Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thoughts after a trip to Target Field

Scott Diamond allowed five runs Tuesday
for only the second time this season.
I scooted up to the ballyard Tuesday for the Mariners-Twins game because it was the first time my schedule coincided with a Scott Diamond start, and Diamond is becoming a particular favorite of mine.

Diamond gave me some of what I like about him — he threw strikes and got ground balls — and some of what worries me about him: A lack of strikeouts.

In his two-run third inning, Diamond had two strikes on each of the Seattle batters who reached base, but was unable to put them away. His outs tended to come quickly in at-bats; if the hitter dragged the at-bat out beyond three pitches or so, Diamond had trouble finishing him off.

Ron Gardenhire (in a postgame soundbite I heard on the radio) and Diamond (on Twitter) said he got hurt by a couple of bad pitches — the two-run double by Kyle Seager, the three-run homer by Dustin Ackley — but my sense of it is that what made those mistakes painful were the two-strikes-and-no-out at-bats that preceded them.

I've written before about how two-strike counts blunt even the best hitters. In this game, at least, that didn't work for Diamond.

* It's one thing for the Twins to be shut down by Felix Hernandez. He's great. He does that. Getting shut down by Hisashi Iwakuma, who barely threw more strikes than balls in his six innings (49 strikes, 43 balls) is another matter.

Iwakuma walked four, hit a man, threw a wild pitch (and had another pitch elude catcher Miguel Olivo, which was ruled a passed ball), was behind hitters constantly ... and the Twins just had bad at-bat after bad at-bat. They mustered just one hit, and really didn't come close to any others.

* Trevor Plouffe hasn't hit since returning from the disabled list. What's more, his defense at third base has really fallen off.

Phil Mackey wrote a piece Tuesday citing the plus-minus defensive metric I've used a few times as evidence of how poorly Plouffe is playing third base, and noted that his biggest problem is going to his right.

In Tuesday night's game, three balls went between Plouffe and the line. All were ruled hits, and one for sure I can't blame him for, but one in particular — the Brendan Ryan double that started the third inning rally — struck me as a playable ball. I think Plouffe's body language suggested he thought so also.

How Plouffe fares in what remains of the season matters as Terry Ryan and Co. draw up their plans for 2013. When he was hitting three homers a week, the Twins could live with the defense. Right now, he's not helping in either aspect.

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