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  • Heated Observations: Game #2

    Joe Mauer’s 8 Balls-In-Play Have Been Grounders



    So, yeah, infinitesimally small sample of eight plate appearances in which Joe Mauer has put the ball in play have resulted in grounders. One of those games was against Chris-Freaking-Sale who was so dominant against left-handed opponents that he only faced 163 in 2013 because no manager in his right mind would trot his lefties out there to spin holes in the batter’s box (Sale led the league with a .133 batting average against). With all that in mind, Mauer’s put eight balls in play, all have been on the ground, and (AND!) only one has been slashed the other way. ONE.

    Could this be concussion-related/time-off/rust issues at the plate? Possibly, but again, CHRIS EFFIN SALE. Something to watch for over the next few games. More likely however, Mauer will revert back to his above-20% line drive clip while peppering left field with tons of balls soon enough.


    Glen Perkins Pumped Nothing But Gas

    In his first appearance of the season and since his new monolithic closer extension was signed, Glen Perkins... (wait for it) ...blew a save.

    Now, Perkins had help in the form of Trevor Plouffe’s errant throw to the plate but the usually lights-out closer did not appear to be his usual self. Perhaps it was the cold (pitchers struggle to find the grip on the ball in cold weather), working with a new catcher or possibly the start of the season but -- for whatever reason -- Perkins eschewed using his biting slider. Against the Sox, he threw 28 pitches with 24 of them being fastballs and one being a slider**.

    To their credit, the White Sox hitters jumped all over Perkins’ first-pitch fastballs that were in-zone and collected two of their three hits early in the count.

    It should be noted too that Perkins’ fastball velocity was down compared to last season’s average -- averaging 92.2 at the Cell yesterday. While he was a few clicks above that for the year in 2013, his first outing of the year he was averaging 92.4. Probably nothing to worry about.

    **This means either those pitches were not identified or some glitch in the system. BrooksBaseball.net says he threw 25 total pitches -- 24 fastballs and one slider.


    Hot Start For Aaron Hicks



    Last year’s start for Hicks was more frigid than the Minnesota temps. This year, however, he’s already collected four hits.

    Sample size notwithstanding, what is impressive about Hicks this season is that he has a strong two-strike approach that did not exist at this point (and longer) in his rookie year. In six of his plate appearances so far in two-strike situations, he has collected two of his four hits while putting a third ball in play. Through two games last year, he had seven two-strike scenarios and struck out five times and put the ball into play just once.

    What you can see in the heat map is that Hicks has taken advantage of pitcher’s up-in-the-zone mistakes in two-strike counts.
    Are we witnessing a maturing Aaron Hicks who is going to battle with a game plan this year?



    All charts and data is provided by ESPN Stats & Info
    Comments 27 Comments
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Really early, but I think Hicks looked good at the dish, and so has Kubel and Plouffe. Bad team, but the hitting might be a bit better than we thought it would be.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      That's something else we haven't really talked about. If Kubel is anything close to his pre-2013 self, this offense is loads better than we predicted.

      Still far from good but not awful.

      And no, I'm not overreacting to two good games... Kubel and Hicks have not looked lost at the plate, which was a real concern going into the season. Simply by not looking lost, they have a good shot at being much better than they were last season. That doesn't mean either will be good, it just means they probably won't be terrible.
    1. savvyspy's Avatar
      savvyspy -
      For $25 million a year you should be able to hit CHRIS EFFIN SALE occasionally.

      That said, Mauer will be hitting .300 eventually. It sort of always evens out for him.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by savvyspy View Post
      For $25 million a year you should be able to hit CHRIS EFFIN SALE occasionally.
      And Miguel Cabrera has a .700 OPS against Mark Buerhle, of all people.

      Mauer has a .558 OPS against Sale. Meh. Good pitching beats good hitting and guys just have blind spots against some pitchers.

      Sale is a tough pitcher overall and he's brutal against lefties. Nothing to see here.
    1. sandbun's Avatar
      sandbun -
      For those who went to spring training, did they have Mauer face live pitching against the shift that teams are doing to him, or did they just decide it was fine and not do that? I'm sure hits will start falling in for him, but I'd feel better if it was something they actively worked on.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      I can't help but think Mauer isn't right. He didn't look good in the spring and hasn't looked good in the first two games. Small sample size, still early, rusty and all that but I hope he doesn't have lingering Morneau like poor timing issues from the concussion.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Sale is a tough pitcher overall and he's brutal against lefties. Nothing to see here.
      Our "weak hitting" lineup did generate three earned runs on five hits off Sale over 7.1 innings. That won't happen every time he takes the mound (career 2.98 ERA). All the same, he was better than Nolasco, and that was the difference.

      In game 2 it was the relievers (Perkins & Deduno) who blew it, although that "weak hitting" lineup did generate six runs over 11 innings.

      Mauer (and Dozier) will come around.
    1. MileHighTwinsFan's Avatar
      MileHighTwinsFan -
      How is it possible to be optimistic after being 0-2 against the team they will likely battle for last place? The losses were the result of elements we considered a team strength, but the performance of those who we were concerned about has been positive.

      Perkins had a bad day and Mauer and Dozier are off to slow starts. We have confidence they will bounce back. Meanwhile, Suzuki, Plouffe, Kubel and Hicks have been impressive.

      I'm just glad it's baseball season and we are talking about games and actual player performance, bring on game 3.
    1. deanlambrecht's Avatar
      deanlambrecht -
      Quote Originally Posted by savvyspy View Post
      For $25 million a year you should be able to hit CHRIS EFFIN SALE occasionally.

      That said, Mauer will be hitting .300 eventually. It sort of always evens out for him.
      Your second sentence is quite right. Against Sale he's only had 21 PA's and overall is batting .238 against him. That's more than 100 basis points higher than the average lefty, as reported by Parker in the original post. Here's his line vs. White Sox pitchers: http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/batvsp...5378/joe-mauer

      Regarding Perkins, guess who else blew as save yesterday? Joe Nathan. It cost us far less money to blow that save than it did the Tigers.

      Papelbon blew a save yesterday, too. Not surprised by that, but it was apparently a bad day for closers.

      In any event, it was the third full day of the season, and it's kind of depressing to see people getting all worked up already. In our case, we've got 160 games left. Things will be much clearer down the line.
    1. Smcginnity's Avatar
      Smcginnity -
      My problem isn't his stats but his lack of clutch hitting. The guy clearly does not deserve $25 million but we are now stuck with that monstrosity of a contract. When you are the face of the team, do something special. 4 for 4 with 4 singles doesn't do anything for me. Mix in some extra base hits and big hits in clutch situations! Just gets so frustrating with him
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Smcginnity View Post
      My problem isn't his stats but his lack of clutch hitting.
      You mean his career OPS of .933 with RISP, compared to his overall career line of .872?

      Or maybe you mean his career OPS of .988 with 2 out, RISP.

      This is why we have statistics, folks. Observation is so often tainted by what one wants to see, not what actually happened.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      You mean his career OPS of .933 with RISP, compared to his overall career line of .872?

      Or maybe you mean his career OPS of .988 with 2 out, RISP.

      This is why we have statistics, folks. Observation is so often tainted by what one wants to see, not what actually happened.
      It is amazing how often this line of thinking comes up, when as you point out it has no validity at all. I think we gave the guy 23M a year so a batting average of .800 is what some expect with runners on.
    1. Intramural Legend's Avatar
      Intramural Legend -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      It is amazing how often this line of thinking comes up, when as you point out it has no validity at all. I think we gave the guy 23M a year so a batting average of .800 is what some expect with runners on.
      Even if that was the case, more people would complain about the 2/10 times he didn't get a hit...
    1. Beezer07's Avatar
      Beezer07 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Intramural Legend View Post
      Even if that was the case, more people would complain about the 2/10 times he didn't get a hit...
      Confirmation bias at its finest (unless I misunderstand what confirmation bias means...which is totally possible)
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      I can't help but think Mauer isn't right. He didn't look good in the spring and hasn't looked good in the first two games. Small sample size, still early, rusty and all that but I hope he doesn't have lingering Morneau like poor timing issues from the concussion.
      I think not picking up a bat the entire offseason, and not doing much of anything to stay in shape october-february has more to do with his struggles than lingering concussion issues. He even admitted before ST he hadnt picked up a bat all offseason. Eventually I hope he learns he has to work at it and not rely soley on his amazing talent.
    1. deanlambrecht's Avatar
      deanlambrecht -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      You mean his career OPS of .933 with RISP, compared to his overall career line of .872?

      Or maybe you mean his career OPS of .988 with 2 out, RISP.

      This is why we have statistics, folks. Observation is so often tainted by what one wants to see, not what actually happened.
      :clapping:
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Can we also talk about Plouffe for a second here? In the spring, and in the first couple of games, he's been smacking balls the other way, which it seems like he almost never did last season. (Or even the season before, but in 2012 I don't think pitchers were pitching him away as much.)

      If he's got an improved approach at the plate and can take balls the other way, I can see his batting average up over .250 with an improved OBP. That means that even if he can't launch 30 bombs like we hoped, he'll be a nice, valuable 3B for Sano's convalescence. Last year, he was fairly middling for a 3B, which perhaps speaks to the lack of good players at that position. This year, he could find himself solidly above average.

      I just hope I'm not speaking too soon.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Plouffe's spray chart from last season:

      Attachment 6989

      He went opposite field a lot, it just wasn't successful.
    1. BigTrane's Avatar
      BigTrane -
      Where's the Suzuki spray chart?
      Seems like he's accounted for 90+% of the Twins OF so far.
      That's at least as *interesting* as the CB Bucknor balk call.
    1. Cris E's Avatar
      Cris E -
      Quote Originally Posted by Beezer07 View Post
      Confirmation bias at its finest (unless I misunderstand what confirmation bias means...which is totally possible)
      That's what you want 'confirmation bias' to mean...
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