Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I wanted to name this post "disgusting" but then I decided to look up synonyms instead and here is what came up. I figure just about any one of these words could be used to describe my feelings toward the Twins' offense right now:

abominable, awful, beastly, cloying, creepy, detestable, distasteful, foul, frightful, ghastly, grody, gross*, gruesome, hateful, hideous, horrid, horrific, icky, loathsome, lousy, macabre, monstrous, nasty, nauseating, nerdy, noisome, objectionable, obnoxious, odious, offensive, outrageous, repellent, repugnant, revolting, rotten, satiating, scandalous, scuzzy, shameless, shocking, sleazeball, sleazy*, stinking, surfeiting, vile, vulgar, yecchy, yucky

I am far too upset to post right now, so I will just leave this for you to chew on...

Over the past 5 games the Twins have left a combined 53 runners on base while our opponents have only stranded 30

p.s. I am in the midst of preparing to move into a house on June 1st, that is why my posts have been few and far between. I am planning to pick it up and begin posting on a regular basis again sometime after I move in.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Pretty Good Weekend (yes, taking 1 of 3 at Yankee Stadium qualifies)

I have been known to describe myself as an optimist. I have even gone so far as to describe myself as an “eternal optimist” in one of my posts within the last few months. I am that guy who doesn’t want to leave a game until the last out is recorded, not because I am trying to “get my money’s worth,” but rather because I fully believe that “my team” has a shot to win no matter how large the deficit.

This weekend, the Twins threatened to send me deep into pessimistic territory.

Following Saturday’s 7-1 beat down that the Yankees issued, the Twins had zero wins in their last 12 meetings with the pinstripes, including last postseason. This stretch consisted of what seemed like an infinite number of late inning, come from behind victories, including Friday nights 8-4 loss which included a 7th inning grand slam from Alex Rodriguez to put them ahead 7-4.

Saturday night I was as close as I have ever been to abandoning all optimistic hope and buying into the notion that the Twins just aren’t in the same league as the New York Yankees. I was drinking the kool-aid served up by fatalistic Twins fans that claimed they were unable to hold a late inning lead, because quite frankly, they hadn’t been able to.

My twitter post immediately following the A-Rod grand slam stated, “I think A-Rod's confidence came from the fact that he saw Guerrier wet his pants when he stepped to the plate...”

I was just about to dive head first into pessimism, and then Sunday happened...

Phil Mackey said it best on Twitter when he said, “Twins can exorcise a lot of demons here if Kubel (coldest hitter) comes through w/ bases loaded (achilles heel) against Yankees.” This came just moments before what I would consider the biggest homerun of Kubel’s career. I know that it is May, and this game is only 1 out of 162 that will be played this year. But it is less about the grand slam itself, and more about what it represents.

That homerun was “epic” (yes I just used that word) in more ways than one. It came at a time when the Twins desperately needed it. This is the year that the Twins have been dubbed as “ready to make a world series run.” One of the obstacles standing in the way is the hated Yankees. Getting swept in the Bronx to make it 13 straight losses would not have done well for the psyche of anybody on the roster.

Not only did the Twins come back in the late innings against the Yankees, something that has forever been the other way around, they did it against Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera, probably the best setup man and closer in all of baseball. To put into perspective just how huge this was, here are some facts for you; Rivera’s blown save was his first at home since 2007, a span of 51 consecutive saves. His bases loaded walk to Thome was his first issued since 2005, and the grand slam that Kubel hit was the first given up by Rivera since 2002! I would say that is reason to call the blast “epic.”

Let’s also not forget just how bad Kubel has been so far this season (.225, with 3 HR and 15 RBI), and also how bad the Twins have been with the bases loaded. This late inning comeback against arguably the best closer ever, might be just what Kubel needed to jump start his season, and also what the Twins needed to get going with the bases loaded and give them the confidence that they can win come October.

The other reason for this weekend being good for the Twins organization as a whole was the AA debut of Kyle Gibson.

“There was a time not too long ago when Kyle Gibson's name was mentioned in the same breath as Stephen Strasburg's. Judging by his recent performances in the Minnesota Twins' minor league system, it may happen again in the near future.”

Geoff Morrow of the The Patriot-News hit the nail right on the head regarding Gibson’s Saturday performance. In his debut with a terrible New Britain Rock Cats squad, Gibson went 7.1 innings, giving up zero runs on 4 hits, while walking only 1 and striking out 10. Pretty impressive for a 22 year old already pitching at AA when he didn’t throw a single minor league inning last year due to a stress fracture in his right forearm.

Gibson is on the fast track, some scouts and writers have said that we may see him pitching for the Twins as early as this September, although I believe that time won’t come until next season. Either way it is clear that the Twins have a special talent who fell to them at the #22 pick in last year’s draft, due solely to this forearm stress fracture that prior to diagnosis, many feared was the precursor to elbow problems. Prior to that injury, Gibson was pegged as a top-5 lock, I think you could say this is one time that an injury to a Twins prospect was a good thing.

I am really excited about Gibson soon joining the Twins for more than just the fact that he is a special talent. I also had the chance to speak with him briefly at TwinsFest this past winter, and he is an extremely nice guy. He is very grounded and humble, a strong Christian (he actually signed a baseball for me with a bible verse included below his name, something that I have never seen an athlete do, and I thought this was extremely cool) and seems to be a very genuine individual.

Gibson is now 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 50/13 in 50.2 innings on the year, split between A+ and AA. This kid is for real and could be just the ace that this pitching staff will need for years to come.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Coming Soon

You may have noticed that I haven't made a post in quite a while. I just wanted to assure my thousands... hundreds... 13-14 readers that I have not abandoned writing for this blog. I was very busy last week, and I actually made a trip home last weekend to officially move my things out of my parent's house. I assure you that a new post will be coming in the next day or two, so please check back and read!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pitcher of the Month, Bases Loaded & Wilson Ramos

If any Twins fans were in need of validation for Francisco Liriano’s performance over the first month of the season, they definitely received it on Monday. Liriano was named American League pitcher of the month for the month of April after going 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his first 5 starts of the year. This marks the first time a Twins pitcher has won the award since September of 2006 when Johan Santana brought it home.

Across his first 5 starts, Liriano has accumulated 36 strikeouts over 36 innings pitched, but walked 13 batters, a trend that hopefully will not continue over the next 5 months.

What’s been most impressive about Liriano thus far aside from his numbers is the fact that his velocity finally appears to be back. His fastball late in ballgames has been consistently 94-96 mph with his slider working around 87-88 and his changeup around 84-85. This is usually the surest sign that a pitcher has fully recovered from Tommy John.

Another encouraging sign was something that I noticed in his last start against the Indians last Sunday. Coming into the game riding 23 consecutive scoreless innings, Liriano proceeded to quickly give up 2 runs in the bottom of the first inning, something that would have lead to a complete mental breakdown a year ago. Liriano recovered well, and ended up throwing 7 strong innings, giving up a total of 3 earned runs while striking out 9. This ability to settle down after a rocky start shows a maturity that we haven’t seen from Liriano.

Anybody that has watched the Twins so far this season has probably noticed that they have been struggling a bit with the bases loaded. Anybody who consistently reads about the Twins is probably sick of reading about their struggles with the bases loaded. This has frustrated me all season, so I decided to do some statistical digging to see just how bad it really is, and the results are disgusting…

Entering Monday the Twins led all of baseball in plate appearances with the bases loaded at a whopping 52. The league average slash line in these situations sits at .292/.334/.443, meaning that on average that amount of opportunities in 25 games should lead to a ton of runs. However, the Twins in those situations have hit an abysmal .163/.192/.186

Albeit those numbers are terrible, the Twins are tied for 3rd in all of baseball with 140 runs scored. As all of my readers should know by now, I am eternally optimistic and believe that the Twins production with the bases loaded will improve significantly over the year. This increased timely hitting will make one of the best offenses in baseball even more potent.

To make Twins fans and even the occasional sports writer even begin to think about muttering the words “Mauer who?” would take nothing short of a superhuman performance on the field. Somehow Wilson Ramos was able to perform well enough in his first 2 major league games that had some people thinking this way.

Wilson Ramos began his major league career by going 4 for 5 with a couple of doubles that he absolutely laced. He didn’t skip a beat by going 3 for 4 last night in his first game at Target Field, giving him 7 hits in his first 9 at bats. If you were a casual observer at Target Field on Monday night you would have thought that people believed they should begin etching Ramos’ name on a plaque in Cooperstown. I even heard one fan two rows behind me trying to muster up the chant, “trade Mauer.”

Yes, Ramos has been hitting the ball well and calling a good game behind the plate, but how even the most casual of fans trying to reason that the Twins should trade arguably the best player in baseball, a 3-time bating champion and reigning AL MVP who we just locked up with a long-term deal just makes me want to vomit. I know that Minnesota sports fans have been called “short sighted” or “fair weather” by people outside of this market, and it is thoughts and comments like this that lead to this belief.

Ramos is one of the top 3 prospects in the Twins organization, one of the best prospects in baseball, and is a prototypical catcher who is built like a brick wall. He is a guy who will hit for average, and seems to have as much raw power as just about anybody in the organization. He will fill in nicely while Mauer is injured, and will be sent back down to Rochester when Mauer comes back. I am sure that many fans will be up in arms when this takes place, but you just simply cannot risk stunting the growth of one of your organization’s top prospects by sitting him on the bench and giving him maybe 4 at bats a week.

Literally as I am writing this sentence, JJ Hardy is crossing the plate for the Twins first ever walk-off win at Target Field. It seems fitting that Hardy be the one to score this run as he made a phenomenal heads up defensive play for the last out of the 9th and preserve the tie. I thought the ball that Hardy hit was gone when it left the bat, which probably would have been cooler, but a win is a win.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thoughts From The First Month

Yesterday marked the final day of April, which means that the first month of the MLB season has come and gone. It seems only fitting that I would reflect on the first month of the season, not only in terms of the Twins but the league as a whole.

  • Things in the AL Central are what I thought they would be up to this point in the season. The Twins appear to be the class of the division, driven mostly by solid starting pitching and an offense that appears to be one of the best in baseball. The Tigers aren’t too far behind and appear that they may be a bit “pesky” as the season continues. The only things that may be a bit different than I expected are that the White Sox starting pitching up until this point has been fairly sub-par, and the Indians may actually be the “cellar dweller” rather than the Royals.
  • Jon Rauch has stepped into the closer role nicely, and has had better success and better overall numbers than I expected. His numbers at this point are that he is 7 of 8 in save opportunities with an ERA of 1.80 and a K/BB ratio of 7/2. His lone blown save came against the Royals last Saturday in their 9-7 extra inning win, and Rauch actually earned the win.
  • Francisco Liriano is 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 27/10 over 29 innings. Enough said.
  • Orlando Hudson went 3 for 4 in last night’s 9-3 victory over the Indians to raise his batting average to .301. His season line now stands at .301/.387/.387. Denard Span’s batting average stands at a measly .211, but his on-base percentage is .339. With Span’s batting average likely improving as the season progresses, his presence at the top of the lineup with Hudson setting the table for Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel & Thome, this lineup will continue to score a ton of runs.
  • Roy Halladay is rolling. He is 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA, 2 complete games, and a K/BB ratio of 33/3 in 40 innings this year. This not only confirms that the switch from the AL to the NL is much easier for a pitcher, but also that I made the wrong choice in my preseason pick for the NL Cy Young.
  • We may be seeing a changing of the guard in the AL East. Of course the Yankees are going to be there, but with the Tampa Bay Rays looking like possibly the best team in baseball, the Boston Red Sox appear to be the odd man out in that division. They are off to a sub-par start at 11-12 and currently sit 4th in that division behind the Rays, Yankees and Blue Jays. Yes their starting pitching has been bad, but with how good the Rays and Yankees look, barring some sort of an injury, it doesn’t appear that the Red Sox will still be playing in October.
  • Finally, Paul Konerko is absolutely raking right now. He is currently leading the league in homeruns with 11, and slugging percentage at .784. His current line is .297/.413/.784. Those are some pretty impressive numbers, especially the homerun total when you consider the fact that he is only played in 22 games. He is currently on pace to hit 81 homeruns with 155 RBIs and score 96 runs. Obviously that won’t happen, but that doesn’t make his April any less impressive.

UPDATE: Roy Halladay pitched yet another complete game shutout Saturday afternoon, defeating the Mets 10-0 while striking out 6 and walking just 1 on 118 pitches. This now brings his season numbers to a record of 5-1 with an ERA of 1.47 and a K/BB ratio of 39/4 in 49 innings. Let's also not forget his measly WHIP of 0.878. I will say again, it appears that I picked the wrong NL pitcher as my preseason CY Young Winner.