Since the Twins have an off day before the
Kitties Tigers come to town for a three-game series, now would be as good a time as any to assess the state of the team and perhaps compare it to where it was last year at this time. Luckily, Twinkie Town has already done most of the work for me. It’s interesting to note that, while the offense has been producing runs at about the same rate this year, the pitching staff has been giving up almost one more run per game compared to last season. It might still be too soon to panic, since scoring in general has been up throughout the entire league this season, and at least the first three starters in the rotation should be better than their overall numbers would indicate. Obviously, the bullpen has been an issue so far this season, posting a 5.46 ERA, which is either the 25th-best or 5th-worst in the league, depending on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. However, the good news is that the Twins haven’t had to rely on the relief corpse as much as people think, since they’ve logged a mere 89 innings so far this year (and the starters have pitched a fifth-best 190.1 innings). Only six other bullpens in the entire league have pitched fewer innings, with the Pirates’ relievers working a league-best (least?) 80 innings up to this point. Not surprisingly, Oakland has had to rely on their bullpen the most, pitching a league-leading 115 innings.
Joe Mauer has enjoyed an unexpected surge in his power numbers this year. In his first nine games this season, he’s hit three homers, has a slugging % of .848, and an ungodly 1.401 OPS. Obviously these numbers aren’t sustainable for the entire season (he’s on pace to hit 46 homers this year, when he’s never hit more than 13 in a single season, and all of his homers have come at the Dome), but as long as he remains healthy there’s no reason to think that Mauer won’t have another great year at the plate. Probably the big question is whether or not he’ll have enough plate appearances to qualify for another batting title.
Justin Morneau likes to show Mauer hitting home runs isn’t all that hard.
Aaron Gleeman makes a pretty good case that Carlos Gomez should be the starting CF. Nick Nelson speculates that the Twins are giving Delmon Young so much playing time in an effort to increase his trade value.
The Hardball Times recently examined whether or not it’s ever a good idea to waste a pitch. In general, no it isn’t, but the pitcher always has the advantage in an 0-2 count so it doesn’t hurt to try to keep the batter guessing.
Oh Patrick Kane, you’re my hero
- Francisco Liriano rolls in Twins’ 7-2 win over the Tigers
After suffering four losses and two no decisions through his first six starts, Francisco Liriano finally beat the Tigers to earn his first win of the season. It isn’t as though he hasn’t pitched well enough to earn a victory before, he’s really only had a couple of bad starts this season. He has, however, suffered from a lack of run support and just some terrible luck. But not this time. Frankie dominated the Tigers through seven innings, allowing only two earned runs on four hits and striking out a season-high nine batters. Of course, it helps that the Detroit lineup is full of free-swingers that like to chase balls in the dirt. His one real blemish was a solo homer to Miguel Cabrera, but since the pitch was a low and inside fastball (that probably wasn’t even a strike), it’s tough to really consider that a mistake pitch. Actually, the only time Frankie got into any real trouble was in the second inning, when he walked Ryan Raburn to load the bases with two outs. He then struck out Adam Everett (who was the big hero for Detroit on Saturday) to end the inning without any damage.
The offense managed to provide Frankie with some much-needed run support, and it was kind of nice to see someone else’s bullpen implode for a change. The Twins struggled to do much of anything against Edwin Jackson, who was pretty impressive himself through six innings. Jackson has struggled with his command in the past, but seems to have improved greatly under the tutelage of new pitching coach (and former Twins’ director of minor league pitching) Rick Knapp. Jackson cruised along, scattering a few hits and giving up only one earned run, until he ran into trouble in the seventh. After failing to retire the first four batters he faced, Jackson was lifted in favor of Brandon Lyon. And that’s when the fun began. The Twins batted around in the inning, scoring five runs on five hits and burning through three different Detroit pitchers before Clay Rapada finally managed to stop the bleeding. The Twins would tack on another run in the ninth, when Carlos Gomez doubled(!) and then scored on a Denard Span single (Span, by the way, was having a great night at the plate. More on that in a minute). For his part, Matt Guerrier managed to not screw things up for Frankie and retired all five batters he faced.
Apparently, Monday night was also the night of frightening injuries. Rick Ankiel crashed headfirst into the outfield wall and had to be carted off the field (he was released from the hospital this morning after tests revealed no serious injuries, though it’s unclear at this point when he’ll return to the lineup). The Twins had kind of a scary moment of their own when first base coach Jerry White was stung right above the ankle by a line drive off the bat of Joe Crede in the eighth. He laid on the ground for a long time and was in obvious pain, but managed to walk off the field with help. The good news is that he just suffered a contusion and should be back tonight.
- Twins activate Jesse Crain from DL, demote catcher Jose Morales
I’m a little disappointed that Morales got sent down to AAA Rochester, especially since he’s been swinging one of the more productive bats in the lineup. However, even though Mike Redmond has some lingering soreness in his shoulder, it isn’t serious enough to land him on the DL (although his quip about the injury evidently made the people at Anheuser-Busch very happy) and it’s tough to justify carrying three catchers at this point. Morales also needs to work on his defense, as he struggled to throw out base runners (all but one of the fourteen stolen base attempts against him were successful), and he won’t get enough playing time with the big club in order to do so. Morales should make at least a competent backup catcher in the major leagues and, since the Twins aren’t likely to extend the 38 year-old Redmond’s contract after this season, will probably have a more regular role with the team next year.
- There’s something wrong with this picture
To be honest, I don’t usually care that much about the All-Star Game. I mean, I think it’s a nice promotional event, and it probably helps MLB increase revenue and all that, but I find the actual game itself to be kind of boring. I know it’s a lot of fun for the players, so I’ll vote for the guys that I think deserve to go, but I don’t get all that worked up about who deserves a spot on the roster and who got snubbed. However, I do find it a bit puzzling that Denard Span isn’t on the ballot to represent the Twins. I mean, I’m not sure he deserves a spot over, say, Grady Sizemore or Curtis Granderson, but he certainly deserves it more than any of the other Twins’ outfielders. Span has been one of the most consistently productive hitters in the lineup, batting .323/.398/.404, and last night went 4-for-5 and drove in a run against some very tough Detroit pitching. Granted, Span doesn’t have the strongest outfield arm, but he’s been asked to play every single OF position this season, and aside from a couple of misplays, has played them all very well. I guess it isn’t really that big of a deal, since you can write in Span on your ballot (and please do), but it’s still kind of strange that the organization feels Michael Cuddyer (who hasn’t done much at the plate until recently), Delmon Young, and Carlos Gomez are all more worthy of consideration for the ASG.
Oh, and the Strib’s LaVelle E. Neal III has an interesting wager with Justin Morneau. I’m kind of rooting for LaVelle, and not just because of my seething hatred for the Vancouver Canucks, either (I also have a general disdain for all things Chicago-related, with a few exceptions). I also really like the idea of Morneau as a guest blogger, though I would like it better if he had to com
pare the fighting styles of Alex Burrows with Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls.
Yeah, I know it’s Wednesday. But it was Tuesday when I started writing this, and I’m way too lazy to change the title, so I’m just going with it.
- Twins Things:
Drew Butera, Jose Mijares, and infielder Alejandro Machado have all been cut. Butera is a little bit of a surprise, since the pitching staff seemed to prefer him over Jose Morales, but the front office seemed to prefer Morales’s bat (he is a switch-hitter). Mijares has been struggling all through camp, so it’s not terribly surprising that he didn’t make the team. If he gets himself back in shape, and starts pitching like he did late last year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get called up again by late April.
Here’s a good write-up of the Charles-Nolte-for-Jason-Jones deal.
Michael Cuddyer can still gun down runners at the plate.
Justin Morneau has decided that he can’t hit like Harmon Killebrew.
Is this the most patient lineup of the Ron Gardenhire era? I certainly hope so. It would make the loss of Joe Mauer much easier to absorb.
Pat Neshek has been giving regular updates on his rehab via his blog.
Delmon Young and Joe Crede both suffered minor injuries in yesterday’s game against Tampa Bay, but should be fine by Opening Day.
Speaking of injured Twins, Joe Mauer feels better than he has all spring. He hasn’t been pushing himself during his workouts though, and doesn’t think he’ll travel north with the team. There’s no set timetable for Mauer’s return, but he isn’t expected to miss more than a month. A lot of well-meaning fans have been giving him all sorts of advice, but he’s decided to stick with his medication.
Bears and baseball both belong outside.
When will the Twins regret not putting a roof on the new stadium? The next time there’s a blizzard on Opening Day.
- Things too awful to even comprehend right now
It’s no secret that I hate the Canucks. They play dirty. They fight like eighth-grade girls. They are always more than happy to take out your captain with a chop to the back of the leg. Although their general incompetence can be a source of endless amusement, I would prefer Vancouver be relegated to the beer leagues.
Which is what makes last night’s loss in overtime at the X particularly bitter. Not only has it put the final nail in the coffin to the Wild’s playoff hopes, it was a game that, for all intents and purposes, they should have won. They played with a lot of energy, they managed to keep the Canucks off the puck (Vancouver didn’t even get a single shot on goal during the third period), they didn’t even turn over the puck very much! If it weren’t for a couple of fluky goals that happened to deflect off of defenseman Kim Johnsson (who actually played a very solid game, so it’s hard to consider him the goat), they would have beat Vancouver and might still be in the Western Conference playoff picture.
No, you know what? That’s not even the worst part about this whole thing. The worst part is that the Canucks are now in first place in the Northwest Division. That is simply too awful to comprehend.
- Why isn’t the Shamwow! guy in this Pitchmen thing?
Billy Mays and Anthony Sullivan are supposedly starring in a new reality show where they judge which
crappy product you’ll never buy amateur inventor has a product worthy of an infomercial. Or something like that. Seriously, how does Vince not get this gig?! This guy is the Laurence Olivier of infomercial pitchmen:
Not to mention his Oscar-worthy performance in the Slapchop commercials:
Oops, this is probably why. Nobody likes a guy who smacks a b****!
- Team USA poops the proverbial bed
Well, things got off to a good start for the Americans. Brian Roberts hit a leadoff home run against Daisuke Matsuzaka. And then things kind of went downhill from there. The Japanese would score nine runs, only five of which were actually earned. Team USA’s defense was atrocious. Officially the Americans committed three errors, but unofficially it was probably closer to five or six. Obviously they didn’t want the Venezuelan record of five errors in a WBC game to stand (those commie ********!) and were trying their hardest to set a new standard in horrible defense. Either that or they simply forgot that this was a single-elimination game.
Japan now gets to defend its WBC title against Korea tonight. It’s kind of disappointing that the US didn’t make it to the finals, but this should be a very good game. These two teams are powerhouses of Asian baseball, sort of like the Yankees and the Red Sox of the far east. I don’t have a particular favorite to win it all, but I guess I’ll root for the defending champs. Which of course means that Korea is going to win. I mean, look at my track record so far.
- Twins beat Toronto, 11-6
The offense finally decided to score some runs in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays. Justin Morneau had a three-run homer, his first big blast of the season. Morny had a very good day at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a walk (apparently Morny has been taking Harmon Killebrew’s batting advice). Actually, pretty much everybody had a good day at the plate, since Jays’ starter Matt Clement wasn’t very effective. The Twins knocked the righty out after 4 1/3 innings, pounding him for nine runs on six hits.
Our own Scott Baker wasn’t particularly sharp either, giving up four earned runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. He didn’t give up any homers though (for once), and recorded five strikeouts and no walks. Jose Mijares continued to struggle, giving up two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning, and also injured his ankle while trying to cover first. It’s looking more likely that the lefty is going to spend the season in Rochester (although Gardy is stubbornly insisting they can turn him around before the team heads north in two weeks). This might give Brian Duensing an opportunity to make the team if the Twins decide they need another lefty in the ‘pen. Duensing has been a starter his entire career, and did struggle a bit early in the season while in Rochester last year, but has looked really good in his relief appearances during spring training. At least he can get hitters out, anyway.
- Wild shutout Oil at the X
Owen Nolan scored a couple of goals, the Oil scored on themselves, and Niklas Backstrom made himself worth every penny of his four year, $24 million contract extension in one of the closest games the Wild have played all season. They got off to kind of a slow start in the first, though they weren’t helped by some awful officiating. Mikko Koivu got called for a phantom interference penalty on Ales Hemske (that was a beautiful piece of diving), and Dan Fritsche got called for boarding when he barely touched Ladislav Smid. I don’t normally complain about officiating, but this was ridiculous. Luckily the penalty-killers (and Backs!) stepped up to prevent any sort of ill-gotten gains by the Oilers.
Marian Gaborik made his triumphant return to the ice after having surgery on his hip. Though he didn’t score any goals, it was just really good to see him out there again. Unfortunately, captain Mikko Koivu suffered a knee injury when he was pulled down by Ales Kolatik and will be out the rest of the week. He might even miss the rest of the season, which means the Wild might as well forget about playing hockey past April. Come on, Mikko. Just rub some dirt on it and you’ll be fine.
If you think Vancouver sucks, clap your hands
If you think Vancouver sucks and they’ll never win the Cup
If you think Vancouver sucks, clap your hands
I really shouldn’t mock the Canucks for this hilarious piece of epic fail. They are a lock to make the playoffs after all, and my
Mild Wild will be lucky if they manage to sneak in as the eighth seed (although beating the Oil certainly helps). But there is nothing quite as satisfying as watching a hated rival do something so ridiculously dumb. Especially when your own team has been doing so many ridiculously dumb things as of late.
- Rivalries are fun
Like the Yankees/Red Sox, Cubs/Cardinals, and Dodgers/Giants, the Twins and the White Sox have developed their own rivalry over the course of the past decade. Although the two teams have been divisional rivals for years, it wasn’t until both started to become relevant that things began to heat up. These games are always exciting regardless of where the teams are in the standings. There’s all kinds of bizarre incidents, heartbreaking losses, and thrilling come-from-behind wins. And, of course, it’s just not a rivalry without the requisite trash talk from both sides.
Games against divisional opponents always carry a special weight, but games against the Pale Hose are different. While Cleveland is a tough opponent, the Twins haven’t had much success against them (except for last year) so the rivalry is kind of one-sided. Although things sometimes get chippy with the Tigers and the Royals, neither team really has the cast of characters that makes games against the Sox so intriguing:
Ozzie Guillen is the most entertaining figure in sports. Period. He always says whatever he thinks and doesn’t care if anyone likes it or not. And more often than not, he’s right. He was right to complain that the Cubs get treated like the Yankees by the Chicago media, while the Sox are treated more like the Mets (it might have something to do with the fact that the Tribune owned the Cubs at the time). He was also painfully honest when asked about a potential reunion of the 2005 World Series Sox. Whatever you want to say about Guillen as a person, there’s no denying that as a manager he is a brilliant strategist and is obviously liked and respected by the guys in the clubhouse (well, except maybe by this guy). And no matter what he says, I hope Kenny Williams has the good sense to never, ever, ever, ever fire Ozzie.
Speaking of controversial figures, A.J. Pierzynski has to be the most hated man in baseball. He’s done something dirty to almost every team in the league, and fanbases everywhere are always vocal about their disapproval. Having said that, I have to admit that I don’t really hate A. J. I find his antics amusing for the most part, and it would be hypocritical of me to criticize him now for things he did all the time as a Twin. But more importantly, he was the centerpiece of the greatest trade in Twins history. I cannot find it in my heart to hate the man who brought us the joy that is Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano (and, to a lesser extent, Boof Bonser). Oh, and his departure made room for the superstar that is Joe Mauer to come up, which just makes it even harder to hate A. J.
The only White Sock I can muster any angry feelings for is Jim Thome, and that’s simply because he’s a Twin-killer. I’ve seen his career numbers against the Twins, and I’m not going to post them because they make me ill. All I’m going to say is that he hits like a modern-day Babe Ruth off of any and all Twins pitchers. But I can’t really say that I hate Thome either; he’s a good guy and he’s very good at what he does. I mostly just feel a sense of dread whenever he comes to the plate, because I know something bad is about to happen.
No, there are really only two sports franchises I actually hate: The Green Bay Packers and the Vancouver Canucks. Hating the Packers (and their fans) is obligatory if you root for the Vikings, although this year’s team didn’t inspire the usual feelings of animosity. The Packers under Brett Favre were very hateable, and their fans were the most obnoxious and arrogant of any fanbase in major league sports. But now that the Gunslinger is gone, the Packers are much harder to hate. Aaron Rogders just doesn’t inspire the sort of frothing vitriol that Fav-ruh did and I actually kind of feel sorry for the poor guy. Besides, Packer fans have been awfully quiet this year. Gee, I wonder why…
I guess when I really think about it all of my sports-related hate is reserved for the Vancouver Canucks. I HATE them. They like to play dirty, and there’s a palpable sense of animosity between the players on the ice. Although the Wild have typically dominated the Canucks, things are different this season. They have yet to win a single game against Vancouver and currently trail them by two points in the standings. To make matters worse, they went out and signed former Wild star Pavol Demitra and will probably go after Marian Gaborik as well.
So which Canuck do I hate the most? Mattias Ohlund, of course. Because he did this to Mikko Koivu:
Go to hell, Vancouver.