As names like Casey Blake, Adrian Beltre, and Hank Blalock continue to circulate around the Twins rumor mill, it’s clear they have to do something before they find themselves out of the playoffs.
Critics of the Twins have pointed their astounding .311 average with runners in scoring position as a key reason for their astounding success this year. As of yesterday’s 8-2 loss against the Yankees on the road, the Twins offense has scored 490 runs, good for seventh in the majors and fifth in the American League.
Now though, the Twins face a difficult decision in deciding whether or not to gamble their future and make a real run at the playoffs, or to stand pat and go with the roster they have.
With Gardenhire finally switching Denard Span and Gomez in the batting order, the entirety of the focus of the offense is switched to Jason Kubel, who is currently hitting fifth. It is up to Kubel to force teams to pitch to Justin Morneau.
Morneau is hitting .318 with 15 home runs and 73 RBIs. After going 5/5 with a game-winning home run in a 7-6 win over Detroit on July 23rd, Morneau has not gotten a lot to hit.
Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland called for the intentional walk to Morneau the following day, which began a trend where Morneau has clearly not been getting pitches to hit. Beginning July 24, Morneau has since made use of his excellent eye at the plate and hit .231 (6-26) with nine walks giving him a .600 OBP.
Despite Kubel’s three failed at-bats after Morneau was walked in Tuesday's loss, Kubel has hit .250 (4/16) with four walks (.400 OBP). Kubel’s platoon mate Craig Monroe is .143 (1/7) with a walk.
Now, Kubel's season averages of .260/ .328/ .453 with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs is not the ideal batter to follow Morneau, but it is still too early to tell whether he will force teams to pitch to Morneau.
There is of course ideas swirling surrounding a possible Home Run Derby induced second-half slump since last year Morneau hit .243/ .318/ .384 after the break compared to .295/ .364/ .581.
As of this moment, Morneau is hitting just .188 with a .381 OBP since the break.
The idea of having Blalock, Beltre, or Blake to protect Morneau in the lineup is surely a tantalizing one for Twins fans and Morneau fantasy owners, but keeping in mind the youth of the Twins pitching staff and the rest of the roster, I suggest a wait and see approach to see whether these trends continue before they gamble away their future.