Sunday’s series finale against the Astros was essentially two hours of my life that I will never get back. I think I
passed out fell asleep on the couch around the fifth inning or so. The Twins had to go with their C-squad lineup since Justin Morneau was out, Jason Kubel got sick in the middle of the game, and Denard Span won’t be back at least until Thursday. I guess one run on two hits is about all that can be expected of a lineup comprised of all the worst hitters on the team. Glen Perkins didn’t have a terrible outing, the Astros got a bunch of lucky breaks in the first inning that scored three runs, but he also walked as many batters as he struck out and benefited from some run-saving catches by Carlos Gomez. So, I guess I should be glad that one of the most boring 4-1 losses I’ve ever witnessed could have easily been more like the most boring 5-or-6-to-1 loss I’ve ever seen.
In an effort to
make moves for the sake of making moves address the bullpen issue, the Twins have called up Bobby Keppel and DFA’d Luis Ayala. Yes, cycling through replacement-level relief pitchers is exactly the sort of bold vision and creative thinking from the front office that will bring us straight to the top of the division.
By the way, it’s been almost a year since Bill Smith said about the dumbest f***ing thing I’ve ever heard a GM in baseball say. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the man in charge of your Minnesota Twins.
Yeah, Harold Reynolds said something dumb about OPS or something, too. I think he was just trying to point out that OPS isn’t perfect and shouldn’t be the decisive factor in determining a player’s worth, albeit in a semi-literate way. He’s actually right about that. I dunno. I guess it doesn’t bother me that much when analysts don’t seem to have a basic knowledge of stats and how they work because HAROLD REYNOLDS ISN’T RUNNING MY FAVORITE BASEBALL TEAM.
Brother, can you spare Brad Pitt $50 million to finance the Moneyball movie? Columbia has suspended production on the project, citing problems with the script. It’s probably just as well. I can’t imagine that a film based on the use of advanced metrics to identify undervalued skills (like drawing walks) and help a small-market team remain competitive in the era of free agency would be compelling to anyone other than baseball nerds.
Don Fehr is stepping down after more than 20 years as president of the MLBPA. I actually have kind of mixed feelings about this. He did play a central role in the whole steroids mess by resisting PED testing for years (and then failing to have the results of the 2003 tests destroyed, as he was supposed to). However, I don’t think there has ever been a stronger advocate for the rights of players, and without his leadership the MLBPA would now be about as powerful as the NFLPA. It was, after all, Fehr who successfully took on the borderline criminal tactics employed by the owners to screw players out of their money, and I’m sure guys like Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabbathia are grateful for that. Unfortunately, it was probably his unwavering opposition to MLB and the owners that kept him from having those initial test results destroyed, and the ensuing PR nightmare has ultimately screwed over the very players he fought so hard to protect.
- Twins ground into five double plays, still beat Pirates 8-2
Well, not really. But this was a statistically strange game for the Twins. I mean, how in the hell do you ground into five double plays and still manage to score eight runs? Obviously a good number of those came with a runner on third and nobody out. I guess if you’re going to ground into a lot of double-plays, it should always be with less than one out. And a runner on third. While it’s certainly an unusual occurrence, it isn’t unheard of and isn’t any kind of record or anything. The Tigers also grounded into 5 double plays on the way to a 13-8 victory over the Blue Jays on April 16, 1996.
Joe Mauer went 4-for-4 with an RBI double, but no home runs. Slacker. Although, he was robbed of his last chance to hit one when Brendan Harris grounded into an inning-ending double play in the eighth. Right now, Mauer is batting .429/.497/.756 with 13 home runs. While it’s unlikely that Mauer will finish the season batting over .400 (he is a catcher, after all), he will most certainly be in contention for his third batting title as long as he remains healthy. Which is important because the Twins are probably going to try to sign him to a long-term deal, and obviously his numbers are going to have a significant effect on his value. The front office is obviously aware of the PR nightmare that would ensue if they failed to re-sign their native son, not to mention that they can’t seriously expect to contend for a World Series title if they keep letting their top talent go.
Glen Perkins was pretty effective, if not exactly dominant, in his first start since coming off the DL with elbow inflammation. He surrendered seven hits, but only two runs, and struck out four through six innings. His one mistake was to Nyjer Morgan, who blasted a two-run homer that cut the Twins’ lead in half. Paul Maholm wasn’t exactly sharp, but he also got a lot of tough breaks. Delwyn Young lost a Joe Crede fly ball in the lights for a Dome double that scored a run. And then there was that bizarre stikezone.
One of the things I hate the most about the Twins’ broadcast team (both radio and tv) is their obsession with pitch counts. Well, that and their inability to pronounce
Muhollam Mahalo Maholm’s name correctly. Obviously they had to bring it up last night, since Perk was on a relatively short leash. This has been the subject of heated debate for years, and Rob Neyer wrote an interesting piece that sort of defends the concept behind the pitch count. I actually agree that pitch counts are unnecessary, but not for the same reasons as Bert Blyleven. Yes, they’re arbitrary and probably don’t really help prevent injury (it’s a lot more important to avoid a dramatic increase in workload, but that’s for another post), but they’re also, well, arbitrary. That is, unless they’re dealing with a rookie, most managers don’t really adhere to them too strictly and tend to let the starter pitch as long as he feels comfortable. If it’s the eighth inning and a starter is near 100 pitches, he’ll probably be allowed to go over that limit as long as he doesn’t feel fatigued. If it’s the fifth inning and a starter is near 100 pitches, then he’s probably laboring and should be taken out anyway. So the furor over pitch counts is a little overblown.
- Speaking of injures
Denard Span was placed on the 15-day DL. He has vestibular neuritis, which if I understand correctly, is essentially inflammation of a nerve in the middle ear caused by some sort of infection. Apparently it isn’t serious and he is expected to make a full recovery, but he’ll need to be out at least the next few games. In the meantime, Jason Pridie has been recalled from AAA and there’s a pretty good scouting report on him here. Most Twins fans probably remember Pridie as the guy who blew the save for Joe Nathan against Toronto last year, when he misplayed a single into a triple. Pridie came over as part of the Delmon Young trade, and doesn’t project to be anything more than a fourth outfielder at best. It isn’t likely that he’ll see much playing time, and will probably just be used as a defensive substitute in later innings.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Jesse Crain has been optioned to AAA Rochester. He hasn’t pitched in the minor leagues in nearly five years, and was obviously stunned by the news. Crain hasn’t even been marginally effective since May and the Twins really couldn’t afford to wait and hope he would work through his issues any longer. It was either that or release him, and obviously the organization isn’t ready to give up on him just yet. The Twins will go with only eleven pitchers for now, since they need to carry extra bench players at least as long as Denard Span is on the DL. The starters have been averaging about six innings per start this season, so it might not be necessary to carry more than six relievers. The only real issue is that Matt Guerrier, who’s already overworked, might have to carry an even heavier workload with fewer relievers in the ‘pen. However, it isn’t as though Crain was taking a lot of work away from Matty G. in the first place and the Twins may decide to call up another pitcher once Span is activated.
The Twins open a four-game series against the A’s tonight in
Fremont Oakland. There’s a pretty good scouting report on the White Elephants here. I’d like to believe the Twins will take the series (really I do), but the way things have been going lately, they’ll probably be lucky to avoid being swept.
It’s no secret that the Twinkies have had trouble scoring runs outside the teflon confines of the Metrodome. At least now we know why.
Tom Glavine isn’t happy that the Braves released him, and is considering suing to recover the $1 million signing bonus he would have received if he made the active roster. I guess it’s understandable that Atlanta would rather give its most prized pitching prospect a job instead of a 43-year-old with arm problems (especially since his performance has been less-than-stellar the past couple of seasons), but one has to wonder why they even bothered to re-sign Glavine in the first place.
Glen Perkins was roughed up in his first rehab start, surrendering five runs on six hits, including a couple of home runs, in four innings. So he’s basically picking right up where he left off before going on the DL. Um. so how healthy is Glavine, then?
The Nats are planning shell out big bucks to sign this year’s can’t-miss pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg in the first round. Will Strasburg be the one to save the franchise from itself? Of course not, this is the Nats. They can’t do anything right. Not even fireworks.
Speaking of can’t-miss prospects, Alan Schwarz notes that there really is no such thing. At least not where pitching prospects are concerned.
I am a huge hockey fan. I should be excited about the Stanley Cup Finals. But watching Detroit (probably) win its second consecutive cup, and 12th in team history, is just sort of anticlimactic. At least we get some good Jersey Fouls out of it.
Normally I would be upset when the Twins lose five games in a row, especially when they blow about a million chances to win. But not this time. No, I think getting swept in Yankee Stadium, and now getting blown out by the White Sox, is actually a good thing. Yes I do. Because now the front office has been forced to confront the fact that this team just isn’t going to contend the way it is currently constructed. And um, I was going to post a rant about the failure of the front office to upgrade both the bullpen and the middle infield during the off-season, and how they like to wait until it’s too late to try to make any improvements, but they’ve just made a
big move that changes everything ok, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but it is a change that makes me rewrite what I was going to write in the first place.
While the Twins might not actually have the worst bullpen in the league, this group of relievers is still pretty bad. In particular, the relief corpse has been terrible at allowing inherited runners to score. And apparently the FO has gotten sick of it too, because lefty Craig Breslow has been claimed off waivers by Oakland to clear space on the roster for Anthony Swarzak (more on Swarzak in a minute). While it’s no secret that Breslow has been struggling this year, the move is still a bit surprising. I thought the Twins would give him more time to turn things around, especially considering how well he pitched last year, but Breslow evidently became expendable once Sean Henn was called up right after Perkins was placed on the 15-day DL. Henn was once a promising prospect for the Yankees who’s never managed to stick in the major leagues, and he probably won’t serve as anything more than a LOOGY at this point. Still, the Twins haven’t even had an effective LOOGY since losing Dennys Reyes to free agency. At any rate, pitchers like Breslow are always available on the waiver wire, so it isn’t a huge loss even if Henn doesn’t exactly work out either (and after giving up a couple of runs to the Pale Hosers last night, this is entirely possible).
Swapping Henn for Breslow doesn’t exactly solve the problem, though, as the Twins are essentially trading one soft-tossing lefty with control issues for another. But more help might be on the way, perhaps in the form of Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak has been called up from Rochester to replace Glen Perkins in the rotation, and he’s been one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the organization (there’s are a couple of good articles about Swarzak here and here). Through his first seven starts for the Red Wings this season, he’s posted a 2.25 ERA with a 32/11 K/BB ratio and 1.159 WHIP. If he impresses during his stint with the major league club, it’s possible he might be kept in the bullpen once Perkins returns from the DL.
By the way, Perkins’ elbow has apparently been bothering him for sometime and is likely the cause of his struggles after his first three starts. He had been hiding the injury in hopes that he could simply pitch through the pain. Obviously this is never a good idea (just ask Francisco Liriano). At the very least his stubbornness and pride has cost the team wins, and he’s lucky to have avoided the worst-case scenario so far. Gosh, with three of his teammates (Liriano, Bonser, Neshek) having faced surgery and serious questions about ever pitching again, you would think Perk would be smarter than that.
- Twins drop first game of series against O’s, 4-1
Ron Gardenhire was visibly angry when the game was finally called off after the fifth inning, and rightfully so. There were no less than four rain delays totaling nearly four hours, and the radar had predicted no larger than a 15-minute window in which to play. Why this game wasn’t called after the first rain delay in the third is a mystery. I’m not blaming the weather for the Twins’ poor performance, the rain had nothing to do with the pitching staff surrendering a couple of home runs and the offense making Brian Bass look like Mariano Rivera, but it was obvious that the weather wasn’t going to clear up long enough to play nine innings and the game should have been called much earlier.
At least Craig Breslow didn’t walk anybody! He did surrender a solo homer to Luke Scott on the first pitch, but then allowed only one other hit during his two innings of relief. This is a vast improvement for a guy who had walked nine batters in a little over six innings, but he’s going to have to do better than that if he wants to keep his job in the ‘pen. Sean Henn and Mike Gosling are viewed as possible replacements, but since both have walked an awful lot of batters so far this year, neither one is likely to get the call anytime soon.
I actually expect the Twins to get swept tonight. Glen Perkins is on the mound, and while he’s been one of the most reliable starters in the rotation, he’s also been pitching a lot like the old Glen Perkins more recently. However, I don’t expect him to get much run support either. The Twins will be facing a pitcher they have never seen before, and thus the offense will struggle to do much of anything against him. It really doesn’t matter how effectively or terribly Brad Bergesen pitches tonight, the Twins’ aggressive bats will continually let him off the hook. And if Perkins allows as much as one run, it will probably be enough to secure a Baltimore win.
If you haven’t already, please check out the latest installment of Timeout at the Plate on Tom Walsh’s blog. If you like lots of whining (or schadenfreude, if you happen to be a Chicago sports fan), then you’re in for a treat!
The Bears get Jay Cutler and the Vikings get Brett Farve, that sounds about right. Drew Magary has perfectly summarized how I feel about that.
Between Manny on drugs and the Brett Favre saga, I will have absolutely no reason to watch ESPN for the next couple of months. Of course, as a Twins fan (and hockey fan), it’s not like I had much reason to watch tWWL in the first place.
Nice try, Dave, but I don’t think Bill Smith is that dumb. At least I hope not.
Also, I added a new Red Wings blog to my blogroll. Besides the official website and Jim Mandelaro’s blog, there isn’t much out there in terms of Wings coverage and this one is pretty good. It’s also got video from some of the games.
Rob Neyer wrote an interesting blog post about pitching high and tight, and whether or not such pitches truly have the desired effect (Rob Nelson had some interesting thoughts on the subject, too). It is often argued that pitching high and tight brushes hitters off the plate, that it makes them uncomfortable and keeps them from leaning out over the plate too far. Theoretically, this should open up the other half of the plate for the starter to work. However, there isn’t a great deal of empirical evidence (at least not that I’m aware of) to suggest that this is the case. Good hitters will forget about the last pitch, and guys who can’t do that simply won’t make it in the major leagues. Carlos Quentin for example, leans quite far out over the plate. He also subsequently gets beaned a lot, and yet has never changed his approach at the plate. So, at worst the intent pitch starts a beanball contest, and at best it is simply a wasted pitch.
On a somewhat related note, starter Glen Perkins is often praised by the broadcast team, and the media in general, for his ability to pitch hard and inside, and that this has been the key to his success so far this season. I don’t mean to suggest that pitching inside is necessarily the same as throwing at hitters; since Perk can get his fastball on the inside corner over for strikes, they don’t really count as intent balls (although he isn’t afraid to throw those, either). But it gets repeated so often that pitching inside generally makes hitters uncomfortable, and that it opens up the outer half of the plate since they are then less likely to lean out over it. As I said before, I’m not sure if that’s true. I think that good hitters will make adjustments if you continually bust them inside, and I think Perkins himself is a very good example. After all, he pitched hard and inside a lot last year, with very different results. In fact, it appears as though he relied on his fastball a little too much, throwing it about 70% of the time, and always whenever he was behind in the count. Actually, Perk’s success this season seems to have little to do with throwing hard and inside and everything to do with making adjustments. Through his first three starts, when he’s gone eight innings and given up only three earned runs, he did a very good job of changing speeds. His hard and inside fastball gets a lot of press, but he’s also got a very good changeup, and, though it still needs a little work, has been throwing the slider that he developed last season instead of his very-hittable curveball. In his last start against the Indians, however, things were very different. Perk gave up four runs in five innings, including a three-run third, in which he once again relied heavily on his fastball and failed to mix in his other pitches. It’s pretty clear that it doesn’t matter where you throw them, if you feed big league pitchers a steady diet of fastballs, they will have a feast.
Somebody else already posted a link to this video, but because I feel a little bad about beating the poor Indians twice, I would like to extend an olive branch to the good people of Cleveland. So, here is a tourism video promoting their beautiful city:
Good luck trying to get that song out of your head.
No, I’m not talking about the 3-game losing streak, though thankfully that is over now, too. No, I’m talking about the Blue Jays’ ten-game winning streak against the Twins, which was the second longest of its kind in the league (the Brewers currently hold a 12-game streak over the Pirates). The Twins defeated the Blue Jays 3-2 in eleven innings last night, the first time they have done so since July 23, 2007. They were swept twice last year, and lost a horrorshow of a game on Monday night that they really should have won anyway. Glen Perkins pitched another gem, though he did run into some trouble in the eighth. Joe Nathan and Jesse Crain also managed to pitch competently in relief. And Joe Crede was the big hero of the game (although he was the goat, earlier, more on that in a second) driving in the winning run on a walk off double.
Although it was good to see the Twins pull out a win last night, I do have a bone to pick with the offense. Quite frankly, there was absolutely no reason for this game to go into extra innings. While rookie pitcher Ricky Romero was pitching a gem of his own, the Twins did have an opportunity to break the game open (or at least tack on one more run) in the sixth and failed to capitalize on it. With the bases loaded with nobody out, Michael Cuddyer struck out swinging on four pitches, and then Joe Crede grounded into an inning-ending double play. This certainly isn’t the first time the Twins have failed to capitalize on scoring chances this year. They left runners stranded at third with no outs twice in Monday night’s ballgame, and failed to capitalize on bases-loaded opportunities several times during the series with the Mariners. Worse yet, forcing the game into extra innings means that Jesse Crain had to pitch two innings in relief and likely won’t be available for tonight’s game if needed. Considering that he’s one of the few pitchers in the bullpen (or on the entire staff, really) who has been able to pitch effectively, this could be a problem.
The good news, however, is that Joe Mauer has been running without pain and is scheduled to start some extended spring-training games in the GCL next week. While there is no timetable for his return, he is attempting to make it back to the lineup by the end of the month. Mauer can’t carry the entire offense by himself, but at least he won’t strand so many runners in scoring position. His return will also provide a bit of stability to the lineup, since Gardy has had to juggle things a bit in his absence (well, he’s had to find playing time for all of the outfielders, too). Morneau will likely move back to the clean-up spot, where he is most accustomed, with maybe Crede or Cuddyer/Jason Kubel then hitting behind him. Having a regular spot in the lineup should help the rest of the batters get more comfortable at the plate.
By the way, apparently Wild players Colton Gillies, James Sheppard, Cal Clutterbuck, and maybe even Josh Harding are supposed to stop by the FSN booth and help out with the analysis after tonight’s game. If that’s not a reason to watch the silly post-game show, then I don’t know what is.