Wetmore: 5 thoughts on No. 2 hitters, roster moves, and SS playing LF
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The Twins lost in the 9th inning when one of their better relievers - although not their best reliever - gave up a walkoff single to Mike Aviles. Casey Fien took the loss. The only reason the runner was on base was because of a miscue in the outfield by Eduardo Escobar. (More on that in thought 5.)
With the Twins starting outfield wiped out with injuries, they're employing patchwork and it may have cost them a run and, ultimately, the ballgame Wednesday.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Wednesday'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. Sam Fuld batted second for the Twins with Joe Mauer still on the shelf after lower back spasms.
Sam Fuld should not be hitting second for the Twins.
I used this as one of my 5 thoughts from Tuesday's game. I hate to be repetitive because it feels like I'm cheating you readers out of content, but with all the lineup construction research we have available today, it's time we eradicate the practice of having a light-hitting, low on-base percentage hitter batting second.
Without getting too technical, consider this question: Why would any team want one its of worst hitters stepping to the plate more than almost all its other batters? If scoring runs is about avoiding outs, why would a team give away marginal outs by batting a low-OBP hitter ahead of players who are better at avoiding outs?
On the Fox Sports North telecast of the game, Dick Bremer said that Ron Gardenhire considered using Kurt Suzuki in the 2-hole while Mauer was out, as Gardenhire had done earlier in the year.
Kurt Suzuki should not hit second for the Twins.
Fuld has a career .311 OBP; Suzuki has a career .312 OBP.
It's my belief that a team's best hitter should bat second.
2. Who should bat second if Joe Mauer doesn't return soon? This all may be moot if Mauer is ready to return shortly, as he likely would be the No. 2 hitter the rest of the season.
We addressed this in the comment section of my latest column. (Sidenote: if you don't already, give the comments section a once-over. Often, the best contributions come from the readers rather than the columns themselves.)
It's not unusual to see a manager employ a placeholder when a top player gets the day off or is injured. The reasons are manifold but generally revolve around superstition more than empirical evidence. Not wanting to mess with the mojo of a lineup or move a certain hitter out a spot where he feels comfortable seems questionable to me.
If you're looking for an easy fix, just bump up every player in the lineup. If you think Trevor Plouffe is the best hitter currently on the Twins, you'd be well within your rights to bat him second. There are many solutions to this puzzle, some probably more beneficial than others. In general terms, the Twins should give the most plate appearances to their best hitters.
3. Suzuki doesn't give up rebounds. Like a good hockey goalie, when Suzuki blocks a ball in the dirt, he controls the "rebound" very well. This is based on observation more than hard evidence--you don't often see a ball kick away from him when he blocks it. He stays in good position to gather the loose ball and make a throw to a base if necessary.
On Brian Duesnsing's 0-1 pitch in the dirt with one out in the bottom of the eighth and a runner on first, Suzuki stopped a ball that appeared destined for the backstop. Defensive metrics - especially for catchers - are not yet perfect, but Suzuki's glove deserves to be appreciated.
There doesn't seem to me to be a need for 13 pitchers on the staff. Especially if Joe Mauer isn't able to play, the more dire need is for another position player on the bench. The Twins have played three games against the Indians with a two-man bench.
According to media reports, the Twins would have recalled Oswaldo Arcia from Triple-A Rochester, but he was scratched from a game Wednesday with stiffness.
5. Escobar's inexperience in the outfield was apparent the 9th inning. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a fly ball to the warning track and Escobar appeared to flinch as he got to the dirt, and he pulled up as if he thought he was about to crash into the wall. In fact, it's a play I've seen so rarely that I'm not even sure that's what happened. But that was my read on the situation after seeing it on TV. I wrote Tuesday that Escobar should be the Twins starting shortstop. He probably won't draw many (if any) more starts in left this season. It's up to you if you want to cast blame on Escobar for misplaying the fly ball, or on the Twins for playing Escobar in left.