The Twins just completed a series in which they scored five runs in three games while being swept by the Blue Jays. In my searches for the Series Preview in Blog, I came across this article about the inconsistency of the Jays offense in comparison to some other teams. The Twins were one of the more inconsistent offenses mentioned in the study. The author doesn’t delve into cause and effect with his numbers (except for a rough characterization of teams as ‘power’ or ‘speed’ reliant offenses), but the short answer has little to do with a reliance on speed in the Twins offense. Rather the Twins offense goes mostly as the 3-6 hitters go. Unfortunately those hitters are the least consistently productive of the Twins regular lineup.
I looked at the eleven Twins players that have the most plate appearances so far this season. For each player, I divided the 100 games of the 2007 season into 19 ten-game sections (i.e. 1-10, 6-15, 11-20, etc.), calculated the OPS for each section, and then calculated the standard deviation of that data set. I threw out any of those sections where the player had less than 15 plate appearances, which gave the results in the table at the left.
The most inconsistent performers (Tyner, Redmond, Cirillo) are those that don’t play as often. The next rung on the inconsistency ladder belongs to Minnesota’s “big 4”; Cuddyer, Mauer, Hunter, Morneau. The most consistent are the “little 4”; the regular players with OPS under .800 (Kubel, Bartlett, Punto, Castillo). The biggest surprise to me was Joe Mauer’s numbers. It’s hard to believe that Mauer is less consistent than Torii Hunter. And, in fact, if you eliminate just the 10 game stretch immediately after he came off the disabled list the standard deviation drops significantly. So I dropped the highest and lowest sections from each players data and recalculated the data.
For the most part the trends remain the same. The bench players are the most inconsistent, probably due to the uneven amount of playing time they get during the season. Cuddyer, Hunter, and Morneau remain in the same position. They produce more overall, but their production is less consistent than others in the offense. The biggest movers in this adjustment are Joe Mauer and Jason Bartlett, who both suffered from one below average cross-section (Mauer coming off the DL, Bartlett’s first 10 games of ’07). Mauer is pretty remarkable. Not only is he able to produce at a high level, he’s one of the most consistent hitters in the Twins lineup this season. The other players at the bottom of the table are all of the lighter hitting variety, consistently providing a lower level of offense.
Therein lies the problem with the Twins offense. The top and bottom of the order are consistently producing subpar offensive numbers (OPS of .594 to .709) so they rarely are able to pick up the slack when the middle of the order isn’t at its top production. Unfortunately, it seems that the middle of the order this season has been the most unpredictable part of the offense, whether it’s availability (Mauer spending significant time on the DL) or just production. If one or two (or sometimes three) of the “big 4” aren’t producing, the offense almost completely evaporates. It’s also interesting to note that the right-handed component of the “big 4” is the less consistent half. That might be a factor in the Twins struggles against left-handed pitching.
The inconsistency is not the fault of the middle of the order being more or less consistent than the rest of the lineup. In fact, I would predict that most of the high OPS hitters would see more variance than lighter-hitting players. Rather, it is an offense that is constructed to rely on a few people in the lineup to produce the majority of the runs, and when the remainder of the lineup doesn’t heat up to cover the downswings of the big bats, the offense is doomed to sputter.