Sunday, July 31, 2005

Twins Effectively Concede Season

The trade deadline came and went today without the Twins making a move of any kind. Despite the fact that GM Terry Ryan, manager Ron Gardenhire, and just about everyone else in the Twins' organization had essentially promised that some offensive piece would be acquired by the deadline today in order to add some punch to one of the most embarrassingly anemic offenses in the Majors, nothing happened. No Alfonso Soriano, no Bill Mueller, no Jorge Cantu, no Edgardo Alfonzo... nothing. Overpriced players like Joe Mays and Jacque Jones remain in Twins uniforms, as does the painful-to-watch JC Romero.

It has become quite clear to everyone that the current offense will simply not carry this team to the playoffs. With Torii Hunter out indefinitely, the Twins lack Major League-level hitters at FOUR out of eight offensive positions. I don't think you can say that about any other team in baseball, even the Royals or Devil Rays. Out of the group of Bret Boone, Michael Cuddyer, Nick Punto, Juan Castro, Justin Morneau and Lew Ford, all considered to be relatively regular starters, no one is hitting above .263. That's six players getting regular at-bats and going about 1 for 4 on average. I will give Morneau the benefit of the doubt, since he seems to be finding his stroke again to some degree, but Boone (or Punto, whichever starts at second), Cuddyer, Castro, and Ford are all miserable offensive players who consistently have terrible at-bats.

Now, having added nothing to this pathetic lineup, Terry Ryan was able to hang on to his precious surplus of minor league pitching, and he can watch his team play sub-.500 ball for the rest of the year and probably finish fourth in the AL Central. I don't mean to be overly pessimistic, but there is no reason to feel any differently considering how badly they were slaughtered on this 1-5 road trip against the Yankees and Red Sox, and considering how hard their schedule is from here on out. I'm sure Ryan will have some wonderful excuses in the paper tomorrow explaining why he was unable to pull the trigger on a trade, but as it stands, I have lost a great deal of respect for the man. How can the Twins organization expect people to continue to pay to go out and see a team that lies to their fans, and makes seemingly no effort to put a winning product on the field?

As was evident in their 4-3 loss to the Red Sox today, a game in which the Twins seemed to play just about as well as they could, this is no playoff team.

What an utter disappointment.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

What's there to say?

Same deal, different day. No Torii, No difference. David Wells, just as he has his whole career, dominated the Twins, though not quite in 98' fashion. The Twins offense managed seven hits and two runs, with their run production coming from Mike Redmond and Juan Castro, the 8 and 9 hitters. Lew Ford, Torii's replacement, was useless in the three-spot, going 0 for 4 and Matthew LeCroy, for some ungodly reason, was batting cleanup. Fatty was his usual irreverent-self, going 0 for 3 with a K.

Kyle Lohse had a decent start, going only five innings while giving up three runs but his really problem was control, as he walked four batters. His replacement, Terry Mulholland, did what he always does against good offenses: gave some late batting practice, as he served up three quick hits before Matt Guerrier came in to try and stop the bleeding to no avail. In the same vein, its kind of apparent that no one on the Twins staff is hearing my loud complaints about Mulholland's presence. Apparently, they have a thing for aging players far beyond their prime, like Mulholland and Boone.

Its seems that relief won't come anytime soon as the trading deadline approaches and J.C. "no control" Romero remains in the Twins clubhouse. Lets hope tommorow brings at least some interesting news in the Twins world beyond the mundane reports of their lackluster play.

Friday, July 29, 2005


As if the Twins needed more bad luck and less offense, Torii Hunter went down in the first inning when his ankle hit the wall awkwardly as he tried to field a drive by David Ortiz. Hunter was in extreme pain after an apparent tendon injury, and had to be taken off the field in a cart. Lew Ford proceeded to come in the play and flash his usual ineptitude, reaching base only once... and the one time he did he got himself out on the basepaths on a terrible mental error. I like the way Lew plays the game and everything, but he is NOT hitting at even close to a Major League level right now. Then again, neither is Bret Boone or Michael Cuddyer, so I guess it's not that unusual.

I'm getting really tired of the Twins' utterly sloppy play. In the 5th inning, Johnny Damon hit a broken bat single to right field and the Twins managed to turn it into a three-run homer thanks to three overthrows. Are you kidding me? The team's inability to execute simply plays offensively is becoming very tiresome as well. Matthew LeCroy pinch-hit with no outs and a runner on third in the top of the 8th. There are SO many ways to bring that runner home, but what does LeCroy do? Tap a weak chopper to third, allowing them to hold the runner. Shannon Stewart scored the run with a hard grounder up the middle in the next at-bat, but why is that he and Joe Mauer seem to be the only ones that can do the simple little things at the plate? This is a team full of Major League players (well, that's debatable), and only two of them can execute expected things at the plate consistently. Disgusting.

As I write this, it is the bottom of the 8th inning and the Twins bullpen is in the process of imploding. Jesse Crain started the inning and loaded the bases without recording an out (what happened to him??), and now the BoSox will get to see first hand the ability of potential trade acquisition JC Romero to allow inherited runners to score.

Yyyyep. Grand slam, John Olerud.

I'm done.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Not So Fast

Of course, a Twins victory over the Yankees could only be resolved by a resounding defeat the next day. And, yep, that is exactly what we got. Limited offense against another journeyman pitcher, this time Aaron Small, and this time around, a terrible pitching performance from potential tradebait Joe Mays. Mays gave up six runs and ten hits in 5 2/3 innings as Gary Sheffield and the Yankees clobbered the Twins in the rubber match of the series.

And, yea, we got three runs early off of Small, but that doesn't mean we didn't waste opportunities the way we did last night as well. But after collected those runs early, the Twins didn't do anything against Small, Tom Gordon, or the ungodly Mariano Rivera. Seven hits in total, two off of the bat of Jacque Jones, now the hottest Twins hitter. Morneau and Mauer went hitless in four at-bats each, Luis Rodriguez accounted for two of the three RBIs, and its just not going to get any better anytime soon. Now the Twins prepare for a series in Boston. Good luck. No really, this could get uglier. There were no great high notes of this game and reading the paper and seeing how Gardy and Newman found Ulger's terrible coaching at third that cost the Twins a run yesterday to be representative of a bigger problem: Do these guys even care about losing??

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Notes From a Rare Exciting Game

Whether wins or losses, one thing that pretty much all the Twins games as of late have had in common lately is that they have been relatively boring to watch. Low-scoring, few lead changes, and not much in the way of home runs or exciting plays. That trend changed tonight as the Twins finally put together a nice little victory, downing the Yankees 7-3. I have several thoughts about this game, so I'll get to them here...

*Johan Santana started the game like he has typically as of late; pretty good but certainly not the Cy Young winner of last year. But in the fourth inning, after he gave up a leadoff single to Hideki Matsui, I sensed a change. All of a sudden, it seemed like he had reverted to his 2nd-half 2004 form. He was locating his pitches, fooling hitters, and getting big strikeouts. After giving up the hit, he struck out Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada (Posada on the signature nasty changeup in the dirt), and then got Tino Martinez to pop out weakly to second. He ended up pitching 7 strong innings against the tough Bombers lineup, giving up no runs and 7 hits. It was a terrific outing for Santana, and hopefully a sign of things to come.

*I thought home plate umpire Ed Hickox did a pretty damn crappy job tonight. His strike zone was VERY inconsistent, for both teams. Pitches in the same place on the inside and outside corner were called variably balls and strikes throughout the night. On several occasions, he called balls on pitches that were right over the plate. If not for the poor strike zone of Hickox, Santana would have had more than 5 strikeouts and wouldn't have had two walks. In fairness, New York's Al Leiter also wouldn't have thrown 100 pitches in the first 4 innings. Major League Baseball really needs to take a look at the performances of some of these umpires, because their have been a few really poorly officiated games this year.

*Despite Leiter's bad game, the Twins' bats really managed to make it look a lot better than it was. Despite the fact that Leiter couldn't find the strike zone (5 walks) and was getting hit pretty consistently (7 hits), the Twins managed to score only one run off of him in 5 innings. In both the first and second innings, the Twins loaded the bases only to have Jacque Jones and Lew Ford (respectively) hit wimpy grounders to end the inning. This is getting so very tiresome to watch.

*Speaking of Ford, why the hell was he hitting third in the lineup with his .252 average? Ford had a terrible night, going 0/6 while leaving NINE men on base. Lew has quietly had a very disappointing year, hitting for low average and barely any power despite posting a decent on-base percentage. Another guy who needs to be removed from the lineup is Nick Punto, who was hitting second with a .260 average. He went 1/5 and looked totally over-matched every time he came up. I was very high on Punto earlier this season, before his most recent injury, but he just can't cut it anymore. To his credit, he did look pretty good in the field tonight.

*Torii Hunter has such an incredible arm. In the bottom of the third, with the speedy Derek Jeter on second, Gary Sheffield laced a single up the middle. It seemed like a given that the play would score Jeter and tie the game, but Hunter came up gunning and fired a phenomenal throw to Joe Mauer, who tagged out Jeter at the plate. Kudos to Torii, who also had three hits tonight.

*Another good game for Justin Morneau, he doubled in the first run of the game and then hit a nice solo homer in the 9th. He's been hitting the ball well lately, hopefully he can keep it going. I'm still skeptical of his ability to hit above-average pitchers though.

*After Santana came out of the games, things got a little out of hand. Juan Rincon came in to pitch the 8th, and had a terrible outing, allowing 3 runs in while recording only 2 outs. He came out with runners on the corners, and Joe Nathan came in. That was when the scariest moment of the game occurred. On Nathan's second pitch, batter Bernie Williams turned on a fastball over the plate and ripped it to right field. Off the bat, I thought for sure the thing was a home run, and the game would be tied and Santana would be robbed of a hard-earned win. Fortunately, the ball curved just foul, and Nathan was able to strike out Bernie, then retire the Yanks in the 9th to pick up his 28th save and secure Santana's 10th win.

One other thing I want to discuss, and that is the trade situation. I have been fluctuating on whether or not I think the Twins should make a trade. On Monday, I analyzed the Twins' offensive deficiencies at every position besides catcher, and wondered whether adding one player would really significantly help a lineup that is anemic essentially 1-9. But when I watch these games, and I see all the players left on base, and I see how well Santana is capable of pitching, I think that just maybe if we had one guy in there other than Mauer who could consistently drive in runners, if we could just get that extra couple of runs per week, we may have a shot at the post-season after all. I've made my stance very clear that I would be all for acquiring Alfonso Soriano, even for a high price assuming we would be able to retain him next season.

I don't think the Soriano trade is a realistic possibility though. Texas is not outwardly looking to trade him, and they seem to feel that unless they can absolutely fleece someone, they're going to keep him. On KFAN today I heard that a "reliable source outside of the Twins organization" said that the Twins will be making a move before the deadline, and that it will be for a player that hasn't been mentioned. Mentioned by who? I don't know. Take that however you want. My guess? Edgardo Alfonzo of the Giants.

I have one other question. For a team that's starved for offense, why the hell do the Twins continue to start Juan Castro (.249/.268/.383 - PUKE!) while Jason Bartlett hits .330 in the minors? I don't want to hear that it's because of defense, the Twins have clearly shown they're willing to sacrifice defense for the potential of some offense (see Bret Boone, Michael Cuddyer, Shannon Stewart). I don't understand the situation at all... they gave up way too quickly on Bartlett early in the season and now he could really give our offense a boost.

Day game tomorrow, rubber match in the Yankees series. A win would be very nice. Sadly, the human hitting machine Kevin Brown has been scratched, but replacement Aaron Small ain't exactly Cy Young.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

What can I say?

Well, that should be effecient based on tonight's performance. Two hits, no runs, no offense at all. Brad Radke does the best he can do against a killer Yankees lineup, giving up only two runs in six innings (don't let the two walks throw you as the Yankees are known as an patient lineup of veterans) which is about as good as you can expect. Two hits, one from Lew Ford and one from Juan Castro. Not exactly what you would call encouraging. The Twins could do nothing against Future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, who has looked worn this year but absolutely dominated the Twins again, just as I feared. 11 Ks and no walks. There was no chance beyond Lew Ford's double. It was just a display of the Twins offensive ineptitude.

What can I say that we haven't said? We knew that this road trip was going to be hard and that the Twins would be in grand luck to pull out with a split amongst the New York and Boston visits. It just appears they are sadly proving us right. That's too bad, because the Yankees really don't have that great of pitching and the Twins pitching certainly gives its offense a chance to win, as they did tonight. But no one can execute. Everyone is overmatched and no clear solution is in sight. And Al Leiter, a lefty finesse pitcher that few Twins have faced and whom has dominated them in the past (a trend in New York), starts tommorow. Good luck Twinkies. You really need another bat, or two, or three. The hell with it. We need a new lineup built around Mauer.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Being Realistic

It may sound pessimistic, but realistically, I find it very hard to believe the Twins have any chance of a post-season berth. I'm trying my best to keep hopes high so that I can cheer for the team and watch the scoreboards with excitement, but after watching the lackluster effort put forth in Detroit this weekend, I'm on the verge of just giving up... which makes it very hard to motivate myself to post on this blog every day. I know I sound like a horrible fan right now, but I'm so terribly dejected by the team's performance and inability to meet the expectations I had set (which really weren't that high).

First of all, a surge to overtake Chicago and win the division for a fourth straight season is out of the question. When the Twins won a couple straight while the Sox dropped 2 last week and the deficit was cut down to 10, I still had that glimmer of hope that maybe the Twinks could take a chunk out of that massive lead over the weekend while the White Sox struggled with their red counterparts. Instead, the Twins failed to take advantage of the situation and lost the series to Detroit. Now it has come to my attention that Chicago has become a major player in the AJ Burnett sweepstakes. If they get him, I might change my mind about my favorite for the AL Pennant, which is currently the Angels without hesitation. Anyway, there's no way we're catching the Sox. Therefore, the only hope for post-season play would be a Wild-Card berth, which seems realistic at the moment considering we're in the thick of the race, but...

The Twins offense is a total mess. Every position except catcher is sub-par. A run-down...

-Justin Morneau had 280 at-bats last year and hit 19 homers with 58 RBI and an .876 OPS. This year, in just 5 fewer at-bats, he has hit 12 home runs with 47 RBI and an OPS of .770. I don't buy into any of the crap that the Twins "brought him up too early" or "pressed him too hard", no one was saying that last year when he was ripping the ball out of the park left and right. Only in baseball is a 24-year old considered too young to be handed a starting job, and then patted on the back when he fails to perform. The guy is 24, at his athletic peak, and has 500 Major League at-bats under his belt. There is no excuse for his inability to perform.

-Bret Boone has been a disaster, both offensively and defensively, he clearly has nothing left. I would say the Twins should cut ties ASAP, but they really have no better options because Nick Punto has regressed terribly since returning from injury and Luis Rivas is simply not a Major League hitter. This position is hopeless.

-Juan Castro is a defensive player with minimal offensive value. A player like this is an affordable luxury when the rest of your lineup can produce, but the Twins' offense can't. Castro should not be starting.

-Third base is a mess. Michael Cuddyer is a lost cause, and while Luis Rodriguez has impressed, it's still hard to believe he is an everyday starter, especially considering that third base is not his natural position. This position is an offensive and defensive black hole with no organizational answer in sight.

-Jacque Jones and Torii Hunter are unacceptably inconsistent, especially Jones. Jacque hits the ball out of the park on occasion, but his inability to hit lefties or recognize breaking balls have become very tiresome from the 30 year-old veteran. Hunter's production is better, and good for a center-fielder, but he's no exactly leading the team to success.

-Shannon Stewart, surprisingly, has been very mediocre. Usually steady, his hitting has been disappointing this year, as he has gotten on base at only a .337 clip. Last year his OBP was .380.

-Typically designated hitters are designated with the assignment of hitting, which Lew Ford has failed to do, hitting just .256 while hitting 4 home runs and 35 RBI. Matt LeCroy's inconsistency and inability to hit right-handers or field keep him from being a regular lineup option, and no one else on the Twins bench (or in the minor league system for that matter) has shown the ability to hit enough on a regular basis to fill with spot with regular production.

Terry Ryan seems adament about making a trade to add a bat within the next week, but can you seriously expect filling one of these holes to make this a viable offense? Even with great pitching, I don't see how the Twins can expect to play over .500 for the remainder of the season unless some of these players can turn it around offensively, which is looking less and less likely.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Fatty Sure Knows how to Kill A Rally

Rally-killer. Fatty. No run. Whatever you want to call him, he's on the worthless list with Mr. Mulholland. Its your favorite clubhouse animal, Matthew LeCroy. And with the tying runners on base, Fatty grounded into a double play on the first pitch from new Detroit closer Kyle Farnsworth and that was with no outs. Sure, it was a good play by Guillen, but a fast runner or someone giving minimal effort on the basepaths would have given him a run for his money in turning the double play. But Fatty doesn't try. And there goes the rally and the game. And I've still trying to figure out why a guy who can't hit righties, especially hard-throwing righties like Farnsworth, wasn't pinch hit for, even if that hitter was Mike Redmond. I don't care. Whatever, I am really dissapointed in his play. But that same message goes to Bret Boone, who made several terrible plays to help the Twins lose this important 5-game series. And, of course, he's still the .228 hitter we got in the trade. Still no extra-base hits and he helped kill a rally when he and Shannon Stewart struck out to end an eight-inning rally.

Yep, its the same message. No offense except a Cuddyer double followed by a two-out Stewart RBI-single and a ninth-inning Joe Mauer home run. Bonderman is a good pitcher, but the Twins have a knack for making decent right-handers (Daniel Cabrera, John Lackey) look like strikeout kings. It has to change. They need to make a trade and it became apparent yesterday that there is reason not to trade a Lohse or to get rid of Mulholland. Scott Baker is clearly ready for the majors. He's a great young arm who throws up to 95, pitches insides, hits the corners, and changes speed. He looked excellent and fully-ready to tackle a major league job. He's a good step above Lohse in fact because he understands those things Lohse usually ignores.

As he did today, getting fastballs over the plate all day for the Detroit hitters to feed on, as they did when Mays was on the hill Friday. 11 hits, five runs (one unearned on a terrible Shannon Stewart bobble), three walks in 5 and 2/3 innings. He lacks control and consistency and thats just as troublesome for the Twins as it has been since they called him up. We need to trade him while he still has value.

Next up is an even harder challenge, as they travel to play the Yankees on the road. They will face Randy Johnson on Tuesday and although I'd love to see Radke get the win, I have my doubts since the last time Johnson faced the Twins, he pitched a shutout with 10 Ks. Lets just hope they make a move before then.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Nothing, Then Something

I don't have much time to post, so I will just quickly address today's double-header.

*The early game was another pathetic loss in which the Twins were unable to provide any offense to support a great pitching performance by Carlos Silva as the Tigers won 2-1.

*The second game was much nicer. The Twins played well and won 5-2. Justin Morneau had a very nice game, doubling and homering, and hopefully that will give him a boost and let him get back on track. Scott Baker pitched VERY well, going 7 innings and allowing 2 runs on 5 hits while striking out 5 and walking only 1. He was throwing hard, his stuff had good movement, and he showed a clear ability to be able to handle hitters at this level. He deserves to be on the Major League club, and he can help us right now. I think Joe Mays needs to be moved, if he can be.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Now the Pitching

After all those offensive wooes we've had, the offense did fine tonight. In fact they score six runs and they had a few extra-base hits even. But they didn't win because this time the pitching faltered, as Joe Mays had a terrible start and Terry Mulholland "relieved" him by coming out for late batting practice. Lets break down both of these horrendous pitching performances:

* Mays' line looked like this: 4 IP, 10 hits, 8 runs, 7 earned runs (one on a Bret Boone error), 2 BBs, 2 Ks. Mays gave up a run in each of the first three innings and then in the 5th, he managed to get no one out and gave up a bases-clearing double to Craig Monroe. After over a week's worth of quality starts, Mays seemed to have trouble throwing strikes and getting his sinker down, and obviously it hurt the Twins but it didnt stop there.

* Mulholland then came in and gave up a whooping seven hits in a mere 1 2/3 innings. I've said it before and I'll say it again: What the hell is this guy doing on a team trying to contend??? He's nothing more than a glorified batting practice pitcher who gave up three extra-base hits in quick succession. With Guerrier proving himself as a useful long reliever and so many good guys in the minor, its a desperate struggle trying to figure out what this guy is doing on the roster.

* After looking so good yesterday, Joe Mauer went 0 for 5 today with a disturbing three strikeouts. Mauer seems like the kind of guy who would have no troubles against a finesse lefty like Maroth, so once again, Ulger comes into question.

* Most of the the offense was provided by the number nine hitter, Juan Castro, who was 2 for 4 with a second-inning homer and four RBIs.

* After knocking Maroth around for six runs, the Twins managed only one hit against the Detroit bullpen, making them look a little better than their abilities have shown. What happened to the good old days of crushing homers off of Jamie Walker??

Needless to say, it wasn't the same old story, but the opposite with the same result. Now the Twins got some offense, but the pitching was putrid and made Craig Monroe look like a superstar as he went on a 5 for 5 tear over the night. Tommorow's double-header should prove interesting as Scott Baker gets another opportunity to show his great potential to Twins fans. Stay tuned and let the Twins know how little Mulholland means to the team.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


It was a breath of fresh air to come home from a work function an hour into the ballgame tonight, flip on the TV, and see that in the third inning the Twins had already posted 6 runs. They didn't let up, taking advantage of extremely sloppy play by the Tigers to coast to a 10-5 victory. On to the bulletpoints.

*While it was nice to see the Twins' recently anemic offense put up double digits, it wasn't exactly an over-powering performance. While they had 13 hits, 11 of them were singles, and 2 were doubles. They hit no home runs. Nearly half of the Twins' runs came home on throwing errors and wild pitches. Whatever, we'll take what we can get.

*Joe Mauer continued to impress, reaching base in 4 of his 5 plate appearances tonight and scoring three times. He singled, doubled, and walked twice. In the one at-bat where he was retired, he scalded a hard grounder of the glove of first baseman Chris Shelton and was nearly safe in a bang-bang play at first. Mauer's on-base percentage is now .385.

*Bret Boone had a fairly nice today, collecting a couple singles and a couple RBI. However, he did still leave 6 men aboard and still has yet to deliver his first extra-base hit in a Twins uniform.

*The performance of last year's AL Cy Young winner continues to concern. Tonight he lasted only 5 innings, allowing 3 runs on 9 hits. In actuality however, he only allowed 2 runs on 8 hits, because the Craig Monroe solo home run in the 4th inning was CLEARLY foul, but somehow all 4 umpires managed to see it wrong. The call was so bad that mild-mannered Brad Radke managed to get himself ejected from the dugout. I believe instant replay should be instated into the game solely for situations like this. I'm not a fan of the idea of replay being used for strike zone calls or plays at the bases, but the foul pole is such a clear-cut thing, there is no excuse for getting the wrong call in situations like this.

*Lew Ford went 0/5. He's not having a very good year, hitting just .258 and experiencing a bad slump. His .344 OBP is pretty decent, but I don't think the guy should be hitting leadoff.

*Apparently Detroit pitcher Jason Johnson is having a pretty good year, but the Twins wouldn't know it. They have shelled him every time they've seen him this year. Tonight's line: 4.0 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, and about 50 wild pitches.

*Matt Guerrier pitched 3 perfect innings in relief of Santana, keeping the Tigers' bats silent from the 6th through 8th innings. Then, for some reason, despite having only thrown 26 pitches, he was removed in the 9th so Terry Mulholland could come in and let a couple runs score. I mean, I understand the concept of a big lead and guys needing work, but when a guy is cruising like Guerrier was tonight, just let him finish the game.

*Justin Morneau walked 3 times tonight. Good sign, or just a result of the wild pitching from the Tigers staff? We'll see...

Tomorrow, the Twins will send out Joe Mays, whose name has been hot in trade rumors as of late, against Tigers' lefty (gulp) Mike Maroth. Another win would be nice, especially if it came with another loss from the White Sox, which would shrink the division deficit back to single digits.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Positive 3-2?

Well, what a surprise! Lets look at today's afternoon game: It was a one-run game for the 8th straight game and wow it ended in the 9th again. But, yes, the Twins came out on top and actually took the series from the Orioles 2-1. Basically, it was almost a replay of recent games. Our starting pitching, this time Brad Radke, went out and for the most part shut down the potent lineup before them. Radke's only bad pitch (Familiar? Joe Mays?) was to Rafael Palmeiro for a two-run blast in the 4th. Palmiero now has 9 HRs against Radke to go along with those 3,009 hits. (By the way, he's a Hall of Famer. The whole argument against him is pretty sad. Consistency is one of the biggest factors in terms of true Hall of Famers. Hank Aaron anyone? Cal Ripken? Those guys have their stats for the same reason and Ripken is a Hall of Famer for sure but he never won a ring or lead the in any Triple Crown stats either) Otherwise, it was another great stat line. Seven innings, no walks, five Ks, five hits and two runs allowed. Not winning these games for these guys isn't just a slap in the face because, like at the beginning of the season, how long can the staff carry the team?

The offense was here and there as usual. Mauer was put in the cleanup spot as a DH and he went 0 for 4 but he drive in a run, which makes him more productive there than Morneau. Hunter had another terrible batting day, going 0 for 4 and swingly wildly at Jason Grimsley's pitches in the 9th the same way he has for years. Only four Twins had hits, three of them with two. That group is Punto, Castro, and Jones. Shannon Stewart had the other hit in a good 1 for 3 day from the three-spot. Jones should be expected to hit while Punto and Castro's contributions are a nice gift. It was pretty much Jacque's day again, being the hero in the ninth last night, it only seemed natural that he would do the same today. With the score tied 2-2 in the ninth and following Hunter's pathetic at-bat, Jones crushed a Grimsley sinker to the opposite field for a walk-off home run. It basically showed that if the Twins hitters are just a little more aggressive, the results are good. 3-2 is nothing to write home about (in fact, its been written about so much now that it has little life left in it) but it was a win that gave the Twins the series. Now, with the pitching staff running high again, its serious time to go out swinging and to pick up this staff.

Tommorow, they start a five-game series with the Tigers, including a double-header on Saturday that will see Scott Baker start and therefore, a roster move. Stay tuned for what that may be and the analysis that will follow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Nothing To Write Home About

I said earlier today that I wouldn't post about tonight's game if the Twins lost 3-2 again. Going into the bottom of the 9th, the Twins were down 3-2 with one of the more menacing closers in the game stepping on to the hill in the form of BJ Ryan. I figured my laptop was going to go untouched tonight. Instead, the Orioles imploded and allowed the Twins to squeak by 4-3 in what can only be called a very unimpressive victory.

For those who missed it, let me break down the Twins' very fortunate series of events in that ninth inning. After each Orioles mistake, I will put a number so we can keep track of just how badly they screwed up.

It started out with Ryan getting Luis Rodriguez (who hit leadoff tonight and didn't do too bad, going hitless but drawing 2 walks) to ground out to short. This brought up Joe Mauer with one out and nobody on. He managed to draw a walk (1). Next up, Shannon Stewart. Stew struck out swinging to top off an 0/5 night, and on the third strike Mauer was on his way to second. The throw sailed past Brian Roberts and into center field, allowing Mauer to go to third (2). Still, even with a runner on third, the Twins' prospects were grim, as Matt LeCroy - a guy who has recorded the last out with runners in scoring position on multiple occasions this season - was stepping with the Twinkies down to their final out. Then pitcher Ryan did just about the worst thing he could do in that particular situation, deliver a wild pitch (3). Backup catcher Eli Whiteside raced back for the ball and seemed to deliver it in time for Ryan to apply the tag to Mauer at the plate, but Ryan was unable to reach the ball and it sailed past him as Joe slid in safely with the tying run (4). Then, instead of inducing the typical Fatty groundout or strikeout, they walked him to bring up the more-dangerous Torii Hunter (5). Hunter delivered with a clutch single to right field, that moved pinch-runner Mike Ryan to third base, putting the winning run 90 feet away from home. Hunter moved up to second by defensive indifference (although he did get 2 credited stolen bases in the game, increasing his season total to 21), and up came Jacque Jones who was 1/3 on the night with a double and a walk. Jones hit a slow bouncer up the middle, and it looked as if Miguel Tejada would scoop it out and throw Jones out at first to send the game to extra innings. Instead, the ball was in the dirt and Jones was safe at first on a play (6) that was not ruled an error, but certainly seemed makable, especially for a guy like Tejada.

So there you have it. By virtue of no less than SIX ugly miscues in one inning by the Orioles, the Twins were able to collect an increasingly rare victory. Good luck doing that on a regular basis.

Trade Possibilities, Upcoming Games, Etc.

I felt I would take some time and post today before tonight's game is actually played, because I can tell you right now, if the Twins lose 3-2 or 2-1 again tonight, I'm just not going to post about it. It would just be the same old story again and I'm tired of writing about how bad this offense is and how much some of these hitters are embarrassing themselves on the field (FOUR strikeouts for Torii Hunter last night??? The guy turned 30 yesterday but he bats like a 22 year-old rookie). Therefore, there's a good chance this will be the only post for today on this blog. If something interesting or worthwhile happens in the game tonight, then perhaps I will post about it.

There was some interesting stuff in LaVelle's column of the Star Trib today. He tossed out a new trade rumor that has the Boston Red Sox asking about JC Romero to try to shore up their bullpen, which has been horrible this year. They apparently have put third-baseman Bill Mueller on the table. I would absolutely LOVE for this trade to happen. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Mueller is really all that great of a player. After winning the AL Batting Title in 2003 with a .326 average, he has been pretty mediocre since (which is still an upgrade from Michael Cuddyer). The thing, is I cannot STAND watching Romero pitch anymore. His terrible lack of control and complete inability to hold inherited runners on base has grated on my nerves far too much. If the Twins can get a decent player at a major position of need in return for JC, I hope they will do it in a second.

It was also mentioned that hitting coach Scott Ullger has been looking back at some of the tapes of Bret Boone's outstanding 2003 season, and said that he thinks it is possible for him to recapture that success because he thinks Boone still has his bat speed. I disagree, I think Bret has lost his bat speed and that's why he is unable to hit anymore. He still has a very nice swing, but he can't get around on the pitches and as a result is striking out and hitting a lot foul balls and pop-ups. Whether this lost bat speed has to do with steroid suspicions or is simply a result of being 36 years old, I don't think it's coming back, so expecting much out of Boone for the rest of the year would probably be silly.

The Twins have come out of the break into a tough homestand, no doubt. The Angels are the best team in the AL in my opinion, and Baltimore is right up there with the BoSox and Bombers in the AL East. That said, the Twins have put themselves in a bad position by losing 4 of 5 of them already, because these are homes games and these are teams that the Twins could potentially be running with for a Wild Card (although I think it's safe to say the Halos are going to win the West). After finishing the homestand on Wednesday, the Twins will head straight to Detroit to play the Tigers 5 times in 4 days, with a double-header on Saturday. This tough stretch of games is one of the most important of the season for the Twins, and so far they have not done well. Hopefully they can clean it up.

I'll post again later tonight, maybe.

Monday, July 18, 2005

It Never Ends

I feel alot like my associate tonight, writing the same post we have for a while now. The Twins can't score but they can pitch. They can't get big hits win they need them. Well tonight then even got a big hit when they needed to, but they could never break the game open and instead allowed another pitching gem to be wasted. They should win so many more games with such wonderful pitching perfomances and now the excuses are being laid out. The hitters have done extra, the team says. They are taking extra batting practice, Morneau is hitting off the tee to all fields. But practice isn't what they need. No they just need to figure out a few basic things and that means once again that Scotty Ulger needs to pack his bags. Sometimes its unfortunate, but Ulger needs to take the fall. Basically, its clear that the Twins hitters aren't doing any better with what he's tried or for that matter what he hasn't. They may need to hear the same advice but from a fresh face.

They cannot afford to lose when their pitching is this good. Silva threw nine innings and like Mays yesterday, really only made one mistake that resulted in a two-run home run, this time off the bat of aging slugger Sammy Sosa. He threw only 85 pitches in shutting down the potent Baltimore line-up and could have gone on longer. You can't blame Juan Rincon for the lost two much because for one, he gave up the the game-winning homer to MVP candidate Miguel Tejeda, and two, the offense didn't get things done with a good chance in the 10th. With Mauer on second and Morneau on first (why was he walked again? After ending a rally with a double play in the 8th, he didn't seem that dangerous to me), Hunter came up and struck out to end the rally. Of course, it was Torii's double and hustle that scored the tying run in the 9th when B.J. Ryan made a bad fielding play. And they looked more pathetic in the 11th against Jorge Julio, as they swung away and failed to make anything happen again.

The Twins look like they desperately need to do a few moves now. Fire Ulger, send some of the struggling players to the minors and if not that, makes some trades. Yes, Lohse is fair game, but the Twins should consider some of the other players as well. The Twins can't trade Morneau unless they get a first baseman in return, but Cuddyer should be considered. He still has upside, but his struggles are certainly not helping the Twins now. Regardless, enough has been said. We need to make some moves and quick if we have any hopes of making the postseason at all.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Offense Absent Again

What can I say that hasn't already been said? The Twins continue to get great pitching, but put it to waste by scoring no runs. Today's performance was one of the worst yet from the pitiful offense. John Lackey, who the Twins hammered in their last meeting, tore the hitters to shreds, going 7 innings and striking out 10 while allowing just 5 hits and one unearned run. Twins' pitcher Joe Mays looked terrific, going 7 innings and essentially shutting down the powerful Angels lineup aside from a 2-run homer by Jeff DaVanon in the second inning. The fact that he took the loss in this game is really just sad.

*Shannon Stewart hit in the third spot in the order for the second straight game today. I like this move. I don't know why Stewart has the tag of being a leadoff hitter, really... he's not that fast and he doesn't post amazing on-base percentages. He's just a good, consistent, solid hitter with a knack for coming through in the clutch. In my mind, those are the characteristics of a guy who should be hitting in the middle of the lineup. He did well there today, going 2 for 4.

*The guy who hit behind Stewart didn't have such a great day. Justin Morneau looked totally overmatched. He went 0/4 with 3 strikeouts and a groundout to the pitcher. It simply does not appear that Morneau is going to be able to get it done as a Major League hitter at this point. I don't know what the options are, but the Twins have GOT to start getting some kind of offense out of first-base.

*I like the Angels to win the AL pennant. Their bullpen is just phenomenal. If they are carrying a small lead into the 8th inning, the game is over. Scott Shields and Francisco Rodriguez are just unhittable.

*Aside from Morneau, Torii Hunter and Nick Punto both had miserable days at the plate as well. Both went 0/4 with 2 strikeouts. I'm not too worried about Hunter, because that's just typical for him, but Punto has regressed terribly since returning from injury. His batting average has dropped 40 points and he's been striking out more. He looked pretty good defensively at third base, but right now his hitting is no better than Michael Cuddyer's.

*Bret Boone showed a flash of what I'm hoping to see out of him. In his third at-bat, he drove the ball to center for a single (then reached second on an error by Steve Finley). That is the second consecutive day in which he has hit the ball hard to center field. Granted, 2 hits in 2 days is hardly impressive, but it is important to remember that the guy hadn't played in about 2 weeks upon joining the Twins. His initial rustiness is forgivable if he can turn it on and start hitting some line drives, which is what nobody in this lineup aside from Joe Mauer can seem to do.

*When is Jacque Jones going to stop constantly pulling grounders to the right side of the infield on bad pitches? Sounds like a coaching problem (cough cough).

If the Twins had come out of the gate strong in the second half, and the White Sox had continued with their slight skid that they rode into the break, then perhaps the possibility of a surge to overtake the division lead was realistic. But now, with the Twins dropping 3 of 4 to the Halos and the Sox decimating the Indians in a 4-game sweep, that possibility has almost completely faded away. The Twins are 12 games out of first place, the White Sox are for real, and it's time to start concentrating on keeping in Wild Card contention.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Rebound: Santana gets a win, Boone gets a hit

Johan ended his losing streak and Bret Boone finally got a hit in a Twins uniform and it had an impact. Finishing off the Twins' five-run fourth inning, Boone singled in Luis Rodriguez following Rodriguez's triple. The inning started with hits by Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter and then a RBI double by Jacque Jones. Justin Morneau followed with a sacrifice fly and the score was tied when Micheal Ryan hit a two-run homer into the Upper Deck off Angels starter Bartolo Colon. It was Ryan's first of the year for the recent call-up. He has hit .297 this year, being one of the more positive call-ups, along with Rodriguez.

Of course, the Twins offense had other chances. With no one out in the second, the Twins had runners on second and third, but Jones struck out, Morneau flied out and Rodriguez grounded out with the bases loaded. Mauer contineud to be the team's premier hitter, going 2 for 4 and bringing his average to .305. It doesn't look like a big breakout, as regulars like Morneau still look offensively handicap and Boone still has only one hit as a Twin, but its a win and hopefully something to build on.

The pitching was strong tonight, as Santana pitched seven innings, giving up four runs, but only one earned as errors by Morneau and Rodriguez helped the Angels put up a three spot in the first. However, the three Ks is somewhat disturbing as he wasn't terribly dominant, but the improvement is definitely a move in the right direction for last year's Cy Young. Rincon and Nathan proved to be a dynamic bullpen combo again, as Nathan picked up his AL-leading 26th save and Rincon pitched a scoreless eigth.

Overall, it was nice to see a breakout inning, but it was sadly not a convincing offensive breakout. Tommorow, Mays takes the ball against John Lackey. Lets hope the Twins don't look pathetic against Lackey as they did last time he pitched against us.

Friday, July 15, 2005


It's time to face the facts I guess. The Twins have some serious problems and they extend far past anything that Bret Boone and perhaps any other single-player acquisition can fix. For the second consecutive night, the Twins lost 3-2, displaying a pathetic inability to hit yet again. I was hoping the team would work on some things over the break and come out ready to start smacking the ball a little better, but if anything they're worse. Jacque Jones is still pulling grounders to the right side in nearly every at bat, Justin Morneau is still looking clueless against outside pitches, and Boone is yet to reach base in 8 plate appearances in a Twins uniform. The Twins' 2-7 hitters went a combined 0 for 20. Are you kidding me? Is it just me, or does it seem like Joe Mauer is the only player on the team who consistently makes good contact with the ball? Literally, in our lineup of 9 starters, he is the only guy that is able to hit the ball well on a consistent basis. It shows in the stats. While he and Shannon Stewart are hitting .302 and .290, respectively, no other regular starter (aside from Luis Rodriguez, who I'm not quite ready to place in that group) is hitting above .270.

Brad Radke pitched very well tonight, going the complete game and allowing only 2 earned runs on 5 hits, but as usual, it wasn't enough for the Twins' despicable offense. Scott Ullger needs to go, no question. Even if it is not necessarily his fault, whatever he's doing is obviously not working so it couldn't hurt to bring in a fresh face and see if someone else could jump-start some of our slumbering bats.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Boone's Not-So-Great Debut

Bret Boone's coming to the Twins was filled with suspense: What will happen? Will he produce? Will he the 2001-Boone or the old, falling apart Boone. Thursday night was his big debut and everyone, including me, was excited to see the results. But they weren't so great. Boone went 0 for 4 in the three spot, striking out in his first RBI situation. And the rest of the Twins followed suit for the most part. The offense once again didn't do very much against Jarred Washburn. Two runs, one on a sac fly from Lew Ford, and only one player, Jacque Jones, with two hits. But they were far worse against the Angels big bullpen combo of Donnelly, Shields, and K-Rod. In three bullpen innings, the Twins managed no hits and struck out four times, including Michael Ryan in the last at-bat.

The young Twins hitters just looked pathetic, like they had absolutely no chance against Rodriguez or Shields. Ryan's face said it all, as he tried in desperation to hit K-Rod's filthy slider. Its just a reminder of how little experience and direction these young hitters have. No one seems to be teaching them what they need to do in those situations, how they can control the strike zone, and how to lay off those pitches and more importantly, protect the strike zone in 0-2 and 1-2 situations, something Ryan didn't do and something plenty of Twins miss nightly.

As for our pitching, it wasn't horrible. Kyle Lohse had a quality start, going 6 and 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and three runs while walking three and striking out only two. The three walks are the most problematic stat, as Lohse continued again to get himself into jams. The bullpen did its job, but J.C. Romero continued to show the same control problems, walking two in 2/3 of an inning, while Jesse Crain and Juan Rincon pitched well in scoreless innings. Despite those problems, the pitchers can't be blamed, as they held the big bats of Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson silent and gave the Twins a good chance to win. It once again comes down to those same offensive wooes and the inability to drive in runs. Hopefully Bret Boone's sophmore effort is far better.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Thoughts at the Break

Initially, I was planning on using this post to give mid-season awards for excellence and ineptitude, a la Jayson Stark. Then I came to the realization that my choices would pretty much all be the same as Stark's, so the article would be redundant. Therefore, I'm going to use this post to simply muse a little about things of interest going on around the league, as we prepare ourselves for the home half of the 2005 season, and for the Bret Boone era, which begins tomorrow. Alas, your random musings...

*I still sport my Cristian Guzman batting practice jersey, circa 2002, proudly at Twins games every now and then. Back in the early 2000 years, he would rack up triples, sprint around the bases, and routinely beat out infield grounders. That stands as the most entertaining individual performance I have ever enjoyed watching in baseball. That said, I can't believe what an utterly horrible player he has become. His line for the Nationals this year is absolutely laughable: .201/.239/.291. He's 3/7 on stolen base attempts. Twins fans really need to give Terry Ryan the utmost credit for dumping this guy and allowing Washington to throw $16 million at him. His lazy slap-ball style might have played well on the hard turf of old at the Metrodome, but I don't think there is a single stadium in the Majors anymore where Guzman could be successful. At age 27, I think it's sadly safe to say he is done... I just feel sorry for the Nats, who really blew it by giving him a 4-year deal.

*I realize I'm not saying anything new, but Derrek Lee has been absolutely monstrous for the Cubbies this year. I would know better than most, he's on my fantasy baseball team. I've enjoyed the nice little luxury of signing on every night and seeing amazing day after ridiculously amazing day. Triple Crown? Probably not, but it's going to be a season for the ages nonetheless. By the way, I also have Brian Roberts on my fantasy team. I sure can pick 'em.

*With all the buzz about how amazing the White Sox have been, I really haven't heard much about the class of the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals. I knew they were doing well this season, but when I looked at the standings yesterday, and they have only one less win than the Sox! Who's going to beat this team... Mark Mulder, their prized off-season acquisition and a Cy Young candidate for much of last year, is MAYBE their third-best starter.

*Sticking with the NL Central, you have got to give some credit to the Houston Astros. This team was the laughing stock of the league early in the season, when they seemed to be out of the race after just a few weeks. Their offense has been so listless, that Roger Clemens has won only 7 games despite an amazing 1.48 ERA. Regardless, they have crept back up over .500 and are very much in the NL Wild Card race.

*The Angels picked the right guy to build their offense around in Vladimir Guerrero. In just 70 games this year, he's raking at a rate of .335/.388/.584. He's hit 16 homers, driven in 51, and stolen 6 bases without being caught. Despite his free-swinging ways, he's struck out only 27 times. With all due respect to Bonds and Pujols, Vladie is the best all-around player in baseball for my money. And uh, by the way... he's on my fantasy team.

-Nick N.

Midseason Awards

Ok its time to award hitters and pitchers for either greatness or mediocrity. Lets start with the good stuff.

AL Midseason Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays

I'm sorry, but there is no disputing such a choice. Halladay has gone right back to the form he displayed when he won the AL Cy Young two years ago. Before getting hurt with a line drive just before the break, Halladay was leading the AL with a 2.41 ERA, second with a 12-4 record and a .225 OBA and first with a .96 WHIP, five complete games, and 141 and 2/3 innings pitched. Those are all signs of dominance, which Halladay certainly
has certainly done so far this year. As Twins fans, its hard to forget his two-hit shutout of the Twins this year in which our hitters could barely scrape a hard line-drive off of him. You can make an argument for Mark Buerhle or Jon Garland of the White Sox, but neither of those guys have dominated AL hitters the way Halladay has or have taken team pitching leadership like Halladay.

AL Midseason MVP: Miguel Tejeda, Baltimore Orioles

Vladimir Guerrero may well by the MVP at the end of the season and he certainly tore up the league upon his return in June, hitting .440 and helping the Angels secure a good five game lead in the AL West. However, since the Orioles have been such a big story as the have jumped into contention this season, its hard to ignore their two MVP candidates, Brian Roberts and Tejeda, for midseason awards. Roberts is a legitimate case, as he is second in the league with a 1.007 OPS and a .416 OBP, first with a .345 average, and third with a .591 slugging percentage. For a leadoff man, those are some phenomonal, Henderson-esque numbers. However, Tejeda is the natural team-leader and the team's producer. He is among league leaders in all categories, with a .329 average, 19 HRs, and 62 RBIs. He leads the league in slugging with a .604 percentage, but it is his leadership and great defense that puts him above. You have to give Tejeda a lot of credit for where the Orioles are now, with a 47-40 record and second place in the AL East with a legitimate shot at the division title or the wild card. For that reason, Tejeda is the midseason MVP.

NL Midseason Cy Young: Roger Clemens, Houston Astros

Ignore Clemens' 7-3 record completely and just imagine he pitches for the Cardinals. Its pretty much guaranteed his record would probably be 13-2 or so. The Astros have given him 3.91 runs a game, nothing exactly to jump about. Clemens has given up one run on the road this year and that was a solo home run at, you guessed it, Coors Field. His dominance has been matched by only two people in the last fifty years up to the half way point, both Hall of Famers in Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale. His 1.48 ERA is incredible considering he is a month from 43 and that isnt his only point of dominance. He also has 112 Ks and a amazing .95 WHIP and .188 opponent batting average. The Cy Young is awarded to the most dominant pitcher in the league and there is no way to pass up Clemens. What he has done so far is likely beyond most fans minds. Its just another step in one of the greatest pitching careers ever.

NL Midseason MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

Yes, Derrek Lee has had an amazing first half in which he has almost lead in the all three Triple Crown categories. However, that does not make Lee the MVP. MVP usually goes to the best player who leads his team to the playoffs; in other words, to the leader of a good or great team. Lee is unfortunate to play for the Cubs who have been a huge flop this year. He may still get the vote depending on how he finishes, but Pujols deserves based on this year and his last few years in which he has had to take a backseat to Barry Bonds. Pujols is right behind Lee in those offensive categories. He has a .337 average, 22 HRs, 69 RBIs, 1.017 OPS, .423 OBP, .594 slugging, and only 36 strikeouts. Basically, he has continue to put up the same kinds of Hall-of-Fame numbers he has since entering the league in 2001 and having the best rookie season ever. Lee is a deserving guy, but he falls under the same category as a guy like Todd Helton in 2000 with his .372 average and plenty of homers and RBIs to boot. He is playing for a poor team and having a great year. A-Rod got the MVP doing that in 2003, so its hard to know what will happen, but for me, Pujols is the MVP.

And the bad awards:

AL Cy-Yuk: Jose Lima, Kansas City Royals

I believe we actually lost to this guy and that's rather embarrassing because he's been terrible this year. Take a breather Hideo Nomo; this guy is a little worse. With a 2-7 record and a hideous 7.33 ERA, Lima has looked an awful lot like he was in 2000, when he blew up with the Astros and allowed 44 HRs. This year has been much of the same, as Lima has allowed 20 HRs and 121 hits in 93 and 1/3 innings, which amounts to .311 opponent batting average. You'd like to give this to his teammate Zack Greinke, who has an 1-11 record, but you actually feel bad for Greinke because he is so young and has so much talent. Baltimore's Sidney Ponson may be worse too, but only because he was signed on to be a ace and he has been inconsistent and essentially a batting practice pitcher, as he has given up 145 hits in 107 innings.

AL LVP: Sammy Sosa, Baltimore Orioles

Aaron Boone has been pretty bad, but he didn't come in with the expectations that Sosa did. To be fair in the last discussion, Ponson was so bad last year how could you expect improvement? At least Lima had a decent year with the Dodgers. Anyways, Sosa came in to Baltimore via a trade and has since fallen in the batting order to sixth, as he has displayed none of the great ower he had throughout his career. He is hitting .225 with only 9 HRs and 27 RBIs. As good as Tejeda has been, Sosa is the opposite. He isn't getting on base, he isn't showing consistent power, and he has been more or less a deterrent to the success of the Orioles.

NL Cy Yuk: Eric Milton, Cincinnati Reds

Joe Kennedy has been pretty bad too, but Milton has been beyond a batting practice pitcher. He has made, as Jayson Stark put it, every NL hitter look like Albert Pujols. The 29 HRs he has allowed put him in line to give up 53 this year, which would break Bert Blyleven's 50 HR record and put him in that "exclusive" club of gopherball pitchers. Needless to say, after signing a nice contract in the offseason, the Reds almost got what they should have expected: A guy who gives up lots of home runs in a hitter's park probably will get only worse. And he's done that. A 6.92 ERA, 4-10 record, 138 hits in 106 and 2/3 innings, and of course the home runs are all part of Milton's terrible year so far. It just begs the question to all: Why Cincinnati?

NL LVP: Christian Guzman, Washington Nationals

Hmmm another former Twin, let go amid protest and what is the result? They only get worse. Of course, Rogers was a flop and should have been kept on, but Milton and Guzman and others, like LaTrouble Hawkins, haven't found much comfort outside of the Twin Cities. Amidst the National's great first half in which they have surprised everyone with 50 wins, much like the White Sox, Guzman has been an enigma. After signing a big four year contract, he has been the worst hitter in the majors. All his stats are well below .300. A .201 average, a horrendous .239 OBP, and a .291 slugging percentage. Guzman has had a total of 13 extra-base hits this year. Needless to say, a lot like with Rivas, I am wondering with Guzman still has a job? Granted he is hurt right now, but it seems he can only hold the Nationals back from a great opening season.

Those are the awards so far. Stay tuned for Nick Nelson's and of course, I hope for much feedback. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

All-Star Mediocrity

The Twins two All-Stars didn't exactly have their best games tonight. Of course, they are facing some pretty good hitters, from Bobby Abreu (who hit an incredible record 41 home runs in the Home Run Derby) to Albert Pujols. Johan Santana hasn't been himself lately, and although he didn't give up a run, his inning of work wasn't exciting. Instead of striking out a great hitter, he gave up a hit and a walk. Nathan on the other hand did give up a run in the NL eight, allowing two hits and also not picking up any strikeouts. Compared to last year, where Nathan threw 97-98 managed to strike out Houston star Lance Berkman. This year, he looked mediocre, not showing the same intensity he showed last year. I just wish there was more excitement so more would notice the stars in Minnesota like Nathan. It was his and Santana's shot at a big spotlight and a chance to display their skills, so why not try to strike everyone out?

The AL won 7-5 on the back on two-run homers by MVP Miguel Tejeda and Texas slugger Mark Teixeira. Terry Francona brought in rival closer Mariano Rivera to get the last out and his second All-Star save. And Kenny Rogers, who's recent infamous incident has been all over ESPN, gave up two runs and was nearly booed off the field.

Tommorow, we will present our midseason awards, from Cy Young to MVP to the "Starkian" Cy Yuks and LVPs of the respective leagues.

The Boonies

I've soaked the move in for a day now. I've come to the conclusion that I'm happy that Terry Ryan made the trade to bring in second baseman Bret Boone at minimal cost. Happy if only for the fact that it gives fans something fresh to be excited about... with new players come new possibilities. Luis Rodriguez and Nick Punto have both been fairly steady at second, but certainly nothing to get in a frenzy over. Bret is has been an All-Star, a Gold-Glove winner, and an MVP candidate... all multiple times. Nobody on the Twins roster right now has such a resume. Even with his poor statistics this year, Boone still has better run-production numbers than any of the Twins' 2B/SS/3B.

However, there is really no reason to think he's going to be a huge help to this lineup. Here's the important statistic, as I see it: .210. That's Boone's average against left-handed pitching this year. The Twins are a team that needs some help against southpaws, and bringing in a right-handed bat doesn't mean much when it's a guy who hits righties better than lefties. This season is not a statistical anomaly for Boone, he has always hit right-handers better than left-handers. In the seasons 2002-2005, Boone has hit .269 against LHPs while hitting .277 off right-handers.

Regardless, I remain happy that we picked the guy up. He wanted to be here, he's a veteran who knows how to hit, and there's always the chance that he will spark and be relatively productive. Even if not, it won't hurt us too much.

By the way... anyone notice any similarity?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Trade Commentary

I think its about time to weigh in on the Twins trade today for Bret Boone. Although Boone's only hitting .231, he has 7 HRs and 34 RBIs, which is a lot more than what the Twins have gotten from their other options. Boone is a career .266 hitter and .271 at the Metrodome. Basically, none of the other options have worked well. Luis Rodriguez did good enough, but he's needed now to play third. Nick Punto is a good utility man and a great bench player, but I'm not sure he's an adept starter yet. And Luis Rivas should not be a major leaguer. Its a surprise to me he's played a game this year, even if he's been decent the last few games. (It was the Royals. Not that impressive really)

Realistically, Boone can only improve this team. He brings veteran leadership, a solid glove at second (four Gold Gloves) and of course, a bat that produced a .331, 37 HR, 141 RBI season. I dont think Boone will produce like that again, but he should be solid. He's hit a lot better on the road this year and of course, Seattle doesn't exactly play in a hitter's park like the Dome. I'd expect Boone to hit around .270 the reason of the season, with 10-15 HRs and 40 RBI. Anything above that would be a gift and if he doesnt produced that much, its not like Rivas or Punto would do any better. Basically, I think Twins fans should looked foward to this, and like Nick Nelson said, see that at least Terry Ryan is trying something. Lets just hope for visions of Shannon Stewart, a la 2003.

Twins Get Boone

Hot off

"The Minnesota Twins made a bid to bolster their young infield Monday by acquiring former All-Star second baseman Bret Boone from the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners will also send cash to the Twins in exchange for a player to be named later. Boone, whose salary for this season is $8 million, was designated for assignment by Seattle earlier this month in a disappointing, tearful end to his career there."

I'm pretty surprised. I don't think Boone's got much value, so I'd be peeved if the Twins had given up anything of value for him... but it sounds like the M's are basically just handing him to us.

I'm just happy to see Terry Ryan recognizing that our infield is in shambles and I'm glad he's doing something about. Maybe we'll get lucky and Bret will rediscover his swing and provide some middle-of-the-offense presence. Unlikely, I suppose, but even the worst-case scenario isn't that bad. We couldn't do much worse at second base than we are right now. Expect plenty more analysis later.

Mid-Season Progress Report

Well, it's that time of the baseball season. The unofficial halfway point; the All-Star break. The time when the game's best gather to show their stuff on the national stage, and all the rest get to take a nice little three-game vacation. It's also a time when many fans and analysts get a chance to sit back and mull over the season to this point, and try and prognosticate where the rest of the season is headed.

I'm going to use today's post to think back to what the general expectations were for this team back in spring training, and see which ones were met and which were not.

1. The Twins' record is slightly better than it was last year at this point.
The record this year stands at 48-38. Last year at the break it was 47-40. I think there was a general feeling amongst Twins' fans at the beginning of the season that this year's team was slightly better than last year's, so I think that a slightly improved record was expected.

2. Joe Mauer is hitting .300.
.305, to be exact. We knew this kid was a great hitter, and I don't think it was unreasonable to expect him to post an impressive batting average. He's also posting a .373 OBP. The power numbers are down a little bit from last year, as he's hit the same number of home runs (6) in over twice as many at-bats, but I don't think many expected him to come out and jack 30 homers in his first full season.

3. Shannon Stewart has been very steady.
This has been one of the streakiest lineups I can remember seeing, with Jacque Jones and Justin Morneau starting out great and then disappearing, Michael Cuddyer having a very hot couple weeks amid his pathetic season, and Torii Hunter continuing with his streaks and slumps. But the guy at the front of the order, Mr. Stewart, has been very consistent. His numbers aren't dazzling at .290/.339/.422, but the guy never seems to go on a big slump and that is very refreshing. Of course, that's what he's been doing since he got here, and that's why we've come to love him so. Surprisingly, he's also provided some flash with the glove this year, if only because he gets later jumps on the ball and has to make tougher plays.

4. Johan Santana and Joe Nathan are All-Stars.
After tearing up the league and winning the Cy Young award last year, it was a foregone conclusion that Johan would be an All-Star this year. He leads the Majors in strikeouts and finds himself on the AL All-Star roster for the time in his career. Nathan has been terrific in the closer spot for the Twins, and been about what Twins Nation was expecting. He's dominated with his fastball, racked up tons of strikeouts, and leads the league in saves. He hit a few bumpy spots and his ERA and walks are higher than one would like to see, but he has certainly protected his spot as one of the game's elite.

5. The Twins are among the AL leaders in ERA
The Twins' pitching staff has posted a 3.78 ERA to this point in the season, which puts them second in the AL behind the White Sox. Pretty much where most people expected them to be, I think, since their starting rotation and bullpen had both been vaunted as one of the best in the Majors.

1. The Twins are 9 games out of first place.
This is the doozy, the most obvious. Coming into the year, it looked like if the Twins had any competition in the AL Central, it would come from Cleveland. While Cleveland has been solid (despite a slow start), it has been the White Sox who have taken the league by storm, posting an MLB-best 57-29 record in the first half. This has come as a shock to many, I admittedly had the Sox pegged as one of the worst teams in the division before the season started. They'd lost their two most consistent power threats in Mag Ordonez and Carlos Lee, and didn't have an all-too impressive team on paper. However, their small-ball approach and out-of-nowhere performances from guys like Jon Garland, Dustin Hermanson, and Carl Everett have put them on top of the Central and in very good position to nab the division crown from the Twins.

2. The Cuddyer Disaster.
Michael Cuddyer was the Twins' hottest hitter in spring training, and seemed poised to pick up right where Corey Koskie left off at third base for the Twins. A guy who had long yearned for an opportunity to start on a regular basis, Cuddy was looking to post solid numbers that would round out the bottom part of the Twins' order very nicely. Instead, Cuddyer has been abysmal. The once-promising hitter has struggled mightily, hitting just .259 and showing pathetic power with a .384 slugging percentage. His defense at third base has been despicable. Now Cud finds himself on the DL going into the break, and there is a good chance he won't have a spot when he returns.

3. Mauer's been healthy.
This is actually a good thing that we weren't expecting. Mauer missed most of last season with a bad knee injury, and it flared up again in spring training. The team said he would be fine, but when Ron Gardenhire made the decision to keep a third catcher in Corky Miller at the expense of power-hitter Michael Restovich coming into the regular season, Twins fans everywhere got the idea that there was more wrong with Mauer's knee than the team was letting on. Surprisingly, Mauer has missed no time aside from the occasional precautionary day off, and he has been in fact the ONLY infielder who hasn't missed time due to injury. Who'da thunk it.

4. Santana has been hittable.
Johan's election to the All-Star team was really probably more due to his performance in the last half of the 2004 season than his performance so far this year. Not to say he doesn't have deserving statistics this year, leading the league in strikeouts is never something to scoff at, but the guy hasn't even been the best pitcher on this team, let alone one of the best in the league. He's gotten lit up, especially lately, and as a result has an ERA near 4.

5. Morneau has only 11 homers.
It's hard to be disappointed with that number out of a guy experiencing his first full year as a starter. Still, he's fallen short of pretty much everyone's expectations I think. And why shouldn't we have high expectations? I realize he's young and inexperienced, but the guy smacked 19 homers in just 280 at-bats last year. He's already had 237 this year, and he's hit 8 fewer dongs, indicating that he has regressed rather than improving. His OPS is nearly 70 points lower than what he finished with last year. What's most distressing is that after a torrid April in which he his .439, he hit .222 and .239 in May and June, indicating that the league seems to have figured him out. Featured as one of the up-and-coming premier power hitters in the league coming into this season, Justin has lost his spot as the team's cleanup hitter and been relegated to the number 7 spot in the order.

What has or hasn't surprised you?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Close Victory

Of all in the bullpen, Joe Nathan should be expected to hold up the best. But, in the five innings the bullpen pitched today, Nathan gave up the only run on a home run to Mike Sweeney. Sweeney tore the Twins up in the series, going 11 for his last 15 and hitting two home runs to provide the only offense for the Royals. Its not to say Nathan did poorly, but at least Crain, Romero, and Rincon managed to throw scoreless innings. Nathan actually looked good, reaching 98 on the radar gun and throwing nasty sliders, picking up four Ks in his two innings. His battle with Sweeney that ended in a long home run is the only blotch on a good performance by the bullpen. Jesse Crain, who has been atrocious as of late, pitched a scoreless 12th to pick up the save.

Lost in the long game was Carlos Silva's good start. Silva pitched seven innings, while giving up five hits and one run while striking out three and once again walking none. That means Silva has walked only five in 114 and a third innings. Silva has, for all intensive purposes, been the ace of the staff at the break. With a 7-3 record and a 3.53 ERA, Silva was close to being an All-Star. I believe he'll continue to pitch well, but now he just needs Radke and Santana to follow and pick up the slack.

More importantly was the offensive failure over the game. Although they had 15 hits, they managed only three runs, one unearned. In order to win, they needed rookie third baseman Mark Teahan to make a major error with two outs in the 12th, on a Torii Hunter grounder, to allow Nick Punto to score. Otherwise, the team left eleven baserunners on. Against KC, that's just not acceptable. That's pathetic. The standouts were Joe Mauer, who went 2 for 5 and ends the first half with a .305 average, and the two Luis', who both went 2 for 5 with an RBI. Basically, its the same old story. The Twins can't hit well with men on and fail when it comes to strike zone judgement. More on this tommorow, as the All-Star break starts.

Bumming Around

Following my associate's suggestion, I read the MPR blog, "The Bleacher Bums," to see what they had to say. Essentially, they are in complete agreement with things with brought up in the past, but with examples from years ago. Its important to remember that Scott Ulger has been the hitting coach since 1998 and that, as they point, had only a year of major league experience, in which he hit a Guzman-esque .190. So, looking at guys like Guzman, Rivas, Hunter, and others who have come up in the tend, a disturbing trend is seen: A complete lack of strike zone mastery. To anyone who watches the games, this is a little obvious, but seeing the stats makes it far worse. Since coming up, guys from Hunter to Guzman have not improved their strike zone judgement at all. What the site shows are a ratio of strikeouts per walks that border on ridiculous. Its true that it may not be Ulger's fault that these guys are essentially free-swingers, but that really doesn't matter. The need for a fresh-face is immediate because they don't respond to Ulger regardless, even if he gives good advice. Its essentially the same logic used when firing Flip Saunders last year (although that didn't really help, but besides the point). Changes are neccessary beyond getting a big bat in the line-up, but its far more important to get our new hitters (Mauer, Morneau, etc) to develop good strike zone judgement. Mauer has that in a way, but he still needs guidnace and molding just like any other major league player. Like Luis Rivas, despite his game last night, I wonder all the time how Ulger still has a job in the majors when he is clearly doing an awful job.

Also, Patrick Reusse (who does a radio show and writes in the Star Tribune) made some interesting points in an article today, suggesting the Twins are lucky to have the record they have now. Basically, what Reusse says is that the Twins plan from the beginning was faulty and has failed and its pathetic to hear the congratualatory messages from Gardenhire and others. I agree about the clubhouse humor thing. These guys need to get serious and win ball games. Yes, chemistry is important, but that doesn't matter much if you don't win games. And its interesting to see the argument about the Twins plan for the year. Its true that Mauer and Morneau havent been quite the run producers they've been touted to be, but then again, we can go right back to the top paragraph and look at the coaches. Mauer is catching up and doing fine for now and of course, he can improve, while Morneau really needs the help in learning the strike zone because of his nature as a power hitter. He needs to learn to take certain pitches and wait for something he can drive or he just ends up flailing pathetically at bad pitches. It is also true that our outfield hasn't quite lead the team to victory. Hunter has been what you'd expect from him and, yes, if he learned better strike zone judgement, he could be a perennial .275-30-100 player, but his production isn't terrible either. Its Jones who has fallen into bad habits, right back to his problems with the strike zone. After starting so promising and drawing lots of walks in April, Jones has been pretty terrible, hitting .261 with 10 HRs and 41 RBIs. The Twins really do need a lot more from. Stewart doesn't neccessarly need the coaching because he's a good hitter to begin with. I do completely agree, though, that Lew Ford and Matthew LeCroy have not worked out at all as DHs. LeCroy, as people have read on this blog often, cannot hit right-handers worth a damn. (There is another coaching situation, but I dont know that LeCroy is really worth the effort) After a productive rookie year, Ford has hit only .273 with 4 HRs and 34 RBIs. Thats just not enough.

However, Reusse's larger argument is that the injury situation is overblown and that the Twins have essentially had their starting 25 most of the year. 83 of the 86 starts have been made by the projected rotation. The infield situation is overstated because Cuddyer was never that valuable and the others who have gone down were from Triple-A. However, that's easy to disagree with since that hurts our depth, but I see his point. Cuddyer isn't that productive, Rivas didn't deserve his starting job anyways (we already knew that), and Punto, though important, was overblown because he almost didn't make the team out of spring training. The Twins may just need to wait for their next generation of hitters to come up, and hopefully by then, they've realized its time to get rid of Ulger.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Out of Control

Earlier today, Terry Ryan was interviewed by KFAN's Chad Hartman on the radio (you can get a full synopsis of the interview at Twins Territory, where Twins Geek wrote an article on it). In the interview, Ryan was asked about potential trade options, and he said that he was of course looking for a powerful right-handed bat. Interestingly, he also mentioned that he has recently become worried about the pitching.

Then the Twins came out and played tonight, in a game that featured perhaps the most embarrassing pitching performance I can remember seeing from a Twins team. Joe Mays had to come out before he could even record an out in the third inning, and the bullpen got tagged for 8 runs. By the KANSAS CITY ROYALS, the worst team in baseball. Mays got shredded for 4 runs and 9 hits in just 2+ innings, and then Terry Mulholland, Jesse Crain, JC Romero, and Matt Guerrier combined to pitch 6 innings, walking 6 and allowing 12 hits and 7 earned runs. The most disturbing line comes from Crain, who was charged with FOUR earned runs while failing to record a single out. This caused his ERA to shoot up to 2.50, and basically removing the "elite" tag that he had collected through the season up to this point. He came in with 2 runners on, walked the bases loaded, and then allowed 3 straight singles, scoring 4 runs. He was then "relieved" by Romero, who of course allowed both of his inherited runners to score.

The performance was just absolutely pathetic. Enough of the goofing around and keeping in good spirits by running around the clubhouse naked (Torii), it's time this team got serious. The past three games have been utterly embarrassing, even though they squeaked by last night.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Mauer leads Twins to Victory

Joe Mauer has had two straight three-hit games in which he has displayed his great run-producing abilities. Tonight, he went 3 for 5 with an RBI in the Twins' 5-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Brad Radke wasn't too great in his, looking like Lohse last night by giving up four runs and nine hits in the six innings he pitched. Basically, it was more of a reverse of last night's terrible loss. They didn't dominate the Royals they way they should, but they got the win and showed a little more offense against Zack Greinke's and his cringe-worthy 1-11 record after he lost tonight.

It was a game in which some of the lesser-known Twins got the hits and therefore, the victory. Besides RBI hits by Torii Hunter and Lew Ford, Juan Castro and Luis Rodriguez each had two hits in four at-bats, Rodriguez driving in a run.

The only real highlight for pitching was Joe Nathan's ninth inning, in which he struck out two and picked up his AL-leading 25th save. Nathan, who had been inconsisent recently, looked very sharp and his fastball was clocked as high as 97 mph. He managed to get the last two hitters to strike out, both on nasty sliders. That resembles the Nathan of last year and the Twins should be really happy to see Nathan hitting his stride, even if it is against the hapless Royals lineup.

The other good news is that the Twins gain a game for once, as the White Sox lost to Oakland 4-2. Of course, thats not so great when the Twins are 10 games back, but they need to get on a run and build some confidence going into the game. Looks like Nathan and Mauer are getting there, now we just need Santana, Radke, and others to do the same.

The Bleacher Bums

I added a new site to our officially endorsed Twins links on the right side of the page. The Bleacher Bums is the Twins blog of Minnesota Public Radio, and one I had read sporadically in the past. Recently, however, I have started to come to the realization that these guys know their stuff, and make for an awfully good read. In the last couple days, they have written articles pinpointing hitting coach Scott Ullger as a possible source of the team's offensive problems (a subject this blog has brought up numerous times) and also bringing up the uncomfortable question of whether Johan Santana was just a one-year wonder. Good stuff, check 'em out if you're not already.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Disaster Zone

I'm not even going to pretend to be happy about any facet of tonight's game. To save everyone from having to read a relentless rant of immense frustration, I am going to keep this post short.

Despite having some success in his last couple starts (against bad offenses, mind you), Kyle Lohse looked terrible tonight. His pitches were not fooling ANYBODY, allowing a bad Kansas City offense to tag him for 4 run on 9 hits. That wasn't the worst of it though. I don't know what to think of Matt Guerrier. He came into the game with a solid ERA under 3, and in the first inning he pitched he looked great, striking out the first two batters he faced and dominating with his looping curveball. But then, as has been the case with Guerrier on numerous occasions this year, he fell apart in the second inning he pitched. Without recording an out, he walked the leadoff man, then gave up a single, then another single which scored a run. Enter JC Romero who, SURPRISE SURPRISE, allowed 2 inherited runners to score! Guerrier, Romero, and Jesse Crain pitched a combined 2 innings, and allowed only 3 hits, but walked FOUR and allowed 4 runs, putting the game out of reach for the Twins, who would rally in the ninth to get a couple runs but still falls short 8-5 to the Royals. It is their 3rd consecutive loss, essentially negating the nice little win streak they had put together.

The Twins got nice offensive performances out of a few players. Joe Mauer proved his great run-producing ability once again, going 3/5 with 3 RBI. Nick Punto, who had been slumping badly since his return from the DL, dropping his average 20 points, had a great night, going 4/5 including a first inning home run. Shannon Stewart also had a couple hits and a couple runs scored. HOWEVER, the 5-9 hitters (excluding Justin Morneau, who went 2/3), were a combined 0/14 (including the guys who pinch-hit for them)!! Absolutely abysmal. Matt LeCroy absolutely should NOT be starting against right-handed pitchers, he is just worthless against them.

Bad, bad game. 11 games out of first place. I'm just so disappointed.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Johan Santana looked nothing like an ALl-Star caliber pitcher. In fact, he looked pretty terrible. His ERA has bloated to 3.98, he's a mere 7-5, and he is walking too many, giving up too many hits, and striking out too few. This does not sound like the guy who dominated the league last year. No, something has to be wrong. Maybe he is tipping his pitches, but it would be far better to get rid of any adjustments and let Johan pitch the way he has before. I just can't understand why Rick Anderson or the Twins would want to adjust a strategy and pitching style that has been so successful. Don't they know that even if most hitters know the change-up is coming, it still tends to be very successful. Its like telling Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens to make some adjustments because they are tipping pitches. Let me tell you, even if hitters know Clemens is throwing his splitter, there is nothing they can do. They've known for years what he is doing, and yet, look at the results. Johan doesn't need to make any adjustments because it doesn't matter if hitters may know whats coming because his stuff is that good. Looking at his line today, its just ugly: 6 and 1/3 innings, 6 runs, 9 hits, 3 walks, and 3 Ks. Something has to be done, because he's not just mortal, but he's been disguisting as of late. The worst of it is that the Twins offense was certainly alive today, scoring six runs.

* Mike Redmond broke out in a big fashion today, going 4 for 4 with a run scored and 3 RBIs. Redmond, who is the Twins only backup catcher, wasn't hitting very well until late, when he has gotten extra starts against lefties and in day games. He now has his average up to .271, much closer to his career average. That offense shows that Redmond was indeed a good improvement over Henry Blanco.

* Torii Hunter continued to bat well, going 2 for 5 in his start today. In his last seven games, Hunter is hitting .350. However, he hasn't had any home runs in that time and his power still seems to be just as streaky as his overall hitting, though a .278 average is nothing to complain about.

* Lew Ford went 2 for 3 with two runs scored and Luis Rodriguez went 1 for 3 with 2 RBIs. Ford, who seems to be in a different state this year, has been pretty inconsistent. The Twins need a lot more from him in the 5th or 6th spot; that is, more then singles. He needs to drive in runs against and show some of the power we saw last year.

* Bottom Line: Johan Santana needs to forget any adjustments he made and get back to his form. He has not looked like an All-Star at all, getting easily beaten and looking like a lackluster 5th starter. The result is that the Twins lost another game they should have won and they simply have no room for such mistakes. The Twins start a four game series at Kansas City tommorow and hopefully that will provide some needed relief and an easy sweep for the Twins.

In other news:

* Roy Oswalt was choosen to be the final man on the NL roster, as I had hoped and predicted. However, the AL was not as fair of a choice. Over Derek Jeter and our Torii Hunter, both good legitimate All-Star choices, the fans choose White Sox Scott Podsednik. What a terrible choice. This guy does only one thing: he steals bases. Sure, he does a good job, but defensively, he is not even close to Hunter. He has no home runs this year and only 17 RBIs. I just don't see the argument for this guy over someone deserving like Hunter, who is far more valuable to his team, or Jeter, the Yankee captain.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Umpire Strikes Back

... But for what?

I am, I guess you could say, a critical person by nature. I see faults in most everything, so I have done a lot of complaining about the Twins this year despite the fact that I have generally been satisfied with their play. One thing I have not complained about all year is the way games have been officiated. I certainly haven't agreed with all calls that umpires have made all year, and no doubt Gardy has had good reason when he's been kicked out, but I have several years of experience umpiring little league so I know what it's like to be crouched behind the catcher. With all that said, I have to say that I was absolutely DISGUSTED with the performance of home plate umpire Gary Darling tonight. I was talking online with Nick & Nick counterpart Nick Mosvick while I watched the later part of the game tonight, and I commented that the umpiring was bothering me... Darling had expanded his strike zone exponentially over the course of the game. I'm not a guy who complains if an ump has a zone that is too large or too small, as long as it is consistent. Early in tonight's game, Darling was calling an extremely tight zone for both teams, leading to three walks in the first couple innings and high pitch counts for both pitchers. As the game got down to the last few innings, it just seemed like Darling wanted to go home.

Angels' relievers Scott Shields and Francisco Rodriguez were getting numerous strikes called that were way off the plate. In the top of the 9th, the Twins were down by one run. Justin Morneau (who just seems completely lost, something has got to be done here) was called out on a check swing that was very questionable. Granted, this was the third base umpire's call, and in fact I did think that he swung, although Bert and Dick were fully convinced that he held up. Regardless, he was in a 2-strike situation because of bad called strikes. I was complaining about Darling's performance BEFORE he made what was one of the worst calls I can remember seeing: the called third strike on Matt LeCroy. LeCroy represented the go-ahead run and had a 2-2 count, and K-Rod delivered a pitch that was CLEARLY below the knees and 6 inches off the plate, and somehow Darling punched him out. This arose the anger of Gardenhire, both base-coaches, and even the mild-mannered and jolly LeCroy. The terrible call killed any chances the Twins might have had to come back and tie the game, both figuratively and literally. Darling had set up a strike zone so gigantic that Shannon Stewart next came out and struck out flailing at three curveballs in the dirt because he basically felt that anything he didn't swing at with a foot of the plate was going to be called a strike.

Alas, I am unable to appreciate a very impressive first career start for Scott Baker, because I am so damn frustrated by the way this one ended. I can't be mad at the Twins for losing against an Angels team that I feel is really the best in the AL, but they lost their chance at this one thanks to getting completely screwed by some bad umpiring. After getting defeated by the promising young Santana of the Angels today (Ervin), the Twins will get to throw their own Santana out tomorrow in hopes of winning the series. And wouldn't you know it, it is yet ANOTHER untelevised Santana game! AND the White Sox came back and beat the D-Rays late in tonight's game, pushing the AL Central deficit back to 9.5 games! I'm going to go scream into a pillow for a while.

Hunter Update

It's about noon on Tuesday afternoon.'s poll currently has Torii Hunter tweaking out Derek Jeter for the 32nd spot on the AL All-Star roster, with Hunter receiving 30.4% of the votes and Jeter receiving 29.9%. Voting finalizes on Wednesday. It could still go either way, but I am absolutely stunned that Hunter is even in this race. Jeter is a wildly popular player and he plays for the friggin' Yankees. In any case, keep voting and hopefully we can get a third Twin in the game, although I doubt he would see a whole lot of play time.

Check back later tonight for a report on tonight's game, which will be rookie Scott Baker's first career start. It will be interesting to see how he fares against a loaded Angels offense.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Bats back?

A 7-5 victory over the AL West-leading Angels was definitely a move in the right direction. Carlos Silva did not pitch particularly well tonight, but there was plenty of punch to make up for it. The Twins managed those seven runs on 13 hits off of Angels starter John Lackey and the Angel bullpen. All and all, it was a very good win for the Twins over one of the better teams in the league and they have now won five straight.

* Jacque Jones had a good night after a few ugly games against left-handers. He went 2 for 3 with two walks, a home run, three runs scored, and two RBIs. Jones, who has been back and forth as of late and who hadn't hit a home run since June 10th, finally showed some of his more classic talents. The Twins really need guys like Jones, the team veterans, to get hot and to lead this team into serious contention.

* Torii Hunter went 3 for 5 with a RBI and two doubles. Of all the veterans, Hunter has likely been the more consistent as of late. Its important for him to continue his leadership role and to drive in runs consistently. Although it was a good night, Hunter still is clearly dominated by good breaking pitches and that holds him back a lot.

* Shannon Stewart, Justin Morneau, and Juan Castro each had two hits. Castro, who has been hitting light as of late, drove in three including a clutch two-run double early in the game. If all these guys get a confidence boost from this hopefully they can continue a run without having to rely completely on the the success of the pitching staff.

* Joe Nathan pitched a solid ninth inning, striking out two and picking up his AL-leading 24th save. Nathan has picked up a save in each of the last four victories and has lowered his ERA to 3.47. Keeing in mind that he did not have many opportunities lately and that his problems occured in non-save situations, Nathan seems more and more like a legitimate All-Star.

* Silva did not pitch too well, going only 6 and 1/3 innings while allowing four runs on eight hits, but he did strike out a season-high six hitters. The win was the seventh for Silva and he also did not walk any batters again. That means that Silva has walked only five batters in 103 and 1/3 innings this year. You can't fault Silva for playing hit game and throwing strikes.

It was in most ways a very solid victory. A few ugly plays, like Shannon Stewart in the 8th that caused a run, did not look so well, but the main thing is the Twins won again and did not fall back any more games to the White Sox. Tommorow should be interesting, as Scott Baker makes his first major-league start in place of Brad Radke, who has to miss a start due to neck pains.

NL Selections

As mentioned earlier, I'll be looking at the NL All-Star selections and the logic (or lack of) behind them. This year, more so then in the AL, has been very interesting in the NL. There has been plenty of stellar breakout seasons for guys like Derrek Lee and in a way, Carlos Lee (who has driven in a major league high 72), and has seen incredible pitching from possibly the best right-hander ever, Roger Clemens, and from Dontrelle Willis, Jake Peavy, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez. Lets look at the starting lineup to begin:

Catcher: Mike Piazza, New York Mets

This is Piazza's 12th All-Star selection and there is clearly good reason for it. Piazza is probably, along with Johnny Bench, the greatest offensive catcher ever. He remains a .313 career hitter despite a hideous .258 average, with only 9 HRs and 34 RBIs. But, beyond his slowdown in offense, is his complete loss in defensive ability. Piazza has never been a great defensive player, but pretty much ever base-stealer has been successful against Piazza. He's aging and he desperately is in need of a move to the AL, where he can DH and preserve his offensive talents for a high-caliber team. So, essentially, Piazza was choosen because of his history, and of course, the lack of good catchers in the NL. Paul Lo Duca is the only other legitimate choice, as he is hitting well over .300 this year, but he does not have the name of Piazza.

First Base: Derrek Lee, Chicago Cubs

Lee has had an incredible breakout season this year, and a lot like Roberts, many suspected that it would end quickly but it did not. Lee is hitting .383 with 25 HRs and 67 RBI with a .457 OBP and a .733 slugging percentage. He is leading the league in average, OBP, slugging, and OPS, while just behind in HRs and RBI. Lee is clearly the first half MVP of the NL, as his amazing play has helped keep an injury-plagued Cubs team afloat. His gaudy numbers were good enough to give him the starting spot over Albert Pujols, who is having a great season as well.

Second Base: Jeff Kent, Los Angeles Dodgers

This is Kent's 5th All-Star selection as he continues to be one of the best offensive second-basemen in baseball history. Kent is the leader in HRs for 2B and he has had a very good first half considering his age of 37. Kent is hitting .304 with 15 HRs and 59 RBIs, doing the same job as Lee as his offense has helped the Dodgers stay afloat. Its apparent as well that the Astros miss his presence. Kent is by far the best second-baseman in the NL and there is no second guessing this choice.

Shortstop: David Eckstein, St. Louis Cardinals

This is a surprise choice, as Eckstein has never been a huge force on defense or offense. He's more known as a good contact hitter who puts a lot of energy into his game and who is always a "pest" to his opponents. His stats; 2 HRs, 23 RBIs, .290 average; aren't much to look at, as suddenly the NL does not have so many productive shortstops. I believe this is another questionable choice as Cesar Izturis has to be the best shortstop in the NL. (He is a reserve, though) Izturis plays better defense and is the better hitter, as he has improved his game alot over the years.

Third Base: Scott Rolen, St. Louis Cardinals

Rolen is obviously the best third baseman in the NL, but he has been hurt most of the year and has not had anywhere near the numbers of last year. Rolen seems better as a reserve, just to be fair to the incredible year he had last year. He is hitting only .250 with 5 HRs and 21 RBIs (which is comparable to Cuddyer). The Cubs Aramis Ramirez is doing well and was selected as a reserve.

Outfield: Bobby Abreu, Phillies, Carlos Beltran, Houston, Jim Edmonds, St. Louis

Abreu certainly started the season strong, as he hit a home run in eight straight games. He has cooled down a bit though and is currently hitting .314 with 17 HRs and 52 RBIs. He clearly is deserving of a nomination but maybe as a reserve over a starter. Edmonds has been similar, hitting .283 with 15 HRs with 50 RBIs. Beltran, on the other hand, has been sub-par this year, hitting well below his usual stats. He is currently batting .262 with 9 HRs and 40 RBIs. Beltran is clearly not an All-Star this year. If anything, I'd prefer to see Ken Griffey, who has had a good year coming back from injuries, hitting. 283 with 15 HRs and 53 RBIs (numbers very close to Edmonds) in the game and in the home run contest now that he is healthy. But, its some of the reserves who should get to start.

Miguel Cabrera has been hot since the beginning of the year, hovering around the top of the league hitting .341 with 16 HRs and 59 RBIs. Andruw Jones and Carlos Lee, though not boasting high averages, have been tearing up the league, as Jones leads the bigs in HRs with 26 and Lee leads the big with RBIs.


The NL has quite the imposing staff, boasting the likes of Clemens, Martinez, and Peavy. Clemens got his 11th All-Star nomination as he is having one of his best years at the tender age of 42 (43 in August). Clemens has gone 7-3 with a 1.41 ERA with 108 Ks in 115 and a phenomenal .181 opponent batting average. Its a pleasure to watch Clemens continue to produce amazing stats and he clearly deserves this nomination. But so do Willis, Martinez, Peavy, and Chris Carpenter. After a mediocre "sophmore" year in the bigs, Willis has rebounded and astonished the league's hitters, with his 13-3 record, 1.89 ERA, and 92 Ks in 123 innings. Pedro looked as if he was going into the twilight of his career last year, as he posted a 3.90 ERA far from his 2.58 career ERA at time. This year, he has also responded with a great start, going 9-2 with a 2.74 ERA with 123 Ks in 115 innings and a impressive .177 opponent batting average. He's been as potent and powerful as Clemens and a key to any succes the Mets have had. Jake Peavy is the only All-Star from the surging Padres, as he has been the staff ace since his breakout year last year in which he lead the NL with a 2.22 ERA. Peavy has gone 7-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 119 Ks. However, most impressive has been Chris Carpenter, the Cardinal's emerging ace, who has been Halliday-esque in his stats, with a 12-4 record, a 2.60 ERA, and 121 Ks. The All-Star starting pitchers are rounded out by Atlanta's John Smoltz, who became a starter again this year and has sparkled with a 9-5 record and a 2.68 ERA, and Livan Hernandez, who leads the league in innings pitched and has been the ace of the Nationals' staff, going 12-2 with a 3.32 ERA for the surprise leaders of the NL East.

The bullpen has some new names as well. Nationals' closer Chad Cordero, who has converted 25 straight saves and leads the majors with 29 saves, has been amazing for his team. Brad Lidge has not had the season he had last year, in which he struck out a record 157 batters in 93 innings, and like Santana, is likely on the staff for the aura of 2004. However, 52 Ks in 33 innings is not bad at all and 18 saves is very good for a Astros team that has struggled all year. The others are the Cardinals' Jason Isringhausen, who has 22 saves in a good first half, and the Rockies Brian Fuentes, who has not been great but is the apparently the best choice for the hideous Rockies club.

The Reserves:

Most of the guys I have mentioned as replacements for starters made the team. Albert Pujols is not a questionable choice, as he has obviously been great all year, but Lee has simply been a little better. Pujols is the best right-handed hitter in the league and should be expected to be a perennial All-Star. Andruw Jones and Carlos Lee perhaps should have started, but they were rightly choosen by the players. Cesar Izturis, Aramis Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, and Paul Lo Duca also may have been the better choices for starters, but were also choosen by their fellow players. To round out the team, the players and managers choose Arizona outfielder Luis Gonzalez, Pittsburg outfielder Jason Bay, San Fransisco outfielder Moises Alou, Cincinnati shortstop Felipe Lopez, and Florida second baseman Luis Castillo. Bay, Lopez, Alou, and Gonzalez were all choosen by La Russa, and likely because their team needed representatives. Thats not to say they aren't neccessarly deserving. Bay has been good again, with a .311 average, 15 HRs, and 41 RBIs, as has Alou, with a .325 average, 12 HRs and 39 RBI, but guys like Carlos Delgado (15 HRs, 57 RBIs and of course, a good choice for DH) and Griffey seem to have more legitimate cases. Of course, there are always plenty of guys left of the roster more deserving. Its apparent that Beltran isn't an All-Star and neither is Eckstein, but players are not neccessarly voted in on their value but their popularity. It should be, nonetheless, a very good game, with Clemens and Martinez, two pitching legends, on the same staff against Halliday, Garland, Santana, and some of the other young guns of the AL.

Final Stars:

Here's are the possible final All-Stars to be voted on online:

* Trevor Hoffman, Padres, 23 SVs, 0-4, 3.68 ERA

* Billy Wagner, Phillies, 20 SVs, 1-1, 2.41 ERA

* Bretty Myers, Phillies, 6-4, 3.18 ERA, 110 Ks

* Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks, 8-5, 3.43 ERA, 88 Ks

* Roy Oswalt, Astros, 11-7 , 2.44 ERA, 88 Ks

Sportsnation voting shows that the majority of voters (34.1%) agree with me that Oswalt is the choice. Oswalt has been wonderful this year and is certainly deserving. I can see a good argument for Wagner, as he has his usual dominant numbers, but the Ks are down, he doesn't have a lot of saves, and the Phillies aren't winning. That hurts Myers in the argument too. He has been great but there is lots of good starting pitching this year and Myers doesn't have the record and he hasn't been as good as Oswalt. Same for Webb, who has done well for the Diamondbacks, but he has not been dominant or significantly better than Oswalt, or for that matter, Myers. My vote goes for Oswalt.

Glaring Omissions:

* Carlos Delgado - As much as Cabrera has been great this year, Delgado has been just as potent as the Marlins' clean-up hitter. The largest reason he is off the team is that Pujols and Lee already occupy first, but Delgado could just as well be used as a DH since the game is in Detroit.

* Pat Burrell - Another possibility at outfield and more deserving than Beltran or Edmonds, Burrell has hit .290 with 17 HRs and 62 RBI after a very fast start to begin the year. Burrell is a streaky hitter and the Phillies have not been great this year, so those are factors to take into consideration for leaving him off the roster.

* Morgan Ensberg - I have to agree with my associate Nick Nelson on this one. Ensberg is a huge omission on the roster and he isn't even in the final vote category. This is the guy who should be there instead of Scott Rolen. Ensberg has numbers similar to Aramis Ramirez, except Ensberg has pretty much been the offense for the Astros. He is hitting .288 with 22 HRs and 60 RBIs and a .591 slugging percentage, fantastic numbers for a infielder. The fact that he isn't in the debate is what is most confusing. Ensberg has rebounded big-time this year and he should join the plurality of new All-Stars on the rosters this year.

* Roy Oswalt - Oswalt has had a great year for Houston, going 11-7 with a 2.44 ERA and 88 Ks in 129 innings. The Clemens-Oswalt combo has the same potential as the Schilling-Johnson combo in Arizona a few years back. Perhaps, instead of adding another Cardinal to the team (there are six), LaRussa could have given the deserving Oswalt a spot. Of course, he is one of the players available for online voting for a last member, so he may still be on the squad.

* Matt Morris - Its a surprise that admist all of LaRussa's Cardinals choosen for the All-Star game that he didn't choose his starter but his closer. Morris' 10-1 record and 3.17 ERA have been, like Carpenter's pitching, probably more important to the Cardinals success than Isringhausen. Having two great starter pitchers have pushed the White Sox to the top of the Central the same way.

More on this tonight with analysis of the game against the Angels. Carlos Silva starts and if he can give his usual seven innings, the Twins should have a chance against the Angels, who have 2004 MVP Guerroro back ripping up AL pitching again.