The Twins ended their offensive struggles and homerless drought by scoring 20 runs in the first two games against the Mariners. These two victories, especially the 11-0 win yesterday, helped the Twins improve their dreadful run differential, which was last in the majors prior to this series. Now, they're only out-performing their Pythagorean record by one game, which basically eliminates that anomaly. The win on Friday was easily the best game of the season for the Twins, and it came at a time when they desperately needed it. Scott Baker showed why he was the first choice for opening day starter as he turned in his best performance of the season, striking out 5 and walking none over 7 innings. Jesse Crain and Joe Nathan finished off the Twins' first shutout of the season. The offense, though, was the story in this game, as they hit 4 home runs, including three in one inning. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Brian Buscher, and Brendan Harris all went deep on Friday.
Of course, this performance came against Chris Jakubauskas, so it remained to be seen what the offense would do against Felix Hernandez, who shut the Twins down in the season opener. That would not happen again last night, as the Twins scored early and often, including three more home runs and another back-to-back set for Mauer and Morneau. Michael Cuddyer continued his recent tear with a home run. Equally impressive for this Twins team has been their patience over these two games, as they've taken 12 walks total. You can't react too much because it's such a small sample, but for a team that perennially refuses to take a free base (other than the obvious exception of Mauer) and is ranked 25th in walk percentage, any evidence of change is welcomed. Of course, the performance of Francisco Liriano was disappointing in the most recent game after the improvement that was seen in his last start against the Tigers. Hopefully this is just a bump in the road for Liriano, who struck out 4 and walked 2 in 5 innings.
Another interesting note from today was the addition of speed score to the player pages on FanGraphs. As it sounds from the name, speed score is an attempt at statistically measuring a player's speed. It was invented by Bill James and is an average of 5 different statistics (FanGraphs uses a simpler 4 statistic version though) that are thought to be representative of a player's speed. Obviously, speed is an important attribute in measuring a player's value on defense and on the base paths, and it's also an important measure in terms of determining a player's true BABIP. Of course the problem here is that speed is very difficult to measure. James is clearly a lot smarter than me, but as I've been skeptical of some of the measures he uses for speed and his speed scores for players are hard to find, I've always wondered how accurate they would be. In other words, how would they match up with what our eyes tell us? Here are the Twins' speed scores from last season, since it's really a stat that needs a large sample size to be accurate (click to enlarge):
These numbers match up pretty well with what we've seen on the field. Though Matt Tolbert doesn't seem to be the fastest guy on the team, him, Carlos Gomez, and Denard Span as the top 3 is not unreasonable (and Tolbert doesn't have a huge sample size). Then there's a drop off before the group of Nick Punto, Cuddyer, and Delmon Young. I've always thought that Morneau looks pretty slow, and these stats confirm this as he's near the bottom. The interesting players on this list are Cuddyer, Young, and Alexi Casilla. The two outfielders have never seemed all that quick (or graceful, in Young's case) in the outfield, yet they score well in this statistic. Casilla on the other hand looks pretty quick, yet scores well below both of them. This is just a brief look at the stat of speed score, an idea which I find intriguing and hope to do more with in the future. And I think we can all agree on its accuracy in judging Mike Redmond as the slowest player on the team.