Game 154, Mariners at Twins
Jason Vargas vs. Liam Hendriks, 5:10pm
The M’s scored 12 runs yesterday to post one of the more unlikely blowout wins in recent memory. Now they head to Minnesota to face the abysmal Twins in a match-up of the two worst offenses in baseball. I’m getting a bit tired of chronicling the M’s offensive futility (which is why yesterday’s win was so welcome) just as we’re all a bit tired of watching it. So I wanted to talk about the fielding column on the WAR chart I linked above – the one with the M’s at -3 runs and the Twins at +9.5.
The M’s position players, not content with sub-replacement-level batting had been below average fielders as well? Even the replacement-level player’s supposed to be able to catch. But then I checked the team Defensive Efficiency, which is basically the percentage of balls in play the team turns into out. The M’s are 5th in baseball, and way down in 29th, in a dead heat with the Alex-Rios-in-CF White Sox. This isn’t a post about competing methodologies in assigning blame/credit to fielders, or about the limitations of UZR or team-level defensive metrics. It just mirrors my own thinking about the M’s fielders. At times, they look amazing – and not just Franklin Gutierrez. Brendan Ryan’s capable of some great plays, Ackley’s been better than pretty much anyone expected, Ichiro’s been much improved after some early season issues. But that -3 in UZR doesn’t seem ludicrous either. This is a team that started Milton Bradley, that saw Ichiro have, er, early season issues, and that’s seen Mike Carp, Mike Wilson, Carlos Peguero and Chris Gimenez play LF. I’ve done Tango’s fans’ scouting report, I’ve looked at DER, UZR, and I don’t really know what I think of the M’s defense this year.
If there’s one thing I *do* know, it’s that the Twins will feature a bunch of interchangeable pitchers with very good control and not much stuff. So, hey, meet Liam Hendriks! He’s a righty with a fastball in the 90-91 range, a curve that’s he’s had some trouble locating, and a change-up. You’re probably going to need to sit down for this: he doesn’t miss a ton of bats and he had minor league walk rates under 6%! Liam Hendriks is apparently Australian for “Nick Blackburn.” They have a commitment to a certain pitcher type, and they’re going to find guys that fit the template wherever they can. Someone in Minnesota really, REALLY liked Brad Radke.
The Twins have the worst record in baseball and have lost 9 in a row. The Mariners are better than someone!
4: Carp (LF)
5: Pena (DH)
6: Kennedy (1B)