Thursday, September 29, 2005

Romero's Done

I almost want to say finally or thank god. J.C. Romero is almost certainly done being a Twin and done hurting this team for the rest of the season, although its come far too late. Romero pitch 2/3 of an inning last night, but his usual lack of any control killed his outing, as he hit two Kansas City hitters. The result was, of course, his removal. But as Gardenhire came out of the dugout to get the ball, JC came out the mound himself and gave the ball to Gardy as he stormed away into the dugout, leaving Gardy with his usual glare for unliked players. Of course, the temper tantrum didn't stop there. The television coverage later caught Romero throwing his cap and glove against a wall in the dugout before exiting to the clubhouse. And further reports show the Romero had a shouting match with the usual calm bench coach Steve Little.

"That was wrong. We talked about it," Gardenhire said. "We'll get that straightened out. That's in-house stuff. We all know what happened. You saw it in the dugout. We'll get that taken care of expeditiously. It was unacceptable." That's true, but I'll tell you what this reminds of what is even more unacceptible: that this guy wasn't of this team quicker. He's a known clubhouse cancer who has walked 39 batters, nearly equivalent to his innings pitched, and has allowed 19 of 42 inherited runners to score. He had fluke season in 2002 with the 1.89 ERA and everything still thinks he can be great. Even the Red Sox did. We had a chance to get rid of this guy and Mays and Lohse for some decent veteran hitters and we squandered it. All because we are such "nice guys" in Minnesota. If anything, it exposes the glaring failure of Terry Ryan and his inability to do anything at the trade deadline. It killed the Twins season and now none of these guys have very much value at all. And it shows that, as Lohse and Romero have clearly been bad for the clubhouse, how much the Twins chemistry has lost out and just how much that affected the club. Remember when we had those overachieving Twins, who all came up together in the minors, who had a great time playing? That seems so long ago. Romero clearly isn't helping that picture.

"I guess the whole frustration from the whole year just came out. I'm human," Romero said. "I'm the product of my mistakes." Nope. Your the product of the Twins many mistakes, mainly in deciding to keep you around for far too many years. Hopefully you are still worth spare parts on the market, because I don't know about any other Twins fan, but as sure don't want to see number 33 on the field in a Twins uniform ever again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Cy Santana?

He's been almost as good this year as he was the year before. He's 5-1 with a 1.45 ERA in his last 10 starts, allowing only 46 hits in 74.1 innings with 68 Ks. He leads the league in basically every measurement of dominance. He's of course, our own Johan Santana, and luckly the Twins managed a victory for him against the Kansas City Royals to help him improve to 15-7 this year with a AL-leading 2.92 ERA and a major-league leading 229 Ks.

With help from Joe Mauer's two hits and RBI single and RBIs from Luis Rodriguez and Lew Ford, the Twins managed to actually beat the Major League's cellar team 3-1. Santana pitched a solid seven innings, giving up six hits and one run on a homer as he struck out six and walked two. He wasn't too dominating, but it was obviously enough against KC's pathetic lineup.

With that, and what should be another dominanting performance against the Tigers, Santana still should be the AL Cy Young. I'll continue to plead my case until the award is presented and hopefully not to undeserving pitchers like Bartolo Colon, Cliff Lee, and Mark Buerhle. Wins just don't coincide with dominance every time. Nolan Ryan was a great pitcher and he won only 324 games and probably should have won a Cy Young along the way. As Peter Gammons said, its like the Roger Clemens-Randy Johnson debate of last year, except Colon's other numbers are nothing near Clemensique. Lets just hope this one isn't decided the way that one was.

Fallen Below Predictions

At the beginning of this season, we had a little fun on the site predicting award winners, World Series winners, and of course, divisional winners. I wouldn't say that we were off on all things, but nevertheless, some of our predictions have fallen short big time.

I can't fault Nelson for believing the Twins would win 96 games this year as we see now that they may not be above .500 when all is said and done. It just look possible. We had some overachieving hitters who look like they had bright futures and of course, great pitching. Well, the pitching panned out for the most part and it looks like we will have a fairly imposing staff for next year. My prediction that Santana would win the Cy Young was fairly accurate (Yes, I realize there's a very good chance he will lose it to Colon, but being fair and honest about the stats and who was the best pitcher, the prediction was true. Santana is the AL Cy Young. No Qualms about it). However, believing that Morneau would hit 40 HRs with 100 RBI didn't come true at all. Morneau regressed and showed that perhaps 2004 was a fluke. 21 HRs and 73 RBIs is marginal at best from first base (and its worse that those are team-leading numbers), but a .238 average and a .305 OBP is just terrible. It was hard to see that coming.

But worse than Morneau, it was hard to see that this team would simply fall apart. Granted, Nelson's prediction that Chicago would loss 90 games isn't looking good in the limelight, but not many saw Chicago emerging into a contender. No, the Twins still could have played ball like Cleveland. Instead, we are the worse executing team in the majors. The young players we hoped could come up and put up decent numbers in support of a great pitching staff (think Houston Astros, whom I didn't think would do this good either) we would be fine. Punto, Cuddyer, Rivas, Ryan, Ford all failed to do what was necessary. Or did they?

The biggest failure of this year was unpredictable. And that was the exposure of Ron Gardenhire's coaching failures. The team's 42 sacrifices is symbolic of Gardy's disease: He presses for the little things way too much. He wants sacrifices all the time and by doing so, he pushes all his hitters away from any of their natural talents. (Mauer could be better but he's being held back. And this is not to say Ulger is doing a great job. Everyone knows he should be out of town) What it does is create a mentality in our hitters that they can not drive in runs, that they can not get extra-base hits. Instead, all they can do is try to "put the ball in play" and move the runner over. Those things are good to know, but if David Ortiz is evidence of anything, its that the Twins are being run into a ditch by a poor managing philosophy. And thats why of all things I'm reflecting on when it comes to this year in baseball, its Gardenhire. He needs to be gone more than Ulger, more than Lohse, more than Romero, and more than my favorite guy to pick on, Matthew LeCroy.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Just as Predictable

Wow, we really blew it against the White Sox. Here was our chance to play a few games that really matter, you know, to try and force the White Sox out of contention and what did we do? Well, we did what the Twins have done all season: nothing really. One pathetic run off of Mark Buerhle, a pitcher who does not dominated line-ups on a regulate basis and whom the Twins have killed in the past. Did LeCroy hit a home-run and make himself useful? Nope. In fact, the only player with more than one hit was Lew Ford, who went 2 for 3. It was the saddest excuse for a major league lineup I've seen this year: Jason Tyner, Juan Castro, Micheal Cuddyer (yea...he's a great #3 hitter), Matthew LeCroy, Lew Ford, Terry Tiffee (gulp), Jason Bartlett, Chris Heintz, and Luis Rivas. I don't see an established, decent hitter in that whole lineup and I guess one run really figures.

And the other reason the watch the game, Fransisco Liriano, was inconsistent the way he was against Oakland. Little control, lots of runs, but plenty of strikeouts. He now has 25 Ks in 16 innings this year after eight last night, but a ugly 7.02 ERA to go with it. Lets hope Rick Anderson can do what he's good at and show this guy how to throw strikes consistently so he's set for next year. Cause he is certainly nasty, but he needs to be consistent. But then again, you could say that for this team, couldn't you?

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Tonight Joe Mays started. He allowed 6 runs on 9 hits in two innings. Why is a Major League manager still handing him a baseball? This is absolutely ridiculous. I realize that the season is totally lost and it really doesn't matter whether or not we win, but what is the point of sending out a pitcher that is clearly worthless to embarrass your club, sending them to an 8-1 loss? Unbelievable. This team is an absolute joke. I'm ready for the season to end.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Usual Failure

Can you guess the results of tonight's "Could-have-been-worth-something" game? You guessed it! Kyle Lohse pitched well enough for a win, with six innings allowing three runs, but alas, the Twins offense did its usual worst to sour any chance of a win for this team. Six hits and one run are all they got off of Chicago's Jose Contreras.

At this point, there is no real reason to get into specifics. One lousy extra-base hit all game, and that's from the terrible underachiever Justin Morneau. Let's get our heads together for tommorow so we can at least spoil the White Sox's season and send them into their usual unhappy ending. Of course, that's hard when your starter is named Joe Mays....

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Ever since it became clear that the Twins were not going to be able to make the post-season this year, I stopped caring too much whether they win. As long as they stayed above .500, it didn't really bother me if they lost; I was more interested in seeing the young group that will be the core of next year's team take their lumps at the big-league level. However, there are certain instances in which I still very much want the team to win. Those are in games against the hated White Sox, so we can help keep them out of the playoffs as the surging Indians charge from behind them; and in games started by Johan Santana, because as I detailed in a post a few days ago, he still has a very legitimate shot at capturing his second straight Cy Young award if he can get wins in his last couple starts.

While the Twins helped to spoil the White Sox chances at making the post-season tonight with a 4-1 victory, their offense still managed to spoil the chances for a win for Santana, who was certainly deserving. Johan pitched 8 innings of one-run ball, allowing only a solo home run to Joe Crede, but the Twins could only produce a solo shot from Jacque Jones in that same span. In the top of the 9th, Lew Ford and Jason Bartlett drew consecutive walks to lead off the inning, putting two on with no outs as Joe Mauer stepped to the plate. In this situation, it should be a given that at least one run will score, which would give the Twins the lead for Joe Nathan and probably allow Santana to collect win #15. But not this offense, oh no. Mauer did his part, driving a hard hit to right field that was caught but allowed Ford to move up to third. This put a runner on third with one out (a situation which has made Twins fans cringe all year) for Matthew LeCroy. LeCroy continues to prove why he will never be a productive full-time player. He has occasional power, but he is a bad fielder, a slow base-runner, and above all he CAN NOT EXECUTE. In a situation where all he had to do was hit a hard grounder up the middle or a medium deep pop fly with the speedy Ford on third, LeCroy fell behind in the count and hit a weak pop-up to very shallow center field, leaving Ford no chance to even think about tagging up. This would allow Chicago to go to their lefty reliever Neal Cotts, who easily dispatched Jacque Jones (.197 against lefties this year) to end the inning. Thanks, LeCroy.

Regardless, the Twins would post 3 runs in the 11th, allowing Nathan to come in and slam the door for his 39th save. Santana lowered his ERA to 2.98, but remains stuck at 14 wins, which almost surely will not cut it.

The victory, along with a 10-6 Cleveland win in Kansas City, brings the Indians within a game and a half of the White Sox. Looks like another hilarious meltdown for the Wimp Sox.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Last Two Days: Pitching Falling Out

The last two days of Twins baseball are hardly worth giving too much look at. Radke was blasted in the first two innings last night, giving up a three-run blast to Nick Swisher and a homer following to Mark Ellis. After that, he may have settled down, but it was still an ugly start almost covered up by an impressive offensive comeback in the 9th inning. Lead by Justin Morneau and Micheal Cuddyer homers, the Twins score five runs in the ninth before Jacque Jones grounded out to end the game. Basically, it was a very easily won game under the usual Twins formula (good pitching and a few runs scraped together) as they actually managed six. But, unfortunately, when the hitting comes alive, the pitching dies it seems, as our staff gave up seven runs.

Today was a similar story. Fransisco Liriano, who has looked dominating and whom we have touted so much on this site, had a terrible start. He gave up six runs in 3 2/3 innings while walking three, although he struck out six to give him 17 in 10 2/3 innings. His problem, as evidenced tonight, has been his control. His fastball is hitting 97 and his slider looks great, he just needs to get his pitches over the plate. (Santana had similar problems when he first arrived at the majors and of course before he had his great change-up) I am not worried about his future the way I am Brad Radke's. (That shoulder could be really bad)

The offense wasn't as good as it was last night, as they managed three runs on the back of a two-run Jacque Jones homer. Nothing to write home about. As usual, mostly inept and the pitching failed. However, Travis Bowyer looked great in his two innings, as he struck out three and gave up no hits.

Well, lets hope they at least win the finale tommorow, because I don't wish to have to speak about a sub-.500 team again.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The 2005 Cy Young - A Two-Man Race

At times it has seemed like, despite the excellent year that Johan Santana has had, he has been pushed out of the AL Cy Young conversation thanks to the astonishing lack of run support from the Twins' paltry offense. However, unextraordinary performances from other starters in the league and phenomenal start last Saturday from Johan have put him right back atop the list. In fact, there is no other starting pitcher in the league that should be considered in the Cy Young talks. The only other contender, and one who should win it if Santana does not, is Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. A look at those two.

Johan Santana - MIN
14-7, 3.05 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 220 K, .214 OBA
I have heard some pretty creative arguments for why Santana should not win the award. For instance, in an article on Twins Territory, the typically argumentative David Wintheiser makes the contention that since Santana's first two months were not spectacular, he is undeserving of the reward. That, of course, is hogwash. Most all pitchers have bad starts benched together, I know that I would rather have my ace pitching his best in the second half of the season than in the first half. Furthermore, despite his lack of wins, Santana's peripheral numbers are FAR AND AWAY better than any other starter in the league. His .214 opponents' batting average, .99 WHIP and (Major League leading) 220 strikeouts are incredible, and his 3.05 ERA leads the AL. The 14 wins is a reflection of the fact that he plays for a bad team, and seeing as how the Cy Young is meant to reward the league's best pitcher, so punishing him for playing for a team with a miserable offense seems wrong.

Still, wins undeniably play a big role in the Cy Young voting, fair or not. Typically a guy has to win 20 games to gain consideration from the award, and Johan is far from that number. The last time an AL pitcher with fewer than 18 wins won the award was 1994, when David Cone did it for the Royals with a 2.94 ERA. Since then, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez have done with 18 wins, but both had absolutely incredible stats (Martinez had a 1.74 ERA). While Santana is certainly not on that level, the lack of credible competition puts him in the lead, at least among starters. If we're talking about the American League's best PITCHER, however, another name enters the conversation.

Mariano Rivera - NYY
6-4, 40/44 SV, 1.38 ERA, .85 WHIP, 74 K, .174 OBA
At age 35, the first-ballot Hall of Famer is having the best season of his career. His terrific .174 opponents' batting average is the best of any season in his career,and he's allowed only two home runs in 72 innings. Rivera is one of the best closers in Major League history, and it would be more than justifiable to reward this amazing season with a Cy Young, despite the fact that the award is traditionally reserved for starters. Interestingly, while Mariano is having his best year, it will likely be the first time in his career that he won't be in the playoffs, which is where he's at his best.

And now a quick glance through the other "contenders" for the award, and why they won't - or at least shouldn't - win the award.

Bartolo Colon - LAA
19-7, 3.46 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 145 K, .251 OBA
Because he's likely to win 20 games and his team might make the playoffs, Colon is a popular pick to win this award. However, looking past those superficial numbers, one can quickly dismiss Colon as a good but not great pitcher. Colon has hardly been dominant, striking out only 6.35 per 9 IP, and his ERA and WHIP are nice but not jaw-dropping. Colon will probably win 20 games, and that's nice, but his argument stops there. Santana has clearly been the better starter.

Mark Buehrle - CWS
15-8, 3.21 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 132 K, .269 OBA
Buehrle was racking up wins and had a sub-3 ERA for the first couple months of the season, but since then he has been rather mediocre, taking a tailspin along with his team. He has a 4.66 ERA and only one win in September, and that final month tends to leave a lasting impression on voters. Buehrle is worse than Colon in all major categories other than ERA, and even there he's well behind Johan. The same arguments remain true.

Jon Garland - CWS
17-9, 3.41 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 100 K, .256 OBA
Garland has a lot of wins, but won't reach 20. He had a nice start and has been solid all year, but hasn't been dominant by any means, striking out less than half the number Santana has. Much like his counterpart Buehrle, Garland hasn't pitched particularly well since the break and has contributed to the decline of play for the Sox.

Roy Halladay - TOR
12-4, 2.41 ERA, .96 WHIP, 108 K, .225 OBA
Halladay had a phenomenal four months but then got hurt and missed the rest of the season. If we were rewarding which pitcher had the best 4 months of the season, as Wintheiser suggests, Halladay would be the runaway winner. However, that won't happen. A guy who missed nearly half the season will not win this award, and that is a plain and simple fact. With that in mind, we won't go any further in discussing the merits of his case.

Cliff Lee - CLE
17-4, 3.75 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 136 K, .247 OBA
Lee has stepped up big for the Indians this year, rising up from being a fifth starter to providing consistent good starts and playing a big part in the Indians push to overtake the White Sox in the AL Central, shriking a seemingly untouchable deficit. That's nice and all, but his stats just aren't Cy Young material. Aside from the wins, nothing here stands out.

Notice that I did ignore a lot of the more hardcore SABR stats, but the ones listed above are the ones that Cy Young voters will be looking at most. So as long as their eyes move past that column they will see that Johan Santana is undeniably the best starting pitcher in the league. And if their eyes move past the SP category they will see that Mariano Rivera is the only other pitcher deserving. I would have no problem with Rivera winning the award, but if Colon wins it, it will be an absolute travesty and a serious mark against the legitimacy of this legendary award.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Same Old

Kyle Lohse pitched great today, but the Twins offense couldn't produce enough to get him a victory, and another 2-1 loss is the result. What else can I say that hasn't already been said here a million times?

Supposedly Torii Hunter has put his house on the market and suspects the Twins will be trading him in the off-season. I doubt that, but it wouldn't be a bad move. I love Torii, but $10.5 million is too much for a 6 or 7 hitter. If they could get a couple infielders out of the deal, I would be okay with it.

The Vikings humiliated themselves for the second week in a row, so it's hard to find a bright spot. At least Gophers football has looked good.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Pitching Masterpiece

Well, how unfortunate? Johan Santana comes out and pitches a wonderful game and Joe Nathan saves it in a dominating way and its not on TV. FSN have got major problems, as they have not shown several Santana gems this year. What did you miss by this major mistake? Eight masterful innings, with 13 Ks, no runs, four hits and two walks. Santana was as dominating as he has been this year and it was once again against the division rival Chicago White Sox. And Joe Nathan came to grab his 38th save, striking out the side. If that doesn't present our great pitching, I don't know what else does. And if it doesn't help show exactly why Johan Santana deserves a second Cy Young, we have bigger issues. (Colon was torn apart last start, as was Buerhle. Neither is dominating the way Santana is. If you want talk about the BEST pitcher in the AL, there is no doubt in any smart baseball mind that the answer is Johan. Wins be damned. Santana is the Cy Young)

Besides the outstanding pitching, the Twins did manage a nice five runs off of Orlando Hernandez and the White Sox staff. Justin Morneau passed his home run total of last year (in 438 at bats versus the impressive 280 at bats of last year) with his 20th homer of the year, a two-run shot off of Hernandez. Michael Cuddyer provided the other power, hitting his 10th homer off of White Sox rookie phenom Brandon McCarthy in the seventh. The other offense came with Jason Tyner, who went 3 for 5 with two RBIs in the leadoff spot, and Lew Ford and Terry Tiffee, who had two hits each.

Of course, the game doesn't mean much other than being a spoiler game as the White Sox have been atrocious as of late. With an unfortunate loss after a great start by Scott Baker last night, Kyle Lohse (who has the 6th worse run support in the AL at 3.83) starts after showing much better stuf his last game out. Hopefully the Twins take two out of three to at least keep their spoiler role at maximum level.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New Place for Blame: Mother Nature

Rain ruined what started to be a great start for the outstanding phenom Fransisco Liriano. Here's the pre-storm stats: 2 IP 0 hits 4 Ks. In fact, Liriano struck out four straight Tigers before the short rain delay. Follow the rain delay, here's the post-storm stats: 3 IP 2 hits 1 HR 1 BB 2 Ks. I blame him sitting on the bench. For a brief time, he looked on fire. And he was. Since Liriano gave up a homer to his first major league hitter, he went (pre-storm) four innings with no hits and an outstanding 9 strikeouts. Total now, he has given up only three hits in seven innings with 11 Ks. So far so good. Like Baker, he looked strong in his first start, not crumbling under pressure and looking very dominate against major league hitters. A good sign of great things to come for this 21-year old flamethrower. The next best thing will be a trade of Kyle Lohse and JC Romero (its been coming) to open up things for this young man, and Baker and Bowyer as well.

Now, past the argument of the rain as the main enemy in this loss, there is Juan Rincon and the usually inept Twins offense. Joe Mays did an ok job, giving up four hits in two innings of relief, keeping the game from getting any worse. After, the Twins finally managed a run in the eigth off of Michael Cuddyer RBI single. The other run came earlier in the game against former Twins farmhand Sean Douglass (who has a terrible ERA and can't get anyone but you guessed it, Twins hitters) was a Luis Rodriguez RBI single following a Justin Morneau double.

But, even when we tied it, the usual came true. Our pitching couldn't hold up. Juan Rincon loaded the bases in the bottom of the eigth and gave up a two-run single to Craig Monroe. And, of course, they couldn't score anymore runs against the god-awful Tigers pitching staff. Nope, sorry guys, you scored all your remaining runs in last night's game. Rodriguez was the only hitter with two hits and only Joe Mauer managed a decent day, going 1 for 2 with a walk and a run scored.

Tommorow's a day off and it feels like more time to discuss 2006 because we just failed to sweep the Tigers with all the cards on our side.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Solid Win

It was an interesting, if meaningless, win for the Twins tonight as they downed the Detroit Tigers 9-3 to win the series and allow for a possible sweep. Luis Rivas had an oddly productive game, collecting three hits including a three run home run and a double. Mike Redmond went 2/2 and is now hitting .311, meaning the two Twins catchers have been pretty much the best hitters on the team this year, which is just said. Mashin' Matthew ripped another homer, his 15th, and Jason Bartlett hit his third dinger.

Brad Radke pitched fairly well, picking up his 9th win while allowing three runs over 7 innings - and only needing 73 pitches. He gave way to Jesse Crain, who pitched a scoreless 8th, and Travis Bowyer, who did the same in the 9th while striking out two and reaching 98 MPH on the radar gun. Bowyer has looked very good, and with him and Grant Balfour joining Crain, Joe Nathan, and Juan Rincon in the bullpen next year, the Twins are going to be very deep. Deep enough to trade on of those guys for hitting help, I'd say.

Tomorrow, the Twins will get another important look at a big part of their future, as Francisco Liriano will get his first Major League start against the Tigers' Sean Douglass. It should be interesting to see how the kid fares.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hello Again Kyle

I guess Lohse is back in the rotation for the rest of the year. Carlos Silva will likely be taken out for the rest of year with knee surgery, so Fransisco Liriano likely will start in his place. So, although Lohse's start was good tonight, I doubt he'll be around past this September unless something derails Liriano or Baker.

Seven innings of solid work, giving up six hits and two walks with three Ks isn't bad at all. In fact, its what we've expected out of Lohse and have only gotten so often. He's had times of greatness, but he is never consistent. Other than that, Nathan had a good inning, with two Ks and his 37th save. Nathan should end up with around 45 like last year with an ERA of about 2.50. I dont see him giving too many more runs this year, but its too bad that wont make a difference.

As to hitting, the two runs came on (surprise) a Chris Heintz RBI double and the bat of Joe Mauer, who had a great four-hit night with an RBI single. It would be great, and give fans a reason to pay attention, if Mauer could go on a tear to finish the season with a .310 average or so.

Its nice to see a win, obviously, but its too late and its also against the hapless Tigers, who despite a growing payroll and stars on the roster are still below .500. I just want to see the most out of the future stars as we look foward to 2006.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Blasted Again

It's become pretty evident that the Twins' starting pitchers have simply given up. After Kyle Lohse and Brad Radke got shelled and had to come out early last week, leading to broken doors and reports of "suicidal" feelings, Carlos Silva came out tonight and lasted only one inning, allowing the Indians' first four batters to hit for the cycle in a four run inning. Joe Mays came in in the second but provided little relief as the carved him up for 6 more runs.

Triple A call-up Travis Bowyer pitched a couple innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out one. That was really the only point of interest in this embarrassing 12-4 blowout.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Santana's Loss

That statement may be bold or misleading, cause as usual, they Twins offense didn't do too much tonight to help win, but two runs should be enough with Johan Santana on the mound. But tonight he didn't look like the dominating, Cy Young contender he has been lately. His line: 5 IP 8 hits 4 ER 2 BB 2 Ks. Thats not Santana at all. Too many walks, hits, and of course, runs. He didn't dominate hitters or control the strike zone at all. It was a very dissapointing start and it likely will cost him the Cy Young as the seven losses won't look to well against the competition.

There isn't much to say about the offense. Mauer managed to hit a hit on a 1 for 3 night, as he sits at .296. It would be nice to see him finish about .300. That would be a bright spot on the year. Morneau continues to slack wherever his is, as he now is batting a miserable .236. Our only offense came off of Jacque Jones and Matthew LeCroy, who both had two hits, and a RBI Juan Castro single.

Otherwise, the Twins lost and are now back 6 1/2 games in the wild card chase. One more lost should make basically official. Its Baker's start, so anything could happen. On a kinda-positive-but-not note, Lohse and Gardy "cleared the air" today in a meeting. Thats too bad really, cause I really want Liriano to get a start and yea, I want Lohse out of town too. At least Mays and Radke can take the heat like respectable guys.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bye-Bye Kyle

If Francisco Liriano is looking for an opportunity to start, this would seem to be it. Ron Gardenhire said the rookie southpaw would not make a start unless the Twins were out of the race, and after losing their latest home series against the Rangers, they are out of it for all intensive purposes. Furthermore, it seems a spot in the rotation may have become available after Kyle Lohse's temper tantrum following a performance on Tuesday in which he allowed 5 runs in the first two innings and was subsequently pulled from the game. Lohse apparently went on a tirade after the game that left a few doors in clubhouse damaged, including that of Gardy.

Explaining his frustration after the game, Lohse said, "I would have liked to have somebody stand behind me and say, 'We've got your back, go out there and shut them down from here on.' That didn't happen today, so whatever." Gee Kyle, it's hard to feel too sympathetic to you considering you allowed two home runs including a grand slam in the first two innings of the game. What reason could anyone possibly have to feel like you're going to go out and "shut them down" for the rest of the game?

Gardenhire defended himself by labeling Lohse's argument as absurd, stating that he has quite clearly had his back for the past three years. This is completely true. Kyle has done nothing to deserve a regular spot in the Twins' starting rotation over the past three years, posting ever-increasing ERAs of 4.23, 4.61, and 5.34. Last season, the case could be made that he was the worst starting pitcher in the Major Leagues to hold down a spot for the entire season. But Gardy stuck with him, and now Lohse has the nerve to come out and bitch about being pulled after giving up a grand slam? It's not like he could argue with the results... the Twins' bullpen pitched well and the team actually almost came back to win if not for a Joe Nathan ninth-inning meltdown. With all that said, it's hard to imagine just what Kyle is whining about. If he's trying to make the case that his self-esteem is damaged, I don't think he'll get much support; thanks to his greedy agent Scott Boras, Lohse is making $2.4 million this year to put up some very mediocre numbers.

Pin down Monday, September 12, at Detroit on your calendar. It is the date of Lohse's next scheduled start, but I'd be very surprised if he actually makes it. The Twins are officially labeling him as questionable due to a sore finger, but I'm thinking it might have more to do with a sore relationship between player and manager. I think there is very much doubt that Kyle Lohse will be pitching for the Minnesota Twins next year, and I for one am not all that disappointed by that.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Radke Rocked, but Twins Come Back This Time

Well, Joe Nathan wasn't exactly great this time around either, but he did get his 35th save and he didn't give up any runs. Just two hits, one a double. So he was close to blowing another game. Thats three close calls and one screw up in four appearences. Not good. But alas, the Twins did actually manage to avoid a sweep at home by the Rangers. A win is good and so is some offense. But lets remember two things: One, its the Ranger's pitching, so we should be scoring a lot and two, the season is essentially over after losing two on the count of poor pitching on the Twins part even when the offense came alive. They are too far behind now to ever make it, so it may be time to insert Liriano into the rotation and REALLY look to 2006. The best the Twins can get is having the bats come alive a little to get in position for a more steady 2006 and to get their new pitchers (Liriano, Baker, Bowyer) as much experience as possible.

But back to the game. This time around, Radke got rocked and was out after two innings of work. Like Lohse, he gave up five runs early and cause the Twins to fall behind early. Amazingly, it was the long relief of Joe Mays (3 and 2/3 scoreless innings) that likely helped the Twins stay in position to come back. Rangers starter Chris Young, who has pitched very well against the Twins, was out after an inning with arm fatigue, so the Twins had all day to mash on the Texas bullpen.

All the Twins runs came off of aging Texas journeyman Doug Brocail, with eight runs, two unearned on a Brocail error and a Michael Young error. Offensive stars for the night included Mike Redmond, recently recalled infielder Luis Rodriguez, Juan Castro, and Jacque Jones. Jones and Castro both went 2 for 4 on the night, setting up run scoring situations for Redmond and Rodriguez, who both drove in two. Redmond has been doing great lately and is now hitting .303, a very good sign. Maybe the Twins should have had Redmond play a little third, but a little late for that argument, eh?

Another three game series starts with Cleveland on Friday, with Cy Young contender Johan Santana starting. I'd like to think this is a last-ditch effort for the Twins, but I think they ruined any chance this week. What they need to do now is score runs for Johan, who is leading the AL in pratically all AL pitching categories except wins. Come on guys, don't ruin it for him. Save us something to watch this September.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Lohse, Nathan Rocked in Another Loss

When it's not the hitting, it's the pitching. Tonight Kyle Lohse went out and had a miserable outing, lasting only 2 innings while allowing a solo homer and a grand slam, but the Twins' offense showed uncharacteristic resilience, fighting back against a pitcher who has dominated them in Kenny Rogers. Juan Castro had big hits in his first couple at bats, ripping a double to left and eventually scoring in the first and then hitting a 2-run homer to tie the game at 5 in the second. The Twins continued to score runs, and entered the 9th inning with a 7-6 lead for Joe Nathan. However, Nathan was hit for the third time in as many outings, and tonight was the worst as he was absolutely pulverized. Joe gave up the lead on a Michael Young RBI single, and then in the next at-bat gave up a mammoth 3-run homer to Mark Teixeira to lose it. Nathan's recent troubles have put a supreme blemish on a second-half performance that had been near spotless, and his ERA has shot back up over 3.

In all, the game was just another sad chapter in what has become a terribly disappointing 2005 campaign for the Twins. With playoff hopes eradicated and the lack of run support preventing Johan Santana from having much of a shot at capturing the Cy Young award, there is little reason to watch this team anymore this season. It doesn't help that we really don't have any call-ups of interest on the offensive side of the ball and Francisco Liriano is being used in a meaningless long relief role that really won't give us much of a picture of what kind of success he is going to have in the Bigs.

Silva Speaks Out

First Brad Radke was "suicidal" about his run support, and although that was out there, I understand his frustration. But the most agreeable comments on the Twins offensive wooes came from Carlos Silva, speaking to the Star Tribune this morning. Silva nearly pointed fingers, but he certainly singled out the position players and their lack of effort. "The only thing I know, man, is that every time I go out there, I give 100 percent because I like to win and I hate to lose. It looks like a lot of guys in here don't want to play the game the right way," said Silva. "For me, I hate to see losses like that, and it is not easy for us... every time we go out there, we try to do the best we can do. ..."

But hit hardest with this comment: "I'm not going to mention any names, but I know this team, and I know we can play better than this.If you throw nine innings with one run and lose 1-0, you lost. That's nice to say, 'I pitched nine innings and only gave up one run,' but what happens the other times? If someone thinks that way, and I know a lot of guys think that way -- just worried about pitching and worry about yourself -- it is not going to work."

I couldn't agree more. I'd like to be the first to praise Carlos for his words. I know he'll get bashed for it, by Gardenhire, Anderson, and commentators, cause he needs to not call out his manager and such. But to me, its just like the Ford situation a while back. And Ford was right then. These guys aren't playing fundamental baseball the way the Twins are supposed to. And excuses aren't working. You can't just go out and pitch and expect to win. Santana had a great game this weekend, striking out 10 Indians, but one mistake, one homer, and no win. The lack of fundamentals, execution, professional hitting, patience, and good defense is killing this team, their chances to do anything this postseason, and yes, Santana's second Cy Young Award that he clearly has earned these past two months.

Not every team has an honest player who puts it right, but Silva choose well. Jim Souhan wrote a good article in Sunday's paper that I feel summarizes the situation: The pitching is there. We have plenty of it and its some of the best in the majors. But it doesn't matter. Because our hitters have no patience. The presence of one or two (that would be better) professional batters would change everything for this offense. One or two more runs a game and all the sudden we have 95 wins and a great team. It doesn't have to be Soriano. Souhan mentioned free-agent-to-be Bill Mueller. His name came up in possible trades and he may work. Good light hitter with a good on-base percentage. And that would mean we could move Cuddyer to his natural position of second. Two birds down. There's the possibility of a Brian Giles as well, who could protect Mauer and Morneau and take pressure off of them. We have the money and we need to spend it right. I know I shouldn't concede yet, but we gotta start thinking 2006.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Offensive Ineptitude again

Kameron Loe...gulp....does it again except for this time, with no late-inning Twin rallies. Loe threw eight shutout innings against the Twins today, giving up five hits and making the Twins look pathetic again against a staff with a 5.01 ERA. A few hits from Morneau, who is having a decent last month, and that was about it.

Other than the usual complete lack of offense, the defense blew the game open as well. A terrible attempted catch by Jacque Jones in the fourth brought a run in (after he embarrassed himself on a slightly more difficult play earlier in the inning) and a Nick Punto error helped Texas break the game open with a four-run seventh.

Starter Carlos Silva didn't help, giving up several doubles, but he only ended up getting charged with one earned run, keeping his ERA at a low 3.27. He did, however, walk a batter, which may hinder his pursuit of Cy Young's record for walks/nine innings. His is at .48 now while the record is .62, so he still is looking good to pass the record, which would be an amazing feat.

On a brighter note, Fransisco Liriano finally debuted and it was a biplar debut. On one hand, his first batter, Gary Matthews Jr, crush a fastball for a home run, but Liriano proceeded to strike out the next two batters on nasty sliders and got his fastball up to 97 mph. The homer was a little unnerving, but his strikeouts certainly showed the possibility of dominance in the near future. Tommorow, we face Kenny Rogers, which means we will probably lose the series and watch the playoff hopes fade farther away. If Mays was only pulled from the rotation sooner....

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Twins Win Series

Scott Baker pitched another good game today, adding to an impressive Major League resume. Baker allowed just one run through 5 innings (a Travis Hafner solo homer) before getting hit around a bit in the 6th and being taken out. His final line for the day still was quite impressive: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 K, 1 BB. The Twins did garner enough offense to get the victory 7-5, with Lew Ford going 3/4 and Mike Redmond (who's now hitting .300, he's been a nice addition) knocking in 3 runs.

It was a nice little victory for the Twins, but they themselves admitted at the beginning of this series that in order to keep any realistic hope of catching the Wild Card they needed a series sweep, which they were unable to accomplish thanks to a putrid effort on Friday night.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Santana loses, but the Twins Win

I, of course, say that because Santana pitched another wonderful game. With tonight's two-hit, 10 K performance, he brought his ERA down to 3.07 and his major-league leading strikeout total to 205. Seems awfully reminiscent of last year, doesn't it? Except, of course, the wins. He should have a few besides this game and at least 17 or 18 by now (just as Radke and Silva should) but he remains at 13-6. Like Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens in the NL, he has been very dominant and amazing, but his team often lets him down. They did again tonight.

Santana didn't walk a man in his amazing game, but he made one mistake, giving up a solo homer to Cleveland's big bat, Travis Hafner. To the surprise of everyone, Santana had a lead when he left the game. The Twins managed two runs off of Cleveland starter Kevin Millwood (which is really good in terms of recent "hitting") and look poised for a win. When Joe Nathan came in to close the game, it looked like a sure thing. But Nathan finally gave up a run, breaking his scoreless streak he has had since the All-Star break. A Casey Blake double, Grady Sizemore sacrifice, and Coco Crisp sac fly created the run, sending the game into extras and taking a win from Johan

But Nathan got the win as the Indians made not one, but two errors in the bottom of the ninth. Juan Castro lead off with a bunt single and advanced to second on a Aaron Boone throwing error. Then Nick Punto bunted down the third base line and Castro scored as the pitcher Bob Howry threw the ball down the first base line, allowing the Twins to win.

It was the usual route to a win or a potential loss. The offense was there for hits, but as usual, didn't fair well in scoring situations. 12 hits, two earned runs. Its an improvement over 13 hits, no runs, but thats about it. Joe Mauer had two hits, bringing his average to a very good .305, while Castro and Punto had three hits a piece and Lew Ford had two. It was, for all purposes, enough for the win. Now all we need is another Carlos Silva start for the books.

* On a side note, it appears last night's game was so bad, Nelson didn't want to comment on it. I think thats fair. It was just beyond words once again. Lets hope tonight was a better indicator of things to come, although it wasnt the best either.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Cy... Silva?

The American League Cy Young race is without definitive studs. While the National League is sporting some of the top pitchers in the game (which, in fairness, may relate to the lack of a DH) in Dontrelle Willis, Roger Clemens, and Chris Carpenter, among others, the AL has a lot of great but flawed pitchers. Mark Buehrle has been good, but inconsistent in the second half. Jon Garland has a lot of wins, but unspectacular peripherals; the same goes for Bartolo Colon. Roy Halladay had phenomenal numbers through the first few months of the season, but he's out for the year. Johan Santana sports some impressive numbers, but might not get enough wins to gain significant consideration due to his paltry run support and a good but not great first half. The question I will pose is this: if the Twins' offense were actually competent, would Carlos Silva be in this discussion as well?

Silva is 9-6 with a 3.34 ERA this year. He has started 25 games this year. In those games, he has thrown NINE in which he has allowed 2 or fewer earned runs and received either a no decision or a loss. A decent offense should be winning almost every time their starter gives them a performance like that. If the Twins had given him decent run support and allowed him to win 7 of those starts (which I think is quite reasonable), he would have 16 wins and probably fewer than 6 losses. That would tie him with Garland at second in the AL in wins, one behind Colon.

Now, granted, a few of Silva's peripheral numbers aren't necessarily eye-popping. Opponent's are hitting .288 against him. Also, he has only 68 strikeouts on the year (Garland has only 86, so he's not as far behind everyone as one might think).

Still, he has the best control of any pitcher in the Majors, as he's walked just 8 men in 180 innings, and he's on his way to setting a record for the best BB/9 rate in baseball history. He's been a workhorse, as he should easily reach 200 innings pitched for the second straight year despite missing a couple starts in April.

With the way he's pitched this year, Silva should be on a 20-win pace. Unfortunately, it's September and still has yet to reach double-digits in wins. With a 3.34 ERA and 16 games in which he has gone at least 6 innings and allowed 3 or fewer runs (quality starts), that is just ridiculous. It is unfortunate that Silva's fantastic season will fly under the national radar because the Twins' offense is just so damn bad.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Is it Time to Give Up?

I think we've discussed the essential concending of the season by the Twins many times this year, but never was it so apparent as it was yesterday that the season is likely over. It doesn't matter who we play, how great our pitching is, we can lose to a team as bad as the Kansas City Royals 1-0. And get 13 hits. And have 16 baserunners. And nearly break a baseball record, which happens to be 14 hits in a shutout loss. (That hasnt happened since 1928) As the Royals Terrence Long put it, "That's something we do." Yeah, it is. The Royals are known for inept offense and bad pitching. That's why they are in last place and lost 19 straight games this year.

But the Twins have had an amazing run of pitching. Behind the Athletics, their 2.40 ERA for the month of August is sparkling. But the 16-14 record that accompanies it isn't. The last two teams we have played were they Rangers and the Royals, two teams with some of the worst pitchers in the majors. We were shut out twice in that time and when we scored, it was against a guy like Jose Lima, who may be the worse pitcher in the bigs. We can't score against the worse staffs, so how can we face the Indians this weekend (who have some very good pitchers in Cliff Lee, Sabathia, and their bullpen) and expect to win? When you have thirteen hits and opportunities at every corner to score and NEVER come through, there isn't a big problem. Its catastrophic. Guys like Nick Punto either need to be sent down, let go, or need to be developed more. But that doesn't seem to happen with the Twins. The problem is no one learns from their mistakes.

Justin Morneau still chases bad pitches and allows pitchers to run all over him. (He had a good week, yes, but that's not convincing to me) Brad Radke still has first-inning wooes. Terry Mulholland is still a Twin and is still used in big situation. (Why, oh why, was he in last night to hold the lead??) Nick Punto still lacks all the fundamentals beyond bunting. Terry Tiffee still can't play defense. So it comes down to either the talent really was never there (that may be possible with some of these guys) or the coaching staff has failed. I think the latter may be more to blame. At this blog, we haven't been too hard on Gardenhire, but maybe we should be. I can let Radke's wooes go because it seems that Anderson does a good job. He knows the guys from his days in the minors and the staff has a 3.58 ERA. He must be doing something right. But Gardenhire constantly makes bad decisions and puts the wrong guys in the doghouse while letting the real problematic players just keep on players.

Guys like Punto, Mulholland, Cuddyer, and LeCroy seem to get his blessing, while Ford (not great at plate, but he tries) or Guerrier seemed to be thrown in the doghouse with the first problem. Remember when Ford failed to bunt LeCroy over to third and he protested to Gardenhire? He was right the whole time, but Gardy can't see his mistakes. When Guerrier gave up a hit and Tiffee made a huge error, he took out a guy who seems to have good stuff, but is seldom used in exchange for a guy who has no stuff and is always used in the wrong situation. I don't completely hate Gardenhire, but I think he needs to go. And Ulger needs to pack his bags with him. Clearly the attitude that they inspire isn't working. We need to develop guys and we need to start now.

Beyond that, the season is clearly over. Even if Ryan and Gardy smarten up enough to bring up Liriano and Bowyer, its probably too late. We already gave away games by letting Mays continue to start and we haven't spark anything with the offense. There are no great hitters waiting in the wings, so we need to change gears as a club. Its sad that we won't make the playoffs and we probably won't be in contention anytime soon with the way things look. Without any "midlevel" free agents who can contribute, without any budding offensive superstars, we are left to try and salvage things from within. And we won't do it with Gardy around.