Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Joe Mauer's plight; Pinto, Dozier in the order
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Dan Straily had a pretty nice day at the yard Thursday, when he allowed just two of the final 18 batters he faced to reach. Each of those was a walk. That made for a long day for Twins' hitters, and it didn't get any better once the A's went to the bullpen.
Minnesota sent six hitters up and Oakland relievers sent those six right back down to ice the victory and complete the three-game sweep.
Here are 5 thoughts I had on baseball Thursday:
1. It's surprising to see Joe Mauer take an obvious third strike looking. He was the victim of a highly questionable call in Chicago with C.B. Bucknor behind the plate. But in Mauer's first plate appearance Thursday, Dan Straily got ahead 0-2 with fastballs and then cut the plate in half at the belt with a 2-seam fastball and Mauer simply froze. That doesn't happen very often to a guy who has built a reputation for having a very good eye at the plate.
Mauer said after Thursday's game that he feels good about his eye at the plate and thinks he's been on the wrong side of some bad calls, which, he said, is part of the game.
He has nothing to complain about on the pitch in his first plate appearance Thursday. Center-cut, belt-high.
2. You know you've made it as a local sports villain when fans are making fun of you for having your wife and twin babies accept a Silver Slugger Award in a pregame ceremony.
Many of his harshest critics are off-based, and the majority of the criticism he receives is unwarranted. I understand, however, that the people busting his chops Thursday on Twitter represent a vocal minority, merely trying to buzz a one-liner. And so I'll leave it at that. I don't feel compelled to lead a crusade to defend Joe Mauer's value to a baseball team -- he's elite. But if you're looking for such a crusade, I know a guy who's driving the bus.
By the way, we asked Mauer postgame about receiving the Silver Slugger -- the fifth of his career and first since the birth of his two children -- during a pregame ceremony.
3. Brian Dozier is a good but incomplete player. Dozier does several things well on a baseball field but it's fair to point out his flaws, as well.
Before Thursday's game, Dozier was presented with the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award. Each team has one recipient.
Then, Dozier made this play, to provide an anecdote to go with the award presentation.
Dozier also has some power for a second baseman. He hit 18 homers in 623 plate appearances last season. He hit one Wednesday and followed that up with this one Thursday:
He was dropped to the No. 2 spot in the order Thursday. He said before the game he doesn't mind where he hits in the order, but he prefers to be in one of the first three slots.
And yet, despite those good qualities I mentioned, for him to remain a viable top-of-the-order hitter he would have to get on base more often.
In just more than 1,000 career plate appearance in the big leagues, Dozier has a .297 on-base percentage. That wouldn't cut it for a leadoff hitter if I wrote the lineup. I'd look for someone who is better at avoiding outs or look for Dozier to improve in that area.
4. Josmil Pinto got the start at catcher Thursday. If you're the Twins, I imagine you want to get him as many plate appearances as possible this season. First, he may be one of the best bats in the lineup. But perhaps more importantly, you'd like to find out for certain his true offensive talent level.
5. 'Could Josmil Pinto bat second?' a reader asked me on Twitter*.
Theoretically? Yes, he could. Pinto has increasingly shown he's an on-base threat, which is part of what you're looking for at the top of the order. He's slow, but his on-base percentage at least warrants a discussion.
His fifth year of pro ball (age 23) is when things really started to click offensively for Pinto. In nearly 400 plate appearances in Class-A Advanced that season, he had a .361 OBP against mostly younger competition. He was promoted to Double-A New Britain for 50-some plate appearances, in which he reached based at a .365 clip. Then, he posted a .411 OBP at Double-A in roughly 450 plate appearances, which earned him a promotion to Triple-A Rochester. There, in 75 plate appearances he reached base in one-third of the timebefore getting a September callup.
Twins fans saw the catcher out of Venezuela crush Major League pitching for a month (83 plate appearances). He batted .342/.398/.566, prompting more than a few to wonder if he would soon take over behind the plate for the Twins.
All of that is a long way of saying Josmil Pinto probably is a very good hitter. We don't yet know exactly how good of a Major League hitter he will be (see Thought 4).
Generally, I think a team should put its best hitter in the 2-hole. Specifically, I don't think Pinto is the team's best hitter, and in future lineups I could see him fitting more into the 5-7 range. For now, it makes the most sense to me to bat Joe Mauer second and find a way to give Pinto a full season worth of plate appearances.
*I invite anyone with interesting ideas or thought-provoking questions to tweet me @DerekWetmore. I'm less interested in answering news-related questions, but I'm happy to clarify things and also to learn new things from chatting about baseball.