Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Things Ron Gardenhire and I Don't Agree On

For a very long time my baseball philosophy has clashed drastically with that of Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. His idea of how to use the players on my favorite team is very different than my idea (which matters a lot seeing as he’s the one with the job and I’m the one blogging about it). Some of these things have been mentioned on this site before, but I wanted to get everything into one list to finally air all of my grievances about the way the Twins are managed on a day to day basis.

1. Gardenhire’s love affair with Nick Punto.

Someone's getting a BIG hug in the dugout...

My dislike for Punto is well documented, so I won’t go into too much detail here. I just don’t understand how you can consistently put a player on the field that hits .200 and is average defensively night in and night out. It’s gotten to the point where I get physically angry when I see the man now.

2. The Lefty vs. Lefty thing.

Guaranteed this was off of a righty

Hey, I get it. Hitters fair much better when they face a pitcher of the opposite hand. But when you constantly alter your lineup when facing a left-handed pitcher, you do three things to hurt the team. One, you take some of your better hitters out of the game. Two, you hurt the confidence of the younger players. Three, you stunt the growth/maturation of your hitters. How is a left-handed hitter supposed to get any better against left-handed pitching when he’s never allowed to face it? Do you ever wonder why it has taken so long for Kubel to finally start to live up to the hype he got in the minors (other than the obvious knee injuries)? Or why our record against lefty pitchers is so terrible? Or why opposing teams can completely shut us down late in ballgames? It all comes back to the fear of allowing our left-handed hitters to consistently get at-bats against their southpaw brethren.

3. His late inning use of starting pitchers.

It's ok Bake--I would have taken you out sooner

I firmly believe there is no manager in the league who is worse at deciding when to pull his starting pitcher than Ron Gardenhire. Did you know (sponsored by Sports Center circa 2007) that the Twins have the 3rd longest active streak without a complete game from their starter? It’s almost as if Gardy has absolutely no feel for how well/poorly a guy is pitching. The only time he’ll let someone try to finish a game is when they have a shutout going. Blackburn could have given up 2 first inning runs and been lights out the rest of the game, but he’s coming out in the 8th (if not sooner) to give way to our vaunted bullpen. Conversely, Baker could be laboring through 8 innings, but if he hasn’t given up a run, Gardy will send him out there to get shelled in the 9th. For a guy who’s been in and around baseball as much as Ron has, you’d think at some point he’d develop a sense for how his starter is throwing that isn’t based on pitch count or runs given up.

4. His apparent ignorance of fielding statistics.

You gotta keep a glove like this in the lineup

Nick Punto’s fielding percentage this year is .971—good for 15th among American League shortstops who’ve played at least 15 games at the position. His Range Factor (putouts + assists/innings) is 4.39—that would be 13th among AL shortstops with at least 15 games. His Zone Rating (number of plays made/number of balls hit into his zone—compared to the average among all players for a plus/minus number) was 5.629—that puts him at 16th among all AL SS’s with at least 15 games played. Keep in mind that there are 14 teams in the American League…

5. The use/overuse of our bullpen.

The MOST common sight at Twins games for the last 3 years

Pat Neshek was really good—until he pitched every other day, blew his arm out, and has been out for two years. Matt Guerrier pitched in 149 games over the last two seasons and is currently the league leader in appearances for 2009. Jesse Crain, despite having an 8.51 ERA and allowing 11.2 hits per 9 innings, has appeared in 23 games this year. Luis Ayala has a 1.432 WHIP and a 10.7 H/9, yet he’s been in 26 games this year. The latter three guys are all in the top 20 for appearances this year (as is Joe Nathan).

6. His consistency (or lack thereof) of playing younger guys.

I don't care how far that ball goes, you're not playing tomorrow

Typical Gardy formula: call up a guy from the minors (usually a utility infielder), start him on his first day with the team, bat him second, bench him for the next week (other than pinch hitting or running) regardless of his performance, and send him back down. And people wonder why our prospects haven’t been panning out for the last number of years.

7. He finds Nick Punto attractive.

This is actually framed and hanging in Gardy's office

I mean, that’s the only way to explain his playing time, right?

8. His batting orders.

This is a far more common sight when he's hitting second in the order

For the last few years, Gardy has insisted on batting one of our 6 utility infielders in the 2 hole. He has decided that placing a .240 hitter in the middle of the few guys who actually hit well consistently is a great idea. I know this may come as a shock, but it has not worked. I realize that we have a number of light-hitting (to put it nicely) players most days, but I’d rather have them all get out in a row than have one of them kill any kind of rally that our best hitters could generate. Never has this been more obvious than this year. For a bulk of the year, Span, Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel have been hitting at least .300 (with Cuddyer close behind). And guess when we were hitting our best and having our most success of this young season? When they batted in that exact order. When it was happening, I was both amazed and confused. Could it be that Gardy had finally figured it out? Of course not. He reverted back to his old ways just a couple of weeks later and now, surprise, we’re struggling to hit consistently again.

9. His love of utility infielders.

There's nothing better than a light hitting infielder

The following is the list of infielders who have played for the Minnesota Twins since 2007 (2 + years) not named Justin Morneau: Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, Joe Crede, Matt Tolbert, Brian Buscher, Mike Lamb, Adam Everett, Michael Cuddyer, Randy Ruiz, Matt Macri, Howie Clark, Luis Castillo, Jason Bartlett, Jason Tyner, Luis Rodriguez, Garrett Jones, Tommy Watkins, Josh Rabe, and Matt LeCroy. That’s 21 guys for four positions in a little over 2 years. Cool.

10. He thinks Nick Punto is good at baseball.

I am so tired of seeing this...


Shawn Bradley Guy said...

Nick Punto is the sole reason I think my son could crack into the big leagues. Don't rain on my parade.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson said...