Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • Offense Lagging Along With M&M Boys

    Pat Borzi of MinnPost wrote a column last week suggesting that the current iteration of the Twins lacks heart. He drew a comparison to the 2002 team, which was being celebrated during the opening series at Target Field, stating that it's "hard to imagine this roster, especially the younger players, clawing and scrapping like their counterparts from 10 years ago."

    I don't know about all that, but I would say this team has been suffering from the absence of the heart of its lineup, as the No. 3 and 4 hitters have been largely invisible early in the season.

    Last Thursday's game was one that harkened back to the good old days, with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau both homering and carrying the team to victory. Not coincidentally, it was by far the best day the Twins have had offensively. Outside of that game, however, Mauer and Morneau are a combined 12-for-57 (.211) with two extra-base hits in eight contests.

    There are a number of reasons that the Twins have scored three or fewer runs in seven of their nine games, but the silence from the M&M boys stands out distinctly. The lineup needs those two producing in order to function, and thus far neither player has done much of anything (other than staying on the field) to quell the concerns that surrounded them entering the campaign.

    Mauer's plate approach has been fine, as he's been taking good at-bats and drawing walks, but that was also true last year. Outside of his home run last Thursday he hasn't been hitting the ball with authority. One of the most troubling underlying trends in his disappointing 2011 campaign was a career-high 55.4 percent grounder rate (and an accompanying career-low 21.5 percent fly ball rate); he's now put over 60 percent of balls in play in the dirt this year after grounding out in both of his non-walk plate appearances Sunday (including his league-leading fourth GIDP).

    It's too early to draw definitive conclusions but thus far Mauer is exhibiting the same flaws that principally contributed to a .355 slugging percentage last season. This raises concern that he either: A) isn't as strong and healthy as we'd like to believe, or B) has fundamentally changed as a hitter. I don't know which would be worse.

    Mauer could still be a decent hitter with the elevated grounder rate but he won't be a game-changing offensive force and he'll continue to kill rallies with frequent twin killings. Hopefully as the season progresses he can start lifting the ball more frequently.

    Morneau's issues at the plate have been more worrisome, because unlike Mauer he's looked flat-out overmatched. After fanning in three of his four at-bats on Sunday, the designated hitter has 10 strikeouts against two walks in 37 plate appearances. That's a whiff rate of 27 percent -- a sizable uptick from his 15 percent career rate.

    The main problem is that Morneau has been far too aggressive. He's swinging at 41.5 percent of pitches outside of the zone (career rate: 33.6 percent) and 55.4 percent of all pitches (career rate: 47.5 percent). When he's going good, Morneau patiently works the count to his favor and capitalizes on mistakes. Too often this year he's been falling into holes and chasing pitchers' pitches.

    The Canadian can still crush the ball when he makes good contact, as demonstrated by his two doubles in Baltimore and his prodigious blast to right field on Thursday, but his pitch recognition and reactions are not up to snuff. These were noticeable deficiencies for him last April as well, and unfortunately injuries cropped up and took a toll before he had much chance to prove that he could overcome them.

    The hope is that Morneau's lack of sharpness at the plate is more attributable to rust – due to playing irregularly since his July 2010 concussion – rather than the injury itself. If he can stay healthy and on the field we'll see how the quality of his at-bats improves. Personally, I get the sense that Morneau tends to get in his own head and that bad swings are stewing while he sits on the bench, causing him to press. I'll be interested to see if playing in the field, which he'll apparently start doing this week, helps his approach.

    It's too early to panic with either of these players, but up to this point they haven't really shown signs that they're ready to reverse course after dismal 2011 campaigns. It would be awfully nice if they could begin doing so this week in New York.

    The Twins aren't going to win many games if they're not scoring runs in bunches, and this offense is going to have a tough time finding a pulse with the two players who comprise the heart of the lineup flatlining.
    This article was originally published in blog: Offense Lagging Along With M&M Boys started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 21 Comments
    1. pjnelly's Avatar
      pjnelly -
      Great post, Nick.

      I just saw that the Twins as a team rank 6th in batting average, so it is definitely the heart of the order that needs to clean up some of those base-runners. What do you think about Willingham breaking up the the two lefties?
    1. PGTwinsfan's Avatar
      PGTwinsfan -
      I've been waiting for Gardy to dispense with the obsession of Mauer/Morneau back to back for years.

      This team has far more questions than answers and spring training is your time to figure things out. However, we trotted out the same lineup and only realized that Willingham is NOT a right fielder.

      Have a sinking feeling that this team could look VERY different by August 1st...and I'm not sure that would be a bad thing at this point.

      The Twins either need to get Morneau out in the field and/or out of the 4 spot to relieve some pressure on him and get his head back in the game.
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      Mauer will add a 2012 GIDP title to his 3 battiing titles. Joe is a #2 hitter now and moving Willingham to the 3 spot evens out the lineup. Carroll is more of a 8/9 hitter defintely not someone you want getting more AB than your power sticks.
    1. mnfireman's Avatar
      mnfireman -
      Gardy needs to separate M & M in the line-up. Morneau looks terrible right now, he missed at least 3 driveable pitches yesterday, and teams are pitching carefully to Mauer because of it. Carroll is a prototypical #2 hitter, except for the missed bunt attempt yesterday. Casilla should also be looking over his shoulder as he is not playing well right now.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Morneau seems to be having a lot of trouble with fastballs up-and-away, pitches that he used to feast on.
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      Joe Mauer had some interesting comments to Shooter:

      "I didn't feel very good coming out of (spring training), to tell you the truth. Leaving camp, it was trying to have your lower (body) half and upper half talk to each other. I'm still working and getting there."
      http://www.twincities.com/twins/ci_2...idnt-feel-very

      The frustrating thing is that I don't know how much better of an offseason/spring training he could have had. He shut down early with the flu so he effectively had 4-5 months off with no surgery where he could just get ready for the season. If that isn't sufficient then something is wrong with him.
    1. ltwedt's Avatar
      ltwedt -
      Patience my friends - Morneau is struggling because of his adjustment to being a full time DH, and Joe? . . . Well, he's just too nice to hit that ball! I would really like to see Mauer go on a Pavano-like tear in the dugout - like to see him yell, hit stuff with a bat, slam his glove, throw his mask, helmet, bat - geez - anything than more of this flat-line no emotion, All-American Boy image that he gives off.

      Agree with PGTwinsfan - this lineup will look far different in August - Goodbye Liriano and Pavs, so long Morney (heading to the Yanks), Baker will look much different in a White Sox uni, and Denard will find somewhere, too.

      Twins will be full of TR's "reclamation baseball players, and begin the draft refueling process that will enhance the minor leagues. I still think this year's group will win 80, but I might be really sweating it down the stretch!
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Quote Originally Posted by jharaldson View Post
      Joe Mauer had some interesting comments to Shooter:



      http://www.twincities.com/twins/ci_2...idnt-feel-very

      The frustrating thing is that I don't know how much better of an offseason/spring training he could have had. He shut down early with the flu so he effectively had 4-5 months off with no surgery where he could just get ready for the season. If that isn't sufficient then something is wrong with him.
      I could have sworn we were told he was in perfect health in Spring Training.

      So here's the chicken-and-egg problem: is Mauer not hitting because he doesn't feel right? Or are we getting these comments because he's not hitting?
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      As long as Mauer and Morneau continue to fail to hit and either Strike Out or hit into a DP every time there are guys on base the Twins are going to be on the losing side of things. They have 40% of their payroll tied up in those 2, if they aren't producing it's going to be a loooong season. I agree that Mauer has no business hitting 3rd at this point. I think Morneau simply needs time and to relax, he's clearly pressing. As for Mauer, seriously dude, we know you like to look at the 1st pitch, and so does every pitcher in the league. Is it really necessary to start every at bat 0-1? Start turning and driving those grooved first pitches. I know some say he's been successful doing it his way for a long time, but I say the best players are those that continue to make adjustments and stay ahead of the competition. The entire Twins team, and especially Mauer need to make adjustments and put the other team on their heels for a change.
    1. deanlambrecht's Avatar
      deanlambrecht -
      Quote Originally Posted by jharaldson View Post
      Joe Mauer had some interesting comments to Shooter:



      http://www.twincities.com/twins/ci_2...idnt-feel-very

      The frustrating thing is that I don't know how much better of an offseason/spring training he could have had. He shut down early with the flu so he effectively had 4-5 months off with no surgery where he could just get ready for the season. If that isn't sufficient then something is wrong with him.
      I agree that these comments are quite problematic. Morneau and "rust" is a perfectly plausible explanation, but this Mauer comment makes little sense. If I recall correctly (please correct me if I'm wrong), wasn't Joe saying the exact opposite about his physical conditioning when we were coming out of Spring Training and his BA was somewhere in the .350 range? Gulp.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by deanlambrecht View Post
      I agree that these comments are quite problematic. Morneau and "rust" is a perfectly plausible explanation, but this Mauer comment makes little sense. If I recall correctly (please correct me if I'm wrong), wasn't Joe saying the exact opposite about his physical conditioning when we were coming out of Spring Training and his BA was somewhere in the .350 range? Gulp.
      Seems clear to me that he was talking about his swing and not his physical condition.
    1. sotafan's Avatar
      sotafan -
      When do we need to look at getting rid of Vavra?? We need someone that can teach these two how to hit again. Vavra is not the guy. We need someone to kick Mauer in the A$$ and make the needed adjustments. I agree with whydidnt about the 1st pitch for Mauer. Hit the damn ball. Morneau has the opposite problem, take a few pitches. Willingham needs to bat 4th while Span and Carroll need to steal each and every time Mauer is up(on the first pitch). I would rather have them get thrown out 25% of the time then have a GIDP happen. At least you are challenging the pitcher and catcher.
    1. nokomismod's Avatar
      nokomismod -
      Yeah, I think we need to move Morneau down in the order until he gets his swing back.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      No criticism intended, really, but the thrust of this article is something we all knew at the end of the 2011 season: if Mauer and Morneau don't contribute in-line with their established careers then the 2012 team has no shot at even being a .500 team. To actually contend, the pitching needs to magically improve as well. The team record at this early juncture coincides pretty well with these two simple observations.
    1. WJ's Avatar
      WJ -
      I don't think Gardenhire will move Morneau out of cleanup because he doesn't do that to veterans. Or move Mauer to no. 2 because that spot is reserved for a middle infielder. Two examples of Gardenhire managing with his heart instead of his head.
    1. James Richter's Avatar
      James Richter -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      Seems clear to me that he was talking about his swing and not his physical condition.
      That's how I read it, too.

      Even this time next week would be awfully early to start projecting trends with these guys. Give them at least 100 PA.
    1. sotafan's Avatar
      sotafan -
      Quote Originally Posted by WJ View Post
      I don't think Gardenhire will move Morneau out of cleanup because he doesn't do that to veterans. Or move Mauer to no. 2 because that spot is reserved for a middle infielder. Two examples of Gardenhire managing with his heart instead of his head.
      Looks like you are wrong about that. Today's lineup has Willingham in the 4 hole, Morneau 5th.
    1. SBG's Avatar
      SBG -
      Joe and Justin, each with a little "how you like me now?" tonight.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Hey, just a clear sign that they read the site, right?

      It's too early to panic with either of these players, but up to this point they haven't really shown signs that they're ready to reverse course after dismal 2011 campaigns. It would be awfully nice if they could begin doing so this week in New York.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      Offense is fine. M & M boys are fine too!
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.