2009 MLB American League Central Notebook
When it comes to issuing walks, no team has been more stingy than the Minnesota Twins.
Since 2003, the Twins have either led or been second in the big leagues in fewest walks allowed. This year, the Twins were on their way to continuing that trend by allowing only 77 through their first 28 games. That is 11 fewer than their nearest competitor, Baltimore.
Minnesota pitching allowed 402 in 2003, 431 in 2004, 348 in 2005, 356 in 2006, 420 in 2007 and 406 in 2008. The Twins led every year except in 2004 and 2007 when they were second.
That’s exceptional because in a 162-game schedule, most teams are on average well above 525 walks for the season and some are pushing well into the 600 walk range.
The Twins’ philosophy through manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson has been to always make the opponent put the ball in play because this team will be fundamentally sound to make the play. The Twins will give up more than their share of hits that will lead to runs but better to have the runs come via the hit than accelerate through walks.
This season, the Twins’ ERA is 5.38 but at least they are making teams earn it honestly.
Right fielder Magglio Ordonez has been arguably the biggest disappointment to the season for the Tigers.
A career .311 hitter, he is at a woeful .228 and has been shifted around in the lineup. At one point, he was the team’s designated hitter. But the Tigers are like a lot of teams in baseball where they are rotating several people through as the DH.
Ordonez is in a 5-for-38 slide and really has shown no power other than his two home runs. He does not have a double through his first 27 games. Thus, his slugging percentage is at a porous .287.
With Jose Contreras still struggling mightily with his command and effectiveness, questions about finding a replacement have surfaced.
Manager Ozzie Guillen was asked about free agent right-hander Pedro Martinez. But Guillen said no. Guillen would like to see Contreras find a way to figure out his struggles before he makes a move.
Contreras is off to the worst start in his career at 0-4 and an 8.31 ERA. His ERA has never been lower than 6.75 this year. His velocity from his three-quarter delivery has been fairly easy for left-handed hitters to pick up. They are batting .311 against him.
Carl Pavano probably isn’t blowing people’s minds by his 2-3 record and 6.60 ERA. The right-hander basically was nearly a $40 million bust for the New York Yankees and the result was nine wins in three years.
Of course, Pavano wasn’t healthy, but he now appears to be finding his way with the Indians. He’s gone at least six innings in four of his last five starts including a pair of solid starts in May. He picked up wins against Detroit and Boston. His ERA for the month of May is a very impressive 2.70.
What’s been encouraging has been his control. One of the benchmarks of his career, Pavano has economized with only eight walks for the season.
The Royals 18-11 start is their best start since 2003, which is their only winning season this decade.
One of the tougher parts about facing the Royals has been when they are under the lights. They are a major league-best 13-5 in that category. They also have baseball’s best pitching with a league-best 3.62 ERA and have the most quality starts (6 IP, 3 ER) of anyone in the game with 15.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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