Free Pass?

18 Mar

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Ben Revere got off to a quick start this spring with some multi-hit games. He leads all Twins in plate appearances this spring, in part, because of the lack of other true center field options.

Like Revere, Juan Portes was another non-roster invitee. He hit three home runs and a double in his first 11 at bats. Was it an oversight that he was not in my most recent Top 50 Twins Prospect ranking? Probably. However, I still wouldn’t put him in the top 40. But he has done exactly what you would want a non-roster player to do, make an impression.

Luke Hughes didn’t have a lot of opportunity early in camp, but in the last couple of days, he has had a three-hit game and a walk-off double today. He has also played quite a bit at second base and more than held his own.

Danny Valencia came into camp hoping to be given a shot at winning the third base job. Although he is just 4-18, he has two doubles and a home run. He has 18 at bats, the same number as Brendan Harris and one more than Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto.

Stats mean very little in spring training. Valencia may be hitting .222 (4-18), but a 3-3 puts him a .333. Portes’s batting average has fallen over .400 points over the last week.

But there is one set of statistics that is worth watching. For both hitters and for pitchers, I like to look at their number of walks to their number of strikeouts. I realize that not every player has to be the same, but guys like Denard Span and Joe Mauer walk more than they strike out. For a power hitter like Justin Morneau, it is good just to see those numbers close. You want hitters who are patient and willing to wait for a good pitch.  So how have these four players done in the walk to strikeout ratios?

  • Ben Revere – 32 at bats, 0 walks, 10 strikeouts. Not exactly the walk to strikeout rate you want from a leadoff hitter. Yes, he’s hitting a solid .281, but his on-base percentage is also .281. And that is a high strikeout rate for a contact hitter. This doesn’t take anything away from Revere as a prospect, and is not meant to do so. I just think that many are now of the impression that he is ready. He will go to AA New Britain and let’s just let him play. This has been a good experience for him, but he clearly needs much more development time.
  • Juan Portes – 21 at bats, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts. Portes has never been a real patient hitter. The strikeout rate (1 in 3) is obviously too high. It’s one of those things where he is hitting .381 and has shown the power, but it doesn’t mean he is ready. As I look at potential rosters, I can’t see a scenario in which he isn’t playing in AA again this year, and I think it will be a good thing for him. The thing that I would like to see him do if he does repeat, is maintain the power stroke and show more power.
  • Luke Hughes – 20 at bats, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts. One less at bat than Portes, but basically the same story. No walks and too many strikeouts. I actually compare Portes to Hughes quite a bit as they both do not have a real strong defensive position. They both will advance based on their bats. I expect that Hughes will spend the season in Rochester, playing 2B, 3B and the corner OF positions while DHing too. I do think that he will debut with the Twins sometime during the season.
  • Danny Valencia – 18 at bats, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts – One of the concerns on Valencia. After moving up to Rochester, he had just eight walks to go with 269 at bats. Now, he has always had a solid Isolated Discipline previous to that half-season, so I’m not worried. But it does suggest that it isn’t a mistake by the Twins to let him get a couple more months of AAA time under his belt.

Ideally, it would be nice to start camp by taking some pitches, working counts, being patient and taking good at bats. It should come as no surprise that some players with no big league experience, who are trying to make a good impression on the big league coaching staff, are probably a little too anxious and trying to do too much. This is yet another example of the whole Small Sample Size phenomena. It is why most decisions do not happen in spring training based on 20 to 40 plate appearances. What happens over a couple of hundred at bats matters much more. All four of these players are worth watching in 2010. I expect to see both Hughes and Valencia in a Twins uniform at some point this season. Revere has shown some very positive things considering his age, but he has also shown that he should not be rushed, even to AAA.

From a pitching standpoint, there are a few things to note. First, Scott Baker has one walk and nine strikeouts in nine innings. Kevin Slowey has one walk and eight strikeouts in eight innings. It’s impressive that two guys who are working more on throwing strikes and gaining arm strength still have enough to get a strikeout an inning. How about Francisco Liriano? The lefty has one walk and 12 strikeouts in just seven innings of work. Talk about the types of numbers that create Ace discussions!

On Thursday, the Twins sent Rob Delaney back to minor league camp. He wasn’t going to make the team, but I was hoping he might get a little longer look. I know he had given up some hits (9 hits in 5.1 innings), but when I saw his walk to strikeout rate, I was impressed. In 5.1 innings, he had 0 walks and nine strikeouts. That bodes well for his 2010 season in Rochester. He needs to find a way to miss more bats, but he does have tremendous control.

On the other end of the spectrum, Jeff Manship has five walks and four strikeouts in 5.2 innings. There is nothing in his minor league track record to indicate any control problems, so I definitely attribute this to a small sample size and early season. He has also allowed another nine hits (including two home runs). But in his outing on Wednesday, he fell behind Evan Longoria 3-1 in an at bat, and came back to strike him out on two sharp curveballs. Those are the things that tell you that he will be just fine.

And I would think that the Twins wanted Glen Perkins to have a solid camp so they could trade him. He has written his ticket for Rochester, unless some team saw something. In his six innings, he has five walks and 13 hits allowed. Ouch! He also has just two strikeouts.

Again, I have to reiterate the small sample size nature of spring training numbers for both pitchers and catchers. But I do think we can learn a little bit from walks and strikeouts.   

If you have any thoughts, you can e-mail me, or feel free to leave your comments here.


7 Responses to “Free Pass?”

  1. CA Twins fan March 18, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    This is one of your best posts – full of information and data, pointing to insights with some information to back them up. Thank you from someone who does not get a lot of in-depth Twins reporting (but I am sooo up on the A’s and Giants).

  2. Bryz March 19, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    Yes, great job. I feel like you’ll really help fans understand why a certain player (like Revere) won’t be on the major league roster when the season starts.

  3. The Dude March 19, 2010 at 3:26 am #

    Seth, everyone keeps saying the team is taking 7 bullpen pitchers north. Do you see 7 guys currently with the team that deserve to make the club because I dont.

  4. Han Joelo March 19, 2010 at 7:31 am #

    There almost seems to be an unwritten rule in play here–if you are a rookie or less, taking a base on balls is going to cost you in kangaroo court. Swing away boys, so we can make our tee times. If I wanted to see you just stand there, I’d look at a picture.

    I think if you wanted to learn anything this spring, you’d have to analyze how many pitches these guys have taken vs. how often they go up and hack away. Unfortunately, this phenomena probably helps inflate the K numbers in the spring as well. Of course, it hasn’t exactly helped Condrey.

    Is Slama on the 40 man? If not, will this harm his chance to make the show? He’s not getting any younger. I guess I am asking bullpen roles, and wasn’t Condrey supposed to be the long guy/mop up man? Or does he have a different specialty, besides giving up home runs?

  5. UncleGreg March 19, 2010 at 7:40 am #

    Walks/strikeouts is a ratio that I like to follow all year long as well. And I really agree that it says a lot about a batter’s patience and presence. I don’t think that it means near as much in Spring Training however, when I see ST first hand and watch the hacks these guys are taking at the plate.

    There is no patience, in contrast to what you see in a reg. season game. They’re here to hit the ball – Hard and often.

    Conversely,the Pitchers are throwing meat and cheese. They absolutely don’t want to walk a soul (even though we did see a few runs walked in last week), and are throwing most of their pitches over the plate, very hittable.

    I think that the Batters that show the patience throughout the year will always have the best springs. It seems like about 80% of the time that they’re patient will get them fed a meatball that they will be able to hack at. They don’t want to walk… They want to hit and are swinging at balls they think they can contact.

  6. thisisbeth March 19, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    Thanks for this analysis. It’s always good to see the facts to understand what’s going on.

  7. TT March 19, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    Walks to strikeouts is irrelevant in this context. If you look at how often players have struck out per at bat in spring training you can almost draw the line between the major league players and the prospects with only a couple exceptions. Everyone is hacking, the major league players aren’t missing even against major league pitches.

    The other thing to remember is that the quality of the pitching improves dramatically as the spring progresses. The minor league pitchers get cut and the major league pitchers start to put the polish on their performance instead of just getting their work in. Its these next couple weeks that will really tell the story.

    It was encouraging to see Gardy’s praise of Hughes at second base. His bat is likely going to be a plus at second base if he can play there.

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