Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An irritating win

The Twins won. I must keep reminding myself of that fact; they won Tuesday's game.

But they demonstrated many of the irritating things about the 2010 edition — the things that so far keep them from being a truly top-flight team.

They gave away three runs in the first two innings in the field.

J.J. Hardy made a poor throw on the leadoff batter (photo); Michael Cuddyer, Brian Duensing and Orlando Hudson apparently conspired to turn the second batter's bunt into a single. (I was walking the dog and listening to the radio; Dan Gladden said all three went for the ball and nobody covered first.) That first-and-second, no-out situation turned into two (unearned) runs. In the second inning, Orlando Hudson bounced a DP throw past Cuddyer to allow another run to score.

In this case the shoddy defense is obvious in the box score; Duensing is showed with seven innings with no earned runs. Often it isn't. But for the second game in a row, defensive failures were prominent in Ron Gardenhire's post-game recap. If he keeps talking about this, eventually the broadcasters will realize: This is not a good defensive club.

Hudson failed on a second DP pivot later in the game, and Denard Span got turned around on a fly ball that went for a double. Neither resulted in runs. Still, it's part of the pattern of failing to convert outs there for the taking.

Jason Kubel got thrown out by approximately 17 feet at home plate to end the bottom of the seventh. Chris, a regular reader who follows the games via Internet play-byplay, keeps asking what's going on with the killed base runners. In this case I've no idea.

Bases loaded, two out, ground ball single to right field by Delmon Young, not hit all that sharply. Watching the game on TV, my immediate reaction was: Two runs. Except that it wasn't. I don't know if Scott Ullger waved Kubel around — FSN seldom shows replays that might explain a base running blunder — or if Kubel got a bad jump or if Casper Wells simply has a better arm than the Twins realized.

I know this: With two outs, I expect a base runner to score from second base on that ball. Kubel didn't come close.

But they won. They really did.


  1. I accept that they're a bad DF OF but their infield (when Morneau was healthy especially) is legit and deep defensively. UZR likes them quite a bit. They've had trouble staying healthy in the IF but they're subs have played well.

  2. I wonder which is preferable, good outfield defense or good infield defense? Hardy might save more runners from reaching first, but a good centerfielder keeps runners from reaching second.

  3. Concerning runners getting thrown out while watching by Internet: one problem is the inadequate descriptions used for plays. I might read "Kubel thrown out at home" but I never get something like "Span scored after challenging the right fielder to make a perfect throw." Unlike radio, where subjective appraisals are valued, so far it seems that the Internet real-time descriptions are flat and objective. I suppose that might change in the future. I long for more description and analysis, especially growing up in the late 60s and 70s listening to baseball on the radio.

  4. UZR and Dewan's +/- metric both have the Twins as not only good on the infield, but brilliant. It's not as good with Cuddyer in there, but still very good. If we are seeing the true Valencia, he might win a Gold Glove some day. Joe Mauer has a couple Gold Gloves and Butera might be even better as a defender. Span is average in center field, so the only place the Twins aren't good is in the corner outfield. In the defensive spectrum, only first base is considered a less important defensive position. A story by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs (Aug. 25) stated that the Twins were +24.3 in UZR, which was 8th in all of the major leagues. This team is not bad defensively. Far from it. I will concur that they are awful at base running.