My hard drive is now fixed and seems to be working just fine. I’m really glad this happened now and not during the semester, since it would be very, very difficult to get any work done without my laptop. I’m also really glad I decided to back up all of my important files, otherwise I would have lost everything and would basically be screwed. In the meantime, a lot of important stuff happened while I was gone:
The Twins win the series!
I mean the weekend series against the Cardinals. You know, I too find the fact that St. Louis is so unapologetically a baseball town to be quite endearing. I do like football, and I am a Vikings fan, but even I have never understood why the Vikes are so beloved in this town. Unlike the Twins, the Vikings have never won anything important and, if anything, actually have a reputation for choking in big games. They haven’t brought us anything more than shame and embarrassment, and yet people love them more than any other sports franchise in this state. Go figure.
Sadly, the Pioneer Press laid off 11 people, including Twins’ beat reporter Phil Miller. The Press’ Twins’ coverage was pretty minimal at best, now I guess it’ll be non-existent. Which is just one more reason why I have always preferred the Star Tribune.
Justin Morneau homered in three straight games, one of which was this lovely shot that landed in the fountain at Kauffman Stadium. He came out of yesterday’s game against the Royals with a groin injury, but it doesn’t sound too serious and he should be back in the lineup tomorrow night against the Tigers. As of right now, there is no need for a “F*ck! There goes our season!” post.
The Twins actually got pretty banged up during the series finale in Kansas City. Mike Redmond had to come out after he got hit in the arm with a foul tip, and apparently he has a bruised forearm and might be out of commission for a bit. Nick Punto also had to leave the game with back stiffness, after Jose Guillen tried to take him out on a questionable play. Um, Guillen does realize that taking out Punto actually kind of helps the Twins, right?
The Sean Henn experiment is over, let the Brian Duensing experiment begin.
The Wolves sort of did the NBA equivalent of taking a bunch of wide receivers in the draft. Actually, I think that the Wolfies did the right thing, for once. It makes sense for a team as devoid of talent as the Wolves to take the best available talent in the draft, since it will take more than one draft to fill all of the holes on the roster. The Wolves will probably have to address most of their needs through trade, and now they actually have the assets to do so. Of course, if the Wolves are still only winning 25 games five years from now, I will be writing an entirely different post.
Michael Jackson, well, it’s no secret that he had a lot of problems. But if there is a more perfect pop album than Thriller, I have yet to hear it. And it spawned the greatest music video of all time.
Oh, yeah, I guess Minnesota finally has a new senator. Meh. I guess now is as good a time as any to post this video:
- Twins hit four homers and lose anyway
ZOMG, this is the most unclutchiest lineup ever!!!11!! I mean, for the most part, clutch hitting has a lot more to do with luck than skill. In general, even the greatest hitters will fail more often than not with runners in scoring position, that’s just how the game works. It sucks, it’s frustrating, but that’s just the way it is. Which is why I find this article in the Star Tribune so irritating. To suggest that the problem is that the Twins are relying too much on the long ball and not speed or sacrifice hits (i.e., Twins baseball) is ridiculous. The power hitters in the lineup have been remarkably productive, with Joe Mauer batting .421/.490/.738, Justin Morneau .324/.398/.524 (which is pretty good, considering that he’s been in a slump recently), Jason Kubel .315/.377/.546, and even Michael Cuddyer is starting to pick things up, hitting .281/.360/.518 with 10 homers. Joe Crede has been kind of an exception since he has a paltry .228 BA and .303 OPB, but he also has a .451 slugging percentage and is on pace to hit 20+ homers this year, so he isn’t really part of the problem, either. The real problem has been the lack of production from the bottom of the order, and it has been all season. The Twins certainly aren’t lacking speed in the lineup, with Carlos Gomez, Matt Tolbert, and even Nick Punto all threats to steal, but the three have struggled to get on base consistently. Delmon Young hasn’t been living up to his potential, either, batting .258/.286/.302 while looking horribly uncomfortable at the plate. The good news is that Gomez, Punto, and Young have all taken huge steps forward this month (Yes, even Gomez. He’s drawing more walks and isn’t swinging at so many pitches outside the strike zone, he just hasn’t had much to show for it in the way of results). The bad news however, is that all three are still barely replacement-level position players.
After tonight’s loss to Houston, the Twins have fallen back to the .500 mark and are three games behind the Tigers. This time, the offense wasn’t the problem, since they hit four homers and scored five runs. No, this time it was the pitching staff, specifically the bullpen that fell down. The Twins had a 3-2 lead in the seventh, until Sean Henn came in to relieve Scott Baker. Henn surrendered three runs in the seventh (one was charged to Baker), including a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Jason Michaels, and was yanked in favor of Luis Ayala after recording only one out. I had written before that the pitching isn’t as bad as fans tend to think, and that’s true. But it hasn’t been that great, either. The starting rotation has started to settle down and pitch effectively, but the bullpen is still an issue. While Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan have been as reliable as ever, and R.A. Dickey is settling into the long relief role, the rest of the ‘pen is simply a disaster waiting to happen. Ayala has been much more effective recently, but he pitches to contact and can’t really be used in close games with runners on base. Jose Mijares hasn’t been too bad, posting a 2.57 ERA in twenty-four appearances, but he’s also been suffering from control issues (his 1.70 K/BB ratio isn’t good) and is bound to get hit hard eventually. The Twins clearly need bullpen help, but so does pretty much everybody else in the league, which will obviously complicate matters at the trade deadline. Still, I guess we should be glad that our bullpen isn’t as bad as the Indians’. Yikes.
- Speaking of homers
Mauer hit his 14th of the season, setting a new career record, and it isn’t even officially summer yet. It was an opposite-field blast (of course) that had given the Twins a 3-1 lead at the time. Someday, opposing pitchers will figure out that it isn’t a good idea to throw him fastballs on the outside corner. Hopefully he’ll hit 20 homers before they do. Obviously, Mauer isn’t going to put up such Pujolsian numbers all season long, since the physical demands of being a catcher will catch up to him eventually. As of right now, though, Mauer is the most valuable player in the league, and it isn’t even close.
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.