Thursday, February 9, 2012

Return To Piranhas?

When Ron Gardenhire announced his projected opening day lineup I don't think there were any surprises, at least not personally. However, not playing coy and announcing to the world before any of them have stepped foot on Hammond Field to take a few warmup swings seems either a little presumptuous or a devilish attempt at lighting a fire under some fringe players.

Personally, it just seems a little deflating. It's hard right now to imagine Willingham and Doumit's impact having never seen them suit up for the Twins, and truth be told I never really payed all that much attention to them before their names starting popping up as possibilities for the Twins. Regardless of how well their bats might play I think it's pretty clear that the 2012 Twins will lack the thump we got a little taste of back when JJ Hardy was batting ninth and Thome was tapping his foot on the bench waiting to mash some taters.

Instead, this is throwing me back to the days when Nick Punto was dirtying up his uniform by sliding headfirst into first base, Jason Tyner was locking down the DH spot, and Luis Castillo was burning his prosthetic knees up the first base line after laying down a bunt for a hit. The top and bottom two spots of the lineup will be a typical return to Piranha fashion, with that injection of speed that we heard about last year but never really got to see.

Leadoff and the two-hole being filled with Denard Span and Jamey Carroll makes decent sense, as both have relatively strong on base skills and once they get on they can hopefully run a little bit. Of course both are somewhat of a question mark as it remains to be seen if Span will return healthy and if Carroll can stave off his aging long enough to play a few more years.

At the bottom of the lineup we're rounded out with the ever-enigmatic Alexi Casilla and then Ben Revere. If either can post a decent OBP the four of these hitters going back-to-back could be enough to to scrap together some typical Piranha runs late in a ballgame. But of course this relies on us seeing the "good" version of Casilla and on Revere improving on his performance at the plate from last year -- neither of which are sure bets.

The other factor to watch will be how the Piranha approach works for the Twins in their new ballpark. Without the aid of the turf in the infield helping them get some seeing-eye singles, the four new Piranhas will have to rely a little heavier on line drives to the gaps to show off their wheels (unless of course they're playing the Tigers and can just lay down bunts up either line).

Regardless, it seems like the Twins are committed to adjusting their offensive approach in Target Field. Going back to what worked for them throughout the middle of last decade. It will be interesting to see if it pays off, because I'm still a little puzzled why they ever changed direction from the 2010 Minnesota Murderer's Row that posted one of the best records the Twins have had in recent history their first year at the new ballpark. Hopefully this year helps them decide if they pursue the small-ball approach they seem set on or else start looking for some power bats again.

*In other news, if you haven't already, please go support Twins maven Lindsay Guentzel in her quest to live in the MLB Fan Cave! I had the pleasure of attending an event there last year and walk by it almost every day as it's down the street from my work. It would be great to have a fellow Twins fan over there and if anyone from our online Twins community deserves it it's definitely Lindsay -- who has made herself omnipresent in the Minnesota sports world.

1 comment:

  1. Topper,

    Let's be honest manager Ron Gardenhire is an absolute idiot for making this comment. He is telling players who believe they have a chance to make the team that his mind is already made up. This is what makes him such a bad manager. People continue to say he knows how to get the most out of his players, but I completely disagree. The reason last season (2011) got off to such a bad start is because Gardenhire decided to let Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Young, Thome, and Kubel take the first 2-3 weeks off during spring training. He used health as the excuse but basically just wanted to be the free and easy going manager because he was afraid to confront anybody and work them hard. The result was not enough at bats during spring training and it carried on to the regular season. When asked about it he said "The boys don't need a lot of at bats to get ready look at Mauer in 2009." During the season when all his top producers were struggling he said "They did not get many at bats during spring training." Ron Gardenhire has had more talent in Minnesota than Tom Kelly every could of dreamed of having and look at the result. He has lost 12 straight playoff games and the team is petrified of the New York Yankees. How long does this guy get to keep his job before the front office brings in Paul Molitor?