 2010 when he sucked in a year that he shouldn’t have. Within a season he has at times seemed to alternate between the Good Nickie and the Bad Nickie depending on how much reliance the team is placing on his contributions.

    But just as the physicists discovered that all of their theories only accounted for 15% of the universe, there is a significant chunk of data that is not fully explained by the Good Nickie/Bad Nickie theory. For example, totally under the radar (and apparently beyond the notice of even Joe Morgan) is the fact that in 2009 Nickie lead the post-season in batting. And that was in an odd-numbered year, following a hideous regular season. This anomaly will prove significant, just as did the apparent S-motion of Mars in the ancient skies giving rise to the development of algebra.

    Which brings us to 2011. In 163 AB for LaRussa, Punto had his career year — 30 BA points higher than career average, 50 points higher in OBP, 100 points higher in SLG, and an astounding 150 points higher in OPS. He was so on fire that he collected fully one-third of his career intentional walks in those 163 AB’s!. Opposing pitchers were actually walking him to get at the pitcher. This data, coupled with the Punto record suggests only one thing — the prudent move would be to cut him from the playoff roster because there is no way that he can avoid stinking up the post season. Based on past performance, Punto should only be able to play himself onto a post-season roster with a crappy regular season. I suggest that this conclusion is so obvious that there is no plausible way that La Russa would have missed it. So why would LaRussa intentionally ignore this? It has dawned on me that Tony has intuited the existence of a unified theory of Punto, and put Punto on the post-season roster in pursuit of the theory. I’m now convinced that LaRussa has a working hypothesis and is on the verge of cracking the whole thing.

    I’m sure LaRussa would like to win another WS and will be managing to do so. But seriously, that has to be viewed as purely ancillary to his real quest. It boggles the mind to consider all of the applications, in baseball, in physics, in life, if he cracks the conumdrum. And if LaRussa suceeds, I predict he’ll retire this off season with nothing left to achieve. Maybe write his memiors, do some talk shows and guest color commentary, collect the Nobel . . . .

  • Tom Grout

    Thanks for your response Tracy but I am not ashamed to admit that some of those words you used went over this Oldtimers head. As far as Punto, the other night he had two hits and a walk but when they needed a bunt and a quality at bat he failed like he always does. In a crucial situation after the pitcher threw three straight balls to the hitter before him, he failed to lay down a bunt and after working the count to 3-1 he swung at junk and struck out.
    As far as LaRussa, he may go down in history as one of the better managers and I won’t argue that point. But it was interesting after Pujols botched the cutoff the other night that he didn’t man up and address the issue. His teammates who make mistakes owned up to thiers but Pujols acted like Elvis and left the building without a comment. Word is LaRussa allows Pujols to do pretty much what he wants which hasn’t always set well with the other players. So maybe there is a chink in the future Hall of Fame manager’s armour.

  • Tracy Mitchell

    Pujols? We don’t take shots at Pujols. He didn’t do the mea culpas with the press, but I’m pretty sure he and his teammates are good. He let his bat do the talking. You think he’s driving his sticker price somewhere near Mars?

    Punto — he who expects Punto to lay down a bunt when needed fails to grasp the concept of Puntoness.

  • Tracy Mitchell

    Tom – your take on the Tony LaRussa Show?

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