taking a breather and looking at the season numbers so far - part one

So far the Twins have a team OPS+ of 99, which is much better than last year and a team ERA+ of 93, which is the lowest this team had since the 68-94 squad of 1997. How much of a contender is this team, or more accurately, what are the flaws of this team that needed to be examined:

Even though the team has a league average OPS, against RHP the team is hitting 271/.332/.393 while only .262/.306/.368 against LHP. In 2007 for comparison, the team was hitting an eerily similar .265/.331/.393 against RHP and a much better (by 38 OPS points) .263/.326/.385 against LHP. There are clearly some issues there. Here is a list of the current players and their records against LHP in 2008, ranked by OPS:

Casilla .417/.417/.667/1.083
Gomez .353/.377/.569/.946
Everett .364/.462/.455/.916
Mauer .368/.393/.456/.850
Morneau .273/.294/.470/.764
Cuddyer .278/.366/.361/.727
Team average .262/.306/.368/.672
Tolbert .286/.310/.357/.667
Young .250/.308/.354/.662
Punto .250/.250/.350/.600
------Mendoza line------------
Redmond .214/.250/.286/.536
Harris .196/.288/.239/.528
Kubel .171/.231/.171/.402
Lamb .091/.130/.227/.358
Monroe .135/.200/.135/.335

a similar look at the ranking of players against RHP:

Morneau .316/.403/.513/.917
Casilla .304/.393/.435/.828
Monroe .229/.315/.500/.815
Mauer .297/.409/.383/.792
Kubel .255/.299/.438/.737
Team average .271/.332/.393/.725
Harris .267/.338/.359/.697
Young .280/.335/.357/.692
Punto .265/.350/.324/.674
Redmond .250/.318/.350/.668
Lamb .276/.306/.359/.665
Cuddyer .252/.296/.362/.659
Gomez .257/.291/.353/.645
Tolbert .255/.305/.327/.632
------Mendoza line------------
Everett .159/.191/.302/.493

It is clear that there is A. a higher discrepancy in the team hitting against LHP (there are several people hitting way above the team average and certain people hitting way bellow the team average) and B. Way too many people are hitting below the Mendoza line against LHP, including the 2 primary DHs and 2 starting IF. Is it too early in the season? Could it be solved by a platoon possibility? Could it be solved by roster moves? There are 14 players listed here (2 in the DL currently) and probably space of only 13 or 12.

Lets look at lifetime splits of the people below the Mendoza line against LHP and Everett against RHP

Redmond .214/.250/.286/.536 life:.329/.386/.433/.820
Harris .196/.288/.239/.528 life:.295/.370/.432/.802
Kubel .171/.231/.171/.402 life: .227/.298/.313/.611
Lamb .091/.130/.227/.358 life: .258/.326/.401/.727
Monroe .135/.200/.135/.335 life:.267/.314/.478/.792
Everett (RHP).159/.191/.302/.493 life:.244/.291/.356/.647

From these numbers, it looks that even though everyone in the above group is underperforming their career expectations, there is enough upside for Harris, Mornoe, and Redmond; and somewhat Lamb. However, Kubel cannot hit LHP and Everett cannot hit RHP at an adequate rate.

Some suggestions:

The team should not go with 13 pitchers and 12 batters. There is just too much risk.
Everett should be platooned against righties and Kubel against lefties to give the team the higher probability of success.

The best every day lineups based on these numbers would be (platoons noted against RHP/LHP):

C Mauer
1B Morneau
2B Casilla
3B Lamb
SS Harris/Everett
LF Young
CF Gomez
RF Cuddyer
DH Kubel/Monroe

Helter-Skelter substitutions (like the use of mediocre hitters like Punto) have been robbing ABs from people like Harris, Lamb and Everett who need ABs to get going. Another bat that can hit lefties (especially a RHB 3rd baseman) would help. Morgan Ensberg is a career .278/.400/.512/.912 hitter against LHP, is available on the waiver wire but would probable cost the roster spot for someone like Nick Punto or Adam Everett and is not the best clubhouse presence and this year (and last) his performance has been extremely mediocre. Not sure that he might be the answer. There are a couple of people in the Twins' system who potentially might be part of the answer. Luke Hughes is one, the 23 yo third baseman in New Britain who is batting .337/.410/.610/1.020 with 12 HRs and 31 RBI this year. Hughes is playing primarily 3B this year, but has played 2B and outfield and would be a platoon 3B against LHP and take Nick Punto's utility spot.

So the optimal position player roster for the Twins would be:

  1. Mauer
  2. Morneau
  3. Casilla
  4. Lamb
  5. Harris
  6. Young
  7. Gomez
  8. Cuddyer
  9. Kubel
  10. Monroe
  11. Everett
  12. Redmond
  13. Hughes

(Pitching in another post)

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