Sunday, April 29, 2007

2 out of 3 ain't bad

Coming into the series, the Twins were really struggling, and that was with those games coming at home. So to go to Detroit and take 2 of 3 (and be in the 3rd game), well, gotta like that.

Torii Hunter continued his great hitting, showing no ill effects from the ball in the face via Zack Greinke. After hitting his 5th HR Sunday (to go along with the 13 doubles), he is now slugging over .650. That's really, really good.

Also a great series for Jason Kubel, who is playing everyday and starting to be more consistent in showing some of that great potential. He's batting .333 over the last 6 games with 3 doubles, and had a really big hit Friday. More ABs for Jason Kubel and less for Jason Tyner is something I can support.

But it wasn't all good... once again, Jesse Crain struggled, giving up the walkoff HR Sunday. Crain's ERA is now at 6.30, and he only has 5 strikeouts through 10 innings. It's early obviously, but does anyone have any confidence when he enters a game? I know that I just do not at this point.

Twins take on the Devil Rays Tuesday... could it be Sidney Ponson's last start? If he struggles again, I don't see how they can justify keeping him up.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Interview with a Tigers Blogger

With the Twins and Tigers series coming up this weekend, Ian from Bless You Boys and Sweaty Men Endeavors and I had a little cross-blog interview. I asked him questions about the Tigers, and he asked me questions about the Twins. We did this year, and due to popular demand (at least that's what we tell ourselves) have brought it back. I'll post Ian's responses here, and mine will be over at Bless You Boys.

(1) I think it's safe to say that Gary Sheffield has struggled thus far since coming to Detroit. What seems to be his problems? Can they compete for a division title if he is only average?

Ian: From what I've seen, I think Sheffield's just trying too hard. He came to a World Series team and got a big contract extension, and I think he's putting some pressure on himself. And it's only gotten worse as he continues to slump. He's swinging at bad pitches and seems to be pulling most every pitch. He just looks uncomfortable; even his stance looks different from what I remember.

And no, I don't think the Tigers can compete if Sheffield doesn't figure it out. They have a decent record right now, thanks to their pitching, but I don't think that can last throughout the season. Eventually, they need Sheffield to provide the run production expected of him. There's no other player on the roster (well, maybe Magglio Ordonez) who can put up those kinds of numbers by himself.

(2) To be blunt, Sean Casey has been pretty atrocious thus far. Do they have any other options to turn to if he keeps struggling like this?

Ian: Definitely. Marcus Thames has already been starting against left-handed pitchers, so I don't think it's too much of a stretch to think he could play that position every day, if necessary. Or Chris Shelton, who was the first baseman most of last season, could be called up from AAA Toledo. Either move would probably strengthen the lineup. However, the defense at first base would suffer, and that's not an unimportant consideration to Jim Leyland. Casey's already saved several throwing errors with his glove. But if neither option is to the Tigers' liking, they'll try hard to trade for another first baseman.

(3) Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman have both followed up successful seasons last year with great starts to this season. If you had one game to win, which guy would you rather have on the mound?

Ian: I'd choose Bonderman, and not just because of his experience. Before the season, I thought Tigers fans were laying it on a little thick, saying he could be a Cy Young Award candidate, but so far, he's pitched to that level. Two of his last three starts have been phenomenal, and he'd bring that talent and determination to a must-win game. For whatever reason, Bonderman can still struggle in the first inning, but if a team doesn't get to him then, something clicks and he locks in. He could absolutely go nine innings in a Game 7, and I don't think you can say the same thing about Verlander.

(4) I must admit, it usually gives me hope as a Twins fan to see Todd Jones coming out to pitch the 9th... but then he usually gets the job done (even with the measly K rates). What makes him so effective?

Ian: I think a lot of Detroit fans often ask the same question. But it seems like Jones succeeds largely through stubbornness and conviction. He knows what kind of pitcher he is, so he pitches to contact and lets his defense make the plays. If Jones tried to blow fastballs by everyone, he'd get hammered out there. But as long as he keeps his ball moving, so the batters can't square it up, he'll be effective. He'll allow at least one baserunner per save situation, but then induce a double-play grounder to close out the game. A few times a season, he'll have a meltdown and blow a three-run lead. Yet he comes right back the next day, just as all the good relievers do.

(5) Where do you see the Tigers finishing up this season? Who do you think are their main competitors in the Central?

Ian: It probably looks like a hometown pick, but I really do think the Tigers are the best team in the AL Central and will eventually finish on top. With Kenny Rogers' injury, they no longer have the best starting rotation in the division, but I'd still like their top four over anyone else's. What I'm most encouraged by - and what should worry the other teams in the Central - is that they've been competitive despite disappointing production from their lineup and inconsistent pitching from the bullpen. Sheffield should eventually start hitting, and if Casey doesn't, the Tigers will somehow upgrade the position. And the starting rotation will be bolstered either by Rogers' return, or a call-up from the minors, such as Virgil Vasquez or Andrew Miller. So ultimately, this team is in good shape.


Once again much thanks to Ian from Bless You Boys and Sweaty Men Endeavors. Ian does great work on the Tigers, Detroit in general, and really all of sports. So be sure to check him out!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Officially a losing streak

After the Twins 4th straight loss, I think this is officially the first real losing streak of the year. This one hurts too, just because of who it has been against and where it's been played. 2 of the 4 losses have come against the Royals, and 3 of the 4 have come have the friendly Metrodome.

The early blame went to Sidney Ponson, who gave up 4 runs in 6 innings of work, though that actually lowered his ERA to 8.44. The Ponson Experiment has just got to stop. The Twins cannot afford to stop throwing him out there every 5 games.

Unfortunately, the Twins didn't really get any type of run support or any offensive effort except from Torii Hunter. Torii was 2/4, including a continuation of his barrage of doubles as he hit his 13th of the year. He also hit another HR, to give him 4 so far. Meanwhile the 3-4-5 hitters went 3/5 with 2 BB (from Mauer). That's not going to get it done.

The Twins will try to avoid the 2-game sweep by sending Boof Bonser to the mound. Bonser has disappointed so far this year, but hopefully the home start against KC will be just what the doctor ordered. He'll take on Zack Greinke.

Monday, April 23, 2007

4-2 ain't bad

It's never good to lose 2 of 3 to Kansas City, but overall, a 4-2 roadtrip isn't too shabby. After sweeping the Mariners, the Twins were hoping for more of the same in Kansas City, but it didn't quite work out.

Now a 4-game homestand begins, with 2 against the Indians and 2 against the Royals.

The Indians will send Jeremy Sowers to the mound to take on Carlos Silva. Silva has been a nice surprise so far this year, giving up only 0.50 HR/9 innings so far, which would be great if it could continue.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Paging Matt Garza

After another poor outing from Sidney Ponson, it's not hard to believe that his days as a Twins starter might be numbered. After the Twins bumped the lead to 4-2 in the 5th, things started going south, and by the end Sidney Ponson was only able to pitch 4.2 innings, giving up 6 runs. He only had 2 strikeouts and gave up 2 HR. To the Royals.

Everyone pitching after Ponson struggled as well, but it's still hard not to be disappointed at the effort. This bumps Ponson's ERA to 9.39, and that's with 2 of his starts coming against the Royals and Devil Rays.

Meanwhile in AAA, there are some options. Garza has been a little wild with his control, but he would certainly be in the mix. Kevin Slowey has pitched 11.2 scoreless innings so far this year. Scott Baker just threw 8 shutout innings on Friday night.

In the Majors, Glen Perkins is up with the team and is capable of starting. The options are there. If Ponson struggles like this again, will that be the end of the Ponson Experiment?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Twins deliver a shellacking

Ramon Ortiz is 3-0. Terry Ryan, you are a freaking genius. Seriously, is there anyone alive that would have thought Ramon Ortiz would be 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA after 3 starts? I'm just kind of shocked thinking about it. But in a good way.

Elsewhere, everything was working for the Twins. 10 XBH and 11 runs overall for the Twins, and I think they can live with that effort. The backbreaker was Torii Hunter's grand slam, the 7th of his career. In all honesty, I thought it looked like the pitch beforehand should possibly have been called strike 3, but it wasn't, and then Hunter made Weaver pay for the hanging breaking ball. He now leads the team with 12 RBI.

Right behind is Mike Cuddyer, who had 3 RBI himself. Joe Mauer hit 3 doubles, Jason Tyner had 3 hits, Jason Bartlett had 2 more hits... there were plenty of offensive stars. It was really a great all-around game. Great offense, great defense, solid pitching. Not much more you can ask for.

Wednesday night's game features Carlos Silva (with a 0.77 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (with a 0.00 ERA). If the Twins can put forth the same type of effort as they did on Tuesday, they could slow down Felix's short reign of terror through the AL.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I was out of town over the weekend, which is why I didn't write anything at all, but here are some of my thoughts from the weekend split with the Rays:

- I don't have the numbers to back me up right now, but doesn't it just seem like Joe Nathan is a lot less effective when he pitches in non-save situations? Not just this year, but last year as well. That was certainly the case in this series, as we know what happened yesterday, and he also got lucky to survive on Thursday.

- Throughout the 4-game series, the pitchers that had the best lines for the Twins were Sidney Ponson and Carlos Silva. The worst lines belonged to Johan Santana and Boof Bonser. Baseball is a funny game.

- I know why Gardy puts Redmond in the 3 spot, but it's still a really bad idea. Seriously, are Cuddyer-Morneau-Hunter going to really get messed up moving up one spot in the order for a day? I doubt it.

- Jason Bartlett uses a 3/3 day to get the averaged up to .214. Hey, you gotta start somewhere.

- Jason Kubel basically has to play everyday because of injuries to other guys, but that's a good thing. Now, even with an 0/4 day Saturday, he was back in the lineup Sunday and went 2/4 including a nice RBI double.

- You can't say enough about Matt Guerrier... the guy just gets the job done, no matter the situation. He's a great asset on this staff.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Is there anything better than a Walk-Off Homer?

If you ask me, no. Especially when its the Twins hitting it. That's what happened on Thursday, as Justin Morneau stepped up to start the 9th inning and jacked one the opposite way. He didn't even look like he hit it that solidly, he's just really good. Like really good.

But the big story of the night, of course, was the superb effort from Carlos Silva. 6.2 scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 0.77. I never thought I would be typing that... Carlos Silva lowered his ERA to 0.77 on the year. He wasn't able to get the win because Juan Rincon wasn't able to hold the lead, but that doesn't make Silva's start any less encouraging.

I know it's very early, but you gotta love the starters so far. Ramon Ortiz has been excellent, Silva has a 0.77 ERA, and while Sidney Ponson didn't have great numbers, the stuff was there. So that's a lot more than I thought I would be saying about the rotation at this point.

Excellent pitching matchup Friday... Scott Kazmir vs. Johan Santana. Two of the best lefties in the game, which should make for a great matchup.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ramon Ortiz has been the Twins best starter

Through 2 games, Ramon Ortiz has been everything the Twins hoped he would be and more. If you had bet in an Online Sportsbook before the season that after 2 starts Ramon Ortiz would lead the Twins in IP, ERA, WHIP, and have 2 wins, well, you're braver than I am.

Ortiz pitched 8 innings, giving up only 3 hits and 1 run, against perhaps the best lineup in the MLB in the Yankees. That puts him at 2-0 on the year with a 1.80 ERA. The strikeout rate could definitely stand to be higher, but as long as he can keep throwing with the excellent control he has displayed so far and keep the ball in the ballpark, well, there's a chance this might not be an aberration.

But this all looked like it would result in a no-decision for Ortiz until the bats finally got going in the 8th. The 3-4-5-6 showed why they can be so dangerous, as they each drove in a run. With Luis Castillo on 2nd, Joe Mauer singled and took 2nd base. After a wild pitch, Michael Cuddyer singled him in. Then Justin Morneau doubled down the line, and Hunter ended with another double to push the lead to 5-1.

This was fortunately enough for the Twins to at least win 1 game in the series, putting them at 5-3. Now the Rays come to town for a 4-game set. Game 1 of the series features Casey Fossum against Carlos Silva. In his first start he gave up 1 run in 5 innings... I think the Twins wouldn't mind a repeat of that.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sidney Ponson Gets Shelled

Yes, shocking.

2/3 of the Trio of Horror pitched well in their debuts (Ramon Ortiz and Carlos Silva), but Sidney Ponson could not do the same, as the Yankees beat the Twins 8-2. Here was Ponson's line:

5.2 IP, 10 HR, 8 ER, 3 BB, 2 K

Yikes. Sadly, even if he had been excellent, it probably wouldn't have been enough to win, as the bats were mostly silent against Carl Pavano, as they could only muster 6 hits and 2 runs off of him in 7 innings.

Meanwhile, even with the 4-2 start and division lead, things aren't all good for the Twins. Injuries and ineffectiveness from many guys are putting a little bit of a damper on the quick start, but as Twinkie Town notes, it is pretty early.

Andy Pettitte vs. Boof Bonser in game 2 of the series... hopefully it's better than the first game.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ramon Ortiz got a Win

Honestly, I didn't think I'd be able to say that much this year. I realize I still probably won't, but it was a great to see a great effort from Ortiz in his first game for the Twins. If he can give the Twins 7 IP and 2 ER on any type of consistent basis, well, Terry Ryan is even more of a genius than I thought.

Hitting wise, it was a good team effort. Everyone got on base at least once, and multiple players had 2 RBI. After a 2/4 game, Mauer is hitting .455 (which means nothing at this point, but still fun to point out).

What a great series for the Twins to start the year. On the broadcast they said that the first time the Twins were 3 games over .500 last year was when they were 38-35. That's crazy.

On a final note, I wasn't able to mention The Sabean Special last occurred last night. Boof wasn't able to get the win, but he started the game, and Joe Nathan finished it with the save. Always good to get one of those early on!

The Sabean Special Count: 1

Monday, April 02, 2007

Twins Win Season Opener

W: Johan Santana (1-0)
L: Erik Bedard (0-1)
S: Joe Nathan (1)

Johan Santana wasn't great (which tends to happen in April), but he didn't really need to be, as the hitting more than made up for it with a solid day leading to the 7-4 opening day victory.

It was a familiar script for the Twins... Santana with a win, Mauer with a hit, Morneau with a HR, the bullpen was great, and Nathan finished it off with the save. That's basically the way they won the Division last year, so it's not a bad thing to pick that up right where they left off.

The thing I was most impressed with was the hitting of Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter, each of whom hit a HR.

Last year, the thing that propelled Morneau's game (in my mind) was that he was so much better hitting against lefties, and so much better taking pitches and going with them the opposite way. Well, on the first two ABs for him he went the opposite way and got hits against a solid lefty, including a HR in the 2nd inning. If he can continue to do those things there's no reason why he can't improve upon last year's numbers, in which case, well, look out American League.

Game 2 of the season features Boof Bonser going against Daniel Cabrera... hopefully we can get our first Sabean Special of the season.

Cytana in the 1st

3 batters, 3 outs, 1 strikeout.

Baseball is back!

Opening Day!

As I type this, the first pitch will be in about 16 hours! Baseball is finally back!

Johan Santana vs. Erik Bedard.

My prediction:
Twins - 6
Orioles - 2