When Tsuyoshi Nishioka went down with a broken leg last Thursday, Ron Gardenhire was left with some interesting decisions to make with regards to his daily batting lineup. The result? Mauer in the 2-hole, Morneau in the 3-hole and Delmon Young batting cleanup. The result on the field...a stagnant offense and 6 runs in three games over the weekend. Though none of the Twins' players are hitting particularly well, I believe a lot of blame for that fact can be placed on this very odd lineup that Gardenhire has put together. There was no better example of that than today's game in which Morneau was 3-for-4 and yet drove in only one run (on a ground-out mind you) because the hitters in front of him, Mauer and Span, went a combined 2-for-8 with both hits coming late in the ballgame. In the 1st inning Morneau came to the plate with 2-out and no one on, in the 4th inning he led off the inning (again, no one on obviously) and in the 6th he again came to the plate with 2-out and no one on base. A 3-hole hitter comes to the plate with 2-out and no one on more than any other position in the lineup, a fact I expounded upon in my piece on lineup optimization a couple of weeks ago.
I won't cover it all over again, but the lineup optimization basics say that you should have a high-average/high on-base % guy leading off, the team's best hitter hitting second, an average player in the 3-hole (because the 2-out, no one on sitch) and your power guys batting cleanup and 5th. Putting Morneau at 3 gives him a few more at-bats sure, but it saps his chances to do damage. In today's game, had he gone 3-for-4 as the cleanup guy, he may have had an opportunity or two to drive someone in, and otherwise would have led off a couple of innings with hits and who knows how things might have transpired from there. As it was, his hits were wasted as Delmon Young went 1-for-4 hitting behind him.
The Twins offense certainly isn't by any means doomed with this lineup. As I mentioned earlier, none of the Twins hitters seem to be seeing the ball very well with several of them hitting below the Mendoza-line. This poor hitting is further compounded by the fact that the team as a whole seems impatient at the plate, drawing a total of THREE walks (against 19 strikeouts) in this latest three-game set with the Athletics. When you're not hitting well, and you're not working walks, you aren't going to score many runs and that's what we've seen lately with the Twins. To Pavano, Blackburn and Baker's credit, they pitched pretty well in the series, but the offensive gave them little to no support to back their efforts which is a shame considering how few runs the Twins would have needed to score to take the series.
Put simply, it's up to the hitters to hit (duh). That said, if I were Ron Gardenhire I would keep Mauer in the 2-hole, move Morneau back to the cleanup spot and put Delmon Young or Danny Valencia in the 3-hole. Morneau seems to be hitting better and better as the season moves along and he needs to be put in a situation where he can either a) drive runs in or b) get things started in an inning. Putting him in a position where he is coming to the plate with no one on base and 2-outs is wasting his abilities. As for the other hitters..."come on boys, you gotta get some hits!" Coming into today's game, the Twins as a team were hitting just .203...which is downright terrible. Hopefully the bats will come around this week as the Twins take on the Royals and punchless-Rays. Maybe they'll take some extra BP during their day off tomorrow.