Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Obviously I haven't been here too much lately as its the offseason, I've been busy, and there's not a whole lot of Twins talk to go on. But anyway, hopefully you had a grewat 2006, and you'll have an even better 2007!

See you in a couple months (it's almost baseball season)!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Congratulations Justin Morneau!

Honestly, I didn't really think he deserved to actually win the award... I didn't have in my top 5 for AL MVP, but I'm certainly not going to complain.

He may not have been the most deserving candidate, but he had an unbelievable season, especially power-wise, that the Twins have not seen in many moons. It's very safe to say that without him we wouldn't have even sniffed the playoffs. So congratulations Justin Morneau, and if you can repeat the numbers even without winning the hardware next year, well, you'll get no complaints from me.

Congratulations Justin Morneau!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Francisco Liriano to have Tommy John Surgery

By now you've probably heard that Francisco Liriano will have Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2007 season.

This sucks a lot, but I, and most Twins fans have been bracing for this ever since Liriano left the game against Oakland. They tried to just give Liriano rest, and hope that would solve the problems. However, after he experienced more troubles earlier this offseason, and then got another look, they figured Tommy John surgery was the best option.

So it is. If Liriano comes back strong and healthy in 2008, and is able to put the elbow problems behind him, well, this will be well worth the wait.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Torii Hunter wins a Gold Glove

I love the guy, but this is kind of a head-scratcher. He was hurt for part of the year, and when he came back his skills were greatly reduced defensively while he was still nursing the injury. But then again, this is the same award that Rafael Palmeiro won after playing something like 25 games at 1B. But, well, I'm not going to complain. But let's say SBG has this thing covered well.

Anyway, as you've noticed if you've checked this blog for updates, my offseason posting is extremely sporadic. My apologies, with school and my other blog, I don't have the time to update this frequently and find topics to write about in the offseason. So it'll be sporadic offseason posts for me all the way until the start of the 2007 season, where I should pick things back up.

But if you do need Twins talk in the offseason, I recommend these blogs, who seem to be frequently updating still:

Aaron Gleeman
Nick & Nick
Seth Speaks
The Bleacher Bums
Twinkie Town
Viva Rivas!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

2006 Final Count for "The Sabean Special"

If you're not familiar with "The Sabean Special," you can click on this link. Basically, anytime Francisco Liriano or Boof Bonser started a game and got the win, combined with Joe Nathan recording the last outs of a game... that was a Sabean Special (created in the spirit of this blog). Anyway, here's the final tally and games where it occurred:

Francisco Liriano:
April 25 - Twins beat Royals 2-1
May 19 - Twins beat Brewers 7-1
May 26 - Twins beat Mariners 3-1
May 31 - Twins beat Angels 7-1
June 11 - Twins beat Orioles 4-0
June 16 - Twins beat Pirates 4-2
June 22 - Twins beat Astros 4-2
July 23 - Twins beat Indians 3-1

Liriano Count: 8

Boof Bonser:
June 24 - Twins beat Cuubs 4-0
September 4 - Twins beat Devil Rays 4-0
September 9 - Twins beat Tigers 2-1
September 25 - Twins beat Royals 8-1

Bonser Count: 4

Total "Sabean Special" Count: 12

And hopefully there will be many more to count next season and beyond!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Trade Luis Castillo

If I was Terry Ryan, this is something I would look into. Trading Luis Castillo.

Don't get me wrong, Castillo did everything the Twins asked him to do this year coming over in the trade from Florida. Castillo was solid at the top of the order, getting on base, taking pitches, and playing decent defense at 2B. But at $5.75 million, he's become too expensive.

Consider, he's getting older, and his knees have been a problem for him, especially playing on turf half of his games. His game has always been predicated on speed, and he simply doesn't have as much of that as he used to, thanks to age and the chronic knee problems. There's also the matter of his defense. At one time he was a Gold Glover. That time has passed. He's not bad out there, but he simply doesn't have the range that he used to have.

And the reason we can trade him is that the Twins have other options. Mainly, two of them:

1) Alexi Casilla. The Twins got him in the JC Romero deal, and he's been superb. He looks like a younger Luis Castillo... not a lot of power, but a good eye, hits for a good average, plays good defense at 2B, and has great speed. However, he may not quite be ready to start in the Bigs, which is ok becuase we have...
2) Nick Punto. He was very good defensively at 3B, but his offensive production there is supbar. He played 2B when he was younger, and that might let him take more advantage of his very solid range.

Plus, we could use money freed up from getting rid of Luis Castillo's contract, Brad Radke's ending contract, etc. to go after a real 3B, of which there are some out there. This is basically a pipe dream, but I would pretty much be able to die happy if the Twins somehow got A-Rod, as Seth talked about a few days ago.

But anyway, there's no time like the present... Castillo's value probably won't ever be higher than it is now for the rest of his career. I hope this isn't all just a pipe dream.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

is it really over?

6 months of Twins baseball. A 25-33 start, falling as many as 12.5 games back of the division lead, only to comeback and dramatically take the lead on the final day of the season. A batting champ, the probably Cy Young, and MVP candidates.

All erased in 3 games over the span of 3 games.

Did that really just happen? Can it really be over so quickly? What the heck happened?

I could talk at length about why the Twins lost this series, but I'll stick to this quick analysis, and stop with the negatives. Heck, there wasn't a whole lot of positives for the series. I don't understand how a team that won 96 games could look so bad. But I digress.

I'll just focus on what a fun and exciting season this was for the Twins. The aforementioned 96 wins and AL Central title. But that's just a small part of what made this the most fun season following the Twins of my life. What did I love about these Twins? Well, since you asked:

- Joe Mauer. What else needs to be said? The first catcher to lead the MLB in batting while playing Gold Glove caliber defense behind the plate. At age 23. It was a pleasure to watch Joe play baseball day in and day out.

- Another fantastic season for Johan Cytana. He got the pitching triple crown which all but locks up his 2nd Cy Young award. This should be his 3rd straight Cy Young, but voters are stupid.

- The electricity of Francisco Liriano. When he was on the mound, there was no one better in the MLB this year. Great fastball, great changeup, and an absolutely devastating slider. If he was healthy, things might have been a lot different. Come back healthy Francisco.

- Justin Morneau becoming the star everyone thought he'd be. Everyone knew the power was always there, but he became a very complete hitter, hitting to all fields. One of the most fun guys to watch hit the ball.

- The effort of Torii Hunter. Sure, he can make mistakes (see: Game 2). And he's lost a step defensively. And he can take some bad swings at the plate. But he gives it all whenever he's out there, and there's not much better about baseball than watching him play baseball. Friday may have been his last game in a Twins uniform... if that's the case, thanks for the memories Torii.

- Brad Radke. You can't say enough about this guy. Pitching with a torn labrum is bad enough, but he was also gutting it out with a stress fracture in his throwing shoulder. He couldn't do anything without pain, yet he was pitching great start after start, and truly left everything he had. Thank you Brad Radke, for a great season and a great career.

- Covering everything on Thank You Brian Sabean. I wrote about the Minnesota Twins almost every day for the last 4 months... which made me appreciate the good times more. I don't know if I'll be back next year with TYBS, but hopefully time permits it, because it was really a great experience.

So while the last 3 games were not exactly the storybook ending everyone was hoping for, it was an unbelievable and unforgettable season, and one I won't soon forget. From the division title to winning 96 games to getting back to the playoffs, it was just about everything I could ask for. And with a young team, we might be back here again next year.

Thanks for reading, thanks for letting me ramble, and see you in a few days. While it was a great year that I'll look back fondly on, it's still a tough pill to swallow being swept. So I'll mope for a few days, and start looking forward to next year, where I can only hope for half the excitement this year brought.

3 Reasons We Lost This Series

Obviously things can be broken down deeper, but in my mind, there were three key reasons that not only did we lose, but we got swept. I hate to harp on negatives at the end of the year, but I'll just do it quickly.

1) Pirahnas have no bite
Cheesy headline aside, the so-called "Pirahnas" did little to nothing this series. Luis Castillo, Nick Punto, Jason Bartlett, and Jason Tyner combined to bat .200, with a .289 OBP, and a .225 SLG. Pathetic effort over the 3-game series.

2) Bad hitting with RISP
I don't even know how things finished up here, and it's too depressing to look. All that you need to know is the Twins were 0/18 at one point, and their first hit with RISP was in the 6th inning of Game 3.

3) Bullpen Mismanagement
Joe Nathan, one of the best relievers in the MLB, pitched 2/3 of an inning this series. In Game 1, he should have come in in the 9th instead of Jesse Crain. In Game 3, he should have come in in the 7th inning when there were 2 on and 2 out. Although I suppose I can't blame Gardenhire... he's just doing what all managers do. And It's logic I can't understand. Biggest situation of the game, the Twins had to hold Oakland, and they go with their 4th or 5th best RP. But hey, at least Joe Nathan's rested!

Anyway, not a good series all-around. Oakland played very well, but the Twins practically handed them this on a silver platter. A disappointing end to a great season.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Thank You Brad Radke

The last start didn't go as well as everyone hoped, but a great career for Brad Radke, and then leaving everything he had out there on the field, even with a torn labrum and stress fracture.

In the words of the late, great Jack Buck, "Pardon me while I stand and applaud."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Like a punch to the stomach

That's what it felt like when Torii Hunter dove for the ball and missed. It felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. And apparently, I wasn't alone in that feeling, since the Twins were pretty lifeless after that as well, managing only a bloop single from Bartlett with 2 outs in the 9th the rest of the way.

Anyway, about the rest of the game. You can't say enough about the effort and performance from Boof Bonser. A rookie making his first playoff start, Bonser threw 6 very solid innings, giving up just 2 runs in the 5th. This was a performance worthy of win, but once again the offense couldn't get it done.

However, I did like some things I saw from the offense. Unlike Tuesday, when they flailed at everything, they put together a lot better ABs, taking pitches, fouling pitches off, and making Loaiza work. Unfortunately, this effort was hampered a bit by the HUGE strike zone, but there's not much they can do about that.

The problems with the offense were twofold: they couldn't get anyone on base until there were 2 outs, and they can't hit to save their [playoff] lives once a runner gets into scoring position. After 2 games, the Twins are 0/14 with RISP. And you wonder why they've scored 4 runs in 2 games.

One other comment... Nick Punto has played very well all year, and he continues to supply good defense, but he is just dreadful at the plate right now, and has been for the last month. He's giving away ABs, chasing pitches, and not getting on base. I don't know if this is coincedence or not, but ever since he hit that HR in August he has not been very effective at the plate.

Anyway, maybe this is only fitting, being down 2-0 in the series. After all, the Twins fell way back in the Divison race before crawling back to win it, so maybe they just wouldn't have it any other way. In any event, their work is definitely cut out for them here. Down 2-0 heading back to Oakland, Minnesota will send Brad Radke to the mound on Friday, in only his 2nd start since coming back from the injury. Everyone on the Twins knows that if they lose this game, it will be Brad Radke's final start as an MLB player, which should provide even more motivation, not that they should need any at this point.

The Twins are down, but they're not out. 2-0 is a large deficit, but not insurmountable. If they can continue to get good pitching performances, combined with, I don't know, a hit or two with RISP, they might be able to keep playing baseball into the weekend. If not, it's going to be a long winter thinking about all the mistakes they've made in 2 games.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Well, that was deflating

Gone is the home-field advantage. Gone is the Twins Ace in the Hole, Johan Santana, a man who had not lost a game at home since last year. Gone seemingly are the Twins bats.

So what went wrong? First and foremost, the offense.

Barry Zito is obviously a good pitcher and he had his off-speed stuff working well, but I think a lot of this was because of the Twins approach at the plate. To say that it was bad is an understatement. Simply put, against a guy that did not have good control and struggled locating his fastball, the Twins chased balls out of the zone early in the count, which is why Zito kept such a low pitch count even without great control.

Things started out rocky in the 1st inning. Luis Castillo walked to leadoff the game (which should have been a lesson to other Twins hitters... TAKE SOME PITCHES), and then Punto worked the count to 2-1. Then, i'm not sure if it was a hit & run or what the call was, but Punto swings at a ball out of the zone, Castillo and his bad knee is running, and he's thrown out at 2nd. So instead of having a runner at 1st with no out and a 3-1 count, there's 1 out and it's a 2-2 count. That's a good way to ruin a potentially good inning. And while we're at, will someone please tell Nick Punto to stop sliding into 1st base. I think everyone in the world other than Punto knows that that slows you down.

As far as Gardenhire, there were some questionable calls I thought, but none bigger than going with Jesse Crain in the 9th. Crain has been solid in the 2nd half of the year, but Pat Neshek has been lights out since his callup. Seriously, every single stat says that Neshek is the better pitcher. And it's not like Crain has loads of postseason experience... before this outing he had gotten 1 out in postseason play in his career. This isn't even hindsight bias, I swear... I just don't understand going with Crain over Neshek.

By the way, a memo to the Twins:
Frank Thomas - 3/4
Everyone else - 4/30

As for the game coverage on ESPN, I'll leave it to Bat-Girl:

...but listening to these guys is like listening to the two drunk guys who sit behind you who've seen two games all season and are trying to impress each other with how much they know.... And I know I should get used to it, but this interviewing the managers while the game is going on is disgraceful. If you're borrowing techniques from Fox's coverage of the All-Star Game, it's probably a bad idea.

Sadly, Fox's coverage isn't any better.

Anyway, time to move on and forget about Game 1. Boof Bonser gets the start in Game 2 against Esteban Loaiza, a guy that the Twins have generally hit well against. I have confidence in Boof, but scoring sometime before the 7th inning would be nice too.

In other words, Game 2 would be a perfect time for The Sabean Special!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Twins/Athetics Position-by-Position

Looking at the teams position by position probably doesn't give us a great indication of who is actually going to win the series, but it does provide a nice overview and preview for what is to come. So let's do it:

Catcher: Joe Mauer vs. Jason Kendall
Jason Kendall isn't necessarily a bad catcher, but Joe Mauer is the batting champion, the best Catcher in the MLB, and a legitimate MVP candidate. Joe is much better offensively, much better defensively, and that makes this the most lopsided difference between the 2 clubs.

First Base: Justin Morneau vs. Nick Swisher
Nick Swisher is a very solid, patient hitter with a little bit of power. But Justin Morneau he is not. Morneau is the better all-around hitter... he hits for a higher average, and his slugging is a bit higher than Swisher as well. Add in that Morneau is an above-average defensive first basemen, and Morneau gets the clear edge.

Second Base: Luis Castillo vs. Mark Ellis
Luis Castillo is not as good defensively as he once was, and he doesn't hit for much power at all, but I give him a slight edge over Ellis. Castillo is very good at at taking pitches at the top of the lineup, and gets on base at a respectable rate of .358. Even with his declining range, I give the edge to Castillo.

Shortstop: Jason Bartlett vs. Marco Scutaro
Once again, I give the slighest of edges to Bartlett and the Twins. Bartlett has very good range and a good arm at SS. Offensively, both are similar players. They have some patience at the plate, but aren't going to be supplying a lot of power. Bartlett gets on base at a slightly better rate, which is why I give him the edge.

Third Base: Nick Punto vs. Eric Chavez
I like what Punto has brought this year, but Chavez gets the edge this year even though he hasn't been his normal self at the plate. Both are getting on base at a similar rate, but Chavez does hit for more power. Also, while I think Punto has been very good defensively at 3B, Chavez is still the class of the American League when it comes to that category.

Left Field: Rondell White vs. Jay Payton
The Twins have sorta had a mismatch group and you're never really sure who's going to be out there, but I think Rondell is the most likely. As we all know Rondell was just absolutely atrociously awful to start the year, but he hit very well in July and hit very well in September, showing why the Twins went out and got him. Which Rondell White will show up? Good question, and that's I give Jay Payton the edge here.

Center Field: Torii Hunter vs. Mark Kotsay
Both are excellent defensive outfielders, and with Hunter being a step slower because of injury, things may be pretty equal in that department. So it comes down to offense. Kotsay is the more patient hitter, but Hunter hits for a lot more power. After 9 HR in September, Hunter has the edge here.

Right Field: Michael Cuddyer vs. Milton Bradley
They are actually very similar players. Neither guy hits for a great average, but they both hold their own. Both have pretty good plate discipline. Neither has great power, but both can hit it out of the ballpark. In the end, I think that the fact that Cuddyer hits so many doubles, and that he has a great arm in the OF gives him an edge over Bradley.

Designated Hitter: Jason Tyner vs. Frank Thomas
Frank Thomas has the edge here by about a million bazillion miles. Not even worth really talking about.

#1 Starter: Johan Santana vs. Barry Zito
Zito has been solid this year (though don't look now, his ERA is 4.55 since the AS break), but Johan is in another class from all pitchers.

#2 Starter: Boof Bonser vs. Esteban Loaiza
If you'd have told me earlier this year Boof would be starting game 2, I would have laughed. But he's earned it with his pitching over the last 2 months. For Loaiza, he is also pitching well after a horrid first half, and has a 4.01 ERA since the AS break. If he can keep the ball down and get the Twins pitchers swinging early in the count, he can be effective. I call this one about a draw. I think if either guy goes 6 strong innings, their team will be happy.

#3 Starter: Brad Radke vs. Rich Harden
Both pitchers have been effective when healthy, but that has been a problem for both. For Radke, the problems with his shoulder have been well documented and this is his last hurrah, as he will retire at the end of the year. For Harden, he's always had some of the best stuff of anyone in the Majors, but he can't seem to stay healthy. He's made 3 starts since coming off the DL, with 2 of them being solid, but he struggled in his last start. Still, when he's on, he's on, which is why I give Harden the edge. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if Radke gives the Twins a great outing... what he's done this year is unlike anything I have seen in sports.

#4 Starter: Carlos Silva vs. Dan Haren
If Carlos Silva pitches in this series, that will be a good thing, because it means the Twins will be leading in this series 2-1. However, I don't like his odds against Dan Haren, a very solid SP.

Bullpen: Joe Nathan vs. Huston Street
Out of all playoff teams, I'd rank these teams 1 and 2 in this category. But as I've said before, I think the Twins have the best bullpen in the MLB. If they can get the lead after 6, they're in very good shape, especially with Joe Nathan anchoring things down at the backend. Plus, I'm not sure Oakland has anyone that can consistently get lefties out.

So what does this all mean? Well, maybe nothing. But it gives us a little better idea of what we're dealing with.

For the record, I've got the Twins in 5.

You suck, schedule makers

Twins/A's game on Tuesday: Noon CDT.
Twins/A's game on Wednesday: Noon CDT.

Looks like I'll be missing a couple classes this week.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Congratulations Joe Mauer!

A 23 year-old becoming the first catcher EVER to lead the MLB in Batting... yeah, I think that deserves its own post.

Congrats Joe, and maybe we can do this again next year!


When the Twins were 25-33 and 10.5 games out of first place behind the MLB-leading Detroit Tigers in early June, I didn't like their chances.

When the Twins played great baseball going into the All-Star break but hardly made up any ground on the Detroit Tigers, I didn't like their chances.

When the Twins were 1 game back heading into the final week of the regular season, and needed 2 more win than Detroit in the final 6 games to win the division, I was cautiously optimistic.

When the Twins were tied with the Tigers going into the final series of the season, with the Twins taking on Chicago and the Tigers taking on Kansas City, I was cautiously optimistic.

When it came down to Sunday, with the Twins needing Carlos Silva to beat the White Sox and Odalis Perez to beat the Tigers, I wasn't too optimistic.

When the Tigers jumped out to a 6-0 lead over Kansas City and the White Sox took a 1-0 lead over Minnesota, I was pretty much resigned to facing the Yankees in Round 1.

When the Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom of the 12th inning with 1 out, I was preparing myself for the Yankees.

When the Royals beat the Tigers 10-8 to seal the division title for the Twins, I could hardly believe it.

96-66. American League Central Division Champions. It defies logic. But then, so has this whole season for Minnesota.

See you in the playoffs.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What can you say about a day like that?

Brad Radke comes back from the terrible injuries to throw 5 very good innings, Joe Mauer ties up the game in the 9th with a solo HR, and the Twins come back to win in the 10th. Oh yeah, the Tigers lost, meaning the Twins are tied for the division lead.

I can get used to this.

For 7 innings, the Twins could muster only 4 singles against the indomitable Luke Hudson and his 5.12 ERA, but with 2 outs in the 9th, Joe Mauer hit his 13th HR of the year the opposite way to tie it up and send the game to extra innings.

In extra innings, the Twins loaded up the bases for Jason Bartlett, who hit one over CF David DeJesus for the walkoff hit. Pretty much a good script for how the season has gone.

But more important than pulling out a win... and more important than tying the Tigers for the division lead was the fact that Brad Radke was able to come back and pitch very well. He coasted through 5 innings giving up only 1 unearned run. This should mean he should be able to start Game 3 of the first round series against either the Yankees or the Athletics. I feel a whole lot better with Radke on the mound than Silva.

So now it comes down to 3 games... if the Twins win 1 more than the Tigers, they win the division and will be starting the playoffs at home. If they don't, they'll travel to Yankee Stadium.

Here are the starting pitchers for Friday's games:

Twins: Boof Bonser (7-5, 4.15) vs. Freddy Garcia (White Sox)
Tigers: Wil Ledezma (3-3, 3.58) vs. Runelvys Hernandez (Royals)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

19 wins for Johan Cy-tana

There shouldn't really be any doubts in anyone's mind that Johan Santana should be the AL Cy Young, but it was good to see Johan put an exclamation point for win #19. 8 IP, 2 ER, 5 K, and 0 BB. Not bad.

Since this was almost certainly his last start of the regular season, his season will probably finish at 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA. No complaints here.

As for the game, well, the Twins were in a little bit of a cruise control mode, but those are the things you can sometimes afford to do when facing the Royals. Joe Nathan struggled a bit (but got the outs when it mattered), and the Twins got just enough offense for the win. With the Tigers having won, this was necessary if the Twins are going to have any shot to win the division.

Torii Hunter also crept closer to 100 RBI, as he got #96 on the year.

So order your "You Can't Handle the Boof" shirt, check out Pulling a Blyleven, and go Twins!

Carlos Silva takes on the "All-Star" Mark Redman Wedneday. With 5 games left and the division still in sight, every game is a must-win!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


After starting the year at 25-33, who would have thought the playoffs would be in the cards for the Twins? Admittedly, probably not me. But I'll admit the hearing the words "The Twins are going to the playoffs," is music to my ears.

With the Twins 8-1 win over the Royals and the White Sox 14-1 loss to the Indians (way to go out with a bang!) the Twins are assured of at least the Wildcard. The magic number is 0.

Meanwhile, the race for the division is still on. With 6 games to play, the Twins stand 1 (one) game out from the Tigers. This is a little misleading, however, because the Tigers have the tiebreaker. So in other words, if the Twins want to avoid a first round matchup with the Bronx Bombers, they have to win 2 more games than the Tigers do in the last week. The odds are against them, but then, the odds have been against them all year.

In the clincher, the Twins followed the same formula they followed all year... young pitcher on the mound, "pirahnas" getting on base, and the mashers in the middle driving them in. Boof Bonser was once again excellent, and appears (at least in my eyes) to have a strangleholdon the #2 spot in the rotation. With 6.1 good innings, his record is now at 7-5 with an ERA of 4.15. Thank You Brian Sabean indeed!

Offensively, the Twins were patient, drawing 6 walks. But they also got the power. Justin Morneau cracked his 34th HR of the year, and is now at 129 RBI, 2nd most in the AL. Torii Hunter also hit his 30th HR, meaning that after so many years of not having a HR hitter, the Twins have 2 this year. Funny how that works. Another possible milestone for Hunter is that he is now close to reaching 100 RBI. He needs just 5 in the last 6 games to become the 3rd Twins player (Morneau, Cuddyer) to reach that mark this year. Should we resign Torii? I don't know. But it's been fun watching him play for the last month?

In the race for the batting title, Joe Mauer helped his cause with a 2/3 day, raising the average to .349. His main competitors both had good days as well - Derek Jeter went 2/4 to raise the average to .340, and Robinson Cano went 2/4, leaving his average at .342. With 6 games left, this looks like it will be a very tight race, although it is still Mauer's to lose, obviously.

But with the playoff spot clinched, there's no need to worry about the batting title, awards, or anything else. Just enjoy what a marvelous ride it's been so far, and hope that the good times continue.

One thing is for sure... it's a good time to be a Twins fan!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Magic Number: 2

First off, my apologies to my 1 or 2 readers for being away so long... I'd like to say I was unavailable to post, but if you read Complete Sports, you'll know that wasn't the case. But in all honesty, I was super busy with school and work, plus just weekend laziness. But I'm back, the Twins are playing well, and almost all is right with the world.

After taking 2 of 3 from Baltimore to go 7-3 on the roadtrip, the Twins finish out the road season at 42-39, which is certainly respectable. Overall, they stand at 93-63 with 7 games remaining, with the Tigers at 94-62 with 6 games remaining.

In other words, the Twins are 1.5 games back of Detroit for the division lead, and 5.5 games ahead of the Chicago White Sox for the Wildcard, and could clinch a playoff spot as early as today. Um, wow!

Boof Bonser will be sent to the hill to try to have the Twins do their part, and he's been very good lately. For the year, he is 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA, and if he has a couple of solid starts, that will secure his place in the playoff rotation, whether Brad Radke is able to come back or not. The White Sox will start John Garland.

Elsewhere, we all know how amazing Joe Nathan has been this year (Thank You Brian Sabean!), but now everyone else does as well, as Nathan is a finalist for the Delivery Man of the Year Award.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Don't look back now Detroit

And the lead is 1/2 game! To say the least, this is unbelievable considering the starts that these two clubs had.

But after the Tigers loss to Detroit, and the Twins victory over Boston, the Twins stand 1/2 game behind Detroit for the division and 4.5 games up on Chicago with 11 games left to play.

The story of the game was Justin Morneau, who got his average up to .326 after a 5/5 performance. As Aaron Gleeman writes, Morneau's simply been amazing no matter what date you look from.

Matt Garza was also a bright spot, as he was able to go 5 2/3 solid innings, giving up 3 runs, and picking up the 2nd win of his young career. That was a long enough outing for the rock solid bullpen, who shut the Sox down the rest of the way.

But the game was not all positive. Torii Hunter fouled a ball off his foot, leaving him in pain and forcing him to exit the pain. No one knows yet how long he'll be out, but suffice to say if he's out for any length of time, that's a huge blow. I'm not a huge Hunter guy (as far as a player, he seems like a great guy), but he's been supplying much needed and very solid power in the 6th spot, and it'd be a shame if we lose that now, with 2 weeks left. Let's hope things work out for the best here.

Anyway, in Game 2 of the series, Minnesota will send Boof Bonser to the mound, who's been pretty darn good lately if you haven't noticed. The Sox will send their ace Curt Schilling to the mound, but the way the Twins are playing, it wouldn't surprise me to see them in first place by this time tomorrow.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A well deserved day off

3 out of 4 ain't bad.

Combined with a Tigers loss and a White Sox loss, the Twins are 1 back of the division but have pushed the Wildcard lead all the way up to 4 games. Which begs the question, should we be rooting for the White Sox or the Tigers?

I'll let you decide. For today, I'll just enjoy a great weekend for the Twins (and Vikings), and get ready for the Twins to take on the Red Sox Thursday. Matt Garza will be on the mound for them.

Here's tomorrow's matchup between the Sox/Tigers:

Kenny Rogers (15-6, 3.86 ERA) vs. Mark Buehrle (12-12, 4.76 ERA)

Who should we be rooting for?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A heartbreaker

Gah! How great would that Double Play have been? (Answer: Pretty great)

But Bartlett rushed it, the throw was up the line, and the Twins actually lost in a game that Johan Cytana started.

But it was not all bad. Another 9th inning comeback to force extras has to have the Twins thinking that they are never out of any game (even if the comeback came against the Cleveland bullpen). Justin Morneau got a couple more RBI, to push his total to 123. Johan struggled early, but wound up throwing 8 innings, give up 4 runs (3 ER) and stiking out 7. He still have them a chance to win.

But anyway, in other bad Twins news, Joe Mauer is officially #2 in the AL batting race. After going 0/4, the average now sits at .344, behind Derek Jeter's .346.

Also, after being within an arm's reach of the Tigers, the Twins are again 2 back as the Tigers absolutely demolished the Orioles. But thankfully the As were able to defeat the Sox 4-2, keeping the Twins Wildcard lead at 2 games. The pitching matchups for the 3 clubs Saturday:

Twins: Carlos Silva (9-13, 6.08) vs. CC Sabathia (Indians)
White Sox: Javier Vazquez (11-9, 4.71) vs. Barry Zito (Athletics)
Tigers: Nate Robertson (12-12, 3.84) vs. Kris Benson (Orioles)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

One of the worst days of the year

For two innings everything appeared to be right with the world. After 2 innings, Francisco Liriano had throw 22 pitches, gotten all 6 batters out, and had struck out 2 batter (both on nasty, nasty sliders), and it looked like he was back to his dominating self.

Then he threw a pitch in the dirt, stood bent at the waist, looking like his left arm was about to fall off, with what we later learned was left elbow pain.

Basically, the worst case scenario. Everything looks great, the rehab goes well, he gets in to start, and can't make it through 30 pitches. And let's just say that the list of pitchers that have had long, productive careers with recurring elbow pain is not a very long one. So not only will Liriano not be back this year, (PURE SPECULATION AHEAD), but I'm worried about next year. And his career. Because an elbow injury is a scary thing.

At the very least, the Twins could have picked him up and gotten the win. Matt Garza certainly gave them that opportunity, throwing 5 2/3 innings of relief and giving up just 1 run, a run he wouldn't have given up if the ump had made the correct call on a stolen base the pitch before. Instead, Dan Haren shut the Twins out over 8 innings, and Huston Street was able to get the save after that.

Then Freddy Garcia goes out and throw 7.2 perfect innings before allowing a hit, and the Sox crushed the Angels. 1.5 games ahead in the Wildcard. 2 games back of the division pending the Tigers game. 10-game roadtrip coming up. Liriano is officially done, and no one is sure yet about Radke.

We still have 1.5 game lead, but things looked a lot better yesterday.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A great day for sports!

The Vikings win on MNF, and the Twins play great in defeating the 2nd hottest team in baseball (after the Twins) in the Oakland A's... most of my time was spent watching the Vikings I must admit, as I wrote all about here, so I'll just take a quick look at tomorrow's pitching matchups.

By the way, the Twins are now 1.5 GB of the Tigers, and 1.5 games ahead of the Sox with 19 games remaining for the Twins to play. Starters for the 3 teams for Tuesday:

Minnesota: Matt Guerrier (0-0, 3.04) vs. Kirk Saarloos (Oakland)
Chicago: Mark Buehrle (12-12, 4.80) vs. Ervin Santana (Anaheim)
Detroit: Kenny Rogers (15-6, 3.91) vs. Vicente Padilla (Texas)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Things are officially interesting

That sound you hear is Detroit Tigers fans getting nervous for the first time all year. After looking awful in game 1 of this series, the Twins came back with a vengenance to win the last 3 and pull within 2 game of the division leading Tigers.

The charge on Sunday was, of course, led by All-World SP and MVP candidate Johan Santana. He picked up his 18th victory, and 11 of the 19 outs he recorded came via the strikeout, which he also happens to lead the Majors in. Meanwhile, the 6.1 scoreless innings dropped the ERA to 2.75, which also happens to be the best in the Majors. I'm not real good with image stuff, but go to the Stats page on for something that looks cool (Johan's picture 3 times because he leads the Majors in the Triple Crown categories)

Offensively, the offense just jumped all over Bonderman and the rest of the pitching staff, scoring 12 runs on 15 hits. Joe Mauer went 2/3 and is now batting .350, just ahead of Jeter at .345. Elsewhere, Nick Punto had 4 hits, Justin Morneau had 2, and Torii Hunter had 3.

Things also went well as far as the Wildcard is concerned, as the Indians beat the White Sox, increasing the Twins Wildcard lead to 1.5 games.

The Twins now stay home and host the Oakland As, who always seem to give the Twins trouble. They play three against Oakland before heading to Cleveland. Detroit has the day off, and Chicago will take on Anaheim. Pitching matchups for Monday:

Minnesota: Carlos Silva (8-13, 6.30) vs. Joe Blanton (Athletics)
Chicago: Jose Conteras 12-7 (4.09) vs. John Lackey (Angels)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

It's been so long I almost forgot what it was called...

Oh yeah, offense. That was nice.

9 runs? Where has this offense been lately? Castillo didn't do anything at the top, but Nick Punto (welcome back!) had a couple of hits, Joe Mauer went 3/4 to increase his lead in the chase for the batting title, and Justin Morneau had a couple of big 2-out hits to get him 3 RBI, and move him into 2nd in the AL with 118 RBI on the year,

On the other side of the coin, things weren't as great as Matt Garza struggled once again. At times, he looks dominant, and shows why he was able to dominate in all levels of the Minors this year (hence, 6 strikeouts in 4.1 IP)... other times, well, it's easy to see he's a young guy. He struggled with the control - tight strike zone or otherwise - and walked 4 batters, which led to his undoing. He finished with 4 ER in the 4.1 IP.

In the pen, Pat Neshek responded nicely with 1.1 scoreless innings to get the win. Meanwhile, Jesse Crain and Juan Rincon seem to be going in the opposite directions... Crain has been excellent for a couple of months now, while Rincon has seen his ERA increase almost a run in about a month to 3.05).

With a comeback win by the Sox, the Twins are basically in the exact same position as they were when this series started a couple of days ago... 4 back of the Tigers and 1/2 game ahead of the White Sox. They need to split these final 2 games at the bare minimum, and if they can win both, well, the division race will officially become a big thing, as the Twins would be only 2 back.

But for now, the Twins just need to focus on Saturday. Boof Bonser vs. Nate Robertson. Be there or be square.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

C'est la vie

ER by Pat Neshek coming into Wednesday's game in 26 IP: 4
ER given up by Pat Neshek in Wednesday's game: 3

When the Twins lead after 6 innings, it's almost seemed automatic this year. Maybe this was just a way to keep the fans on their toes.

Scott Baker (4-7, 6.55) vs Justin Verlander (15-7, 3.27) tonight. Sox will pitch Mark Buehrle (12-11, 4.71) against Cliff Lee (11-10, 4.63) and the Indians.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Santana does it again

8 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 12 K, W. 17-5 with a 2.84 ERA.

Yep, it's fun to watch this guy pitch.

And even better news, both the White Sox and Tigers lost, meaning the Twins hold a 1.5 game lead on the White Sox for the Wildcard and are just 4 back of the Tigers for the division. Pretty busy tonight, but here's the starters for Wednesday's games:

Twins: Carlos Silva (8-13, 6.56) vs. Jason Hammel (Devil Rays)
White Sox: Jose Conteras (11-7, 4.23) vs. Kris Snyder (Red Sox)
Tigers: Kenny Rogers (15-6, 3.86) vs. Gil Meche (Mariners)

Also, much thanks to Twinkie Town for the mention of this blog in his blog. It's always great to get compliments like he gave me, especially when they're coming from the writer of one of the best Twins blog, at least as far as I'm concerned. Compliments like that are a part of what makes writing this blog so enjoyable... well that and the fact that the Twins seem to be playing great ever since I started it! ;)

Go Twins!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Twins back in the Wildcard lead (with The Sabean Special)

Well I'm back from vacation, and just in time to see the Twins re-take the Wildcard lead with a comeback victory combined with a comeback victory from the Red Sox.

The Twins comeback came in the 7th inning of their game, when Rondell White hit a 2-out, 2-run HR to give the Twins a 2-1 lead, which was all they needed. The Red Sox comeback was complete after Carlos Pena hit a solo HR in the 10th to beat the ChiSox.

But none of this would have been possible without a great pitching performance by starter Boof Bonser. 6.1 solid innings from him, giving up just 1 ER while striking out 6. If we can get performances similar this from the back of the rotation, things will be looking very good.

At the backend of the game, as always, is Joe Nathan. And with Bonser getting the win and Nathan getting the save, we have yet another edition of The Sabean Special. And that's always exciting. Joe pitched a perfect 9th, striking out 2, to get his 29th save of the year while lowering the ERA to 1.74. Meanwhile, Dennys Reyes appears to be firmly back on track, as he got the only man he faced out to lower his ERA to 0.85.

All of this brings up Johan Santana starting against Tampa Bay on Tuesday going against Jae Seo. The Twins really need Santana to bring his best stuff every night, and that's basically what he's been doing all year. Hopefully that trend can continue. With the Twins 0.5 games up on the Sox and still 5 GB on the Tigers, here's the pitching matchups for Tuesday:

Twins: Johan Santana (16-5, 2.95) vs. Jae Seo (D'Rays)
White Sox: Javier Vazquez (11-8, 4.98) vs. Kason Gabbard (Red Sox)
Tigers: Jeremy Bonderman (11-7, 4.01) vs. Jake Woods (Mariners)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Johan Santana = Cy Young

With the Twins coming off back-to-back losses against the Royals, a win was a must on Thursday. Lucky for them, Johan Santana was on the mound.

Santana, who is definitely in the running to win his 2nd Cy Young this year, gave a Cy-worthy performance, striking out 11 and allowing only 1 run in 7 innings of work today. This was just good enough to get the win, and the Twins eeked out 3 against the Royals, winning the series finale 3-1.

With the win Santana improves to 16-5 on the year, and his ERA dropped down to 2.95. So in the AL, his stats look like this:

Wins - 16 (T-1)
ERA - 2.95 (1)
Strikouts - 207 (1)

In the other big Twins news of the day, they dealt for Phil Nevin. Aarom Gleeman, as usual has this covered very well. I agree with his sentiment, provided it's just a low-level prospect the Twins are giving up, this looks like a very good move. Phil Nevin isn't a great threat at the plate anymore, but he's a solid right-handed bat, and he can't be any worse than what the Twins have thrown out there at DH this year. He's a semi-legit power threat that can hit lefties, which, at this point of the year, is a very nice pickup, especially for a Twins lineup that needs a boost. Great work Terry Ryan!

It was an all-around good day for the Twins, as both the Tigers and White Sox lost. This puts the Twins 0.5 GB of the Sox for the Wildcard, and 5.0 GB of the Tigers for the division lead. Here's the 3 teams pitching matchups for Friday:

Twins: Carlos Silva (8-12, 6.50 ERA) vs. the Yankees (Cory Lidle)
White Sox: Jose Contreras (11-6, 4.25 ERA) vs. the Royals (Runelvys Hernandez)
Tigers: Kenny Rogers (14-6, 4.06 ERA) vs. the Angels (Ervin Santana)

By the way, I'll be out of town for the Labor Day Weekend, so this will be it as far as posts go on here for a few days... take care, have a nice holiday, and GO TWINS!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Garza impresses; everyone else does not

We finally got the performance we've all been waiting for from Matt Garza. 7.2 IP, only 2 ER, and 7 strikeouts. He was efficient and in the strike zone, went deep into the game, and struck some guys out.

Only problem: the Twins still lost.

That's because "All-Star" Mark Redman shut them out on 5 hits. Let me repeat: Mark Redman threw a CG Shutout. That lowered Redman's ERA to a stellar 5.47. This would be more depressing if this didn't happen to the Twins often. I swear, throw a junk-ball lefty and you will have success against the Twins lineup.

The Sox won, so that puts the Twins back at 0.5 GB of the Wildcard lead. Today, the Twins will send Boof Bonser to the mound to take on Luke Hudson. He's not a junkball lefty, so that helps. Twins need to win these games that they should, especially at home. Otherwise that series to end the year may not be significant at all.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

2 out of 3 ain't bad!

So it was a disappointing game on Sunday, with Carlos Silva laying yet another thing. But if you had told me coming in we'd win 2 of 3, I'd have taken that. Which is, of course, what the Twins did, leaving Chicago with a 1/2 game lead in the Wildcard and only 5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.

Now the Twins get a day off before heading back home for a 3-game series with the Kansas City Royals. Meanwhile, the Sox will stay home as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays come to town. Here's the breakdown of the schedules the rest of the way, with how many games they have against each opponent:

Minnesota Twins
KC: 7 (home)
DET: 4 (home)
CWS: 3 (home)
CLE: 4 (away)
NYY: 3 (away)
BOS: 3 (away)
BAL: 3 (away)
TB: 3 (away)
OAK: 3 (home)

Chicago White Sox
MIN: 3 (away)
KC: 3 (away)
CLE: 7 (4 home / 3 away)
DET: 3 (home)
BOS: 3 (away)
TB: 3 (home)
LAA: 3 (away)
OAK: 3 (away)
SEA: 4 (home)

Minnesota: 76-53
Chicago: 76-54

Um yeah. That 3-game series to end the season might be pretty important, I think.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I don't really have much to add about the game, as places like Bat-Girl or Nick & Nick's do, but I just wanted to say WOW!

What a game, what a comeback, what pitching from the pen, what a bizarre finish... wow wow wow!! Especially in a game of this magnitude, as even though there's lots of time left,a 1/2 game lead is much better than being down 1.5 games.

Now hopefully Johan can guarantee us a series win today!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Gotta love that pitching staff

There are some days, like Tuesday, when a guy will give up 5 HR and it's easy to get frustrated with the staff. Then are days like yesterday, when a young guy throws a great game, and the bullpen does the rest.

Matt Garza got his first Major-League win by throwing 6 solid innings, giving up just 1 unearned run on 5 hits. (Aaron Gleeman has a great writeup on the start) Then the bullpen came in and did their job, to the tune of 3 perfect innings. Meanwhile, the offense wasn't very efficent but they did score 4 runs, and the formula for success was in full effect again.

I know ERA is not a great stat for relievers, but look at these things:

Pat Neshek - 0.81
Dennys Reyes - 0.96
Juan Rincon - 2.44
Joe Nathan - 1.53

Offensively, the 4-5-6 hitters supplied the power and runs, as Mike Cuddyer got 3 hits, Justin Morneau had his 108th RBI of the year, and Torii Hunter hit his 18th HR of the year. That was enough to overcome 10 men LOB for the Twins, which is not good at all.

The White Sox victory means the Twins are still 0.5 GB of the Wildcard, but only 7 out of the division lead. The Red Sox also remain in the hunt at 4 GB of the Wildcard. The rubber match of the series will feature Boof Bonser against Kris Benson in another big game for the Twins... they just have to keep winning series!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Nothing hurt

A loss is never good, but with Chicago and Boston also losing, the Twins remain just a half game behind the White Sox for the Wildcard lead.

But that doesn't mean this isn't disappointing. 3 HR for Nick Markakis? Really? That's basically the story of the game, because when the SP gives up 5 HR, things aren't going well.

The poor performance from Silva brought up an interesting comment from diehard ct twins fan in the comments section:

Looks like the Twins should have put Lohse back in the rotation instead of Silva before. I know Lohse what somewhat of a head case but you can't argue with what he's doing with the Reds. Then again, it is the NL.

When Lohse started this year, he was just ridiculously bad. He was walking a lot of guys, he didn't strike out too many, and had given up a fairly high amount of HR. He was demoted, brought back and put in the pen, did decently well, and then was traded, much to my delight.

In Cincy, all he's done in 5 games (4 starts) is throw 27.1 IP, give up just 5 ER while striking out 26. Is it all because of the NL? Would he have been able to do this for the Twins? Who knows. Baseball is a funny game.

All I know is that at the time Lohse was traded, Liriano was the best pitcher in the game, Johan was Johan, and Radke was solid. Now, we can't get consistent starts from any of the back 3 in the rotation. Hindsight in 20/20, and it might be nice to have Lohse now seeing what's happened, but it was hard to see this coming.

Anyway, time to move on, especially with Matt Garza on the hill tonight against Rodrigo Lopez and the Os. If the Twins are going to make a run, Garza needs to step up and pitch at least somewhat to his potential. He's got great stuff, and in time he'll make a great pitcher, I just hope it's sooner rather than later. But it's hard to talk negative about him, seeing as he's only made 2 Major League starts. Let's hope he gets turned around, and who knows, maybe the Twins can take the Wildcard lead!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Formula for Success

Best starter in baseball + Best bullpen in baseball + Patient lineup = Success?

That seems to be the formula the Twins are using right now, and I'm certainly not complaining.

Johan Santana appears to be his normal self, the bullpen is dominant, and while the lineup doesn't have a lot of power, but they're 5th in the AL in OBP (.349, including OBP leader Joe Mauer) which wears down pitchers.

All in all, they're just 1/2 game out of the Wildcard race with the White Sox loss to Detroit, and now they head to Baltimore for a 3-game set. Here's the pitching matchups:

Tuesday: Carlos Silva (8-10, 6.30) vs. Adam Loewen (3-4, 6.07)
Wednesday: Matt Garza (0-2, 11.74) vs. Rodrigo Lopez (9-12, 6.43)
Thursday: Boof Bonser (2-4, 5.51) vs. Kris Benson (10-9, 6.43)

Wow. 6 pitchers, and only 1 has an ERA below 6. That's a whole lotta mediocrity. For the Twins starters, there only goal (at least these backend guys) should be to get to the 5th or 6th inning in a close ballgame, because after the bullpen (more of than not) can come in and take over the game. It's that simple.

With the Sox still facing the Tigers, this could be a great time to pick up more ground and hopefully pass Chicago, especially with the 3-game set in Chicago this weekend.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Twins Bullpen = Best in the MLB

And I have the numbers to back it up!

For one thing, they have the best bullpen ERA in all of baseball at 3.10. But even beyond that, they're just so effective because they don't walk batters and they strike a lot of guys out. And that's generally a pretty good formula. Here it is broken down, with the MLB rank in parenthesis:

ERA - 3.10 (1)
WHIP - 1.23 (1)
K/BB - 3.38 (1)
K/9 - 8.34 (3)
HR - 25 (1)
OBP Against - .304 (2)
SLG Against - .361 (2)
OPS Against - .665 (1)

Not bad. Looking at them individually almost makes things more impressive.

Joe Nathan - 51.0 IP, 1.59 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 72/10 K/BB, 12.71 K/9
Juan Rincon - 56.2 IP, 2.22 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 50/17 K/BB, 7.94 K/BB
Denys Reyes - 34.1 IP, 1.05 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 33/7 K/BB, 8.65 K/9
Pat Neshek - 20.0 IP, 0.90 ERA, 0.45 WHIP, 30/3 K/BB, 13.50 K/9
Jesse Crain - 58.2 IP, 4.45 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 47/15 K/BB, 7.21 K/9
Matt Guerrier - 40.1 IP, 3.12 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 23/16 K/BB, 5.13 K/9

And when you consider that Willie Eyre and his 6.48 ERA is not pitching any more high-leverage inning, and the fact that Crain had an awful start to the year but has been very effective in the past couple of months, the 3.10 ERA doesn't even do justice to how good this bullpen is right now.

Take a look at Pat Neshek's numbers. Hardly anyone knows about this guy, but in 20 IP he has struck out 30 guys, walked 3, and allowed just 6 hits. 2 of those were solo HR, and that's the only runs he's allowed this year. If I was playing a video game, I'd be hard-pressed to replicate these numbers. And he's 25 and in his first year of service. Not bad.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Is Joe Mauer a legitimate MVP Candidate?

We all know the story. He's been hyped up in magazines and websites like this all across the sports world. Mostly because he's a 23 year-old catcher leading the world in batting average.

But is he a legitimate MVP candidate?

Or rather, since David Ortiz probably has the award all but locked up at this point, should he be? Fortunately for me, as I only discovered after I started writing this, Joe Sheehan wrote about the AL MVP race as a whole, which was nice because that cuts down some of my research.

Anyway, when I say David Ortiz has this race all but locked up, IMO, isn't because I think he's the best player in the AL. I wrote once upon a time that Travis Hafner is the best hitter in the American League, and I still hold true to that belief. But I think Ortiz is percieved as being such a clutch god that he'll be voted the MVP. Which I wouldn't necessarily say is a bad thing, but not something I agree with.

So anyway, as I see it, the MVP candidates: Travis Hafner, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Grady Sizemore, and Vernon Wells. Guys like Jim Thome, Justin Morneau, Johan Santana, and even Roy Halladay are tough omissions, but I think those guys mentioned are the top 7. Here's the more "traditional" stats for the 7 (AVG/OBP/SLG):

Travis Hafner: 303/428/640
David Ortiz: 287/399/624
Manny Ramirez: 323/432/625
Derek Jeter: 341/419/476
Joe Mauer: 361/441/522
Grady Sizemore: 304/384/537
Vernon Wells: 320/378/585

It's safe to say that things are pretty even all-around, especially when you consider that the guys at the top in hitting contribute little to nothing defensively. Ortiz and Hafner are full-time DHs, and Ramirez is average at best in LF. Meanwhile, Joe Mauer is a very good defensive catcher, Grady Sizemore and Vernon Wells are both very solid defensive CFs, and even Derek Jeter has improved his range enough to be pretty decent defensively at SS.

Looking specifically at Mauer, one of the only negatives about his game right now is that he doesn't hit many HRs. Which is true. However, he makes up for that, at least IMO, with his great batting average, good number of walks (which contribute for his league-leading OBP), and a good amount of doubles. For all of the talk about the lack of power, Mauer's still in the top 15 in SLG in the AL, which is pretty darn good.

As far as VORP goes, Travis Hafner leads the MLB in it even without playing defense. He actually has a pretty substantial lead, with teammate Grady Sizemore second, followed by Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, and then David Ortiz.

Looking at EQA, Manny Ramirez has the slight lead. When we look at WARP1, Joe Mauer has a slight lead over Grady Sizemore.

So what does all that mean? Probably nothing. Or just that this year more than ever there are a lot of qualified candidates in the American League for the MVP award. For what it's worth, here's what my list would look like at this point:

1) Travis Hafner
2) Manny Ramirez
3) Joe Mauer
4) David Ortiz
5) Derek Jeter

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Who are those guys?

A few days ago, the Twins were in the Wildcard lead, they were playing great baseball on the road, and things generally looked really good.

Three days later, they get shut out by a combination of Scott Downs, Brian Tallet, Brandon League, and Scott Schoeneweiss en route to a 4-0 loss which dropped them down to 3rd in the Wildcard standings and 2.5 games behind the White Sox.

Today Brad Radke gets the start, needing something similar to what he did last game to salvage at least 1 game of this 4-game series. Starting for the Blue Jays will be Shaun Marcum and his 4.81 ERA, which would seem to give the Twins the advantage.... but as we've seen this series, the pitching matchup doesn't matter. Twins just need to hit.

One thing is for sure, the Twins sure haven't looked like a playoff team so far in this series.

Friday, August 11, 2006

About that back of the rotation...

Throughout the year the weakness of the Twins has been the back of the rotation, and that was even before Liriano went down. Baker, Bonser, Lohse, Mike Smith, etc. all tried and pretty much failed.

However, as the season wore on, it looked like we had our ace in the hole - Matt Garza. His Minor League numbers were fabulous, he has great stuff, and it was almost like everyone (myself included) expected him to come up and immediately continue with the domination.

All of that came down with a thud on Friday, as Garza allowed 7 runs in 2 2/3 innings. Granted, it was against a good offensive team in Toronto, but it doesn't help ease any fears about an already think back of the rotation. Boff Bonser starts Saturday, and if he continues to pitch how he has basically all year in the Majors, well, we have a problem.

The White Sox and Red Sox also won, putting the Twins 1.5 games out of the Wildcard just 2 days after they had taken the lead in the race. It's not too unexpected for them to fall back at this point and you can't get too worried, since they're right in it, but it's disheartening to see them claw their way to taking 2 of 3 in Detroit and then come back home and get hammered in 2 stright to Toronto.

Hopefully things pick up in the weekend.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Minnesota Twins: Wildcard Leader

We've got a lot of season to go, so the fact that the Twins have a 1/2 game lead in the Wildcard chase isn't overly significant. However, with the way the first two months of the season went, I never thought I'd be able to write that title (and the fact that I didn't have this blog at the time!)

But either way, after a dramatic 4-3 comeback win on Wednesday, the Twins own a 1/2 game lead on the White Sox and a 1.5 game lead on the Red Sox. For the second straight day, the Royals pulled out a win against Boston, this time using 9th inning dramatics, scoring 2 off of Papelbon in the 9th to win 5-4.

The big story, at least for the Twins, is that we finally have another 30 HR player, for the first time since 1987. Not only was it HR #30 for Morneau, but it also gives him 101 RBI for the year. Perhaps most impressive, since he had a .248 career average coming into the year is that his average currently stands at .322. I'm kinda beating this over the head, but Morneau is definitely an MVP candidate, especially for hitting one of the most memorable Twins HR since that AJ Pierzynski one in the playoffs.

Johan was dominant for 6 innings, but just lef that one pitch up to Inge, which was crushed out of the park. But he still went 7 strong innings, struck out 10, and was rewarded with his 13th win. For the 2nd straight night, Rincon/Nathan shut down the door in the 8th and 9th, although Denys Reyes did come in to get Granderson out. Nathan now has 25 saves on the year.

After all the struggles on the road for the Twins, they finish up this roadtrip at 6-1. Sure, 4 of the games were against Kansas City, but now that we see what Kansas City is doing to Boston, they begin to look more impressive. And taking 2 of 3 from what has been the best team in baseball? Well, that's always nice.

Now the Twins head home for a 4-game set with the Blue Jays. The Jays have been struggling lately, but they're still a dangerous team. Although one piece of good news, Halladay pitched on Wednesday for Toronto, so hopefully that means the Twins will get to avoid him in this series. Although with a couple of rookies starting Friday and Saturday, they won't be able to take anything for granted.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Twins actually win in Comerica Park

Yes, it's true. For once this year, it finally happened. Brad Radke was fantastic, the bullpen shut them down late, and the Twins got just enough offense for a 4-2 victory.

Radke threw 7 innings, giving up 2 runs in the 2nd, but holding the Tigers at bay for the rest of his game (with a little help from Tyner and Mauer). He spread out 9 hits and 1 BB, but it was enough for his 11th win. Not bad for a guy that was 4-6 with a 7.44 ERA at one point this year.

Offensively, this was all about the top of the lineup. Luis Castillo got a couple of hits and scored a couple of runs, Nick Punto got 3 hits, and Joe Mauer got 3 hits to go along with a couple of RBI. Mauer's average now stands at a stellar .367, which is good, I think.

With the loss of the Red Sox to the Royals, the Twins move up to 2nd in the Wildcard race, and are still just half a game behind the White Sox, who got a 9th-run HR from Paul Konerko to tie the game against the Yankees before winning it in 11 innings.

Either way, definitely in a much better mood than last night, when all we knew was that Liriano was hurt again, and the Twins still couldn't win in Detroit. Now Matt Garza was called up, the Twins held on for a nice win, and all is right with the world. For one day at least.

Matt Garza's Minor League Stats

A - 5-1, 1.42 ERA, 53:11 K:BB in 44.1 IP
AA - 6-2, 2.51 ERA, 68:14 K:BB in 57.1 IP
AAA - 3-1, 1.85 ERA, 33:7 K:BB in 34.0 IP

Hopefully he's as good as advertised!

Monday, August 07, 2006


From the Star Tribune:

Francisco Liriano, Minnesota's rookie All-Star, is out indefinitely with what appears to be a left elbow injury.


In a quiet postgame clubhouse, Liriano, 22, seemed on the verge of tears, and his voice crackled as he described the pain, pointing to the inside of the elbow this time, beneath the muscle and possibly in the joint.


"I couldn't even throw the fastball, slider, changeup anything," Liriano said. "It bothered me every pitch I threw."

From the Twins website:

But it's not even close to the type of blow that the Twins could receive in the coming days if the news on starter Francisco Liriano is as bad as it appears to be.

Liriano pitched just four innings in the club's 9-3 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park on Monday night before being pulled due to pain near his left elbow that flared up again.

The Twins 22-year-old rookie phenom was skipped over for his last start, due to the inflammation that he had in his left forearm. An MRI revealed no structural damage to the arm and the thought was that 10 days of rest would solve the problem.

But this time, the pain returned in what Liriano deemed a different spot and it seems to be worse than before. It's something that has even caused Liriano to be a bit scared of what may be causing the pain.

"I am, because it really bothered me a lot and I don't know what it is," Liriano said of being more concerned than he was before. "I couldn't throw my fastball, changeup, slider -- it bothered me on every pitch I throw.

"It really bothers me because it's getting worse."

All we can do is hope for the best. :(

We needed Soriano?

Ok, I know it was only the Royals, but look at these 4-game totals:

Runs: 41
Hits: 56
BB: 36
XBH: 18
Wins: 4

Doesn't get much better than that.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

That's more like it

For the second straight night, the Twins got a lot of walks (14) and a lot of hits (12). Unlike last night, however, these baserunners were converted into a lot more runs. 14 of them, to be exact.

The scoring was started off in the 3rd with a 3-run HR from Justin Morneau, his 29th of the year, and giving him 97 RBI for the year, 2nd in the American League behind that one DH guy in Boston. Yes, it should be official... Morneau is an MVP candidate. Not only is he hitting for power with the 29 HR, but he's hitting for a good average and is improving his OBP, such as Friday when he got on base in all 6 PAs. He's batting .323, but his OBP is up at .378 and he's slugging over .600. Here's Morneau's numbers in the 23 games since the AS Break:

.402 ABG/.465 OBP/.667 SLG. 6 HR and 24 RBI.

Mauer also had a nice night, as even though he only had one hit, that hit was a double driving in 2 runs, and he also walked 3 times. His .445 OBP is tops in the MLB, which is just a testament to his great eye at the plate, especially since he doesn't hit for as much power as some of those other guys close by. Oh yeah, and he's a 23 year-old catcher. That's pretty decent.

Anyway, Twins look for the sweep Sunday, sending virtual unknown Mike Smith to the mound to take on Odalis Perez. With the Twins win and Red Sox loss, they are now just 1.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox for the Wildcard lead. Hopefully they can get the job done and finish the sweep!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Twins walk their way to a victory

It was nothing to write home about, but the Twins will take it. By the end of the game, the Twins left lots of men on base, but with back-to-back HR in the 9th, followed by 3 more runs in the 10th, it didn't matter.

And it was especially important to pick up the win, because the teams the Twins are chasing - Detroit, Chicago, Boston, and New York - all won their games.

By the time it was all said and done, the Twins had 12 BB, 11 hits, and 8 runs. Not terribly efficient, but they scored when they had to. Down 5-3 in the 9th, Joe Mauer led off the inning with his 9th HR of the year, and Michael Cuddyer followed that up with his 15th (not in this game, that'd be a record). The 10th inning was kind of symbolic of the Royals franchise:

Jason Bartlett singles.
Luis Castillo sacrifice bunt.
Nick Punto strikes out.
Joe Mauer intentionally walked.
Michael Cuddyer walked.
Wild pitch scores the run.
Justin Morneau intentionally walked.
Torii Hunter single drives in 2 more runs.
Joe Nathan pitches a perfect 10th for his 23rd save.

Lots of Twins players had good offensive games, but perhaps none more efficent than Justin Morneau. After doubling in his first 2 ABs (and picking up 3 RBI in the process), he walked the next 4 times up. That'll sure help the OBP.

Meanwhile, and I don't say this to be a downer, but Johan Santana has not been his usual invincible self. Normally, with a 3-run lead facing Kansas City, the game is pretty much money in the bank. Not so much on Friday, as the 4-run 4th for the Royals was enough for the Royals to hang on to the lead until the 9th. Johan walked 3 batters in his 6 innings of work, though he also struck out 8.

But all of the worrying about Johan or all the men LOB doesn't really matter anymore, because a win makes one forget about all of that. Carlos Silva (7-9, 6.49) will take the mound on Saturday facing Runelvys Hernandez (2-6, 7.88). 2 games in, the Twins have done what they needed to do against KC. Hopefully they can continue, because as the other teams showed tonight, the Twins better keep winning if they hope to keep pace.

The Royals are the cure for any slumps

After getting thrashed the past couple of days against the Rangers, well, it's always good to be able to take a trip to Kansas City.

The Twins went right back to their winning ways with an 8-2 victory in KC last night. Minnesota jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first, picked up 4 more in the 2nd, and that was all she wrote.

The starting pitchers told the story of this game. Jorge de la Rosa had as many walks as he did outs (4) on his way to 6 runs (5 ER). On the other hand, Brad Radke threw 8 solid innings and gave up just 4 hits and 2 ER, which was especially encouraging because his last start was cut short due to injury/ineffectiveness. If the Twins are going to be a factor coming down the stretch, they need more of this from Radke. The Twins will also need better pitching from the backend of the rotation... maybe from Matt Garza? One Twins fan doesn't think so, at least, not yet.

Offensively, the Twins got a little help from everyone. Justin Morneau had 2 hits and 3 RBI, and for all the talk about Joe Mauer, Morneau might be the best hitter on the team. Meanwhile, Josh Rabe hit another HR, and he's playing like a man that doesn't want to go back to the Minors. Like Jason Tyner when he came up, it's probably not realistic to expect these guys to be good starters for too long, but I'm enjoying this while it lasts.

Tonight is game 2 of this 4-game series, with Johan Santana on the mound against "All-Star" Mark Redman. On paper, the Twins are the favorites, but we all know that these games aren't played on paper, but by little men in our TV sets. Twins stand 2 back of the Wildcard.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

This was a nice surprise

So I'm just checking to see who's been checking this blog out, and I see there's a link here from, which was a nice surprise. So anyway, welcome to all of you coming over from there, comment, and I hope you enjoy it.

And if you're looking for any Liriano news, he's expected to make his next start either Sunday or Monday after learning that for the second straight month he's the AL Rookie of the Month. So he has that going for him, which is nice.

And that other guy we got in the trade, Joe Nathan? He's doing pretty well too, with a 1.60 ERA and 22 saves in 23 opportunities.

So thanks for stopping by, and go Twins! They start a 4-game series with the Royals in about an hour.

Letter to the baseball gods

Please tell me that Liriano being scratched from his start Wednesday is just a precautionary measure, and not the sign of a more serious problem, and that he'll be fine from hear on out. We need him, like, a lot.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

15 runs? For the Twins?

The pitchers may not have had the most impressive display of arms on the mound yesterday, but even so, the offensive explosion from the Twins was a rare treat.

They started things off with 5 in the first, 3 in the second, 3 more in the 4th and 5th, and added 1 more in the 6th just for good measure. By the time it was all said and done, a 15-2 win is looking pretty good.

Pretty much everyone on offense contributed, but they were led by the return of Torii Hunter (3/5, 1 HR, 4 RBI), Nick Punto (4/4), and Justin Morneau (3/4, 2 RBI). Morneau's average is now incredibly up to .321, 6th in the American League. Has there been a better hitter in baseball the past couple months?

But we know all about that, so let's focus on the pitching. Carlos Silva had a superb performance against a very good offense, tossing 7 innings and allowing only 1 run. If he can continue to make starts like this, well, it's going to make the decision to keep Matt Garza in AAA a whole lot easier. Now, if Scott Baker can turn in a similar performance today, and all of a sudden the rotation looks to be in solid shape.

The other big news of the day of course was that the Twins were able to finally unload Kyle Lohse to the Reds, getting Zach Ward back in return, a guy that actually looks pretty decent. Once again, Terry Ryan always doesn't make the big moves that catch the headlines, but he does the solid, little things that improves the depth of the organization and should help for the future.

However you look at it, a great day for Minnesota Twins baseball.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A win is a win is a win

It wasn't pretty, but it didn't have to be.

Through 7 innings, the Tigers were just in complete control of the game. They had drawn a poor performance from Santana (relatively speaking), they were hitting the ball solidly all around the field, and Bonderman was absolutely controlling the game, as the Tigers were up 3-0. I hate to say it, but I had already mentally counted is as a loss, and a sweep by the Tigers.

And then something happened. I think it can be best described with one word: Luck. Ok, they did it a couple balls sharply in that 8th inning, but for the most part, everything went right for the Twins. Aaron Gleeman outlined the inning like this:

- Infield Single
- Error
- Error
- Double
- Infield Single
- Balk
- Ground Out
- Fly Out
- Intentional Walk
- Triple
- Strikeout

It was just that type of inning for the Twins. And good thing, otherwise they'd be coming off of a sweep at home, having outdone all the good they did last week when they swept the Sox. Now they stand 1.5 back of the Yanks (and newly acquired Bobby Abreu), and things look much better.

And congrats to Pat Neshek, who got his first win of his young career. The young guy continues to impress.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Liriano excels, but Tigers win in 10

The first two runners Liriano faced scored against him, but that was all the Tigers could muster in 8 innings against Francisco. In all, Liriano went 8 strong, giving up 2 runs, and tying a career-best with 12 strikeouts. He allowed just 6 baserunners (3 hits allowed, 3 BB). If it weren't for one pitch he left up to Magglio Ordonez, it could have very well been 8 scoreless innings.

Instead, he left after 8 in a 2-2 ballgame, and the normally reliable Twins bullpen strugged through 2 innings, ultimately ending with Rincon giving up a run on a Craig Monroe base hit. Nothing was really hit solid all inning, and if anything would have gone right in the half-inning, Rincon would have got out of there unscathed. But he didn't, the Twins lose, and that's how baseball works.

Interesting to note how both of the times Detroit scored it started the same way - with a weak grounder past Castillo. Castillo can make some great plays at times, but sometimes I wonder about his range to his left. Sure, didn't look all that good last night. He did some really nice things offensively, but if he gets either of those, well, things are a lot different. Let's just say I agree that a younger Castillo may have made those plays.

But no use dwelling on that now. All around it was a very well-played game by both sides, which neither of them really making any big mistakes. Just a play here of there, and things could have changed. But that's baseball. Just frustrating becuase this is probably the game in the series that we were supposed to win, as even Tigers fans were a little surprised.

The other crappy thing about Friday night was that the White Sox managed to come back and win their game in the 9th, and the Yankees easily took care of the D-Rays. Which means the Twins lose a game on both. It's way too early to be thinking about any of that, but well, I'm human.

Today's matchup features the streaking Brad Radke (9-7, 4.74 ERA) vs. Nate Robertson (9-6, 3.70 ERA). This is a bigger game for the Twins than the Tigers, not only because of the standings, but because I believe Detroit has now won 8 of 10 against the Twins this year. I don't think the Twins will lose confidence or anything if they lose this game, but well, it'd be nice to have a shot at taking 2 of 3 from the best team in baseball with Johan Santana on the mound.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Interview with a Tigers fan

At one point I declared Ian from Sweaty Men Endeavors to be my superior in all things, and for one day at least, he will take over this blog.

With the Twins and Tigers starting a 3-game series today in Minnesta, I have asked Ian 5 questions I wanted to know about the Tigers, and he asked me 5 questions about the Twins (which you'll be able to see at his blog). So alas, here they are, helping you learn a little bit more about those MLB-leading Tigers.

Me: What's the single biggest reason for the Tigers surge from middle-of-the-pack to best team in baseball?
Ian: Pitching, pitching, pitching. Virtually every night, the Tigers get a quality start, so even when the lineup needs a few innings to put some runs on the board, they're still in the game. I think the starters also benefit from knowing they only have to go about six innings before the game is turned over to the bullpen, and those guys don't give up the lead very often. The whole staff is pretty relentless on the opposition. Just when those hitters think they might have Kenny Rogers figured out for their third trip to the plate, here comes Joel Zumaya firing rockets. The bullpen can give hitters a different look each time they're up. Considering how poor the pitching has been in Detroit over the years, it's really been amazing to watch.

Me: Should the Tigers make a big move and acquire a guy like Alfonso Soriano, Bobby Abreu, or Carlos Lee?
Ian: You know, I might be in the minority on this, but I lean toward the "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" mindset. It's not so much that I don't want to see the Tigers give up top pitching prospects, because that's one reason you build up that kind of commodity. And Dave Dombrowski's done a great job of keeping that pipeline fresh. The Tigers have just been playing so well that you almost can't imagine they could get better.

Yet there's also the side that says you have to go for it when you get the chance. Between the development of the younger players and the solid play from the veterans, everything's come together so well this season, and there's no guarantee it'll happen again. These windows don't stay open very long, so if the Tigers have a chance to make themselves a better team, one that contends for a championship, then they absolutely should do it. Even if it costs them a piece of the future. Abreu seems like he'd be the best fit with his left-handed bat, speed, defense, and on-base percentage. Yet Soriano - who's been the hot name, because you know Washington wants and needs to trade him - would be leading the team in virtually every offensive category if he were here.

Ultimately, I think the Tigers will make a move that looks underwhelming on paper - bringing in a Matt Stairs-John Mabry-David Dellucci type of player - but will fill an important role for the Tigers, giving them a left-handed bat that Leyland can shuffle among the corner outfield spots and first base.

Me: Todd Jones has struggled a bit this year, while younger guys like Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney have been more consistent? Who should the Tigers closer be?
Ian: I know Jones has taken a lot of flack from fans because it's never easy with him and he doesn't inspire a lot of confidence when he comes in for the ninth inning. But he's been very good lately, getting a lot of 1-2-3 innings, while lowering his ERA and WHIP numbers. Meanwhile, Rodney's been shaky and walking a lot of hitters. Many people think something's wrong with his mechanics. I think it was Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press who said Jones is simply best suited for the ninth inning because he relies on fooling hitters and getting them to make contact. If the bases are loaded with one out in the seventh, Jones won't come in and strike out the next two batters, which is what you need in that situation. That's what Zumaya does.

Sabermetricians have often said that managers shouldn't just save their best relievers for the ninth inning, because that's not always when they're needed most, and Jim Leyland is proving them right. As silly as this might sound, the Tigers would waste Zumaya if they only used him as the closer. He helps the team more in his current role, striking out batters in tough situations, or going two innings when needed. Some of Jones' saves might come after three fly balls caught on the warning track, but he somehow gets those last three outs.

Me: If the Tigers make the playoffs, who should get the ball in Game 1?
Ian: If the playoffs started next week, I'd make Justin Verlander the guy for Game 1. He's been the Tigers' best starting pitcher lately. His last six starts have been dominant. But there's a lot of concern about him eventually breaking down as he pitches more innings than he ever has before. Kenny Rogers might make the most sense, in terms of experience, but history says he's not very good in the second half of the season.

So that leaves Jeremy Bonderman. He's the best combination of experience and youth, with the kind of stuff that can mow down a lineup early in a game and set a tone for the rest of the series. And if he didn't work out, then you can bring in a veteran like Rogers to start in Game 2 and hopefully provide a steadying influence for the pitching staff. Jim Leyland has a lot of options to play with for a seven-game series. It's exciting to think about.

Me: Who's winning the AL Wildcard (be honest)?
Ian: At this point, it's hard to pick against the Twins. They looked dead in April and May, but very quietly (at least from Detroit's vantage point) began to make a run. And it was like people began tapping each other on the shoulders, saying "Hey, do you see what Minnesota is doing?" Then the Twins were like that horde you could see a few miles away on the horizon. What is that? Are they coming? We'd better get ready. But now, after sweeping Chicago, the day many of us anticipated has finally arrived. They're tied with the White Sox, right behind the Yankees in the wild-card standings, and to the Tigers fans that have been paying attention, the Twins look scary as hell - especially with that starting pitching.

Having said all that, however, I'm still going with the White Sox. I know they've been in a tailspin since the All-Star break, and their starting pitching - especially Buehrle and Garcia - looks messy right now. But to me, they've been the best team in the AL Central from the beginning. I still can't believe they're as far behind the Tigers as they are. I almost have to slap myself each time I look at the standings. And if Kenny Williams can make a big deal at the trade deadline - something he's been very good at in the past - I think they'll turn things around and get right back in this. Not that they're out of it, of course. It's more like they fell back into a race with the Twins and Yankees. And it's going to be fun to watch for the rest of this season.

Friday's game starts at 7:10 CDT.