Cuddy returning to heart of order

Sunday’s exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox gives Minnesota Twins some idea of how manager Ron Gardenhire sees his lineup being put together.

Now, that’s not to say things couldn’t change. Somebody could get hurt or get hot.

However, right now, it looks like the right-handed hitting Michael Cuddyer will find himself batting between lefties Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

Cuddyer batted third on Sunday, with Morneau fourth and newly acquired third baseman Joe Crede fifth. Mauer is out while recovering from offseason kidney surgery. It’s reasonable to think when Mauer returns, he will hit third and everyone else will slide down.

Cuddyer enjoyed his best season at the big league level batting cleanup between Mauer and Morneau in 2006, hitting .284 with 24 homers and 109 RBIs. But Cuddy saw his numbers drop significantly in 2007 and again while playing in just 71 games in an injury-plagued 2008. In fact, Cuddyer didn’t hit cleanup once all of last season.

The logic behind putting a right-handed hitter between the two left-handed MVP candidates is so pitchers don’t bring lefties in to face them in late-game situations. Lefty hitters typically hit better against right-handed pitching and vice versa.

I decided to crunch some numbers to see whether or not it really pays off to split the two lefties up and force a right-handed hitter – like Cuddyer or Crede – to hit fourth.

I looked at the numbers against left-handed pitching of Cuddyer, Crede and Delmon Young - along with Morneau for argument’s sake – dating back to 2006. That year was the breakout year for Cuddyer, Crede and Morneau, while it was Young’s first big league season.

So here’s what I got for those four against LHP in the last three years:

  • Morneau: 651 ABs, .793 OPS (.276 BA/.318 OBP/.475 SLG)
  • Cuddyer: 422 ABs, .849 OPS (.294/.377/.472)
  • Crede: 299 ABs, .669 OPS (.224/.294/.375)
  • Young: 363 ABs, .790 OPS (.306/.341/.449)

I really thought with how Morneau’s developed and considering what’s around him that he would come out on top, but I’m beginning to think it makes sense to put Cuddyer between him and Mauer. Despite his numbers getting worse the last two years, Cuddyer still put up pretty good clips against LHP over those two seasons.

What does everyone else say? Do you agree with assessment of the assessment of this blog, which I like to call the GSB? OK, I don’t really call it that, but whaddya think?

Will Mauer stay or will he go?

The biggest challenge facing the Minnesota Twins’ front office as far as protecting the long-term success of this club might be Joe Mauer‘s contract.

I’ve been thinking for the last couple of months how much Mauer could get on the open market, especially when teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are sporting aging catchers right now. His contract ends after the 2010 season. It’s hard to imagine the Twins would deal him prior to that season with a new stadium opening, but as we learned with the Johan Santana negotiations last offseason, the penultimate year on the contract really is crunch time.

I’ve read $15 to $20 million per year for a guy who doesn’t turn 26 until April. It goes without saying the Twins have never dished out that kind of cash per year.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a thorough piece today on the subject. It’s definitely worth reading.

The most telling quote from that piece might be this:

"It all depends on if the player wants to stay here," Twins GM Bill Smith said. "If he wants to stay here, then we can work out a deal."

That’s really what it comes down to. Because if Mauer can get anything close to what some project his open-market value to be, the Twins probably can’t get this thing done.

What does the blogosphere think? Will Mauer still be with the Twins in 2011?