Thursday, July 21, 2011

Salvaging a split

Luis Valbuena (left) and Ezekial Carrera demonstrate how
not to converge on a fly ball in the gap.
Wednesday's wasn't a particularly crisply played game by either team, but the bumbling and miscues pretty much canceled each other out.

The Twins gave away at least one run when Ben Revere dropped a fly ball and another when Drew Butera inexplicably hesitated to throw home on a passed ball.  Cleveland reciprocated with an Alphonse-and-Gaston routine in left-center that was no small part of the Twins' winning rally.

Luis Valbuena is not a particularly gifted defensive infielder who was pressed into duty as a left fielder the last two days because (a) Michael Brantley had a heat-related illness and (b) Travis Buck took a Francisco Liriano fastball to the noggin. The ball seemed to find Valbuena at the right times for the Twins in the late innings Tuesday and Wednesday.

(Buck was said Wednesday to have a headache, but the Indians insisted that he had no concussion. I'm not a doctor, but something doesn't smell right to me.)


Ron Gardenhire often talks about "piecing together" innings from his bullpen. Wednesday was prime example of it: Alex Burnett opened the seventh without much success, He left with men on second and third and one out. Jose Mijares, the master of ball one, entered — and got out of the inning on five pitches, all of them strikes.

I repeat: Mijares threw five ptiches, all of them strikes. I didn't think it could be done.

Of course, he couldn't replicate that when he started the eighth; he fell behind Asdrubal Cabrera 3-1 and gave up a double. The ever-popular Matt Capps eventually got the Twins out of the eighth without a run.


Brandon Inge demonstrates the value of
a baggy jersey: More HBP, less pain.
Detroit next, with Justin Verlander going today for the Tigers. Verlander's turn in the rotation was Wednesday, but the Tigers pushed him back a day so he'd pitch in the Minnesota series.

The Tiger have also swapped out third basemen. Brandon Inge (and his .177 batting average with 10 extra base hits) was designated for assignment Wednesday after Detroit traded a couple of prospects to Kansas City for Wilson Betemit.

Inge is one of those guys who is far more popular with the fans in a given city than his talents merit. Part of it, without a doubt, is that he was there when the Tigers were a godawful team in the early 2000s and he was there when they went to the World Series; part of it is that he moved, without complaint, from catcher to center field to third base to catcher to third base; part of it is that he's spent his career there and seems to like being a Detroit Tiger.

He's Detroit's version of Michael Cuddyer, and perhaps a warning on the risks involved in investing heavily in such a player as he enters his middle 30s.


  1. Hi Edward - I've really enjoyed your blog this year, thanks for your work on it. It's a daily stop for me.

    I'd quibble with your comparison of Inge vs Cuddyer, though. They are not really similar hitters at all.

    In his 11 years at the major league level, Inge has 4 seasons with an OPS+ > 90 and 2 seasons > 100 (100 being league average). Cuddy, on the other hand, has 9 of his 11 seasons greater than 90, 5 greater than 100, and only his rookie season was he below 89.

    Inge is two years older than Cuddyer, and since turning 30 their OPS+:
    Inge: 79, 76, 87, 96, 38.
    Cuddy: 124, 104, and 132

    They are not really in the same class offense or age-wise.

  2. I wouldn't dream of comparing the two as hitters. But they are similar thusly: They came up with their team and remained, they buy into what the manager is selling and help sell it to their mates, they shift roles without complaint, they are accessible and accountable to press and public.

    Inge has more defensive value than Cuddyer, Cuddyer more offensive value -- but I was talking about about clubhouse stuff.

  3. If the Twins become sellers, Cuddyer is the first piece that should be marketed. His value will most likely never be higher. But I suspect the front office will play the "clubhouse intangibles" card and sign him to another contract. Not a good idea.