The Big Switch: Jared Burton
Sponsored by Switch My Trip [/HR]Sometimes it's an overlooked performance that is a game's BigSwitch. Last Tuesday night's back-and-forth win over the Padres contained splashier performances, but believe it or not, the player with the biggest impact wasTwins reliever Jared Burton. That's why he's this week's Big Switch.
But since we're still above the preview line, let's talk about the splashy. The headlines and morning radio focused on Kurt Suzuki's inside-the-park home run. In case you missed it, Suzuki hit a home ruin n the eighth inning that barely cleared the wall in left field but bounced back into play. The outfielder thought it was a home run (and you can see him signaling so) but it wasn't ruled that way initially. To Suzuki's credit, he trucked around the bases at full speed making the point moot and scored anyway. Because he did, the play did not need to be reviewed, so Suzuki was credited with an inside-the-park home run instead of a standard home run, making it the first inside-the-park home run for the Twins since 2007 when it was done by another catcher: Joe Mauer.
[/HR]The Twins are looking to switch things around this year. Every week, Metro Transit recognizes a Twins player who successfully switched the outcome of a game for the better. [/HR]
But that run was ultimately not the deciding run. It was important. We've talked about FanGraphs.com's excellent game graphs that track a team's probability of winning a game based on thousands of game logs before. That hit by Suzuki halved the Padres chances of coming back, which is fitting because it doubled the Twins lead from 4-3 to 5-3.
But had Burton not been around the half-inning before, there might not have been a lead to double, and FanGraph's charts show that, too.
The Twins had grabbed a 4-3 lead the inning before on a sacrifice fly by Josmil Pinto. Brian Duensing started the bottom of the seventh inning, replacing Twins starting pitcher Kevin Correia, who was in line for the "Win." But Duensing immediately put that win - both for the team and Correia - in jeopardy. Jedd Gyorko led off with a single, Duensing walked Yonder Alonso, and the Padres simply had to adopt a "get-em-over, get-em-in" strategy to tie up the game.
The FanGraph's play log shows the game slipping away, too. In fact, when Duensing was pulled for Burton, despite trailing, the Padres were statistically favored with a 52% chance to win. Or, more precisely, a home team with runners on first base and second base and no outs, trailing by one run in the bottom of the seventh, have historically won the game 52% of the time.
But the tying run didn't score and, in fact, didn't even advance. After retiring Cameron Maybin on a fly ball to center field, Nick Hundley on a pop foul to third and Chris Denorfia on a ground ball, the Padres' chances to win that game were down to 22%. In getting those three crucial outs, Burton increased his team's chances of winning that game by an astounding 30%. No player on either team affected the game more.
It was also another step on the road back towards dominance for Burton.He struggled a bit in spring training and his first two weeks of the regular season were a nightmare. After a four-run outing against Toronto, his ERA stood at 14.40. He had given up runs in three of his five appearances and was demoted out of the eighth inning setup role to work lower leverage innings.
But the seventh inning on Tuesday was not a lower leverage inning and Burton responded. He mostly has responded ever since the early season issues. Over his last 15 outings he has posted a 1.88 ERA, given up just 10 hits and has struck out 10 batters.
But first impressions last. Twins fans may be overlooking that Burton appears to have switched the direction of his season. Just as he switched the direction of Tuesday night's win.
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