Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Indians 4, Twins 3

Travis Hafner is the Indians' designated hitter. When he starts, it is never in the field, but always in the DH spot. This is because he is not a good fielder and it hurts a team to have such a liability anywhere in the field. Why can the Twins not do this with Matt LeCroy? If Fatty has any real value (which is becoming more and more doubtful as the season progresses), it is certainly not in the field. In fact, he is an absolutely terrible fielder. We've seen it in the past with his inability to make the slightly tougher plays, like stabbing a ball on the short hop or ranging one step to his right or left, but tonight he made two very ugly errors. When you have a pitcher on the hill in Carlos Silva who puts the ball in play and depends on his fielders to make outs, this can't happen. I'll honestly be surprised if LeCroy starts another game at first base this season.

Speaking of Silva, he had a typical Silva game. 7 innings pitched, 9 hits allowed, no strikeouts. The performance extended an impressive streak of 8 starts in which he has gone 7+ innings, but this one was not nearly as impressive as his last few. The stat that killed him was the two gopherballs he gave up, which accounted for 3 of Cleveland's 4 runs.

I really don't like what Ron Gardenhire has done with the lineup. Nick Punto is an absolutely PERFECT number 2 hitter. He's a switch-hitter with a near-.300 average, he's fast, he's a phenomenal bunter, and he sees a decent number of pitches. I was curious to see what Gardy would do tonight with Joe Mauer returning to the lineup after a five-game hiatus, thinking there was no way he could move Punto out of the number 2 slot considering how well he's been hitting lately. To my disgust, he did. He stuck Mauer back into the order between Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford and slid Punto all the way down to the 8th spot. In my opinion, the move that needs to be made here is clear: Punto second, Mauer fifth. While I do like the idea of splitting up Mauer and Justin Morneau, Joe needs to be hitting in the middle of the lineup where he can drive in runs.

Speaking of Morneau, if he can't learn to hit the ball on the outside corner, he shouldn't be in the Major Leagues. Period. It is utterly embarrassing how every team has completely figured him out and all they need to do is take a quick look at the scouting report to learn how to pitch to him and make him essentially an automatic out.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Twins Surprises and Disappointments

Now two months into the season, the Twins season has certainly been filled with ups and downs and a lot of surprises. So, with an off day at hand, I wish to go over the top three surprises and the top three disappointments.


1) Carlos Silva - Silva came into this year having had a solid 2004 season in which he won 14 games and had a respectable 4.21 ERA. Silva, however, also gave up 255 hits in 203 innings, a league high, and only struck out 76 batters. Those seemed to be signs that league batters were on to Silva and that this year, he could only take a step back. Instead, Silva has been the best and most reliable starter on the staff so far. He still has allowed more hits than innings (68 in 60 innings) and only has struck out 21, but thats Silva's established game now: he uses his sinker with nearly ever pitch, causes double play after double play. He is now 3-2 with a 2.85 and has had two straight great starts, including a complete-game. He has also provided, with Radke, a good example for Kyle Lohse on how to improve his pitching. Expect Silva to win at least 10-15 games this year with an ERA around 3.50.

2) Kyle Lohse - When Kyle Lohse was called up in 2001, there was a lot of hype. This was, after all, the winnings from the Rick Aguillera yard sale in 1998. Lohse, however, disappointed for a long time, never quite living up to his potential. With a strong pitch selection, Lohse has always had the tools. Now, he seems to be putting it all together. After a lousy start and a short banishment to the bullpen, Lohse has been great his past two starts as well. He's now 4-3 with a 4.22 ERA. Lohse finally made a key change that seems to have lead to this success, as he dropped his straight four-seamer and curveball in favor of a more Radke/Santanish selection of two-seamer, slider, and change-up. Now, having a little help from his peers, he is mastering the change-up. It seems that things can now only get better for Kyle and the Twins.

3) Jesse Crain - In a bullpen that is the best or at least one of the best in the majors, Jesse Crain was not expected to be the best reliever on the staff by a longshot. But, so far, he has been outstanding, going 5-0 so far with a .96 ERA. When Juan Rincon was suspended, it was Crain who stepped up into the set-up role and excelled in front of Joe Nathan. In all of the Twins' recent extra-inning victories, its been Crain who has stymied the opposing offense and picked up the win. With a great, moving fastball that has hit 100 and an outstanding slider, Crain is going right after hitters with lots of success. He should continue to be solid all-season and hopefully will be a key to the Twins going to the postseason. I just hope this time Gardenhire learns his lesson and uses Crain in key situations (Yankees anyone?) when he's needed most and when he's at his finest.


1) Torii Hunter- I have said it before, but I have to repeat myself: Torii has been awful this year, at bat and in the field. Yes, he has six HRs and RBIs, but he got most of those RBIs early on in a few games and his only hits recently seem to be with the bases empty. Torii is hitting .237 with a abysmal .307 on-base percentage for a number five hitter. He only positive has been his 13 stolen bases in 16 attempts. However, once again, most of those came early, when pitchers weren't on to him. Now, he has been caught three of his last 6 tries, as he now often looks foolish on the base paths. He also continues to flail at the same terrible breaking pitches, especially with men on base. And his biggest fall has been in his defense, where he has looked mediocre at best. Bad diving attempts, pitiful errors, errant throws, and so on. These are not what we expect from Torii Hunter. Nor do we expect him to place the blame on other players, after he appear to be the next true team leader. Thats the biggest disappointment.

2) Jason Bartlett - Jason Bartlett started the year as best he could, having a great spring training and stealing the starting shortstop job from Nick Punto, Juan Castro, and Alex Prieto. He looked poised to be a potential rookie of the year, showing great hitting in the minors and the potential for good defense. However, he hit just .242 with 2 HRs and 12 RBIs, feeling that he had lost his stroke and was sent down to the minors, giving way to Juan Castro's recent ascension to the starting role. Though Bartlett should have hit better, and likely will once he is called back up, the blame for this disappointment falls mainly on the management staff and front office, who decided to play both dice. Where they had infinite patience with the early struggles of Michael Cuddyer, they did not show the same patience to Bartlett. That's not fair play. I understand the logic, as Cuddyer won the job and was promised it and needed time to adjust to his new everyday job. But the same logic applies to Bartlett and if they wanted to let Cuddyer play, they should have done the same for Bartlett. Maybe he would be a large hitting streak now, but instead he's bumming in the minors waiting to get called back up to where he belongs.

3) Scott Ulger - The two main coaches on team besides Ron Gardenhire seemed to have their work cut out for them, yet they apparently have left it out to dry. I say this because bad, bad problems continue to plague Twins players and they are not getting fixed. From Brad Radke's first inning troubles (lately it hasn't been SO bad) to JC Romero's control problems to Torii Hunter's bad pitch selection to Justin Morneau's inability to hit the outside pitch, nothing has been touced. How can we expect Morneau to hit 40 HRs if he can't adjust or be helped to make the right adjustments when pitchers start to hit the outside corner on him? That's Ulger's job, but where is he? How can we expect Romero to be a great reliever if Anderson doesn't constantly work on his control issues and his confidence? And lastly, how can we blame the players if all the other guys aren't doing their jobs either? Anderson isn't completely to blame and he's done a good job all-around with a so-far phenomenal overall pitching staff. At some point, J.C. must work out his issues. However, Ulger certainly needs to get it together, because he isnt doing enough or showing that he is even trying.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Really not too much to say about today's game. The Twins' offense was once again shut down, but on this occasion I really can't give them too much crap. Roy Halladay, who in my opinion is going to win the AL Cy Young this year, pitched an absolute gem, allowing only 2 hits and striking out 10 while working a complete game shutout as the Blue Jays cruised past the Twins 4-0. Halladay has tremendous stuff, he was hitting the catcher's glove all night long and using his terrific breaking pitch to strike out Twins batters consistently. Joe Mays pitched fairly well for the Twinkies and took a tough loss, allowing just 2 runs over 7 innings. JC Romero, on the other hand, allowed 2 runs over 1/3 of an inning. Despite his outstanding 1.83 ERA, I would venture to say that Romero is the team's least reliable relief pitcher. I would honestly rather see Matt Guerrier or *gulp* Terry Mulholland come in to pitch in a close game than JC.

Fortunately, the Twins didn't lose any ground in the standings as the White Sox were whipped by the Rangers 12-4. Jon Garland, whose extremely hot start was regarded by many as a fluke, was rocked for 7 runs over 6 innings. I'm not saying that this one start means the guy isn't legit -- after all, Santana had a start just as bad a couple weeks ago and this one did come against a very good offense -- but don't be surprised if you see Garland toss a few more like this one.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Pitching Wins the Day

Other then a few good situational hitting moments tonight, the Twins won on the power of Kyle Lohse's pitching performance. Although there were a few moments of tension and poor pitching, mainly in the 7th, it was overall a very impressive, seven-inning performance in which he allowed six hits and one earned run while walking none and striking out three. It dropped his ERA to a very respectable 4.22 and got him his 4th win of the season. After starting the season badly enough to get temporarly demoted to the bullpen. Now, in his past two starts, Kyle has been using his two-seamer very well to induce groundball outs and to keep hitters from sitting on his four-seamer, which is faster but has little to no movement. That, combined with a good slider, has made Lohse finally show the potential he has had all the years. I just hope this time he goes a run and keeps this up for a long time.

Besides Lohse great pitching, the Twins had very little else going on. Justin Morneau continued his terrible slump, going 0 for 4 and dropping his average to .299. As my associate pointed out, Morneau is getting pitched with fastballs on the outside corner and good breaking balls on the inside part of the plate and Morneau is not adjusting at all. He is, instead, entering the poor habit of trying to pull everything. That will make him the strikeout-machine Russell Branyan is instead of the potential Jim Thome-ish hitter he could be if he tries to take the outside pitch and go with it. Only then will he have consistent success. And that lies on the shoulders of the hitting coach, Scott Ulger, who seems to have done very little to help Justin. He is so bad, apparently, that for Torii Hunter to get a few hits, he had to talk to Jerry White instead. That may be a strech, but he needs to sit down with Justin immediately to help him out of this slump.

Other game notes:

* Shannon Stewart continued his great hitting, going 2 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs. He has hit .323 his past seven games, with 3 HRs giving him a team-leading 8 HRs. He has been the team's best hitter and the reason they have won several of their last games.

* Other than Stewart, there was very little production in the Twins lineup. Juan Castro had another good offensive night, going 2 for 3 witha home run for the second consecutive night. Besides Castro and Stewart, only Michael Cuddyer and Nick Punto had hits. They managed a meager 6 hits against the Blue Jays staff, having the luck of getting two unearned runs in the second on a Erik Hinske error. This kind of offensive output cannot continue, because the Twins can't expect their pitching to carry them all season.

* The Twins had two errors, including a terrible throw from Justin Morneau in an attempt to complete a double-play in the third, throwing it past Juan Castro into center field and allowing Toronto to get a runner in scoring position and eventually, to score. This trend of bad fielding is also a concern, as Cuddyer now has 10 errors and Morneau continues to show his inexperience in the field.

* Joe Nathan picked up his 15th save, but only after a 9th inning in which he allowed two earned runs, three hits, and nearly blew the Twins' lead. He's look hittable and out-of-control of late and once again, the Twins coaching staff looks worthless in trying to figure out Nathan's problems, just like JC's. What does Rick Anderson do anyways?

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Awakening

The Twins' offense finally awakened tonight, providing starter Johan Santana with some run support en route to a 7-2 victory over the Blue Jays. Santana pitched well, going seven innings and allowing 2 runs on 4 hits while striking out 8.

Shannon Stewart continues to be the team's best hitter by far, providing a dazzling 4/5 performance that included his seventh home run of the year, which he absolutely launched to left-center. Nick Punto has really fit well in the number 2 spot in the lineup, continuing his strong performance there with 3 hits. Heck, even Juan Castro got into the action with a 2-run bomb. Lew Ford had a couple more hits hitting third, and he has been great there... It will be interesting to see where Gardenhire places Joe Mauer when he returns to the lineup, because right now I don't see how you could supplant Punto or Ford the way they are playing.

Still, troubling trends persist. In the first inning, Torii Hunter again struck out with the bases loaded, on a pitch that was nearly a foot outside of the strike zone. Just before that, Justin Morneau hit a weak line drive to the second baseman. Morneau, who went 0/4 and was the only Twin without a hit in the game, is struggling mightily with pitchers that are working him outside constantly. He is trying to pull everything and it is resulting in weak line drives, pop-ups, and strikeouts. If he can't get it going, then this offense will never be able to be successful.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Hunter's True Lacking

Most of the complaints lodged at Torii Hunter this year have involved his bad offensive output so far and his inability to hit in clutch situations. This is true, but of course, Hunter has always been a slow starter and in his career, he's never been a great hitter so you can't expect him to hit .300 anytime soon unless he's moved. The real disappointment has been in his defense and in his leadership. Tonight is a great example of this. In the 7th inning, while the Twins were carrying a 4-1 against the Indians, Hunter made a nearly-fatal mistake. When a ball was hit in between Hunter and Shannon Stewart, Hunter failed to communicate with his fellow outfielder and did not take the initiative in fielding the ball, instead letting it drop between them and thus, giving away valuable runs. His excuse? "The ball was tailing away from me," Hunter said. "So I looked at him and was like, 'What are you doing?' I had no chance at it." That's not enough, since clearly Hunter wishes to shift the blame. It is an example amongst many others that shows just how sub-par Hunter's defense has been this year. He seriously needs to work on it since the only reason Hunter's a $8 million player is his stellar defensive play. Hunter later badly played a ball in right-center, letting a line drive fall out his glove on a diving play he normally would have made. (On another note, Hunter blamed Ford for his bad play last night that may have cost the Twins a game, noting that if Stewart was playing, it would have been made. That's some questionable leadership as well)

But, let's get back to focus and look at the Twins victory in 11 innings tonight. Making up for Hunter's bad defense was Stewart, who made a stellar defensive play with an amazing throw, and also won the game with a homer off of David Riske in the 11th inning. Joe Nathan's 14th save sealed the victory, although it was another rocky outing for Nathan. The Twins bullpen, which has also been somewhat suspect lately, came through with five scoreless innings of work and Jesse Crain had his third extra-innings win in less than a week.

* Lew Ford went 2 for 5 after a bad showing last night, doing much better and continuing the hot bat he has shown all month

* Joe Mauer rested his groin and sat out for the second day while his backup Mike Redmond had a good day at the plate, going 2 for 3 and bringing his average to .306. Very good numbers for a backup

* Torii Hunter redeemed himself in one way, hitting a two-run double in the first inning, but he went 0 for 4 the rest of the night and his average now hoovers at .242. Pathetic.

* Matthew LeCroy was inserted into the cleanup spot where he went 0 for 4, leaving two men on base and showing his inability to hit left-handers better than righties

* After his 13-game hitting streak ended last night, Michael Cuddyer went 0 for 4 again, leaving two men in scoring position

So, despite winning the game and leaving Cleveland five games behind Chicago after their lost to the Angels, there are still many issues to be worked out, mainly the continuing hitting woes. We cannot expect our pitching staff to continue to be this good and we cannot expect clutch hits night in and out in extra-innings for wins. Playoff teams win with balance, not with a one-sided plan.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Constant Struggle

3-2. Another loss for the Twins. Another pathetic offensive showing. I feel absolutely terrible for the Twins starting pitchers, as this miserable offense has simply hung them out to dry lately. Carlos Silva pitched brilliantly for his second consecutive start tonight, following his recent 74-pitch gem against the Blue Jays last weekend with 8 strong innings tonight allowing no earned runs. Unfortunately, that somehow wasn't enough. Lew Ford, hitting in the 3-spot for the second day in a row, went 0/5 and left four runners on, and Justin Morneau went 0/3. Nick Punto struck out twice (a troubling trend for him lately). The game was lost when JC Romero allowed yet another inherited runner to score in the 10th inning. I think Romero might be the worst pitcher of all time to have an ERA under 1 after pitching a significant number of innings.

Torii Hunter had a couple more hits today, including a home run that represented half the team's offense. This is the second day Hunter has been solid, and yet all of his production has come with the bases empty. This further proves my point that Torii is not a good situational hitter and needs to be removed from the five-hole.

I was listening to the PA & Dubay Show on KFAN this morning, and they had Star Tribune Twins beat writer LaVelle E. Neal III on. I like LaVelle quite a bit, but he was debating Dubay on a particular topic and I found myself siding with Dubay. The issue was whether or not Hunter would be well-suited for the number three spot in the lineup, and Neal felt that Torii is simply not a prototype 3-hitter (like Ford is??) and is more suited for the five-spot. Mr. Dubay made the argument that Hunter's main problem is that he swings at bad pitches, and he would see better pitches if he were sandwiched between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the lineup. I believe he is absolutely right.

Clearly, the Twins cannot produce enough runs to win ballgames with their current lineup. Their pitchers have been very hot lately, with Kyle Lohse and Joe Mays both putting in a couple solid starts and Silva's ERA now dropping to an outstanding 2.85, and this has allowed the Twins to play above-.500 ball. I'm afraid that pitching will not keep up forever, it puts way too much pressure on the starting pitchers when the offense is only providing 2 or 3 runs a game. For that reason, it is imperative that Gardy shake things up and make some major changes to the batting order. I feel that the following order would make the most sense:

1. Stewart
2. Mauer
3. Hunter
4. Morneau
5. Cuddyer
6. Ford
7. Jones
8. Punto
9. Castro

This batting order spreads the good hitters throughout the lineup, provides good lefty-righty variety, and puts the guys who are able to drive in runs behind the guys who are able to set the table. I also wouldn't mind seeing Mauer hitting fifth since I think he is the best player on the team at driving in runs but they seem intent on keeping him in the two and three spots so I guess it's not a realistic thought.

In any case, the Twins coaching staff needs to do something because this team cannot continue to hit like this or they will be passed by the Indians pretty soon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Timely Hitting

For all the complaints we give about offense, I have to give the Twins credit for a few things. For one, they second in the bigs with a .277 team average with two outs and runners in scoring position. That's pretty good if you ignore their lack of success with the bases loaded. Tonight, however, made it more evident that they are getting better at it. All six of their runs came with two outs and happened to be opposite-field hits. Those are some very good signs. Lets break it down:

* Justin Morneau lead the pack, having two impressive at-bats against lefty-specialists Arthur Rhodes and Scott Sauerbeck. In both cases, he got down in the count but then took a breaking-ball to the opposite field for a hit. He brought one in the 8th and cleared the bases in the 11th to give the Twins the win. He certainly stepped up at the right time after a series of disappointing games, going 2 for 5 with 4 RBIs, bringing his team-leading total to 29 RBIs. Hopefully, these two key at-bats will get Justin's bat going again

* Lew Ford continued his pummeling of the ball, going 2 for 3 with two runs scored, two walks, and a 2-out RBI in the third. He has been on a tear lately, hitting .400 in his last seven games

* Michael Cuddyer was somewhat disappointing, but he did manage to continue his hitting streak, bringing it to thirteen games, going 1 for 5 tonight with an RBI single in the 6th.

* Jesse Crain won his second extra-innings game in three days, shutting the Indians out in the 9th and 10th innings, working quickly and continuing an impressive rookie season

* Joe Nathan came in and got his 13th save, though his control still seemed to be a little off, as it had been completely lost in Sunday's game. Hopefully Joe can get right back into focus as well

Other Comments:

* Jacque Jones was ejected in the 6th inning for arguing a strikeout call, after going 0 for 3 during the game. Jones has really fallen hard this month, with his average now sitting at .274 after he had been a league-leader in April.

* Joe Mauer had a great throw to catch Jose Hernandez in the 6th, as he threw it right on the money. Mauer has been great at throwing out runners this year, catching them at a nearly 50 percent clip

* On another positive note, the Twins had three stolen bases tonight, including Torii Hunter's 13th of the year

* Following that, instead of taking Torii out of the 5th spot, as we have suggested, he moved Mauer into the 2nd spot, Ford into the 3rd spot (which worked fine tonight, but...) and dropped Punto into the 8th spot. This is mind-boggling because he has not adjusted anything in his lineup regarding his two big struggling stars, Jones and Hunter. Hunter needs to be moved a lot more than Nick Punto does. If he really wants to shake up his lineup, he's going to have to try harder than that.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Tribal Trouble

The Twins put up another embarrassingly pathetic offensive performance tonight against the Indians in a 2-1 loss at Jacobs Field to start their latest road trip. Surprisingly, however, I am not going to spend my post tonight with another long rant about the Twins pathetic offense, despite the fact that Morneau (which we must now all get in the habit of saying with emphasis on the first syllable instead of the second) is in just a ridiculous slump and is pressing way too much, Terry Tiffee continues to be pinch-hit in key situations despite the fact that he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, and Torii Hunter - despite a big near-homer in the ninth that put him in the position to score the winning run - killed another rally with a miserable ground ball out in the first inning.

Actually, what I'm going to discuss tonight is the fact that, while I complain constantly about the Twins' offensive ineptitude, perhaps I should count my blessings when I look at the team we faced tonight. I actually kind of feel sorry for Indians fans. Cleveland was expected by most people to have one of the top three or four offenses in the league, and they have been among the worst. I was totally furious that Gardenhire continued to regularly start Michael Cuddyer while he was flirting with the Mendoza line for a whole month, but here in mid-May Indians third-baseman Aaron Boone is still starting with an absolutely miserable .159 average and a .215 OBP. I have to believe that Victor Martinez is the biggest disappointment in all of baseball this year. After hitting 23 homers and knocking in 108 RBI last year, he was set to be the next great offensive catcher of the MLB. Instead, Martinez is batting .191 and tonight got just his 12th RBI despite the fact that he hits cleanup. It doesn't end there. Casey Blake has played 40 games this year despite a .211 BA. As a team, Cleveland is hitting .242, worst in the Majors... worse than the Royals and Athletics. The Indians have scored only 170 runs, 28 less than the anemic Twins.

I am totally stunned by this unbelievable lack of offensive performance by a Cleveland line up that seemed poise to be sandwiched between Boston and New York in all stats this year. The most unfortunate part is that the pitching has been there for them. They are one of five AL squads with a team ERA under 4. Their bullpen has been outstanding. And yet, even after their victory tonight, their record still sits three games under .500. I have to believe that this has just been a very tough run for the Indians and that they are still going to break out and start scoring massive amounts of runs, but here we are, more than 1/4 of the way through the season, and tonight they were able to score only 1 run against a bad pitcher in Kyle Lohse (the second was charged to Lohse, but was really JC Romero's fault).

Getting back to the Twins though, I just have to say that this year has really made me realize that I had heavily overrated the speed of Jacque Jones. I have seen him get thrown out stealing by large margins twice this year, and tonight was his worst offense yet. With one out and Hunter on second in the ninth, Jones hit a very slow grounder up the middle. It was so slow in fact, that Ronnie Belliard, who was shading the left-handed Jones to the right a little, went all the way to left side of second-base to pick it up and while moving the other direction lobbed it to first. Jones could not beat out the throw. You've gotta be kidding me.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Amazing Comeback

I almost made a negative post today before leaving for work, thinking the Twins were doomed pathetic loss to the Brewers. I was proven wrong, as the Twins came back to win in the 11th off a Junior Spivey error. It was, however, due to the late-inning heroics of Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford that led to the Twins comeback victory.

Stewart had a ninth-inning, two-run homer off of Brewers new-sensation closer Derrik Turnbow following Lew Ford's double that scored Jacque Jones. Jesse Crain, who didn't look so great last night, came in and pitched a quick 11th, striking out two, for his third victory. Stewart and Ford, the Twins two hottest hitters at the moment, can be given thanks for the victory, as once again their clutch hitting pulled the Twins out of what should have been a lost. There was, after all, many reasons for disapointment.

Highlights and Lowlights:


* Johan Santana did have a fairly impressive start, going seven innings while striking out eleven, giving up five hits, and walking one. That brought his major-league leading total to 83 strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 3.82. Johan, however, looked pretty shaky in the sixth and the seventh, but managed to get through not-too-badly scared

* Michael Cuddyer continued his hitting streak, bringing it to eleven games, as he went 1 for 4 with a run-scoring single

* Lew Ford went 3 for 4 with 3 run scored and an RBI in an impressive outing.


* The M and M boys went a combined 1 for 9 with no RBIs and seven men left on base and two in scoring position. Those are poor numbers from the three and four spot and the hitters that support this Twins team

* Torii Hunter had another terrible day, going 0 for 4 while commiting an error that caused a Brewer run in the 8th. Hunter went through his usual swing-at-the-first-pitch habit, weakly grounding out and only getting on-base in the 7th due to Julio Santana's embarrasing lack of control

* Both Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan gave up an earned run a piece, looking a little shaky, though Romero and Crain redeemed the bullpen in the 10th and 11th with fine outings.

Overall, it was a good game, as the Twins pulled out a victory. But bad habits still persist for the Twins.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Waste of Time

I attended tonight's game at the Metrodome, a 6-0 loss to the Brewers, and my feelings can best be described in one word: betrayed. Betrayed by a team that I paid good money to see, and they gave a pathetic effort, got completely dominated, and didn't seem to care too much at all. There honestly was not one single thing worth cheering about in this game, unless you were one of the numerous Milwaukee fans in attendance. The Twins never mounted anything close to a scoring threat, the pitching sucked, and the defense was unspectacular for the most part.

The Twins have been getting dominated by a LOT of starting pitchers as of late. In the past, this has been excusable to some degree. Daniel Cabrera could be seen as an up-and-coming young star with a 100 MPH fastball who was simply on that night. Kenny Rogers has been impressive this season, and has pitched well against most of his opponents, and even though he dominated the Twins more than most, perhaps he too was simply on that night. But DOUG DAVIS?! No. There is absolutely no excuse for Doug f***ing Davis coming into our house and tossing a complete game, 7-hit shutout against us. It is absolutely EMBARRASSING.

And that gets to the thing that frustrates me the most about this team. They just don't seem to really care. I was listening to John Gordon interviewing pitching coach Rick Anderson on the radio on my way home from the game, and "Andy" was jovial as could be. Rather than voicing his disgust with the absolute lack of offense or the ugly pitching performance by Brad Radke which was much worse than it looks on paper (only 2 earned runs allowed in 6 IP, but a lot of hard hits), he cooed over how nice it was to see AAA-callup Luis Rodriguez get a meaningless pinch-hit at-bat late in the game. When asked about the Twins' in ability to hit, he predictably gave all the credit to Davis. "He pitched great, he was locating his cut fastball inside on right-handed hitters"... blah blah blah, etc. I'm sick of Twins coaches spouting this generic BS everytime the team fails to produce any offense (which is VERY often). How convenient that all these pitchers seem to throw their best stuff of the season when they're facing the Twins.

I understand that the Twins have this persona about them that they are a team that has fun, and smiles a lot, and are a bunch of generally good guys. But there is a time when you need to show some sort of competitive fire. I'm sick of seeing Torii Hunter walking back to the dugout with a big ol' grin on his face after striking out. There are barely any players on this team who truly seem frustrated when they or the team are not performing. It stretches to management too. Ron Gardenhire and his staff are WAYYY too easy on players. Look at the best managers in the game: Torre, Cox, Piniella. These are guys who will let a player know when they are screwing up. In most cases, they aren't pricks, but they realize that they are running a professional ball-club and they will do things at the expense of a players' feelings in order to ensure a winning product for the fans, who make everything possible in the first place. How much longer can the Twins keep Hunter hitting in the 5-hole when he continues to bat .238?

There's another trend that I have noticed from this team which is probably a result of poor coaching as well, or else just bad fundamentals by our pitching staff. I have noticed this season on several occasion that our starting pitchers, namely Radke and Johan Santana, do not seem to understand how to handle a batter when ahead in the count. All too often I see those guys get up on a hitter 0-2, and then throw a fastball right over the plate. It just doesn't make any sense. On an 0-2 or 1-2 count, the objective is to throw some junk and try to get the batter to swing and miss or make bad contant. I don't understand the strategy of hurling a fastball that they will destroy when they're looking to protect the plate as it is. This trend was all too evident tonight when Radke got up in the count 0-2 against Carlos Lee in the first inning, and proceeded to toss a high changeup right in the wheelhouse which Lee easily nailed for a 2-run homer. That is just stupid, stupid pitching.

Obviously, I am very frustrated. I apologize that tonight's post was such a complete rant, but I feel totally ripped off by the lackadaisical performance of this team that 32,000 payed to come out and see tonight.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Castro long gone!

Juan Castro hit a legitimate solo home-run in the sixth off of Brewer reliever Mike Adams, on the rout to a splendid 7-1 Twins victory. It was just one of many highlights from many unexpectated contributers. Here's a summary of the action from tonight:

- Carlos Silva threw a complete game last night, following Joe Mays' gem from Thursday. Silva needed only 74 pitches to do so, while giving up five hits and one run and striking out three but walking none. It was impressive start from Silva, showcases his ability to get grounders when he needs him and use his sinker as best he can.

- Lew Ford went 2 for 5 with a run scored. After a breakout season last year in which he hit .299, Lew had started out slow, but now appears to be picking up the pace.

- So does Michael Cuddyer, who was 2 for 4 with an RBI, streching his hitting streak to nine games and bringing his average up to .281. Cuddyer has hit .529 in the last seven games and has been on fire. Its a breakout for a player who had it coming. Lets just hope he keeps this up.

- Nick Punto went 4 for 4 with an RBI, bringing his average up to .291. After sitting out a few games and having to watch Rivas struggle, Punto finally returned tonight and he continues to do well offensively while providing the Twins with great defense.

Overall, it was a very well-played gamed by the Twins, minus Torii Hunter's terrible hitting. Hunter continued to look lost at the plate, grounding into TWO bases-loaded double-plays. Not good Torii. Maybe he needs to be benched.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Loaded Sixth

The Twins took care of business today to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-0 in the rubber game of a three-game mid-week series at the Metrodome. The offense really did nothing outside of the sixth inning, where Michael Cuddyer (who has been outrageously hot lately) came up with the bases loaded and no outs and did we he was unable to do through the entire month of April... came through. And big. Cuddyer battled Blue Jays pitcher Gustavo Chacin, fouling off eight pitches, and finally capped off a 13-pitch at-bat with a 2-run double. Cuddyer has been amazing lately, and today was no different. He has also improved greatly with the glove, going from terrible to about average. He still maintains the lowest fielding percentage among starting AL third basemen, and still seems a little unsure on his throws, but has shown marked improvement. I have to hand it to the Twins management for knowing that Cuddy would eventually come around, but I still maintain that he lost us several games in April due to his rally-killing strikeouts and double-plays, and that he shouldn't have started as many games as he did.

After Cuddyer's two-run double, Mike Redmond (who had 2 hits and has been much better than expected offensively) hit a 2-run single. On those two hits, the Twins would get all the offense they would need. Joe Mays pitched phenomenally, delivering a complete-game shutout allowing seven hits and no walks while striking out two. Mays had allowed only one runner above the minimum through six innings, but seemed to be running into his characteristic seventh inning woes. After getting the first out, he allowed two straight singles, and Twins-killer Vernon Wells stepped up with one out and two on and a chance to put the Jays right back in it. Mays settled down and got a double play to escape the inning. Then, despite allowing a few hits in the eighth and ninth, Mays completed the game for one of the best gems I've ever seen from him.

The victory was not all positives though... there were several distressing factors. In the third, the Twins loaded the bases with one out for cleanup hitter Justin Morneau and Mr. Five-HOLE Torii Hunter. Typically this is a situation where your big bats in the middle of the lineup produce some runs. Both players struck out swinging. Morneau had a disconcertingly bad game, going 1/4 with three strikeouts while leaving five men aboard. Hunter drew a walk in one at-bat, but otherwise went 0/3 with two strikeouts. If these two cannot start producing with some consistency, this offense will never take off.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Mixed Bag

Overall, we should be happy the Twins won. After all, they haven't been spectacular as of late. And of all heroes, Michael Cuddyer's late inning homer ended up winning the game for the Twins. He has during the month of May hit over .300 and now finally showed some resemblence of the power he posseses. Cuddyer is by no means near the peak of his talent, but he has made some significant steps recently. In fact, defensively, I think he is making some strides as well. On a play early in the game tonight, Cuddyer allowed a bunt for a hit by choosing not to throw the ball. I think that was smart, since after all, most of his troubles this year have been with throwing. Yes, he should have let Stewart's throw go through in order to have the best chance to prevent the first run, but he did make up for that with his homer.

Otherwise, Jacque Jones came up with a nice blast off Toronto starter Dave Bush that gave the Twins their first run. Kyle Lohse was a mixed bag, as he did pitch six innings, allowing two runs and seven hits. He didn't look too strong, but then again, he didn't get killed out there either. Jesse Crain, Juan Rincon, and Joe Nathan finished off the game the way they should, shutting down the Blue Jays for the last three innings to clinch a 3-2 victory.

But my major complaint was the idiot fan behind me during the game. She continued to yell in my ear, screaming absurd claims and even calling Cuddyer an a**hole for his defense and Justin Morneau a "pussy" for his lack of powerful hitting. Pointing a finger at the guy who made a good decision for once was not smart and Morneau has carried this team. Come on. I can't stand wanna-be-know-it-all fans. Morneau can go 0-5 any night as long as he hits 450 ft bombs when needed and he will continue to do as such.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Very Bad Things

I don't have too much to say about tonight's 10-3 loss to the Blue Jays. Obviously I am utterly disappointed. Johan Santana was absolutely rocked; the worst start I can remember seeing out of him, ever. He gave up seven runs over just 5.1 innings to a slumping Blue Jays offense. The Twins' offense was mostly terrible, although Toronto starter Josh Towers is admittedly having a pretty good year. Torii Hunter hit a 2-run homer and walked twice, which is somewhat promising I guess, and Justin Morneau hit his 7th home run, but they were all meaningless in a blowout that was never in doubt.

The White Sox regained a game in the standings as Jon Garland improved to 8-0. I'm starting to believe that Garland has pulled himself together and must be considered one of the best pitchers in the league, it's just too bad we'll never get to see him face other elite hurlers because he falls fifth in Chicago's rotation. And who's to say Garland will not just end up being another Esteban Loaiza?

Monday, May 16, 2005

A Rising Opportunity

To go along with my associate's post yesterday, its clear that the White Sox are beginning to fall back to Earth. They are not quite on a large losing streak yet, but their true colors are certain in sight now as they have lost three straight games due to bad starting pitching and a faulty bullpen . Tonight, they lost 7-6 to the Rangers as their pitching staff got lit up by the torrid Rangers offense. Orlando Hernandez was knocked around for six runs in only 2 and a third innings of work. This comes after Sunday, where Jose Contreras was knocked around as well in their 6-2 loss to the Orioles and Freddy Garcia was hit up for seven runs on Saturday. Sure, Mark Buehrle pitched well in their last win on Friday, but the White Sox have not been spectacular at all lately.

Tonight, they lost after Kevin Mench homered off of Damaso Marte in the 9th to give Texas the win. Needless to say, now is a good time for the Twins to make some serious moves the get ahead of Chicago in the standings. I agree with the lineup shuffle, but we also need a bullpen mix-up too. Its time to get rid of Terry Mulholland, who has been completely useless this year. He serves no purpose. We have a fine long-reliever in Matt Guerrier or even Kyle Lohse if the Twins do the smart thing and make him a reliever. He's got to go. If they get rid of Mulholland, the Twins can call up one of their many great pitching prospects, such as Scott Baker, to fill the spot as a deserving candidate.

Terry Ryan should also considered moving Luis Rivas, if he can. Of course, he won't be worth much as trade value, but he also is doing little more than taking up a spot on the 25-man roster. Justin Morneau needs protection, so Ryan may also consider trading Jacque Jones, knowing he will not be back next year regardless. We need a bat and we need it now. Other than Rivas or Jones, Ryan can't forget all the trade bait he has in pitching. There are plenty of teams in need of young pitching, its just a matter of who can provide us with right hitter.

Overall, moves simply need to be made now if the Twins want to seriously contend. Its been a season filled with some embarrassments, but there is no need to continue such a trend.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Five Hole

Calling the fifth spot in the Twins' lineup the "five hole" is extremely fitting; it has been an abysmal hole in the team's batting order all season long. While Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have both put up gaudy on-base percentages in the 3 and 4 spots, the player following them in the order (usually Torii Hunter) has simply failed to bring them in most of the time.

Take today's game. The Twins won and managed to salvage some dignity by avoiding a home sweep against the Rangers thanks to a timely three-run homer from Shannon Stewart. The shot by Stewart in the 6th which hit the foul net broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Twins a 5-2 lead which would stick. Still, the offense wasn't what I would call dazzling. Tonight's 5-hole culprit was Lew Ford, playing in place of the banged up Hunter. If Ford has many more games like today, he's going to have his signature "Lewww" chant replaced with "Boooo". In the first inning, with runners on first and third with one out, Ford killed the Twins' potential rally by grounding into an inning-ending double play. Thus, after loading the bases with no outs, the Twins only collected one measly run in the first inning. In his next two at-bats he fouled out. The one time Ford did reach base, he was thrown out by a mile trying to steal. He also made terrible play in center, losing a ball in the lights and letting it drop a foot or two behind him for a double. It doesn't exactly give us the home field advantage when our players have more trouble dealing with fly balls than our opponents.

Something must be done, because right now this team simply does not look like a contender. I'm not going to say that their offensive performance today was terrible, they had 11 hits (though 8 came from just three players), but over the past week they have not been hitting well enough to win. They are putting way too much pressure on the pitching staff, and in my opinion, the problems all start with that lack of production in the five-spot. I have brought this up in the past, and my suggestion is to move Mauer to fifth in the lineup so that Morneau will have some protection. There is no reason for a pitcher to throw anything hittable to Morneau when Ford is hitting behind him. With Mauer hitting fifth, the third spot in the lineup could be occupied by Hunter. Torii's main problem seems to be terrible pitch selection, he swings at too many balls. Hitting in front of the M&M; boys, pitchers would be forced to throw him strikes because they couldn't afford to put him on with those two coming up. Of course, in this situation, Jacque Jones would probably have to slide down in the order because you wouldn't want three straight lefties in the lineup, but his hitting has been absolutely miserable lately, I think any change for him would be a good thing. The day before Juan Rincon was suspended, I wrote an article saying that were the All-Star balloting to be completed that day, Jones was a lock for the All-Star team with his .352 batting average and .467 OBP. Now, three days after Rincon's 10-day suspension has ended, Jones is hitting below .300. That is a despicable plummet. I don't know what happened to that selectiveness he was showing in April (he had three strikeouts today).

Anyway, now that I'm done with that rant, I'll move on to the positives.

-I noticed in this series that Shannon Stewart has made a subtle change to his batting stance, and I gotta say, it seems to be working. Shannon used to have a much more open stance, with his left foot out towards third base, but he now has tucked his front foot in for more of a straight stance. The results have been good, Stewart seems to be exploding on the ball more, as evidenced by his two hits today, a hard liner to the gap in right-center and a hard-hit home run to left. After a slow start, his average is now up to .281.

-After being a bit shaky in his return to the bullpen on Friday night, Juan Rincon was back in top form today. He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning, striking out the side.

-Michael Cuddyer finally seems to be legitimately catching on. He had three hits in today's game, two of them hit very hard. The guy still needs to start hitting for more power though... third base is a position from which a team needs to get home runs, and it doesn't help that Corey Koskie has already hit seven for the Blue Jays.

Speaking of Koskie, the Blue Jays are coming to town for a three-game set starting Tuesday. Since Roy Halladay just pitched today, we won't have to see their most formidable starter in this series, so hopefully we can produce some offense and win the series.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

What could have been

Those words basically summarize the events of tonight. Kenny Rogers, whom was a Minnesota Twin in 2003, comes into the Metrodome and shuts the Twins out, giving up only six hits while walking none and striking out two. Those numbers could be awful useful to the Twins right now, who could have kept Rogers for a bargain price but let him go because they had great starters like Brad Thomas all set to go.

It was a game that was so bad, its hard to really say much about it. Carlos Silva didn't pitch too great once again, but then again, its the Rangers offense we are talking about so he faired about as well as was expected. Kyle Lohse, skipped in the rotation due to the off-day, pitched two innings out of the bullpen, giving up a run. Otherwise, nothing notworthy occured because the Twins' offense was paralyzed by Rogers all night. They have looked helpless since getting six runs off of Ryan Drese. It has just been a pathetic effort by the Twins and it is not acceptable. How can we get to the playoffs playing this way? Hopefully, with Radke on the mound, the Twins will fair better tommorow. They are going to have to now.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Nothing Extra

Technically, Joe Nathan allowed his first earned run of the season in the 11th inning of tonight's game against Texas, giving the Rangers a 7-6 lead. However, I don't know why on earth they counted the run as earned. With runners on first and second with one out, former Twin Chad Allen drove a liner to right field straight at Jacque Jones. Jones misjudged the ball, crouched down, and had it bounce at his feet and skip past him to the wall, allowing a run to score. A couple batters later, with runners on second and third, Nick Punto would dive and stab a hard grounder up the middle and fire it to first, but the throw would pull Justin Morneau off the bag. Two more runs would score. Had Jones made the play which I considered to be fairly routine, the inning would have ended with perhaps no runs being scored.

I don't know what the deal is with the Twins offense. They couldn't hit the ball at all in the Baltimore series, and embarrassed themselves once again tonight. After putting up six runs in the first few innings off Rangers starter Ryan Drese, the Twins failed to put up another run in over seven innings against the Rangers' subpar bullpen. A few bullet-points on this disappointing loss...

*While Joe Mays had a reasonably low pitch count going into the seventh inning, I was unhappy to see him trotting out to the mound. I felt Gardenhire had made the wrong decision, and it turned out I was right. Mays simply has not been effective beyond the sixth inning all year - his arm tires out, it's just not strong enough yet after his long hiatus. Jess Crain in the seventh, Juan Rincon in the eighth, and Joe Nathan in the ninth. Utilize your bullpen Gardy, that's what it's there for.

*Juan Rincon pitched tonight in his first game back from a 10-game suspension for steroids. The fans were generally receptive, which was nice, and Rincon's performance was... okay. He gave up a few hits and allowed an earned run that tied the game and sent it to extra innings, and posted no walks and no strikeouts.

*I don't if it's just coincidence or the way the pitchers were throwing or what, but I have NEVER in my life seen as many balls hit back up the middle as I did in this game. I don't have the stat on hand, but I'm pretty sure there were at least seven or eight 1-3 putouts (ground ball to the pitcher, thrown out at first). There were also countless seeing-eye singles and line drive base hits to center.

*JC Romero, after pitching miserably on Wednesday night to effectively lose the game for the Twins, pitched very well tonight. When he throws his curveball and changeup a lot, he seems to have success. I think the less he relies on his erratic fastball, the better.

The White Sox just keep on winning. They came back on the Orioles to take their second straight game against them, and extended their lead in the AL Central to 6 games. The Twins really could use a strong performance from Carlos Silva tonight, but will have to face Kenny Rogers who has been filthy this year with a 1.79 ERA. Man... what idiots the Twins were to let him go when they could've resigned him for cheap.

Neyer's the Man

I thought I would just quickly post on something I came across when reading a chatroom article where fans ask questions to ESPN baseball guru Rob Neyer. In response to a Chicago native complaining about how little credit the national media is giving the White Sox despite their torrid start, Neyer says:

"Oh, those poor, poor White Sox from the third-largest city in North America; oh, how my heart does weep for them. Look, the White Sox wear ugly uniforms in an ugly ballpark with an ugly name, and the truth is that it's just not easy to like them. Are they for real? Twenty-five wins on May 12 don't lie, and at the moment I'd give them roughly a 40 percent chance of reaching the postseason, because they have to compete with not only the Twins, but also maybe the Red Sox and/or Yankees and/or Orioles. Two of those teams will not reach the postseason, and I think the White Sox are one of the two least-talented teams in the group."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Top MLB Surprises and Disappointments

With a day off for the Twins, I wish to review some early year surpirses and disappointments throughout the MLB. Tomorrow, the Twins start a series against Texas that will be key, as they jockey for top position with the White Sox.

Top 5 Surprises:

1) Jon Garland
The White Sox have had a resurgance this year. As my associate has pointed out, however, it likely will not last. It can't because the White Sox have a terrible defensive team ("Smart ball" is so ridiculous) and you can't expect too much from a White Sox pitching staff filled with past failures. However, Garland has gone an A.L. leading 6-0 with a 2.42. Finally learning to use his sinker to his advantage, Garland has vastly improved over last year's mediocre numbers (4.89 ERA, 34 homers allowed). However, after allowing 6 runs in 5 and 2/3 innings in his last start, Garland's luck may be starting to run out.

2) Brian Roberts
Where did this guy come from? Ranking within the top three of every Triple Crown category, Roberts is currently hitting .370 with 10 HR and 30 RBs as a leadoff hitter! He's projected to hit 49 HR and 147 RBI for the season, numbers equivalent to Todd Helton's 2000 Season. While its clear Roberts can't keep this up, with the numbers he's already produced, this is clearly a breakout season. He should have at least 25-30 HRs over the course of the season, hit at least .300, and with the offense around him, around 90 RBIs. Thats just based on Roberts' track record, which suggests he just isn't this kind of hitter. We can only wait and see.

3) Clint Barmes
Though he is playing in the knowlingly stats-inflating atmosphere that is Coors Field, its hard to ignore what the rookie shortstop has done so far this year. He is leading the majors with a .395 average and his team with 5 HRs and 19 RBIs. However, with his 6 errors so far and 42.9 percent base-stealing percentage, Barmes hasn't been perfect. We can expect 20 HRs and 80 RBIs from him and given the history of Coors, I'm sure he'll hit at least .315 with plenty of doubles (Vinny Castilla anyone?).

4) Brandon Lyon
A Boston Red Sox castaway acquired in the Curt Schilling trade, Lyon spent all of last year recovering from an elbow injury. However, after Arizona's closer Greg Aquino went on the DL, Lyon was thrown into the closer's role this year. And has he been good: 13 saves in 14 opportunities, a 1.56 ERA, all contributing greatly to Arizona's surprise 20-15 start this year. Of course, he hasn't struck out many for a premier closer (11 in 17 innings) and he has given up 19 hits in 17.1 (another no-no for most closers) yet he has been very effective. Like Danny Kolb last year and others before him, I don't expect Lyon to break the 57 saves record with the 60 he is projected so far. However, he should have a good 40-45 saves in a year that will show the talent he has long possesed.

5) Derrek Lee
This has been a breakout year by all measurements for Lee, a player who has been good for a long while, but has never shown the greatness within him. This year is a different story. For a player who has had a career of starting bad in April and May, Lee is hitting .383 while leading the NL with 10 HRs and 33 RBIs. For a player who has never had 35 HRs, 100 RBIs, or 100 walks, he is sure looking like a premier player in the league of Pujols and Helton. His .476 OBP is likely his most impressive stat, as he is projected to break all those barriers this year and I think Lee can do that. He should end the year with 35-40 HRs, 110 RBI, and around 100 walks. Not to mention a Gold Glove. He would be a very probable MVP candidate if not for the fact his team is doing oh-so-terrible this year.

Top 5 Disappointments:

1) Adrian Beltre
The former Dodgers slugger who had a breakout season last year, hitting .334 with 48 HRs and 121 RBI, got a 5 year, $64 million deal from the Seattle Mariners brokered by the infamous super-agent Scott Boras in the off-season. So far, Beltre has completely flopped. In May, where the Mariners have gone a putrid 1-9, Beltre has had four extra-base hits in 40 ABs. For the year, he's hitting .241 with 3 HRs and 19 RBIs with a disguisting .271 OBP. For a hitter of his caliber, or what he showed last year (Roids?) he should be doing much better. I'd say Richie Sexson is just as much of a disappointment, but he's done what he has been paid to do: Hit for power. Sure, he's hitting .224, but Sexson has never been an average hitter. Like Adam Dunn, he strikes out a lot and hits a lot of big homers as well. Its a trade off. He has 9 HRs and 29 RBIs so far, so he is nowhere near the disappointment Beltre has been.

2) Tom Glavine
Tom Glavine, who along with the great Greg Maddux, was long part of a great Atlanta rotation. He had that devastating change-up. He has won 263 games in his career and had the looming possibility of 300 in his grasp. However, that's all changed. Glavine is 1-4 so far this year with a dreadful 6.87 ERA. He has allowed 50 hits in 36 and 1/3 innings pitched, amounting to a .333 opponent batting average. That's a far cry from the Glavine who won two Cy Young awards, winning 20 games five times in his career. It seems that since that cab crash last summer the 39-year old pitching needs to call it quits, as he already has had a Hall of Fame career.

3) Oliver Perez
Perez was simply amazing last year. He was the Johan Santana of the NL. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, going 12-10 with a 2.99 ERA, 239 strikeouts, and stunning 145 hits allowed in 196 innings. He showed that great slider everyone knew about since his days in San Diego. This year has been a different story. Perez has the highest ERA in the majors, at a Hideo Nomo level of 8.03. He has gone 1-4, walked 25 hitters in 37 innings, while only striking out 29, and has allowed 46 hits. He has only had one start showing a glimmer of last year's success, striking out 9 in 7 and 2/3 innings against the hapless Astros last month. Now, Perez is having shoulder problems and hard to say if he will bounce back. Hopefully, he can get up to 150 Ks and a 4.00 ERA. That would be success to me for a guy who set such high standards last year.

4) Jason Giambi
After all the steroids controversy this offseason, it was hard to expect much from the 2000 MVP. After all, he had batted a measly .208 with 12 HRs and 40 RBIs in the limited time he played in 2004. But I didn't expect him to fall so much as he has. He is now hitting .195 with 3 HRs and 6 RBIs in limited playing time due to the breakout of Tino Martinez, who has now hit a home-run in 5 straight games. The only positive is his .386 OBP due to the walks he has had. When Giambi does put the ball in play he never hits anything hard; he's averaging about one line drive a week. He's on a pace to accumulate over 500 plate appearances with about 20 extra-base hits and 30 RBI, according to Buster Olney's article this week. The Yankees are now considering sending him to the minors, which would require his permission. I think it's time to go. Its a long way to fall from MVP to back-up first baseman, but Giambi seems to have done just that, for 17 million a year nonetheless.

5) Kerry Wood
When Kerry Wood came up as a rookie in 1998, striking out 20 Astros in a game to tie the Major League record held by the ageless and supernatural Roger Clemens (who would be on my surprises list had I not come to anticipate this kind of performance from him), much was expected out of him. As the Rookie of the Year, he went 13-6 with a 3.40 ERA while striking out 233 in 166 and 2/3 innings. However, he went down that fall and had to have Tommy John surgery. When he returned in 2000, he wasn't the same, going 8-7 with a 4.80. However, the next few years showed glimmers of his potential genius, his best year being 2003, when he went 14-11 with a 3.20 and 266 K's in 211 innings. However, he suffered another injury last year that held him back and now this year, he is having further troubles with his shoulder. Besides that, he is still having the same control issues and he has not been the same, going 1-1 with a 6.15 ERA. If Wood comes back, its hard to say if he will ever be consistently effective or if he will ever lead the Cubs to victory with Mark Prior. Makes me wonder if he truly earned the large contract he was given last year.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Lost Cause

Talk about ineptitude... the Twins absolutely reaked of it in this series. Don't let the reasonable score they posted tonight in a 7-4 loss to the Orioles fool you, they made mediocre starter Sidney Ponson look like a Cy Young caliber stud today, much like they did for the other two starters they faced in this series. While they were able to score some runs early, it was mostly thanks to sloppy defense and a wild pitch. They hit maybe 2 or 3 balls hard off of him in the entire 8 innings he pitched, and were unable to even squeak out a hit against him after the third inning. Despite his 5-1 record, Ponson's stats this year are anything but spectacular; 27 K to 19 BB, 4.93 ERA. He's one of those guys who the Twins have always inexplicably struggled against.

The game was still within reach - tied in fact - until JC Romero came in and completely sucked in the 8th inning, proving that the Twins really are without a serviceable southpaw in their bullpen. I don't care that his ERA is 1.26, Romero has terrible control (he has 10 walks in 14.1 IP this year, completely unacceptable for a guy in his role), and he almost always lets inherited runners score. It was moronic for the Twins to keep Terry Mulholland over CJ Nitkowski coming into the season. Mulholland is nothing more than a decent long reliever, which we already have in Matt Guerrier. In my opinion, Terry Ryan will need to trade for a left-handed reliever at some point if he wants this team to seriously contend this year.

Johan Santana fell victim to the Orioles monstrous offense, putting up perhaps his worst start of the year. Despite a respectable eight strikeouts, Santana allowed 9 hits and four earned runs over just six innings.

The offense was very quiet today. I don't know what it is, but Terry Tiffee has been terrible since being called up for the second time. He went 0/3 today. Justin Morneau continued to see the ball well, going 2 for 3. He, Joe Mauer and Shannon Stewart are the only guys in this lineup who have been remotely constistent lately, which is distressing.

Juan Rincon will be back with the team on Friday, and the Twins desperately need him to come back and be effective. That bullpen is way too thin without him.

Hopefully the team can take advantage of an off-day tomorrow to work out some kinks and bring a little more offense to their series at home against the Rangers this weekend, because they are going to need to score some runs if they want to beat that offense. I don't have a terrible amount of faith in Joe Mays, Carlos Silva, and Brad Radke to keep the ball in the park against that dangerous lineup. If the Twins' offense can't take advantage of Texas' subpar pitching and put some runs on the board, they are in for another lost series.

-In other news, I saw that the Rockies traded former Twins OF Michael Restovich to the Pirates today for a player to be named. I guess I don't have too much to say about this move other than that I hope Michael can find some playing time in Pittsburgh. He had put up some decent numbers with Colorado and I'd like to see the kid do well.

-I'd also like to voice my displeasure with the Twins for their idiotic approach to televising games. Johan Santana has started 8 games this year, and I'm pretty sure only 2 or 3 have been televised on FSN. That is absolutely absurd. I don't care if they are day games on a weekday, you need to find a way to get the games on TV when your Cy Young winner is pitching. It is really a slap in the face to the fans.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Great Victory, Looming Mistakes

Jacque Jones and Shannon Stewart hit back-to-back homers tonight to pull out a 6-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles in ten innings. But that was only one part of an evening with many positives and only one standout negative. Let's get the negative out of the way, shall we?

Ron Gardenhire's managing in the 9th was unexcusable. When facing a tough righty in Todd Williams, who throws with a three-quarters delivery that makes the ball very difficult to track for right-handed hitters, and with Lew Ford in scoring position as the go-ahead run, Gardy didn't pinch hit for Michael Cuddyer with two outs. He had Terry Tiffee, a defensive player of equal caliber who plays the same position and a guy who would give a look as a left-handed hitter, giving him a much better probability of reaching against Williams, but allowed Cuddyer to stay in and ground out weakly to second. Why? Why call Tiffee up if you are going let his talent waste away on the bench? Come on, Gardy, use your bench with some intelligence. He also had Jones on the bench, another lefty who he could've brought in against Williams, but inexplicably felt Jones would be a better choice the next inning with no one on rather than with the go-ahead run on second. Of course, that seemed to work out for him. However, let's not ignore all the positives tonight.

There was, of course, the back-to-back homers. But don't forget the other great outcomes of tonight, besides beating the AL East leading Orioles.

* Joe Nathan struck out two and pitch a good, quick 10th inning to get his 10th save of the year. He still has not allowed an earned run

* The Twins had three sacrifice flies tonight. Although this seems like a minor stat, the Twins have not been so good at driving in runs this year. I see this is a quite positive trend.

* Last, but not least, Nick Punto is likely the reason the Twins won the game. His amazing base-running in the 8th inning, going from 1st to 3rd with a couple of heads-up stolen bases, manufactured the tying run, as Joe Mauer drove him in (on a sac-fly, no less). Punto deserves a lot of credit for the effort he's giving since getting the starting spot. His defense has always been there, and now he is doing some very good things offensively.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Twins Falter, But Don't Worry Too Much

I'm going to cover a few topics tonight.

Tonight's Game
Daniel Cabrera is going to be a good pitcher, I don't doubt it. With an intimidating 6'7" frame and the ability to hurl a fastball with movement at 100 mph, the guy undeniably has what it takes. But is he really as good right now as the Twins made him look tonight in their 3-0 loss to Baltimore? I don't think so.

The problem was mainly bad pitch selection. I couldn't count how many batters I saw take a fastball right down the middle and then proceed to swing at something way out of the strike zone at least once in the same at-bat. Terry Tiffee went 0/3 with three strikeouts. Nick Punto and Joe Mauer both went 0/4 with two strikeouts apiece. Jacque Jones, whose hot start excited many a Twins fan, went 0/3 and has seen his impressive batting average drop steadily as of late. Just a couple weeks ago he was contending for the top spot on the AL leaderboard for batting average and now he's down to 11th.

Give some credit to Carlos Silva for only allowing 3 runs over 7 innings to the league's best offense despite the fact that he didn't pitch particularly well. He got more outs by fly balls than by grounders, which is usually a sign that his pitches aren't doing what he wants them to.

I really think the Orioles have a great team this year. If their starting pitching can hold up, they really could hold on and win that division, which would be an unthinkable upset. They have a phenomenal bullpen (there is no pitcher in the Majors that is more dominant against left-handed hitters than BJ Ryan), and Miguel Tejada really is something else. That said, I don't expect their starting pitching to continue to be great and I don't think anyone expects guys like Brian Roberts to continue at their pace; we also all know that the Yankees and Red Sox are going to get very hot and start gaining ground very quickly. Nonetheless, I think it would be great to see neither New York or Boston in the playoffs.

On the White Sox
The Sox are off to a tremendous start, and have been especially dominant as of late, today's loss to the Devil Rays not withstanding. But should we really be that impressed? I mean, okay, it's always impressive when a team posts a 24-8 record to start the season, but their competition has not exactly been daunting. I think it goes without saying that the AL Central outside of the Sox and Twins has been average at best so far, and 17 of the Sox 32 games so far have been against the Tigers, Royals, and Indians. The teams they have played outside of the division haven't been what I'd call elite either. Their recent sweep of the Blue Jays must be seen as impressive, but their play against the 14-18 Athletics and the 13-19 Mariners wasn't exactly stellar... they barely squeaked by the M's and lost their series to the A's.

The Twins' schedule has been somewhat tougher. After Wednesday, they will already series under their belt against the Angels and Orioles, the class of the West and East divisions. The White Sox have yet to face either of these teams. But take a look at their schedule after they leave Tampa Bay: 4 games against Baltimore, followed by 3 games against Texas, then 3 games at the Cubs, then 4 games at LA Anaheim, then 3 games at Texas, then 3 games against LA Anaheim. That is TWENTY straight games, ALL against teams that are better than any they have faced so far, save for perhaps the Twins. The Twins' schedule over that span is significantly easier. If the White Sox are still in first place by three or four games at the beginning of June, then you can count me as a believer.

Lineup Change?
I've come to realize that there is very little chance that Justin Morneau is going to be able to reach 100 RBI this year if the lineup stays the way it is now. Why? Pitchers are going to start to realize that there is simply no reason to pitch to him because he has NO protection in the lineup. Torii Hunter has been miserable recently, and as aforementioned, Jones isn't hitting the ball like he used to either. It is difficult to solve this problem without putting three consecutive lefties in the lineup (a definite no-no), but here is what I propose: Stewart, Jones, Ford, Morneau, Mauer, Hunter, Cuddyer, Punto, Bartlett. Granted, the bottom half of that lineup is filled with some palty averages, but the top 5 would produce some serious runs.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

M & M Boys at it Again

Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau continue to amaze as they run through their first full-season at the majors together. Today, Mauer went 2 for 4 with a home-run off of Tampa closer Danny Baez while Morneau almost hit for the cycle, going an amazing 4 for 4 with three RBIs, bringing his team-leading total to 20. Its pretty impressive that since coming off the DL, Morneau has been hitting over .500 and now leads the team with a .429 average, 6 HRs, and 20 RBIs. We all expected great things from Morneau, but I think in a way he is going beyod those expectations. He has been simply been off-the-charts. He's projected to hit 32 HRs with 108 RBIs. Those numbers are good, but amazing considering those are projected with 340 ABs. Thats because Mornuea has only had 63 ABs this year and he has produced incredibly. Considering he'll probably get around 500 ABs if he stays healthy, which he should, 40 HRs and 120 RBIs are not out his range. Let's not forget his current .448 OBP and .841 slugging, which are great numbers as well. Every time he steps into the batters box, you see the fear in the opposing pitchers eyes. Baez barely pitched to him, but of course didn't want to give up the cycle. But needless to say, it was a hell of a day for Twins fans to watch.

Other than Morneau and Mauer, who had a great series as well raising his nearly lead-leading average to .356, Matthew LeCroy finally produced again with men on base hitting a 3-run homer in the sixth while Juan Castro also drove in two runs early in the game. The only bleak spots came with pitching.

Joe Mays looked good through the first six innings, but he fell apart completely in the 7th and Terry Mulholland came in to relieve him, fashionably giving up a three-run homer to Jorge Cantu, (Can who?) proving still how useless he is. Every time he steps in, I can see the Twins magically losing their lead, no matter how big it is. I still cannot understand why this guy isn't in Colorado or, for that matter, Tampa Bay. He belongs on one of the worst pitching staffs in the Majors where he can be a veteran and be the flexible reliever they need.

Needless to say, I was relieved when Jesse Crain came in. And on another positive note, Joe Nathan picked up his 9th save of the year, continuing his tremendous sophmore effort as the Twins closer.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Getting Hot

The Twins won tonight in decisive fashion for the third time in as many games. In their 8-1 clubbing of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Twins not only assured themselves a series victory for the weekend, but also helped build confidence as their offense performed well and their bullpen was outstanding. Their run-scoring was similar to how it has been in several of their games this year... they were quiet through the first few innings but busted out with a big 5th and built on that for a blowout victory. Not too much else to say, so I'll go straight to the bullet-points:

*Kyle Lohse was solid, pitching five innings and allowing just one run. I wouldn't say he was dominant by any means, but he threw some good pitches and worked out of some tough jams.

*Scott Kazmir, the young lefty who started for the Rays, is going to be good. He had great stuff through the first four innings of this game, but fell apart in the 5th. The kid throws some good pitches though, and once he harnesses his skills he is going to baffle hitters for a number of years.

*The highly-touted pitching prospect Scott Baker made his first Major League appearance tonight, and pitched well enough. He threw one inning, allowing one hit, but made some nice pitches to pop out a couple of Tampa Bay hitters.

*Justin Morneau is on an absolute tear. Matt LeCroy started at first tonight against the left-handed Kazmir, but Morneau came in as a late-game defensive replacement. In his only at-bat of the night, Justin came up with two out and two on and jacked a monster three-run homer, off the left-handed Trever Miller no less. Morneau is now hitting .390 with five home runs and 17 RBI in just 58 at-bats.

*Mike Redmond did very well filling in for Joe Mauer, going 2/4 with an RBI single and a double to raise his average to .316. He's a huge improvement offensively over past backup catchers such as Henry Blanco and Tom Prince, and seems to be a pretty good receiver as well. Nice off-season pickup.

*Joe Nathan tossed a scoreless ninth, striking out one. He has now pitched 11.1 innings this season without allowing an earned run, with 13 strikeouts.

Tomorrow the Twins will look for a sweep as they start Joe Mays against Tampa Bay's Doug Waechter. First pitch at 1:15.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Santana Rocks Again

Once again, our saving grace seems to come from a few select players. Tonight, it was Johan Santana, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau. Johan pitched a great six-hit, no walks, seven strikeouts complete-game. It was another gem from Santana, as he became the second American League pitcher other than the biggest surprise in the league, Jon Garland, with 5 victories. The one run he gave up could have likely been prevented if a) Nick Punto's great throw hadn't hit Lugo and if b) Torii Hunter hadn't made such a bad play on a catchable flyball off the bat of Aubrey Huff.

Hunter's lack of quality play has been astonishing. He started the year on a good start, stealing 10 of 10 bases, but now he has gotten caught every time he tries to steal (including an ugly, embarassing attempt tonight) and his defense has been almost sub-par. He is failing to do the fundamentals. He should that on the flyball tonight, but he's made many more mistakes recently and it is not looking good, especially when he has been so bad at the plate. Yea, he got a hit tonight, but only because he akwardly stuck hit bat out and flailed at a pitch. Otherwise, when he came up with the bases loaded (again!) in the first, what did he do? He swung at the first pitch and weakly grounded out. At least Morneau put up a good fight and battled Brazelton until Brazelton made a good pitch to get him out.

That segways into my next point: Morneau continues to be great. He went 1 for 5 tonight, when doesn't seem great, but he was hitting the ball hard all night for the most part. Its as if sometimes his power gets in the way. And oh yea, he hit a two-run homer off Rob Bell in the fifth. But the offensive star of the night had to be Joe Mauer, who went 4 for 5 with a three-run home-run off of Brazelton in the third, bringing his average up to .349. That's Mauer's second four-hit game and he has only played 60 games in his major-league career! Now that's impressive.

Beyond Mauer and Morneau, Gardenhire's move of Punto to the second spot and Barlett to the ninth seemed to pay off, as Barlett was far more patient and walked in his first two at-bats while Punto went 2 for 5 as he continues to replace Rivas at second. Overall, it was a very good performance by the Twins and should be noted that it was the second complete-game in a row after Brad Radke's career performance yesterday.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


After suffering narrow losses at the hands of the Indians on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Twins got some vindication this afternoon by absolutely clobbering Cleveland 9-0 to avoid a sweep. Brad Radke's start was the best of his career, going the complete game and allowing only three hits while striking out eight. The Twins, after going 2 for 17 at the plate with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series, went 5 for 11 today. They finally managed to bring some runs in with the bases loaded, although they didn't do it in the most impressive manner. In five at-bats in the game with the bases full, the Twins only got one hit (from Mike Redmond no less), but also worked two walks and hit into a fielder's choice, totalling four runs in bases-loaded situations.

With the Twins already up 6-0 in the bottom of the 7th, emotions started to run high. Indians reliever Jason Davis beaned Shannon Stewart on what appeared to be simply an accidental wild pitch. However, the umpires converged and decided to warn both benches. This infuriated Ron Gardenhire, who promptly came out to argue with home plate umpire Tim Barrett and was quickly ejected. At first I was a bit confused as to why Gardy would be upset at the warning after having his second player of the day hit by a pitch, but I soon realized that this meant that if Radke, who had allowed one hit through seven innings, so much as clipped the jersey of a Cleveland hitter, he would be ejected. Later, after Stewart would come around to score on a Lew Ford double, Shannon would get into a spat with the pitcher Davis who was backing up the play at home plate. Clearly, Stewart was upset about having been beaned. Some might remember Jason Davis as a guy who Torii Hunter has had a few spats with in the past.

Continuing with the theme of redemption, Hunter and Matt LeCroy both had good days to redeem themselves for the bad performances they both have had lately. Hunter went 3 for 5 to bring his average up to .250, and LeCroy went 2 for 4 with a home run. Still, the two are not completely out of the doghouse yet. It's nice that LeCroy can hit a solo shot with the Twins already up 5-0, and it's nice that Hunter can collect three hits with nobody in scoring position, but I'm still disappointed with the inability of these two to perform in pressure situations, and they did nothing to reverse that today. Still, with nine runs on the board, I can hardly complain about offensive incompetence.

All in all, the game was a very impressive one for the Twins. Hopefully they can carry some steam from this game into a series in Tampa Bay, against a Devil Rays team that has always played the Twins very tough and is coming off a series in which they beat up on the Yankees pretty bad. The Twins will need some success in that series because afterwards they will be heading into Baltimore for a three game series against one of the best teams in the Majors.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Frustration

Well, to begin, I should establish the positive end of tonight. The best possible roster move finally came: Corky Miller gone, Terry Tiffee up. Thank god! Miller was just a waste of a roster space who likely cost us a few games. Not by screwing up himself, but by wasting bench space that could have been occupied by a much-needed left handed bat. Hopefully, Tiffee will return to be his productive self now that he is more secure in the majors.

However, the night was filled with disappointments. I went to the game tonight hoping that Torii Hunter would make up for last night's disaster, but his performance tonight was just as bad, if not worse. Hunter came up in the first inning after Justin Morneau had struck out with the bases loaded and no outs. All we needed was a fly ball or a grounder. But what does he do? He strikes out without a fight, swinging at two pathetic change-ups, with the last one falling before the plate. His poor plate judgement was symbolic of the Twins' inability to produce with big opportunities presented. They loaded the bases with no outs in both of the first two innings, but only managed one meager run. It took a behemoth Morneau home run and a productive third inning to get them ahead of Cleveland 4-1.

The Twins are now batting .135 (5-for-37) with 12 RBI with the bases loaded after failing to get a hit and scoring just one run in six at-bats tonight with the bases juiced. That's not just bad; that's awful. That kind of hitting is what will keep the Twins from having a championship season. When Hunter or Cuddyer comes up, I take a big gulp and almost turn away. I shouldn't have to. These are guys who either have produced in the past or have the ability to.

I shouldn't be too hard on Cuddyer. He did, after all, go 2 for 4 tonight with an RBI double, but he was awfully schizophrenic. The first two at-bats he had solid hits; the last two, he looked like "Dr. Hyde," flailing away again at bad pitches. Hopefully, he can get it together and help push the team to be more productive in general.

Worse yet, we had a great opportunity in the 9th wasted by poor situational hitting again. After clutch hits by Mauer and Morneau, Hunter weakly grounded out before Jones walked and Ford (who has been a hero lately) grounded out as well. They had 13 hits, yet only scored four runs.

And the pitching wasn't phenomenal either. Carlos Silva looked okay, sometimes getting the ground balls he needed, but giving up 12 hits in eight innings before he was relieved by J.C. Romero. Romero, who looked good for the most part, gave up the game-winning homer to Josh Bard, the backup catcher for Indians! That too shouldn't happen. Romero is supposed to be an elite reliever and should have trusted his breaking stuff in that situation, but he didn't.

All this makes me wonder if we need a new management team. I don't mean Gardy, but the coaches, who seem to strive for mediocrity and have never seemed to fix the bigger problems haunting our players. Why does Hunter still have the same problems in situational hitting and with good breaking pitches? Why has Brad Radke had the same first inning problems his whole career? Why could Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas never be reached?

Clearly, I'm just frustrated, but something needs to happen. This team is hitting .272 as a team, yet they always seem to fail when they need the hits the most. This needs to change before we really lose the division to the White Sox.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Recovery Time

The Twins have gone through a tough couple of days. On Sunday afternoon, Johan Santana's amazing 17-game winning streak was brought to an end with an excruciatingly tough loss. Much worse was Monday, when it was brought to the public's attention that the Twins' dominant setup man Juan Rincon had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, bringing a great deal of public scrutiny on the pitcher as well as the entire team. Tonight, the Twins were back on the field ONCE AGAIN against an AL Central opponent, as the Indians are in town for a three-game set. The Twins have faced divisional opponents in 20 of the 26 games they have played so far; however, after the Cleveland series they will have a nice stretch of 15 games against teams from other divisions. So coming out of a rough couple of days, how did the Twins respond in their first game of this series against Cleveland? Well, they lost 4-2... and it was a loss marred by the two major issues that have haunted them through the first month of the season: getting hit early and failing to capitalize on big offensive opportunities.

Joe Mays got rocked early and had given up four runs through two innings. It was all the Indians would need for a win. The Twins had plenty of opportunities to mount offensive rallies and pass Cleveland, as the pitching of Jake Westbrook was not exceptional, but for the most part these rallies died before a run had crossed the plate. Surprisingly, the rally-killing was not even accomplished by Michael Cuddyer, who went 3/4 on the day (though he did commit his sixth error of the season). Here's a quick run-down of the Twins' chances to score in this game:

Second Inning: After a Justin Morneau leadoff homer, Torii Hunter singled but finally got caught playing his little "steal second while the pitcher's not looking" game. He sure doesn't look so slick doing that crap when he gets caught. Next, Jacque Jones hit a single to left, but for some reason felt he could stretch it into a double. He was gunned out by a mile. Alas, rather than two on with no outs, the Twins had no one on with two outs. Lew Ford would ground out to end the inning.

Third Inning: After Joe Mauer singled in the last run the Twins would score, Morneau walked to load the bases for Hunter with two outs. Hunter lined out to center.

Fifth Inning: After Shannon Stewart hit a lead-off single and stole second, Jason Bartlett was hit by a pitch. Mauer hit a towering pop-out to left that was deep enough to advance both runners. With one out, the Twins had two runners in scoring position with their 4 and 5 hitters coming up. Morneau quickly fouled out to third and Hunter grounded out to short.

Ninth Inning: With runners on second and third and two outs, Matt LeCroy pinch-hit and, for the second time in as many games, ended a ninth inning rally by striking out. Thank you, Mr. Clutch.

The most distressing thing about the missed opportunities listed above is that it wasn't because the guys at the bottom of the order were coming up and killing rallies. The Twins were in the types of positions they wanted to be in... they were getting their big sluggers in the middle of the lineup to the plate with runners in scoring position. The table was set and they just couldn't clear. Hunter, specifically, had a horrendous day. I can forgive him for getting caught stealing for his first time this year (although, Torii, wait for him to throw the pitch for God's sake), but the guy can't seem to deliver a clutch two-out hit if his life depended on it. He finished with four runners left in scoring position with two outs, which is a stat that is generally used to determine how a player peforms in the clutch.

I guess there's not too much else to say. The bullpen performed well, but it was too little too late. You just don't win games when your 4 and 5 hitters strand a total of 9 runners in a game. As for Cuddyer, YES he had three hits today, raising his batting average to a less-embarrassing .238. Still, these hits were all ground-ball singles that crept through the infield. Cuddy is still not hitting like he's capable of, and I'm still not completely ready to drop my Terry Tiffee campaign... but he's making strides.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Juan, Juan, Gone

No I'm not talking about Juan Gonzalez, the perennially absent right-fielder, though he may be on performing-enhancing drugs as well. Sadly, I'm talking about our own Juan Rincon. I was going to do a list of surprises throughout the MLB in April, but this is the big news of the day.

Juan was suspended today for 10 days after testing positive for an unnamed sustance. A grievence is planned, his agent said, but nothing has been said by anybody yet. However, the fan reaction has been rather harsh. Over at Twins Territory, a lot of voices have echoed a desire to kick Juan off the team. It seems most people didn't see it coming; couldn't see a Twins player using steroids so they've ignored it. And now comes the reactionary policy: "Kick him off the team. He's worthless!"

Now, granted, I am as surprised as everyone. But like most things in life, a reactionary policy like kicking him off isn't fair or right. We don't know what Juan took and we don't know if he's still taking it. So to say that all his talent is due to the juice is just ridiculous. Juan had a great year last year and is doing good so far this year. Can that be linked to taking steroids or other performing-enhancing drugs? Yes, but its not guaranteed at all. We need to wait and see how he reacts when he returns to play. How will his teammates react? How will he react on the mound? Will he be a shadow of his former self? Its hard to say, but I don't think thats for sure by any means.

Juan has a great fastball, but its not because he throws so hard neccessarly but because it moves well. Yes, like Rivera, with less velocity, its not nearly as effective. But keep in mind, he still has a good slider. And just because he took steroids or whatever else doesn't mean once he's off them, he'll lose all his velocity. I say wait. Juan has been an important Twin and a good set-up man. He may still be effective, so give him a chance that he has earned the past few years. But at the same time, I'm just as dissapointed as everyone. How can a Twin do such a thing?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

April's All-Stars

While we still have a few months left before we need to legitimately start thinking about which players will be making the All-Star team, it is interesting to consider which Twins players would make the team if the voting were to be finalized after one month. In my opinion, there are three guys who would be sure-fire bets to be on the All-Star team, and several other players who would have a legitimate chance. So without further ado, I give you April's Twins All-Stars:


Jacque Jones - Jones is off to a torrid start. He's hitting at a .352 clip that puts him second among AL outfielders behind Johnny Damon, and his improved patience this year has shown as his .467 on-base percentage ties for the AL lead. His 3 home runs, 14 RBI, and 6 doubles put him right up among the top AL outfielders. His defense has been excellent as well.

Johan Santana - Johan hasn't exactly been pitching at the ridiculous level he was during the second half of last season, but there's no question that he's pitching at an All-Star level. Including his start from today, Santana is 4-1 with a 3.29 ERA and he leads the Majors with 52 strikeouts.

Joe Nathan - Without question, Nathan has been among the best closers in the league. He's tied for the AL lead with 8 saves, and has yet to allow an earned run in 12 appearances. He also has 13 K over his 11.1 innings pitched.


Justin Morneau - He's been just creaming the ball, hitting .400 with 2 HR and 10 RBI in just 45 plate appearances. Also, with Carlos Delgado heading to the National League and Jason Giambi falling out of grace, first base in the AL is wide open. Unfortunately, with the injury that kept him out half the month, Justin simply hasn't seen enough at-bats to be legitimatelt considered as of yet. That said, if he continues at this pace, he'll easily make the All-Star squad.

Torii Hunter - His numbers look impressive; 4 HR, 17 RBI, 11/11 on stolen base attempts... but then you get to that batting average. It might be hard for him to be voted in as an All-Star hitting .233. Then again, his defense has kept him on the highlight reel consistently, and his popularity among the fans might actually make him more likely to be voted in as a starter than Jones.

And then there are a few more guys who could be considered fringe possibilities but would be a bit of a stretch. Juan Rincon has been dominant, but it is difficult to make the All-Star team as a non-closing reliever. Joe Mauer is probably up there with Pudge and Javy Lopez as the top AL catchers, but he will need to improve his numbers before he can gain serious consideration (you'd like to see more than 7 RBI from a guy who hits third in the lineup).

Well, there you have my April All-Stars. There you have five Twins with realistic chances of making the All-Star team after impressive first months. By no means am I saying that these are the guys who will be there in July, but if everything continues to go the way it is now, I think that is pretty likely.

Streak Busters

Johan Santana pitched arguably his best game of the season today, but unfortunately he was out-dueled by the Angels' Bartolo Colon and his 17-game winning streak came to an end as did the Twins' less impressive 5-game streak. Santana allowed only two hits over eight strong innings, but both left the park. Colon, meanwhile, was at his best. The Twins' hitters couldn't touch him. He had great command of his fastball, and he was getting every hitter to either strike out or ground out. Still, the Twins did get a chance to salvage Santana's streak. After allowing just one baserunner over the first seven innings (technically two, but the second reached on a fielder's choice), Colon looked poised to finish the game without the Twins getting a runner past first base. However, with one out in the seventh inning, Jacque Jones his a chopper towards second which Colon hurt his leg in an effort to field. This brought in Scott Shields. With Jones on first, Michael Cuddyer (who continues to flirt with the Mendoza line even after his "breakout game" on Friday) hit a sharp grounder towards second that would have provided a typical Cuddy GIDP to end the inning. However, with Jones stealing second on the 3-2 pitch, second baseman Chone Figgins was on his way to cover second allowing the ball to creep through. Next, Joe Mauer (pinch-hitting for Mike Redmond, who started) walked. With the bases loaded and one out, Matt LeCroy pinch-hit for Luis Rivas. Unfortunately, it was at this point that the Angels went to their dominant closer, Francisco Rodriguez. LeCroy was no match for K-Rod, grounding into an inning-ending double play.

It was a shame to see Santana's great winning streak come to end, but he pitched a great game. It's too bad the offense couldn't pick him up.