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Fly-ball Tendencies

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I haven't blogged for TD, or anywhere else, but this topic will be too long for a simple thread post. The Twins signed Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and the world is shocked. As much as the Twins community has turned the 'pitch to contact' theme into a punchline, the philosophy of the team remains. It has always appeared that the Twins were fond of pitchers who could go deep into games by limiting their P/PA. While that theory had brought them success in the early 2000s, the staff had trended so extremely to PTC that they had nobody starting who was anywhere near league average for K/9. That topic has been well documented among Twins fans, but getting two starters who are near league average in K/9 feels somewhat like the entire complexion of the rotation- nay, the team philosophy has been remade. In a way that is true. But let's keep in mind who these pitchers are.

Ricky Nolasco is a solid big league pitcher whose stats have bounced around a bit. The most uniform statistic throughout his career has been his BB/9: always hovering right around 2.0. His G/F ratio of .77 doesn't make him an extreme fly-ball pitcher, he is almost league average.

Phil Hughes, on the other hand, is a fly-ball artist. There will be many words typed about how, in theory, his move to TF from YS will help all of his numbers; he'll walk less batters in a spacious park, his HR/FB ratio will mellow which will result in his BB/9 dropping as he gets comfortable in the PTC mold, his P/PA will go down, and his K/9 will stay the same. All of these are positive things and there is some reason to be excited about them. Taking this thought down for a moment, Phil Hughes gets major league hitters out via the fly-ball.

Hypothetically, having a staff that induces ground balls requires a sure handed infield defense. The Twins are a pitch to contact team that got away from having defense in mind. The Twins are not a ground-ball-centric team, they are a put-the-ball-in-play-centric team. As exciting as these additions to the rotation are for me, my excitement is tempered when I think of the possibility of Alex Presley patrolling center adequately surrounded by the likes of Willingham, Arcia, Parmelee, Colabello, and Doumit chasing down that many fly-balls.

The solutions to this perceived problem aren't simple. In a perfect world, some team would offer a 20yr. old, nice looking A-ball shortstop prospect for Doumit or Willingham. Hicks would hit enough to be a major league CF. Arcia would display the same passion and aggressiveness that he shows at the plate in the field, and the outfield would be a rotating cast of Hicks and Presley in CF, (with Presley seeing time at the corners,) Arcia playing whichever corner he prefers, and Willingham/Colabello/Parmelee splitting OF time with DH, if they all must be on the roster. Basically, I worry that the Twins are ignoring a huge aspect of their game. If ~40-45% of your outs are coming in the air, Willingham, Doumit, Parmelee, and Colabello aren't going to help you much without being all-world at the plate.

If this rotation featured a bunch of actual ground-ball pitchers, the infield defense would be staffed accordingly, i.e. Plouffe wouldn't be at third despite the offensive potential. This rotation will be depending on the outfield running around and catching the contact they are instructed to try and induce. I hope the people behind it's staffing are aware of that.
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  1. Sconnie's Avatar
    Very good point. The defense struggled last year too, and so far (offseason is still young) the Twins have only upgraded at first base and downgraded at catcher. All I've heard for FA defensively is upgrading at catcher.
  2. Twins Twerp's Avatar
    But that outfield will have a guy named Buxton as early July roaming center. By 2015 we could have an outfield of Hicks, Buxton, and Rosario (assuming he ends up in OF). That gives us possibly the best defensive outfield in the league, at least the fastest. Arcia could split between RH and DH. Next year the Twins could still be .500 if Gibson takes a step forward and becomes a #3/4 starter. The rotation now looks passible for the first time in years.
  3. crapforks's Avatar
    July is pretty early to count on Buxton. And Hicks getting north of a .200 BA would help a great deal. I liked watching him in CF. I think we all agree that the current depth chart for OF starters doesn't look too good for our fly-ball staff. If Hicks can't hit enough to play CF on a pretty awful team, I have a hard time imagining him hitting enough to play a corner in '15, when the team might have expectations. That projected outfield sure could be fun though.
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