Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could keep lies from conquering the minds of the weak. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.
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But before we get too wrapped up in Mauer's strikeout pace -- basically one per game, way more than his career average -- we want to take a step back and acknowledge an amazing 15-game stretch that we might not ever see from Joe again because of the numbers it produced.
During a 15-game stretch starting April 30 against Detroit and ending Saturday against Boston, Mauer had:
*At least one hit in every game, giving him a 15-game hitting streak. That was one short of his career-long streak of 16. He has 11 career double-digit hitting streaks, it should be noted -- including two this season.
*At least one strikeout in every game. So yes, he had at least one hit and one strikeout in 15 consecutive games. His hitting streak ended Sunday, but he fanned three more times in that game to make it 16 consecutive games with at least one strikeout. His longest strikeout streak prior to that? Six consecutive games.
*His batting average during the streak was .443, which is impressive enough. But his batting average on balls in play was an astounding .659 (27 for 41). We tried to explain BABIP to the RandBall Better Half this weekend, and she wanted nothing of it. "So it's like when he does something good, he does something really good?" she questioned. "It makes no sense. Tell everyone in the baseball community they can't have Babip (pronounced as a word, not an acronym). They can only have regular batting average." But we digress. Basically two of every three times Mauer put the ball in play during the streak, he got a hit -- evidence of some luck, but also hitting the ball with authority. His career BABIP is .348. this year, it's almost 100 points higher (.447).
*He didn't homer during the streak, but he did have 12 doubles, helping him to a .639 slugging percentage (for perspective, he slugged .587 during his MVP year in 2009). In spite of hitting for pop, Mauer had only five runs batted in during his streak. As a result, the streak was wasted in some ways. The Twins, after all, only went 6-9 in those 15 games despite having their best hitter about as hot as he gets.
Take it from someone who was 5-foot-1 as a high school sophomore and 5-foot-9 as a senior. Sometimes it feels good to be average.
Can the Twins keep going? Will we be 6-foot-5 someday? Maybe ... and no.
Here's a quick look at what has helped the Twins return to decency:
1) They are currently 15th in MLB in runs scored. That's squarely in the middle of the pack. Last year they were 16th. Two years ago, they were 25th. So as we know, the offense was OK last year. The pitching was horrendous. And this year, the offense has still been decent -- particularly in key spots, where the Twins are 10th in BA and 14th in slugging with RISP (as opposed to 14th and 23rd overall).
2) How much better is the pitching? Well, the Twins are still 24th in team ERA, but with a not-so-terrible 4.25 mark. It was 4.77 at the finish a year ago. Half an earned run per game means a ton. The troubling thing is Minnesota's starters are still very near the bottom of baseball with a 5.18 ERA after being next-to-last a year ago at 5.40. Much of that has to do with two-thirds of the revamped rotation (Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey) having bloated ERAs. History suggests they will be better than they have been. History also suggests a comedown for Kevin Correia, but overall the Twins' starters should inch more toward the middle of the pack (or at least the low 20s) as the year goes on.
3) Thanks primarily to timely hits, Justin Morneau is on pace for 114 RBI. That figures to change since his power numbers aren't that great, but production from Morneau is huge. Ryan Doumit and Aaron Hicks figure to produce more than they have; Morneau and Oswaldo Arcia will likely dip. Nobody else is absurdly above or below a reasonable pace. Translation: the offense should be able to sustain middle-of-the-pack standards.
So if the offense is middle of the pack and the pitching starts moving closer to the middle of the pack -- with starters faring better and eating up more innings to spare an already taxed bullpen -- we're left with defense. The Twins have made 18 errors, sixth-fewest in the AL. They were a bottom-half team a year ago in terms of this simple metric, and at least that quick glance suggests the fielding is more like average than bad.
Decent offense, decent pitching, decent defense. It adds up to a decent record -- which, again, feels a lot better when you've been down than when you've been up.
Anyone clamoring for the Twins to load up the payroll with high-priced veterans -- you know, the folks always yelling that the Pohlads are cheap -- should pay attention to this piece by Tom Verducci in SI.com. It goes beyond buyer beware in MLB free agency to what he describes as a culture shift. A few grafs:
For all the overhyped noise of baseball's silly season -- when fans demand teams spend on free agents and owners get emboldened by their TV money -- free agency is becoming a more and more inefficient market. In addition to the troubles of Greinke, Hamilton and Upton, among other top free agents who changed teams Edwin Jackson (0-5, 6.39) has been horrible for the Cubs and Michael Bourn has been hurt for the Indians.
Kirk Gibson in 1988 became the poster player for the "one player away" philosophy that pervades baseball's winter: sign the right guy and you can win the World Series, which the Dodgers did after Gibson left Detroit for Los Angeles and had an MVP season. More recently, the Yankees spent nearly half a billion dollars on Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett after New York failed to make the playoffs in 2008. The Yankees did win the World Series the next year, but paid $20 million to make Burnett go away and are paying steep prices for the decline years of Teixeira and Sabathia.
Free agency isn't quite dead, but it's become a used car lot cluttered with lemons and high-mileage models -- with high price tags -- among the rare gems.
Minnesotans love to talk about the weather. Also, Minnesotans love to find the good in the bad (and the bad in the good, but we digress).
So how about this: As bad as this alleged spring has been, the Twins are lucky they are on a nice, long road trip right now. And we are lucky that, at least here in Minneapolis, the May snowstorm of the century never really materialized. Because if the Twins had been at home in early May and been dumped on with eight inches of snow, it might have been at least the termporary breaking point for a lot of people.
Instead, they were in Detroit -- where it was gorgeous yesterday. On Friday they go to Cleveland, where the forecast calls for 72 and mostly sunny.
And we'll muddle through a few more days of ridiculousness before things return to normal.
It could always be worse -- like it is, for example, for the Gophers softball team. Minnesota has had five home games flat-out canceled (including a doubleheader yesterday) and five more moved from home games to away games in the more balmy cities of Ames, Iowa and Champaign, Illinois. Minnesota has played just THREE home games this season out of 46 total games. And yet the Gophers are 30-16 heading into this weekend. You guessed it, it's a home series -- the Big Ten regular-season three-game finale against Indiana.
Will they play? Quite possibly. So it could always be worse.
We've been to 20-plus current MLB ballparks, including 9 of the 10 on this list ranking the top 10 parks in terms of craft beers. We have no idea if the list is spot-on or not. But we do know this:
1) Target Field, which seems to us to at least have a reasonable selection of craft beers, did not make the cut.
2) The first two ball yards on the slide show -- Coors Field and Miller Park -- are named for two beer behemoths. Sure, they serve plenty of the craft stuff, too. We just find it funny.
Have a look-see at the whole list thanks to a link from Les, a known Packers fan and therefore a likely spy, according to Clarence Swamptown.
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