Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Hughes throwing strikes, and the reinforcements
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This column presents 5 thoughts from Friday's game.
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. Phil Hughes threw 64 of his 84 pitches for strikes Friday (74 percent). That included strikes on the first 13 pitches of the game.
Entering Friday, Hughes was fourth in the Majors in first-pitch strike percentage among qualified starters. Only one pitcher hits the strike zone at a higher rate than Hughes.
2. Miguel Cabrera's first at bat ended in a strikeout on three pitches. Hughes started the best hitter in the world with a mid-90s fastball low, then another mid-90s low fastball.
Rather than mixing or wasting a pitch, Hughes elevated a fastball on 0-2 and Cabrera did not catch up to it. It's risky business challenging Cabrera but Hughes and catcher Kurt Suzuki got the better of the reigning American League MVP on that exchange.
3. Jason Kubel got a hit in the second inning on what appeared to be a partial swing or perhaps a meek swing, by Kubel's standard. The hit went opposite field, beating the shift opposing teams regularly employ.
Kubel also got a hit in Cleveland with an 'excuse me' swing, some form of a check swing. The ball trickled past the only fielder on the left side of the infield for a base hit.
I've written previously on teams shifting Kubel and I don't think it's about to change based on two somewhat flukey hits. It also has been suggested by some that it would be easy for Kubel to beat the shift by dropping down a bunt. While it's a possibility, I for one don't expect to see that happen this season.
4. Kurt Suzuki shouldn't bat second for the Twins. I've used this thought in four consecutive columns now, and I don't want to feel like I'm cheating you wonderful readers out of content. This opportunity was a good one to reiterate my belief that a team's best hitter should bat second.
Suzuki drove in the winning runs Friday, so it would have been a convenient time to take a break from this discussion. What is convenient is not always right. Or something like that.
What Suzuki has contributed offensively this season has been a pleasant and welcomed surprise for the Twins, and his .380 on-base percentage this season would make him a strong candidate for the 2-hole while Joe Mauer is on the shelf. I'm a believer, though, that a player with a long track record will revert to his career norm, and Suzuki in his career has a .312 OBP in more than 3,300 plate appearances.
Despite his game-winning hit Friday and his major offensive contribution to the Twins this season, Suzuki does not belong in a place that provides him more plate appearances than every Twins hitter besides Brian Dozier. The result worked Friday. But I'm more interested in the process.
4(b). Some readers have asked me who I would bat second for the Twins right now and I think I would hit Trevor Plouffe in that spot until Mauer returns.
5. The Twins called on some reinforcements Friday. They reinstated Aaron Hicks from the 7-day concussion disabled list on the first day he was eligible and they selected Chris Parmelee's contract. That helps the limited roster, as Hicks and Parmelee both started in the outfield Friday. Still, with 13 pitchers and Mauer unavailable to play while occupying an active roster spot, the Twins remain shorthanded.
Parmelee was not on the 40-man roster but was hitting very well at Triple-A Rochester. Adding him makes sense, especially considering the man they moved to make room -- Kenny Wilson (designated for assignment) -- is not ready to help the Twins and has questionable offensive potential.