Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Time for Joe to Go?

I know it's 'in vogue' to call for the head of the hitting coach when things are going badly. I'm hardly the first and if things keep going like this for the Twins (6 runs in 4 games) more and more people will jump on that bandwagon. The fact of the matter is that in each of the past two season, the Twins offense has gotten off to a very slow start and sometimes a change a scenery is needed, even if the old scenery isn't necessarily the problem.

Last year, the circumstances were different, but the outcome was the same. In their first 29 games of 2011, the Twins managed only one game in which the offense scored more than 5 runs. Injuries were to blame more than anything else for the slow start in 2011, but this year the Twins entered and emerged from Spring Training with a fully capable lineup that had been playing well leading up to the beginning of the season.

Their struggles so far this year are no mystery when you look at the data. As a team they seem unable to hit a ball that doesn't hit the ground before it hits a glove. In fact, of all the balls the Twins have put in play so far this season, 67.7% of them have been groundballs which, far and away, leads the Majors. Their GB/FB ratio is 3.35/1 -- almost DOUBLE that of any other team (the next closest is the Giants at 1.87/1 GB/FB ratio). The propensity to hit groundballs has led to an understandably low BABIP (.184) which pretty much explains why the Twins have been unable to score runs. To put it a different way - the Twins have scored 6 runs in 4 games and 3 of those runs have come as a result of HRs hit by Josh Willingham. If not for that, the Twins would have been shutout twice in the first 4 games. [all stats courtesy of fangraphs.com]

Joe Vavra's had a good run. He was hired following the 2005 season and in 2006, the Twins scored over 800 runs and won 96 games. After a down year in 2007, the Twins again reached the 800+ runs mark in both 2008 and 2009 and almost reached that mark in 2010 scoring 781 runs. Last year, well, we all know what happened last year - the team only scored 619 runs on it's way to one of the worst years in franchise history.

I'm only half-heartedly calling for a change. I know it's only 4 games and I also know that there are 158 games left this season. The Twins offense could (and probably will) turn it around at any point. I'm saying that if this offensive futility continues, then there needs to be some changes made -- and in this case I think it should start with the hitting coach.