Speed Plot – May 10th, 2006

Daily Best

Justin Morneau — It’s been a horrible year so far for Morneau; the pride of the Twins‘ farm system just two years ago. He’s walking less and striking out more than any previous season, although his isolated power has grown to a fantastic .243 due to a career low groundball to fly ball ratio. Last night he showed off his power potential with two homeruns and six RBIs, tacking on a single for good measure.

Freddy Garcia — A number of pitchers turned in impressive starts last night, but Garcia’s was the longest (8 IP) and he didn’t walk a single batter. Throwing in six strikeouts didn’t hurt, either, raising his K/BB ratio back towards where it’s been the past couple years. The win pushes his record to 5-1, a lucky mark for a pitcher with a 4.37 ERA.

The Worst

Kevin Millwood — This was a no-brainer. Really now, 1.1 IP, 9 hits, 9 ER, and no strikeouts? Millwood was just starting to make his detractors rethink their position that last year’s league-leading ERA wasn’t a fluke. On the bright side, Millwood’s walk and home run rates are near career lows, a great sign for a Texas pitcher. Maybe his fielders should start pulling their weight, as they’re currently allowing hits on 35% of Millwood’s balls in play.

Cory Sullivan — An 0-fer with three strikeouts is bad enough, but making the first out of the inning twice and leaving a couple runners stranded at second in a two-run loss just ups the pain. Two more failed attempted bunts last night makes you wonder if Sullivan’s trying a little too hard to be Alex Sanchez. At least Sanchez would get hits on more than 7.7% of hit bunts.

The 5 Players I Feel Like Writing About

Felix Hernandez — So far he hasn’t lived up to the pre-season hype, but last night’s 7.2 IP, 1 run, 8 strikeout performance was more along the lines of what Mariners‘ fans expect of the future King. What’s prevented his ERA from matching last year’s impressive 2.67 figure? A walk-rate above 3 per nine innings and a reduced GB/FB ratio leading to an ugly 1.4 home runs per nine innings.

Rafael Soriano — Soriano was the other pitcher of note for the Mariners last night (George Sherrill walked a batter on four straight balls.) He threw 1.2 IP and didn’t allow a base runner while striking out one. He finally appears to be healthy and the Mariners are relying heavily (19 IP already in 2006) on his 2.78 ERA. While fantasy owners are trying to predict whether he or J.J. Putz will serve as closer, the Mariners are just counting their blessings that they have two stud relievers available in the late innings. Now about getting them some leads….

Tony Clark — What a difference a year makes. Coming into 2005, Clark’s career was assumed to be over but he somehow slugged .636 in almost 400 plate appearances. The Diamondbacks were hoping for more of the same in 2006, but Clark’s reverted to pre-2005 form. In 55 plate appearances he’s managed only seven hits and one homerun. The Cubs are rumored to be interested in him, but why?

Aaron Heilman — I can understand wanting to break a pitcher into the majors in a long relief role when the rotation is full with decent pitchers, but I can’t fathom why Heilman’s not being moved into the rotation now that the Mets have lost both Brian Bannister and Victor Zambrano. They don’t seriously think Jose Lima is the answer, do they? If the rumors are true about the Mets reconsidering Billy Beane’s dream trade of Lastings Milledge/Heilman for Barry Zito, I will stop trying to find a seat on the Mets’ bandwagon.

Luis Castillo — It’s a great sign for your team when you bat six times in a nine-inning game and it’s an even better sign that the Twins scored 15 runs with their number two hitter making five outs in the same game. Castillo’s up to most of his usual tricks in 2006: hitting above .300, refusing to hit for anything resembling power, and putting the ball on the ground over 60% of the time. Unfortunately, in addition to stealing much less frequently, he’s also decided to revert back to his career-worst walk-rate. Eschewing walks must be part of the Twins’ organizational philosophy.

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Sky Kalkman is a writer for Fan Graphs. You can email him at skyking162@gmail.com or visit his baseball blog. Sky's favorite color is orange.

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