The dream died this weekend. The Twins, with one last chance to make a run
in the AL Central, dropped two of three games to the Indians, making their
tragic number six and basically ending the divisional race.

The Twins scored just four runs in their two losses, continuing an offensive
slide that is the root cause of their second-half problems.

                         AVG    OBP    SLG     R/G     ERA     W-L
April through July      .275   .338   .423    4.93    4.41   60-46
Since                   .260   .312   .461    4.43    4.57   19-25

The Twins had success for four months despite a borderline offense for a
contender, and couldn’t afford much slippage if they were going to remain in
the race. Despite this, GM Terry Ryan’s big move at the deadline was to
his best OBP guy, Matt Lawton, to the Mets for a fourth starter in
Rick Reed
. That deal cost them a half-run a game at the plate, and
now stands as a shining example of how the groupthink of "we don’t have
enough pitching," put into action, ruined what could have been a great

This isn’t about what the two players have done since the deal. Reed has
been unimpressive, making nine starts and being worth about a half-win above
a replacement-level starter. Lawton has hit .248/.360/.383 for the Mets,
poor figures for a corner outfielder, even in Shea Stadium. You could argue
that neither team won the trade based on this information, but evaluating
deals based on what happens in the wake of them is a poor method. At the
time, the trade looked like a backbreaker for a Twins’ offense already
hampered by a slew of low-OBP players, which is exactly what it turned out
to be.

The shame is that the remaining Twins hit pretty well in Lawton’s absence:

                         Overall            August          September
Luis Rivas           .264/.317/.365    .241/.322/.352    .400/.423/.500
Cristian Guzman      .300/.337/.481    .316/.371/.368    .242/.254/.452
Doug Mientkiewicz    .311/.390/.473    .305/.403/.488    .191/.339/.234
David Ortiz          .241/.325/.482    .196/.305/.402    .212/.236/.500
Corey Koskie         .279/.363/.504    .255/.345/.510    .304/.355/.554
Torii Hunter         .261/.300/.475    .213/.252/.380    .393/.443/.679
Jacque Jones         .271/.326/.407    .309/.391/.383    .256/.289/.448
A.J. Pierzynski      .291/.325/.440    .310/.365/.517    .257/.316/.429

As you can see by the team totals, the Twins hit for a lot more power than
they did early in the year, fueled by Corey Koskie‘s surge. They even
got OBP bumps from some previous hopeless cases, like Luis Rivas,
Torii Hunter, and Jacque Jones. The loss of Lawton’s OBP at
the top of the lineup, though, kept them from having enough runners on base
to make use of the power. The inability of David Ortiz to do anything
his return from a wrist injury
was the other primary factor in the
lineup’s lack of production.

The performance of the guys who played for Lawton wasn’t very good:

                        August             September
Brian Buchanan     .326/.404/.630       .310/.412/.517
Chad Allen         .200/.226/.300             DNP
Bobby Kielty       .206/.243/.353       .286/.304/.524
Dustan Mohr        .111/.100/.111       .100/.182/.100
John Barnes        .048/.130/.048             DNP

Brian Buchanan hit well, but he was primarily a platoon player,
facing left-handed pitching. Against right-handers, which is where the Twins
felt Lawton’s absence most acutely, the Twins watched as players like
Dustan Mohr and John Barnes simply didn’t hit; nor did top
prospect Bobby Kielty, nor did Buchanan when given a chance to play
against righties.

Would not making the trade have meant October baseball for the Twins? Well,
that’s hard to say, but we can say that they missed Lawton’s OBP badly, to
the tune of a half-run a game. It’s hard to imagine that they couldn’t have
acquired a cheaper solution for the back of the rotation, one that would
have allowed them to keep Lawton while eliminating Adam Johnson‘s
role. Then again, we don’t know whether Johnson or some unknown veteran
might have pitched even worse than Reed has, with the Twins ending up with
the same half-run per game shortfall, just distributed differently.

The important thing is to shed no tears for the Twins, and to not point to
their late-season submission as supporting a Chicken Little viewpoint on
baseball economics. They did this to themselves, for baseball reasons;
blaming their coming up short on money would do them, and the game, a

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by
clicking here.

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