After being utterly and thoroughly owned by the Evil Empire this season, the Twins have slid back to the
.500 mark for the hundred-somethingth time (oh, and you’re welcome,
Yankee fans). They currently sit in third place, four games behind the
division-leading Kittehs and two behind the second-place Pale Hosers.
All of which is very, very depressing. But take heart Twins fans,
we’re not the only ones sharpening our razor blades and drawing a bath:
The Royals are teh suck. This is hardly news. But this team has so many problems, it’s difficult to know where to begin. I mean, good God, they replaced Sidney Ponson with Bruce Chen in the starting rotation! What, Buddy Groom wasn’t available? Ooh, and now the infield will be manned by both Ryan Freel AND
Willie Bloomquist! Obviously, GM Dayton Moore hates his job and is
trying his best to get fired. That should just about do it.
The Cubs took a team that won 98 games last year and made the
playoffs for the third time in six seasons, and tore apart the roster
as rebuilding teams are wont to do. Perhaps it was simply an emotional
response to getting swept in the NLDS by the Dodgers, or maybe they
felt they needed to dump salary to expedite efforts to sell the team,
but they traded away key contributors like Mark DeRosa and Jason
Marquis without getting much in return. The Baby Bears are currently
in third place behind the division-leading Cardinals and a Brewers team
that features both Jeff Suppan and Seth McClung in its rotation. Now,
the Cubs are only three games out of first, but even with a recent hot
streak they still have the third-worst offense in the league (only the
Diamondbacks and the Padres are more futile at the plate). Of course, this is all a goat a cat Milton Bradley’s fault.
The Diamondbacks have committed
77 errors this season, the second-most in baseball (only the Nats have
committed more). Granted, errors and fielding percentage aren’t
exactly the best way to measure a team’s defensive efficiency, but I think if you commit three errors in one inning, it’s safe to assume that you are, in fact, not good at baseball.
I’m going to refrain from taking shots at the Nati(o)nals. It’s just too easy. I did get a kick out of the “Oh no: no O!” wardrobe malfunction, though. At least Montreal Washington’s ineptitude is entertaining:
(image courtesy chatterbalks.com)
- Twinkies get their a**es handed to them by the Yankees in 10-2 loss
The Wild had just dropped
a must-win game against Colorado and had put forth one of their most
lackluster performances to date. The team had just lost seven of its
past ten games, and were just barely clinging to the slimmest of
playoff hopes, and had only managed to score one lousy goal against the
worst team in the Western Conference in a snoozefest of a game. When
asked why his team put forth such a piss-poor effort with so much on
the line, then-coach Jacques Lemaire replied:
“Maybe this is the team we have.”
this, ladies and gentlemen, is your 2009 Minnesota Twins. OK, maybe
they’re not as bad as last year’s Wild team, but they are pretty much
in the same boat. They haven’t won more than two games in a row since
May 24th, and their longest winning-streak of the season is only four
games. They are currently looking up at the Tigers and the White Sox,
even if it is only by 2.5 games. They will likely get swept at home by
the Yankees, and then have to deal with a red-hot White Sox team before
the All-Star break. The team could certainly use help in the bullpen,
and they could really use a middle infielder who can hit, but aren’t
likely to get anything done at the trade deadline. The Twins have
always preferred to sit on their hands and hope for the best, while
waiting to make their biggest moves during the offseason (if then).
And to be honest, I don’t have a great deal of faith in Bill Smith’s
ability to make trades. His track record so far has been pretty disappointing.
Twinkie Town did a good job breaking down Scott Baker’s horrible performance last night,
and it appears as though he’s still having problems with his
mechanics. His breaking pitches were flat, his fastballs weren’t as
fast, in short, it’s a miracle that he only gave up five runs against one of the most potent lineups in the American League. It had been suggested by some of the commenters
on the Star Tribune site that Baker was awestruck by the Yankee lineup,
that he felt intimidated by them, but I don’t think that was the case
at all. Scotty had actually been quite successful against the Yanks in
his career, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA (small sample size, I know).
Besides, Baker had the same issues in his last start in Kansas City, in
which he needed 117 pitches to get through five innings, and I doubt he
was awestruck by the Royals’ All-Star lineup. That the Royals only
scored one run against him says a lot about their offense (namely that
they can’t even buy runs at this point).
- In meaningless award news…
Justin Morneau has indeed declined an invitation
to defend his title in this year’s Home Run Derby, citing a need to
rest up for the second half of the season as his reason for choosing
not to participate. Joe Mauer hasn’t been asked, but Gardy thinks he would win it if he were.
Joe Nathan has been named the DHL Delivery Man of the Month. I mentioned in my previous entry
that Nathan is having one of the best seasons of his career, but I also
want to mention that he’s only walked one batter in his past 11.2
innings, while striking out 18. He’s given up only four hits
in that period. That’s about as good as it gets. No wonder
he’s the only reliever in the bullpen (and one of the few on the staff,
actually) who doesn’t give me heartburn.
- Stephane Veilleux signs with Lightning
I’m a little sad to see Steph go since he’s been with the team for so long, even though he was basically just a fourth-liner. He loved playing in Minnesota and being part of the Wild organization, even after they put him on waivers simply to prove that he wasn’t as valuable as he thought. Still, when rookie sensation Cal Clutterbuck pretty much took over his duties on the checking line, it was pretty clear that this would be Steph’s final season with the team. At least we will always have this:
- Nick Punto (!) drives in winning run against Tigers
Ok, first a bit of a rant. Today’s game was
nationally regionally broadcast on Fox. Probably only 0.001% of the country actually saw it, since most of the rest of America got the Dodgers/Whoever game. Fine. Whatever. I don’t care if the entire nation gets to see the Twins game, or what channel it’s on, as long as I get to see it on my tv (and I did). What really drove me nuts, however, is when Fox cut from the Twins game to the Dodgers game just as Miguel Cabrera was stepping into the batter’s box because they felt it was so goddam important to show us Manny Ramirez’s first home run since coming back from his suspension. News flash Fox: I am a Twins fan, I don’t give a sh!t about Manny Ramirez. I haven’t given a sh!t about Manny since he left the Indians, and now that he’s no longer in the American League, I care even less. I want to watch Francisco Liriano pitch! I haven’t been able to say that very often this year! And I’m sure the Tigers fans watching the game really wanted to see Miguel Cabrera hit, not Manny. Worse yet, Cabrera was on base when the mouth-breathers at Fox finally switched back to the Twins-Tiggers game, and we were left wondering how in the hell that happened. Yes, the broadcasters later replayed Cabrera’s single to right, and yes, nothing really important happened in the game while they cut away, but that isn’t the point. I am tired of the mainstream media acting like the only things that matter in baseball happen to the three largest markets in baseball. I realize that a Twins-Tigers game probably isn’t that exciting to 99% of the country, but it is pretty f*cking important to Twins and Tigers fans. It’s more important to us than whatever the hell Man-Ram or A-Rod or whatever other superstar-we’re-supposed-to-care-about-because-he-plays-in-a-large-market is doing. Besides, ESPN will show the same Manny highlights every five minutes, so it’s not like we would never get to see it or anything. Let us watch the battle for the AL Central in peace!
Whew, I feel much better now. Frankie was great in this game, although a late-inning near-meltdown prevented him from getting the win. He shut out teh Kittehs through six innings, striking out seven and only walking one. Unfortunately, F-bomb ran into trouble in the seventh when he surrendered a three-run homer to Twin-killer Magglio Ordonez, allowing the Tiggers to briefly take the lead. He did settle down after that though, and managed to finsh the inning without any further damage. This is obviously a huge step forward for a guy who would completely melt down whenever he got himself in trouble, and while Frankie might not be the same pitcher he was before TJ surgery, he should be better than his 5.49 ERA.
Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer both homered in this game, giving the Twins an early 2-0 lead. The 2006 MVP had a very good afternoon at the plate, going 4-for-4 and driving in the tying run, besides hitting his 20th homer of the year. But even the Mountie was overshadowed by Nick Punto (of all people), who provided the game-winning hit: a bloop single that drove in Matt Tolbert and put the Twins ahead 4-3 in the eighth. You know, Punto’s been hitting .286/.545/.286 so far this month, so I’m going to stop making fun of him for now. He still isn’t exactly earning his $4 million this season, but at least he isn’t as much of a liability in the bottom of the order.
- Twins drop first game of series in sixteen innings
Today’s win was particularly sweet because Friday night’s game was no fun for Twins fans. Kevin Slowey was awful, and as it turns out, is injured. Slowey has looked like he might be hurt in his past few starts so this
news isn’t surprising, though the cause of the injury is somewhat
suspect (a line drive from a year ago, really?). The Slow Man has been uncharacteristically wild, walking five batters in his past three starts and, most tellingly, hitting two (he had four hit batsmen all season last year). Anthony Swarzak has been recalled from Rochester in the meantime. Swarzak is hardly an ace, but he’s pitched well enough to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter and should at least serve as a competent fill-in while Slowey is on the DL.
By the way, this is what it looks like whenever Slowey issues a walk.
The Twins managed to tie the game in the sixth (and later in the fourteenth), but it was all in vain. Teh Kittehs scored three runs off of R. A. Dickey in the sixteenth inning, and it would be enough to hold off the Twins. For the Twinkies, this game was lost in the eleventh, when the game was still tied at 7 apiece and Michael Cuddyer came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. The Tigers intentionally walked Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau to pitch to Cuddy, a move that would prove to be brilliant on Jim Leyland’s part. Cuddy struck out on three pitches, chasing a pitch well outside the zone for strike three. I actually gave up on the Twinks after that, something I pretty much never do. I hate to do it, it makes me feel like a bad fan. This is baseball, after all, and there’s always a chance for a miracle. But when Cuddy essentially screwed up their best chance to win the game, it was pretty obvious that the Twins just didn’t want to win it. They simply managed to
torment their fans delay the inevitable for five more innings.
As of tonight, Baseball Prospectus has the Twins finishing the season
with 83.9 wins and the Tigers with 84.3. In other words, the division
is there for the taking so FOR CHRISSAKES JUST GO AHEAD AND TAKE IT
Ugh, there are a lot of recaps of last night’s horror show of epic proportions, but I think this one really sums it up. It was a choke job so epic, even Yahoo! sports featured it on the front page (at least it was on the front page, looks like it’s gone now). Great. How do I feel about it? I feel just like this guy:
The Twins are rumored to be shopping Delmon Young, and I was going to write a detailed post about Delmon and his numbers and compare him to Carlos Gomez, but I’m just not in the mood right now. I know there’s still plenty of baseball left to play and blah, blah, blah, but really today’s game against the Brew Crew is going to seal the Twinkies’ fate. If they win, they will
live to torture us another day be back to .500 and at least keep pace with the Tigers. If they lose, well, then it means that I was right. And I hate that.
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 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.
First off, I have a new blog. Well, it’s basically the same as this one, just on a different site. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to permanently move or not, so I guess this is just sort of a trial run. I’ll probably simply paste the same entry over here for the most part, just to make my life a little easier. Except the other site will provide an uncensored version of whatever I post over here, so that might be interesting. Plus the other site will be strictly devoted to baseball, so if you don’t wish to read about hockey or basketball or whatever other crap I sometimes post here, please feel free to visit my other site instead. And, in light of recent events, there will be some basketball crap at the end of this post.
I did a recap of Wednesday’s loss to Pittsburgh here, but I want to discuss Francisco Liriano and whether he should be moved to the bullpen in greater detail. Frankie did surrender a pair of two-run homers, but for the most part he pitched a pretty good game against the Pirates. He struck out six and, most importantly, only walked one through seven innings. It’s just that he got burned badly by the few mistakes he made and didn’t get any run support. Twins fans have been understandably frustrated with Frankie’s struggles this season, and some have been calling for him to be bumped from the rotation in favor of Anthony Swarzak. The organization itself has been patient and maintained their faith in him as a starter, with good reason I might add. Liriano has actually been showing steady improvement over his last four starts, though he doesn’t have much to show for it in terms of his 2-8 record. His K/BB ratio has improved from an awful 1.76 in May to 2.57 through his past three starts. His walk rate has decreased from a season-high 5.04 BB/9 in May to 3.32 in June, and he’s holding opponents to a .229/.308/.414 line. Subsequently, his ERA has dropped from 7.12 through the end of May, to a season-low 3.79 and his WHIP has improved from 1.85 to 1.21. Obviously, this is an extremely small sample size and he’ll need to prove himself against tougher lineups than Seattle and Oakland, but as long as his K/BB ratio continues to improve, there’s reason to be optimistic about Frankie as a starter.
Oh, and Nick Blackburn pitched a complete game against the Pirates this afternoon, so Bert Blyleven can shut up about that now.
- Wolves finally get around to doing what should have been done 10 years ago
New president of basketball operations David Kahn has officially fired Kevin McHale. That’s right, the worst GM in the history of Minnesota sports won’t be back with the team in any capacity next season. Not in the front office, not as a coach, not even as a janitor. Oh, don’t get me wrong, McHale did some good things for the Timberwolves as GM. He drafted Kevin Garnett. And when he traded him to Boston, he did get Al Jefferson in return (plus eight benchwarmers, but that’s beside the point). The Wolves did make eight straight playoff appearances under McHale, but only got past the first round once: when they lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals in the ’03-’04 season. They haven’t made the playoffs since, and haven’t even posted a winning record in four seasons. Worse yet, attendance has been flagging, and season ticket holders would probably have started rioting if McHale were kept on. So Kahn was left with little choice but to fire McHale, even though he was actually a pretty decent coach. I have no idea who the next coach of the Timberwolves will be, but the list of potential candidates looks pretty good. I’m not sure it matters much who they get, since the roster is so bereft of talent (besides Big Al, of course) that it will be years before the Wolves are serious contenders in the Western Conference. Still, as much as the move was justified (and long overdue), I do find it really sad that Kevin McHale will probably be more widely remembered as a failed GM than as the basketball legend he truly was.