Three-Bagger: M&M Revival, Capps' Health & Perspective
by, 04-19-2012 at 11:03 PM (1374 Views)
* It's funny how the timing works out sometimes.
On Monday, I wrote a post here discussing the offense's struggles, noting that they stemmed largely from a lack of production from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. At that point, both lineup cornerstones had contributed minimally, which was a big reason the Twins were averaging just 3.1 runs over their first nine games.
My conclusion: "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."
Sure enough, the M&M boys answered the call in the Big Apple. In the four-game series, the tandem combined to go 11-for-27 with three doubles and three homers. Mauer started lifting the ball and Morneau generally took much better at-bats. Not coincidentally, the Twins averaged 5.5 runs and came away with their most successful series in the Bronx in over a decade.
Obviously the turnaround had nothing to do my post, but like I said, it's funny how these things work out sometimes.
* In a similar vein, I shot out the following tweet during Wednesday night's game after Matt Capps served up a home run to Derek Jeter: "Matt Capps has struck out one of the 19 batters he's faced this year. #WhyIsHeClosing"
Naturally, Capps proceeded to immediately strike out Curtis Granderson before retiring Mark Teixeira on a deep fly to close out a one-run victory. Yet, in this case, the point still stands. While he's managed to convert all three of his save chances thus far, Capps' inability to miss bats is a recipe for disaster in the ninth inning.
I'll be honest: I'm not convinced that whatever arm ailment was plaguing the right-hander last summer has gone away.
In my mind, there were two clear indicators that something was wrong with Capps last year:
A) A decrease in velocity. His fastball went from averaging 93.6 MPH in 2009 and 94.0 MPH in 2010 to 92.9 in 2011.
B) A huge drop in strikeout rate. Probably not totally unrelated to the dashed velo, but Capps went from striking out 18.7 of the batters he faced in the first six seasons of his big-league career (including 19.3 percent in 2010) to just 12.4 percent in 2011.
So far this year, Capps is averaging 92.6 MPH with his fastball and has struck out 9.5 percent of the batters he's faced after fanning six of 51 in spring training.
He has only pitched five innings thus far, so the small sample caveat obviously applies in a big way, but these are troubling signs for a guy who was rendered ineffective as closer last year by an injury that was not addressed in any way.
Hopefully he responds to my harping on these issues in the same way Mauer and Morneau did.
* In the grand scheme of things, it's tough to be too upset about the Twins' current 4-9 record. Obviously the season-opening sweep in Baltimore was beyond ugly, but since then the Twins have gone 4-6 against three elite teams. They won a series at home against a very good Angels club and split in New York against their longtime tormenters. While the Twins weren't able to come up with a win against the Rangers, they were generally competitive in that series and Texas has been essentially unstoppable this year -- they're now 11-2 after wiping out the Tigers on Thursday night.
If the Twins are still only five games under .500 when they come out of this treacherous opening stretch, they'll be in decent position going forward. Of course, if they don't start pitching better, that's all moot.