July 23, 2008

Lightning now at the bottom of the bottle

Last night, Ron Gardenhire made the much-anticipated switch of Denard Span and Carlos Gomez in the batting lineup. And in just one night, we can already see the difference. Although the result of the game didn't change, Span reached base safely 3 times in the game.

Span was the only Twins batter to collect two hits off of Darrell Rasner and a strong Yankees bullpen. He showcased his great speed with an infield base hit and looked to be very comfortable at the top of the lineup. He took pitches and was very selective which is something that Gomez has not been all season. It surely was a great change-of-pace to see a bona fide leadoff hitter at the top of the Twins lineup again.

As for Gomez, he accepted the switch well by going 1-3 with a double and a run scored. Manager Ron Gardenhire spoke with Gomez prior to announcing the switch to keep the electrifying 22-year-old's spirits high as he's in the midst of a terrible slump. Gomez had a great response for the swap:
"If it's better for the team, it's better for me."
For being such a young player, he clearly understands that this is a team sport and it's great to see him be so open to the switch.

Span has a quality at bat about 50% of the time he is at the plate, which is 14% higher than Gomez. But in regards to being a leadoff hitter, the stat that seperates the two the most is the .155 point difference in on-base percentage. Span gets on base which is the most important thing for a leadoff hitter, and is something that Gomez has not done since reaching the majors (and wasn't great at in the minors).

With there theoretically being less pressure at the bottom of the lineup, hopefully Gomez can relax and get back to what seperates him from nearly every other player in baseball and that is his speed. One of the things that was talked about when acquiring Gomez was that there's more less of a chance of him being in a long funk due to the fact that he can bunt for hits. But it seems that Gomez hasn't been doing that and we all have seen the tremendous dropoff in his stealing which is correlated with the fact that he's not getting on base nearly as much as he did at the beginning of the season. But hopefully this move will allow Gomez to ge back to doing what he does best which is use his speed.

I also would like to see him take the "Delmon Young Approach" at the plate in which he doesn't try to pull everything and just go with where the ball is pitched. Gomez hits almost 45% of his balls to the left-side of the field while most pitches tend to throw to Gomez away from him as they know he's going to try pulling it. He needs to try leveling out his swing and hopefully take the ball to the opposite field more like Delmon Young who hits the ball 21% of the time to the outfield in right.

Although Young has been criticized for not pulling the ball more, I understand his reasoning for taking the ball the other way:
"They come in, I pull," he said. "They go away, I go away. No reason to pull balls that are away. You just take what they give you. ... If you go with the pitch, your success rate's going to be higher."
It's great to see a young player like Young want to take the ball the other way. The only thing that would be nice is to see him drive the ball a little more instead of hitting dribblers. But anyways, I'd like to see Gomez try this philosphy out since his clearly does not appear to be working.

I feel a lot more comfortable with Span at the top and with Gomez at the bottom, and I think both of the players feel more comfortable in their new places as well. We'll just see if Gomez can try to learn from his mistakes and try to make changes.

One thing is for sure, even if it's only temporary, it's great to see Span bring the art of leading off back to the Minnesota.

Game Ball
Denard Span - Right Field

2-3, run, walk
Twins lose, 8-2.