A couple of weeks ago I wrote about clutch hitting being a serious problem on this year’s Twins team. Unfortunately this is looking less and less like a short term hiccup and more like a long term trend. It’s easy to point the finger at rookie Trevor Plouffe’s strikeout in the ninth as the reason for the loss but the fact that two other players in that game failed to produce a hit with the bases loaded is just as much of a problem, and this has been a consistent pattern.
Clutch hitting is not just about the ninth inning and it is not about home runs, it is about key moments that come in every game when you have a chance to leverage the circumstances to your advantage. This means taking advantage of mistakes by your opponents, it means racking up the pitch count by fouling off pitches in the third inning, and it means not hitting into double plays every time you get the chance. The problem is not sitting Mauer, the problem is not rookie strikeouts, and I don’t believe the problem is even a third baseman hitting .218. The problem is a lack of putting games away when given the chance.
I don’t know if it’s coming from the management or just their own heads, but the middle of the lineup seems convinced that their sole job at the plate is to send the ball into orbit. Over the past several years the constant statement that the Twins were a “small-ball” club was a poorly veiled excuse for lousy front office management. When you have actual hitters on your team, which I still believe we do, small ball is good fundamental baseball. Friday night’s game is a prime example – 15 runs, and not a single home run.