Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Colabello's RBI record, Joe Mauer, and bunting
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The Twins used Chris Colabello's bat Wednesday to beat the Rays in St. Petersburg. Each Twin in the starting lineup had a hit (12 total in the game) but none bigger than Colabello's two-RBI single in the 12th inning.
He now has 26 RBIs on the month, which ties him with Kirby Pucket for the franchise record for most in the month. Colabello, of course, still has several games to play to top that milestone.
Here are my 5 thoughts from Wednesday. I didn't post a 5 thoughts column after the Kyle Gibson-David Price showdown because I spent the night recording and editing the Sports Over Beers podcast with Tom Pelissero, Phil Mackey and Judd Zulgad. If you like the NFL, the episode worth a listen.
As always, feel free to 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).
1. I'm curious to see how the Twins plan to use Sam Fuld. He batted ninth and started in center Wednesday. He's a useful fourth outfielder but he shouldn't be in the lineup every day.
2. I don't think Twins fans should be worried about Joe Mauer. I know he's a lightning rod and I've seen the legitimate causes for concern (the strikeout rate, the groundball-to-fly ball ratio, the called third strikes, the numbers against offspeed pitches), and the unreasonable complaints (the RBI total, the two double plays, the batting average with runners in scoring position).
Mauer still is hitting line drives and making decent contact and drawing walks. If he slumps for a month, you start to worry, but it's hard even to call this April a slump by ordinary players' standards.
3. Josmil Pinto has given a few reasons to be optimistic about his future. He's second on the team in home runs, but perhaps more encouraging for the Twins is his discerning eye at the plate. Pinto went 1-for-5 with a walk and a strikeout Wednesday. That gives the catcher of the future 15 walks and 14 strikeouts on the season. An even ratio in the Major Leagues is impressive.
Amateur observation: he seems to me to have a fairly advanced approach at the plate. He gets in to hitters' counts and guesses on a pitch type and location. Depending on the situation, he knows he can afford to take the pitch if it's not exactly what he's looking for. If he guessed right, he takes a controlled violent hack. Sometimes it works for him, other times he swings and misses, but he's putting himself in a good position in those instances. That seems mature for a 25-year-old getting his first extended taste of the big leagues.
By the way, Pinto started at catcher Wednesday but he should be in the lineup as the DH just about every day he's not behind the plate. With Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia on the shelf, there's nobody he's blocking. It's progress to recognize that Kurt Suzuki should not be the DH on days he does not catch.
4. Sacrifice bunting still is widely misunderstood. Stat heads (I count myself one) will tell you that it reduces the run expectancy in almost every situation to sacrifice bunt. Thus, one of the commandments of sabermetrics: Thou shalt not bunt.
After Sam Fuld doubled to lead off the top of ninth inning in a tie game, the best thing Brian Dozier could have done would be to drive in Fuld to take the lead. The next best thing would have been to advance Fuld and avoid an out. Next, avoid an out with Fuld staying at second. The fourth best possible outcome, then, would be to record an out but advance Fuld in the process, putting a runner at third with one out and one shot at a sacrifice fly.
When you're tied on the road, your goal should be to score as many runs in that inning as possible, so it's not really productive for Dozier - who leads the team in home runs - to give himself up with a 'productive out' and ground out to second. Sure, it's better than a strikeout or a weird double play, but he shouldn't be praised for it.
If it was the bottom of the ninth, it makes a lot more sense to play for the one run. In that case, you're not concerned with diminishing your long-term run expectancy, but rather with increasing the percentage chance you score one run. In this case, it could have made sense to bunt Dozier.
In the top half of an inning, that isn't relevant. It's puzzling to hear commentary that runs counter to fairly basic logic.
5. That was a cool moment captured by Fox Sports North when Chris Colabello homered to interrupt Marney Gellner's interview with Colabello's parents, Lou and Silvana.
His mother, Silvana, was there to celebrate her birthday. I'm not ordinarily a sap for sentiment like that, but that probably was a fun moment for the Colabellos.