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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Departed Twins' Playoff Stats: What Have We Given Up?

If there's been a constant theme lately in the comments to this blog, and others, it is that the Twins not only need to be a competitive team in 2012, but a team that is capable of advancing past the first round of the playoffs. Sure, that feels pretty far away right now, coming off a 99 loss season, but I don't think that most fans are going to give the team a free pass in 2011 and call it a "success" to spend over $100 million and win 81 games in a ballpark that is only 3 years old, and was supposed to usher in a new era of Twins' success. And I agree. Although I personally don't think that the Twins have the pitching -- right now -- to get in the playoffs and win a playoff series, 2012 will be a failure if we see more of what we saw in 2011. So that's what I want to talk about today -- the playoffs, and, specifically, what the Twins have given up in recent weeks with the departures of Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan.

Michael Cuddyer, a guy not necessarily known as Mr. Clutch throughout his career as a Twin, was very consistent in the playoffs. Here's his slash line: .338/.372/.473, in 74 at-bats. Those figures are all above his regular season career averages. In 2010, he hit a home run in Game 1 of the ALDS at Target Field against the Yankees, and I thought for a second that things were going to be different this time around. And then, just like Lucy pulling the football from Charlie Brown for the hundredth as he went to kick it, the Twins fooled me one more time. So, say what you will about Cuddyer and his penchant for swinging at sliders in the dirt, but the man was at least consistent when it counted the most, and he in fact played better in October than he did during the regular season. The Twins' playoff struggles certainly can't be blamed on Cuddyer.

How about Kubel? I had remembered that he struck out a lot in the 2009 ALDS, but that was about it. The stats are not encouraging: in 29 at-bats, here is Kubel's slash line: .069/.156/.103. 13 strikeouts; 2 total hits -- a single and a double. Simply stated, Kubel has been horrific in the playoffs. As consistent as he was in helping the Twins compete and win in the regular season, his playoff track record is abysmal. Without looking into the detailed, game-by-game stats, I'm guessing that some of Kubel's failures are the result of facing tough leftys, including CC Sabathia, in October. Kubel, never known for hitting southpaws very well, would have been put in a situation where he was very likely to fail. Add that to the stress of the playoffs, and you apparently end up with a slash line that makes Drew Butera's look like Ted Williams'.

As consistent as Joe Nathan was in the regular season throughout his career saving games in Minnesota, he was equally inconsistent in October when it mattered the most. For his playoff career, Nathan owns a 7.88 ERA in 8 innings of work, having allowed 2 home runs, and striking out 10 while walking 7. According to my notes, he has 2 blown saves, 1 save, and 1 loss in 8 appearances. Unfortunately, Nathan's playoff legacy in Minnesota is that he was unable to get the job done when it counted most. Sure, some of the blame rests on the Twins as a whole, for not scoring more runs or not fielding a better playoff lineup, but Nathan couldn't earn his closer money when the Twins most needed a closer.

What about Matt Capps, who the Twins re-signed a few weeks ago? Well, for the definition of a small sample size, here you go: 1 total inning pitched, 2 hits, 1 earned run. Sadly, the man we traded Wilson Ramos for, the man who was supposed to help our playoff run in 2010, pitched 1 lousy inning in the playoffs.

So there you have it, a quick rundown of what the Twins have given up, in terms of playoff performances, from their free agents that have left for (perceived) greener pastures. Of course, the big caveat with these figures is the extremely small sample size, with the exception of perhaps Cuddyer. But isn't that what the playoffs are about -- who can succeed, and who fails, in an extremely small window for success that has extremely large implications? Perhaps there's a reason that Cuddyer has been more successful in October than in the regular season, and that otherwise-reliable players such as Kubel and Nathan have been dreadful? I don't know much about clutch hitting as a reliable statistical measure, but it certainly is worth exploring. And, of course, not every at-bat in the playoffs is a clutch situation. But how else do you explain Kubel's absolute inability to play the game of baseball -- even the inability to make contact in nearly half of his at-bats --when the calendar turns to October? I'm sure others have more informed views on this topic, and I'd love to hear them. In any event, however, if we are thinking about the Twins, either in the short term or the long term, as a playoff team, the only major loss statistically was Michael Cuddyer. The problem, though, is that players such as Nathan and Kubel were huge reasons that the Twins ever got to the playoffs in the first place.


  1. Thanks for the update on what the Twins gave up. Unfortunately we don't know what the Twins got.

    Doumit and Willingham have never played in the post-season and Carroll has very limited experience.

    I didn't realize that Kubel's stats were so miserable -- I knew they were bad but not that bad.

    I think you also have to add Delmon Young's stats into the "loss" equation here. While his 2009 post-season wasn't pretty, 2010 was much improved and obviously his 2011 ALDS with Detroit was outstanding (and you have to wonder if his injury didn't play into his decline in the ALCS). Of course, batting in front of Miggy didn't hurt.

    But then again, will this really matter? They have to GET to the post-season for PS stats to make a difference. That seems pretty unlikely for 2012 and there could be lots of new faces on the team by 2013.

  2. Thanks for the comment, JB. Admittedly I kind of forgot about D. Young. He was pretty great this year in October until the injury. Many think that, aside from batting in front of Miggy, it was also the result of him batting in the top half of the order where he really belonged. I seem to rembmer in July or August of 2010, when he was on fire and there were other injuries, that he batted 3rd for a while, and did well there.

    And, as far as getting to the postseason and actually winning, now that we know the Twins are close to signing Jason Marquis, I think that answers (with a resounding NO) the question regarding whether they will really do anything different to get over that playoff hump. Sure, if they are competitive at the deadline, they can look at other pitchers, but really this sends a message loud and clear by getting yet another pitch to contact-er that can't touch 90 MPH.

  3. The BEST thing that can be said about the Marquis deal is that it is reportedly for only 1 year. (If it is for more than that, we'll know that the front office has lost their collective minds.)

    Sounds like Terry Ryan really doesn't want to make that "one block walk" to Jim Pohlad's office to ask for permission to go above $100 million.

    I guess the Twins no longer care about their promise to Mauer to put a competitive team around him since he hasn't been very competitive himself. Or maybe this is a strategy to get him to waive his "no trade" clause.