The first winning streak of the year, star-free
19 Apr 2011 by sirsean
The Twins have finally won consecutive games -- and all it took was removing Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau from the lineup. Obviously this is a coincidence, and shouldn't be taken to mean that the Twins are a better team without their two best players. But let's consider, shall we?
This is a graph of the 10-day moving average of the wOBA of a bunch of players:
You can see in that graph that the Twins' offense has been meek this year -- nearly the entire team was sitting below .300 wOBA for the whole year. Mauer, on the handful of days he played, was below a .300 wOBA.
But another thing you can see is that as soon as Mauer left the lineup, something happened. Delmon and Cuddyer and Valencia started swinging the bat -- you can see a strong upswing in all their lines as soon as Mauer's cuts off. And when Morneau left,* they continued to rise; except for Cuddyer, whose trajectory increased violently to match Kubel's. (Kubel, by the way, has been hitting very well lately. A .450 wOBA is excellent.)
Now, if I'm being honest, I'd assume that the timing of this is just a coincidence.* These guys are better hitters than their .200 wOBA was showing, and it was only a matter of time until they started making better contact. But let's just say the coincidence is striking.
* Except for Thome's precipitous drop coinciding with Morneau's absence from the lineup. He's played a lot of consecutive games now, and for the second year in a row that's not what he signed up for.
But still, I wonder if there's something to this. Gardy's teams have always performed better than their talent should have allowed -- until the team had talented players. Maybe there's something about Gardy's style of coaching that simply works better when there's less talent to work with, when there are no stars in the lineup. I doubt it can be quantified, but it seems believable that a manager could be more inspiring when the players know they can't rely on great players to win the game for them. I also think it's believable that, without lineup mainstays like Mauer and Morneau, Gardy has more freedom to tinker, to mix and match players, and to make moves.
That move-making doesn't always work, but it's worked the last two days. And Gardy's "let's stick together in the face of hardship"* act appears to have lit the fire that was necessary to get some of the Twins' essential bats to start clicking.
* Assuming, of course, that he's done anything. I hope it's fair to assume that.
The Twins were a very fun team to watch this decade when they were plucky underdogs -- and without Mauer and Morneau, that's what they can be again. Of course, it'd be best if Kubel and Young and Cuddyer and Valencia continued to hit well as Morneau and Mauer return, allowing the Twins to perform as the expensive machine they're supposed to be now that their payroll has rocketed past $100M.
What do you think? Coincidence? Gardy doing a good job? The players banding together without the protection of the stars? What are you talking about, it's only two games?
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