04-10-2012, 11:05 AM #1
Do the 2012 Twins lack heart?
It does compared to the 2002 squad says MinnPost.com's Pat Borzi.
In efforts to remind fans of the recent glory days, the Twins organization had brought several members of the '02 squad - aka "The Get To Know 'Em Boys" - into the home opener to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In reminiscing about that era, Borzi accuses the current Twins of lacking the same hustle, grit, intensity, etc, etc, as the previous model.
Borzi does give an in-game example of what he means by lacking hustle on the Twins part:
The slow-footed Albert Pujols, rarely known for hustling as a Cardinal, lumbered from first to third in the first inning because center fielder Denard Span – normally one of the most aggressive Twins – chased a Kendrick Morales single to his left as if it had a lit fuse. Two runs followed.
Based on that play, Mientkiewicz made this comment:
“We would first-and-third you to death,” said Mientkiewicz, the old first baseman and a rookie hitting coach in the Dodgers system. “I hear that in my sleep sometimes.”
The '02 club hustled like no other. At least that is what we hear all the time. They took third base constantly and at every opportunity - much better than "the heavily left-handed slugging team, perfect for the Metrodome but ill-suited to the unfriendly winds of Target Field." Those lumbering lugs couldn't get to third base from first even if the batter hit a triple. Or, wait...
According to Baseball-Reference.com's base-running database, the 2011 team - the Twins who wore concrete shoes when running the bases - actually excelled at take third base on singles better than the '02 club did. In 2002, the Twins had a runner on first base 310 times when a single was hit and 92 times that runner scampered to third (29.6%). Meanwhile, last year's team had a runner on first 305 times when a single was hit and advanced to third 100 times, the most in the AL (32.7%). What's more is that the 2011 team was also superior at taking the extra base in general, moving up a bag 44% of the time (the 2nd highest in AL) versus 39% of the time in '02 (fifth from the bottom). The '11 team also stole more bases than that club as well.
Obviously, there are other ways to try to quantify hustle -- such as playing defense, which the 2011 club certainly didn't do.
With all the descriptives that have applied to the 2002 team (scrappy, gritty, piranha), it's easy to think that they were far better at "hustling", like going first-to-third, than the more late model teams. But, of course, it would help to check to see if that was true.
Without running an EKG, it's hard to determine if what Borzi is saying is true - you need access of that action because there are no stats that measures heart. Perhaps this is his interpretation based on some occasional on-field lapses combined with clubhouse observations - that the '02 clubhouse was more "loosey-goosey" and played more practical jokes and had more tickle fights than the environment of the modern-day Twins. And because the current locker room is not nearly as "fun-loving" as the days of Hunter and company, this '12 team lacks heart.
What do you think? Does the 2012 squad lack "heart"?
04-10-2012, 11:08 AM #2
I do think there is a lifelessness to the Twins the last few years but is that real or just my impression from watching a losing team? I have no idea. I do know the 2002 team was better than this years team so I suspect they did a lot of things - hit, pitch, defend, intangibles etc - better.
The big perception problem is probably Mauer. Whether it's true or not, I have no idea. But the Mauer that dove at Brett Gardner and kept visiting pitchers to calm them down doesn't seem to be as active. Again, I have no idea if it's true or just a perception you get from watching a bad team and a great player struggle for so long. -shrug-
04-10-2012, 11:09 AM #3
I think it is too early to know. We are very much still in "get to know them" mode with many of these players. And despite ST, I suspect that they are in "get to know them" mode with each other. It takes awhile for any group of people to gel with each other.
I'm anxious to see if any leadership emerges and to see what type of persona the team develops. Right now I think we have a group with many individual concerns -- health for Mauer, Morneau and Span; a new environment and teammates for Carroll, Doumit and Willingham; "fitting in" and staying on the team for younger players. The one area where they should have been comfortable (except for how Marquis fit in) was SP but that's been blown to smithereens with Baker's situation and Hendriks' food poisoning.
I wonder if we'll ever see much high spiritedness from a team where Joe Mauer is the star. There was a comment from one of the younger players the other day (may have been Brian Duensing) about Mauer's leadership -- how hard he worked and what a great example it was for younger players. Are they also taking their cues about cool professionalism from Mauer? That would seemingly squelch quite a few high spirits. And when you have a player with attitude (e.g. Valencia), it does seem like the Twins try to put the brakes on.
I know that high spirits & attitude don't equate with heart. I continue to hope that Morneau keeps improving (even if he stays at DH). He sets a little different tone than Mauer.
Last edited by JB_Iowa; 04-10-2012 at 12:13 PM.
04-10-2012, 11:09 AM #4
It's way too early to say. I am disappointed in what I see as a lack of "fire" chasing/diving for balls, etc. so far, but it's early and who really knows if the guy didn't try, or just made a bad play? We all saw Pavano smashing the water cooler last year after the defense repeatedly let him down. Definitely no lack of fire from him, but could use about 5-6 more MPH on his fastball! I think you can look at the top 3 in the lineup and ask if they are all too laid back, though. Do you want/need guys with a little edge in those spots? It's hard to define, but it also seems to me that Span, Carroll and Mauer all have a relaxed approach and maybe one of those guys needs to be the fire starter.
04-10-2012, 11:10 AM #5
The 2012 Twins can't 'first to third' anyone to death when no one is getting on first.
04-10-2012, 11:31 AM #6
04-10-2012, 12:03 PM #7
It's worth noting that Pujols though apparently "not known for hustle" has always been very good at taking the extra base. His numbers going first to third on a single and his extra bases taken percentages have generally been well above league average.
The MinnPost article just looks like a reactionary trying to stir the pot after a slow start.
04-10-2012, 12:03 PM #8
I always struggle when someone says that someone "lacks heart" or is "playing without energy." What does it mean? Is it a negative? First, you can't ever measure someone's heart visibly. Josh Willingham hustles, but he's slow, so it may not always look like it. Joe Mauer is about as calm as it gets, and often that is a good thing. I know everyone wants him to turn into something he isn't, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have heart. I'd like to see more aggressiveness, but I don't want guys thrown out on the bases making dumb decisions.
04-10-2012, 12:04 PM #9
04-10-2012, 12:32 PM #10
I would always attribute any collective team issues or percieved issues (like 'lack of heart') to the manager. If there is an issue he is responsible to solve it as a leader. If he cannot solve it, some one else can.-----
Blogging Twins since 2007 at The Tenth Inning Stretch
04-10-2012, 01:05 PM #11
Quite funny about impressions and "seeing eye" evaluations not matching reality as the statistics show. Once again.
04-10-2012, 01:08 PM #12
04-10-2012, 01:08 PM #13
I wonder how many Wins Above Replacement "hustle" and "grit" produce . . .
04-10-2012, 01:10 PM #14
Some people are acting at though this team is full of Carmelo Anthonys . . .
04-10-2012, 01:23 PM #15
This fan's disappointment is less with the 0-4 start than it is with how the team seems to have picked up mentally and emotionally right where they left off last Sept.
After finishing that dismal season with nearly 100 losses I somehow expected them to show up this year with a little more fire, a little energy right out of the gate - something to suggest they expect better of themselves for 2012.
Sadly, despite a few new names & faces, it appears to be the exact same team - leading me to expect nothing more than a re-do of 2011.
04-10-2012, 01:32 PM #16
How does anyone know how they are "mentally and emotionally" and what is "fire"? Are they supposed to throw helmets, break coolers, what?
04-10-2012, 01:38 PM #17
04-10-2012, 01:48 PM #18
I'm not looking for any flying helmets. But I'd like to see a smile once in a while, a spring in their step - something in their faces or their demeanor that suggests they're happy to be there and have at least a little confidence that they might be able to pull off a win in the major leagues. They play baseball for a living, for cryin' out loud - every little leaguer's dream. But these Twins don't look like they have much fun doing it. JMO.
04-10-2012, 01:53 PM #19
04-10-2012, 01:56 PM #20