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Updated: April 13th, 2014 6:12pm
Wetmore: 5 thoughts from Sunday's sweep completion

Wetmore: 5 thoughts from Sunday's sweep completion

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by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS - The Twins completed the three-game sweep of the Royals on Sunday. Kevin Correia pitched into the eighth and the Twins cobbled together an unconventional two-run rally in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead for good.

It's Minnesota's first sweep of Kansas City since June of 2011.

Here are 5 thoughts I had for Sunday's game.

Feel free ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).

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1. It made sense to have Jason Kubel in Sunday's starting lineup, even with a lefty on the mound for the Royals.

Ordinarily I'm in favor of playing the splits advantage game. In short, batters generally hit worse against pitchers of the same handedness. So sometimes managers will stack a lineup with righties when a lefthander is on the mound.

Below, I've compiled some of Kubel's career numbers:

Kubel

Plate Appearances

Average

On-base %

Slugging %

Homeruns

Strikeouts (%)

BB-K ratio

Vs. RHP

2,769

.277

.342

.486

119

541 (19.5)

0.47

Vs. LHP

875

.234

.304

.376

21

244 (24.9)

0.35

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You can see he's fared significantly better against righties in his career.

If he can replicate his 2012 season, I would think the Twins will be happy with the signing.

Kubel 2012:

Kubel

Plate Appearances

Average

On-base %

Slugging %

Homeruns

Strikeouts (%)

BB-K ratio

Vs. RHP

368

.264

.348

.540

23

91 (24.7)

.46

Vs. LHP

203

.234

.291

.446

7

60 (29.6)

.25

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That leads to the question:

Why wouldn't the Twins maximize Kubel by having him face righthanders exclusively?

It's more about their alternative right now. Yes, Kubel is much better against righties than against lefties, but that's only part of the equation. The Twins had the option to bench Kubel and start the right-handed hitting Darin Mastroianni against Jason Vargas.

Mastroianni is better against lefties than he is against righties, but Kubel is better against lefties than Mastroianni is against lefties. Without getting too technical, Kubel in 2012 posted a better weighted on-base average and weighted runs created against lefties than Mastroianni has in his career.

When Josh Willingham returns to the lineup, it will give the Twins more flexibility to protect Kubel from lefties, if they choose to. For now, Kubel is healthy, hitting well, and a superior option to Mastroianni against lefties.

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2. Trevor Plouffe made a good defensive decision in the third inning. With runners on first and third and one out, Plouffe fielded a grounder just to his left. The third-base runner was between home and third and Plouffe made a dash for the runner, initiating a rundown. The runner, Lorenzo Cain, has speed, and the Twins got him out with just one throw, which is the most you want in that situation.

The other runners advanced to second and to third because Plouffe didn't get make the throw soon enough. That's a fair critique pointed out to me after the play.

Here's a positive to point out: Some may see that play and wonder why Plouffe didn't try for an inning-ending double play but I think he made the right choice. The risk you take by trying a double play is that if you don't successfully turn it, the run scores. With the speed of the batter (Nori Aoki), the double play becomes a lower percentage play. It's hard to say if the gamble would have paid off.

Kevin Correia got the next batter, Omar Infante, to fly out to right, so the result worked for the Twins. Don't base your assessment of the process on the result. But Plouffe's play prevented a run, and the Twins escaped the inning with the remaining runners still standing on base.

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2(b). Ploufe giveth, and Plouffe throweth away.

Plouffe talked Sunday about his work in spring training on defense. I was talking to him for a story on his improved glove, and he named Jason Bartlett and Paul Molitor as guys who helped him work in spring on his defense. Specifically, it seemed he needed to improve his instincts, angles and first step at third base.

Now, I'll wait to write that feature, after Plouffe's throwing error in the eighth inning hurt the Twins.

Plouffe charged in to field a bunt attempt and barehanded the ball, but his throw was up the line and it took Joe Mauer off the bag. The ball rolled into right field as Mike Moustakas came around to score. That was the end of the night for Kevin Correia. Kansas City plated two more that inning after the error. I linked to the video if you want to watch it. It's a tough play, but you expect your third baseman to make it. 

It seems to me Plouffe has improved his first step to both sides, which helps make glove work easier. We likely will have plenty of innings this season to see if those improvements are real or perceived.

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3. Joe Mauer's steal caught people by surprise, but it didn't lead to a run. Mauer hit a sharp single to left in the sixth inning, his second of the game. Then, he stole second on the lefthander Vargas. I couldn't tell if he ran on first movement, or if he was guessing based on timing Vargas, but he got a really nice jump and took second off the pitcher. Catcher Salvador Perez has a very strong arm and had almost no chance to nab Mauer.

I'm guessing here on Mauer's thinking, but the conventional thought process is that if you have a runner on first base and two outs, it will take two hits (or an extra-base hit) to score him. Stealing to get into scoring position with two outs reduces that necessity to one single to the outfield.

The steal turned out to be for naught. Trevor Plouffe hit a line drive right to the second baseman, and Mauer got caught too far off the bag and was doubled off to end the inning. The result wasn't what the Twins were looking for, but the process makes sense. Have a runner in scoring position and hit a line drive.

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4. For predictive purposes, there's no sense in tallying the runs a team should have scored. That is, unless you also tally and subtract the runs they should not have scored. By that I mean, you can't say, 'the offense has been better than its run differential illustrates, because Mauer could scored if that Plouffe liner fell for a hit' (see thought 3).

What about the eighth-inning runs the Twins scored? If the pitcher makes the routine force play at the plate, neither run scores on Chris Herrmann's weak tapper. Then, on Darin Mastroianni's strikeout, the inning ends with the Twins still trailing. Once you get a satisfactory sample size, the runs scored are the runs scored.

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5. I think we'll see Eduardo Nunez in the Majors soon. Pedro Florimon is very good defensively and I think sometimes fans don't appreciate how slick he is with the glove. But he's never hit that well and looks lost at the plate right now. The Twins on Monday traded for Nunez, who has more than 800 MLB plate appearances and plays multiple positions. Even kind reports, though, say he's erratic with the glove at every position he's played.

But the Twins had mutliple scouts who called assistant GM Rob Antony and said Nunez is worth a flier after the Yankees designated him for assignment. And recently, manager Ron Gardenhire and Rob Antony have suggested Nunez could make a difference on the team, and Antony has said the Twins need more offensively from Florimon.

Nunez is 26, and his career batting line is .267/.313/.379, which trumps Florimon's .212/.272/.311 by a wide margin.

Will his defense be good enough to make that difference matter? Or will his inconsistent glove wash out the offensive value he adds over Florimon?

I'm guessing the Twins are curious enough to find out first-hand soon.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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