Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Twins in on Lowell?


On Monday, La Velle E Neal wrote in his blog that the Twins and Boston Red Sox were in communication over the possibility of shipping third baseman Mike Lowell to Minnesota. At 36 years old, Lowell, who is hitting a trifling .215/.311/.354, is potentially on his last leg of his career. While his peripherals suggest that he might be a better hitter that his current slashes suggest, he’s slowly being phased out of Boston nonetheless. Even with the possibility of better days for the aging third baseman, there is no indication that he would discover them at Target Field.

For the past two seasons Fenway Park has been a savior for Lowell’s stat line. In 2009 Lowell hit .307/.344/.588 with 12 home runs and 20 doubles in 199 plate appearances at Fenway. Away from the claustrophobic left field in Boston, Lowell’s numbers took a considerable downturn. In 246 plate appearances outside of Beantown, Lowell hit .276/.331/.382 with just 5 home runs and 9 doubles.

This season, limited by nagging injuries and nowhere to play him, Lowell has not seen much of the field. Nevertheless in the small sample size in 2010 the same pattern emerges in his home and away splits. In his 61 plate appearances at Fenway, Lowell has shown glimpses of power, hitting his only 2 home runs and 5 doubles leading to a .462 slugging percentage inside Massachusetts. Meanwhile in his 29 plate appearances away from Boston, Lowell has no extra base hits and a miniscule .148 slugging percentage.

Visually, we can clearly see that his power numbers (Isolated Power) have dropped off the chart (literally) in his home/road splits:

As a pull-power hitter, Lowell used the left field wall to his advantage, sending numerous shots towards that area in the past two seasons but found little solace in the vast real estate of center or right field:

Slugging %:



Opposite Field


















For someone that has maintained a decent productive pace in 2008 and 2009, Fenway was a bastion for him. Fenway’s left field dimension is infinitely more inviting than other AL ballparks as the foul pole measures just 310 feet away from home plate and meanders outward towards center with a power alley of 379. Comparatively, Target Field starts at 339 then grows to 377 in the power alley.

While an upgrade over Nick Punto at third isn’t without consideration, without the proximity to the inviting left field wall, Target Field has the potential of keeping Lowell from resurrecting his power numbers. Furthermore, Lowell lacks the defense prowess that Punto adds when listed at the corner infield position (Punto’s currently 5th with a +9 on John Dewan’s Plus/Minus among third basemen). Last year when he was able to field third base for more than 800 innings, Lowell amasses a -23 (35th among qualified third basemen), particularly brutal at groundballs to his left (-17).  So while Lowell would provide an offensive boost, he is unquestionably a step back in defensive quality.

But let’s not dismiss Lowell that quickly.

Essentially, any acquisition of Mike Lowell would act as a replacement for Brendan Harris. In the beginning of the year, the Twins had Harris tapped as the right-hander available for playing time against left-handed pitching, be it in a fielding or DHing capacity. For his part, Harris hasn’t hit anything thrown by any arm. Loaded with left-handed heavy bench options (Thome, Kubel, et al), the Twins require someone to fill the role of part-time righty that Harris was originally slated to be.  After all, the road to the World Series runs through teams that have the likes of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettite and David Price.

If Boston is willing to absorb some of the $12 million owed to the veteran, the Twins have enough C-and-B list prospects to placate the Red Sox front office. It has the makings of a cheap solution if the Twins are willing to address the right problem.


Other items of note:

  • The fourth TwinsCentric Viewing Party of the season is scheduled for this Saturday at the Park Tavern in St Louis Park when the Twins take on the Phightin' Phillies at 3:10. The good people at the PT have made their 11th Frame available to our group as well as drink specials and appetizer discounts. Come and enjoy the game and some beverages with fellow Twins fans. Also, patrons will have the opportunity to win tickets to Target Field, a 10-person bowling party with free pizza courtesy of the Park Tavern, free drinks and other various prizes. 
  • At DiamondCentric, we have released two new t-shirts designs of two players of the more mixed bagged variety: Nick Punto and Michael Cuddyer

"Love him or hate him, Nick Punto has been an institution in the Twins lineup since 2004. Knock him all you want but no one else in bseball shows as much grit as this five-foot-nine-inch dynamo does. Watch him make acrobatic throws, perpendicular to the ground or dive headlong (albeit needlessly) into first base. Watch as he scampers around the bases as if someone used him to soak up a coffee spill in the clubhouse. While you are watching Punto emit scarp everywhere in Target Field this year, make sure you are watching him in your very own storm grey "Punto Plays Dirty" t-shirt."
"Equipped with substandard range in the outfield, which is compensated for by a howitzer of an arm, Micheal Cuddyer has been crushing wrong-handed pitching in Minnesota since 2001. With almost a decade of his dimply mug in the lineup and providing post-game sound bites, we all feel like Cuddy is our Buddy. With this t-shirt, you can let the rest of the world know it too."