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Updated: June 14th, 2010 8:43pm
140 characters or more: Two-hole turmoil, Delmon Young's WAR, and more

140 characters or more: Two-hole turmoil, Delmon Young's WAR, and more

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Every once in a while, Tom and I receive questions via Twitter that require longer responses than the 140-character limit will allow.

@Soopafreak: why is Gardy so reluctant to put Mauer in the 2 hole w/ Hudson out?

Yeah, Ron Gardenhire's lineup construction is historically based on two main premises: 1.) Maintaining stability throughout the order as much as possible, and 2.) having a number two hitter who can "handle the bat."

Here's the problem with that first philosophy: There comes a point where stability should be thrown out the window in favor of superior talent, or a new strategy (see: any lineup that had Mike Redmond batting third, and any lineup that includes Matt Tolbert or Trevor Plouffe hitting in the top two).

The first and second spots in the order are table setters for the beef. If those two spots aren't getting on base, the Twins are simply wasting outs with the slots that see the most plate appearances.

Handling the bat is irrelevant if the table setters can't find their way to first base on a regular basis.

@StewieGopherFan: with delmon being as hot as he is, why not move him up to the #2 spot?

Joe Mauer is a better option for the two-hole, because he is an elite on-base percentage guy. Young, despite his hot start, still only gets on base at a .320 or .330 clip. And that's fine, as long as he keeps hitting doubles and home runs. But with his power and high batting average, Young fits better in an RBI-slot (fifth, sixth or seventh) where the Twins can leverage his talents.

@DWetSocks: I'm hesitant to believe it because of the payroll restraints and prior history, but... Mike Lowell? Will it happen/is it right move?

At $12 million, Lowell is actually the fourth-highest paid player on the Red Sox, so Boston would likely have to eat a chunk of that prorated salary in any trade with the Twins. Lowell is hitting just .215/.311/.354 with two home runs in 90 plate appearances, but at 36 he still appears to have gas left in the tank, and the Twins desperately need a right-handed bat.

It makes sense. So yes, keep an eye on it.

@jc8: any chance we go after cliff lee?

Actually, from what I hear, the Twins are doing their due diligence on Lee. But that's not uncommon. Don't get your hopes up or anything.

@brandonwarne52: Most surprising stat of the year? Young nearly doubling up Cuddyer in WAR (0.9 to 0.5).

This is why I love some of my Twitter followers. For those who are unfamiliar, WAR is Wins Above Replacement player. For a more detailed explanation, go here, but in short, WAR measures approximately how many wins a player is worth compared to a readily available AAA-type replacement player. WAR also takes into account defense.

For example, Justin Morneau currently leads the majors at 4.1 Wins Above Replacement this season. Pedro Feliz of the Astros has been so bad, however, that he is actually worth minus 1.3 WAR.

The best players from year-to-year are generally worth between eight and 10 WAR over a full season (think Albert Pujols in 2008 or Joe Mauer in 2009).

To answer the question, yes, it is a bit surprising that Delmon Young has been worth twice as much "WAR" as Cuddyer. Offensively, Young always had potential, but he's seen a drastic improvement defensively this year as well, despite still looking awkward at times.

@punchdotorg: is Valencia the future Twins 3B starter?

Yes, Danny Valencia will likely start at third base for the Twins in the future. Well, technically he's starting now quite a bit due to injuries, but in terms of "third baseman of the future," the job is his to lose.

I do have my doubts as to how effective he will be. Even at his best, Valencia, who turns 26 later this summer, has questions to answer in the power and plate discipline departments.

If he turns into a .280/.340/.430 hitter who slugs 15-20 HR every year, the Twins would probably be pleased with that, assuming he plays competent defense as well.

@BigMetalDude: Are we likely to see the Twins pick up a closer before the trade deadline?

A month ago I would have leaned toward saying yes, but now I'm not so sure.

There are two separate variables to analyze in this equation: 1.) How Jon Rauch is currently pitching, and 2.) how Rauch will pitch in the future.

Based on how Rauch is currently pitching (2.52 ERA, 2.91 FIP, 20 Ks, 3 BBs in 25 IP), the Twins are unlikely to replace him. But his track record suggests we're in for a few more rough patches during the second half of the season.

Rauch is a good relief pitcher. He always has been. But he isn't as good as his numbers this season suggest.

@dchill088: Is the J.J. Hardy thing working out positively or negatively for the Twins? He's played in half the games, is batting.217, .265 OBP

I think you answered your own question. It's been a disaster so far, especially offensively.

That said, Hardy has played fantastic defense when healthy, and he was hitting .250/.299/.400 with signs of power before he went down with the wrist injury on May 4. It's safe to say his wrist never fully healed, as Hardy admitted himself, and since returning to the team on May 25 he is hitting just .132/.175/.158.

If he can get past the wrist problems, Hardy should be OK down the stretch. But it's a slippery slope right now with a guy who battled major mental problems in Milwaukee last year.

@davikes: It seems pitching and clutch hitting with RISP are still big issues for the #twins. How are the #Twins addressing those issues?

I'm not overly concerned about pitching, considering the potential bullpen reinforcements at the Twins' disposal in Rochester and beyond. As for clutch hitting, there's really nothing the Twins can do to "address" that issue. Players simply need to come up with more hits in clutch situations.

With runners in scoring position the Twins are actually hitting .276/.371/.390. With the bases loaded they are hitting .200/.250/.280. In both cases, the Twins lack power.

It is what it is. Clutch hitting is generally something that evens itself out over time. If a team hits .280 over time in ALL situations, it should hit close to .280 in clutch situations over time as well. But oftentimes we see random variations over small sample sizes.

And yes, two-plus months is still a small sample size, so don't hit the panic button yet.

@darymfoell: Is Pavano's stache the reason for all the recent injuries? Distracted by the stache?

No. If anything, Pavano's mustache is the potential healer for these injuries. Like Florence Nightingale and her lamp.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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