Monday, June 21, 2010

“Super Pavario” Outduels “Doc Halladay”

If that title doesn’t sound like either a comic book or a video game than I don’t know what would.

Sporting one of the fullest and creepiest moustaches I have ever seen, Carl Pavano pitched the Twins to a series win yesterday afternoon against the Philadelphia Phillies. Pavano went the distance, marking the second time he has done so this year. His line for the day included 1 run on 4 hits while walking none and striking out just 2. Pavano didn’t need many strikeouts as he claimed 14 of his 27 outs via ground balls.

Other than making him far less popular with the ladies, Pavano’s newfound facial hair has provided him with somewhat of a performance boost. Over his last 3 appearances vs. the Royals, Rockies and Phillies (the mustache first appeared prior to his outing against the Royals) Pavano is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 24 IP with 3 walks and 8 strikeouts.

This is exactly what the Twins pictured when they avoided arbitration by inking the Super Mario lookalike to a 1-year $7MM deal last offseason. A solid veteran presence who can pitch late into games, induce a lot of ground balls, and win 12-15 ballgames with an ERA below 4.00. One thing is for sure, with the rumors swirling around about Minnesota being a possible destination for Cliff Lee, I would be extremely comfortable with a postseason rotation that includes Liriano, Lee, Pavano and more than likely Baker.

I would fully support the idea of the entire Twins roster growing moustaches. If they have the same effect on everybody as they did on Pavano, the Twins may begin to resemble the 1927 Yankees in terms of their on-field performance (as those moustaches clearly wouldn’t fit the “clean cut” dress code of the pinstripes).

One area that I have failed to write about yet this season, and I feel is being overlooked is the success of the leftfielder for our beloved Twins. Delmon Young has “quietly” been putting up some monster numbers this year out of the 7 spot in the lineup. Outside of Justin Morneau, who is having an MVP caliber season, the argument can be made that Delmon Young has been the Twins’ second best hitter this season.

I am not trying to make a case that Delmon Young is somehow a better hitter than Joe Mauer, because we all know that would be ridiculous and asinine. But in terms of numbers, Young currently not only has a higher batting average than Mr. Mauer, but has also driven in more runs, while also clobbering nearly 3 times as many homeruns. Young’s statistics through .306/.343/.502 with 8 HR and 43 RBI, and those 43 RBIs are second on the Twins only to Justin Morneau’s 47.

Another area that has also been overlooked is the number of “clutch hits” that Young has this season. He has, on multiple occasions, delivered a big hit for the Twinkies at just the right time, with his latest coming on Saturday afternoon vs. the Phillies when he singled in the top of the 11th inning to give the Twins an 11-10 lead they would not relinquish.
Although I believe his decreased playing weight this season (Young lost 35 pounds in the offseason) has given more speed, quickness and flexibility, I fully believe that Young’s emergence in 2010 has mostly to do with his age. People forget that young is merely 24 years old and yet is already playing in his 5th major league season. Most players by age 24 are either just reaching the majors or beginning their 2nd or 3rd years.
People were way too quick in writing off Young as a “bust” based on his first two seasons with the Twins. He is just now developing the plate discipline and baseball IQ necessary to be a star in this league, and I don’t see his 2010 numbers as a fluke. I fully expect Young to be one of our better players for the remainder of the year, and to be a staple in left field for the Twins in years to come.

The Twins’ “stretch of aces” continues this week as they are set to face Yovani Gallardo Thursday afternoon in Milwaukee and Johan Santana Saturday in New York. This stretch of interleague road games comes to an end Sunday in New York before the Twins return home for a fun 7 game home stand when they will face the Tigers for 3 before welcoming the Tampa Bay Rays for 4.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Hiatus Is Over!

My last legitimate blog post came nearly a month ago, following the 3 game series against the Yankees. Oh how far ago that seems.

The fact of the matter is that I recently moved into a new house with some friends (9 days ago to be exact), and I have been in the process of getting settled in. Throw in the fact that we do not yet have Internet access or cable and that may help to explain the reason why this post is coming 28 days after that May 17th post.

Since I have last posted, a lot has happened with the Minnesota Twins. As I look back on the last month, I realize that it was basically the worst month to not be blogging due to the innumerable topics that I could have written about. There were numerous times throughout the past 9 days that I thought, “hey, I should blog about that,” and then I realized that I did not have an Internet connection at my newly rented house. The only reason I am able to be writing this post right now is because I recently discovered that one of my neighbors apparently doesn’t believe in locking his wireless network, which doesn’t bother me one bit.

Since that series at Yankee Stadium the Twins have gone 12-13, somehow managing to game a half game in the AL Central standings. Joe Mauer’s batting average has fallen even further from its’ May peak of .364, while Jason Kubel’s average has risen from a “Mendoza-esque” .213 to nearly .250 while also regaining some power. Delmon Young has silenced most critics of the Matt Garza/Jason Bartlett trade, and Orlando Hudson and JJ Hardy have seemed to be taking their advice on how to stay healthy from Eric Chavez.

Let’s also not forget that the Rochester Red Wings made a visit to Target Field to take on the Atlanta Braves Sunday afternoon. The lineup that Ron Gardenhire trotted out against Bobby Cox’s squad was one that even the Orioles or Pirates may have been ashamed to run out there. I realize that Hudson and Hardy are both on the DL, and that Mauer and even Denard Span occasionally need days off, but don’t you think with a day off on Monday (not even a travel day I would like to add) and the NL East-leading braves in town for a Sunday afternoon rubber match, Gardy maybe could have done something a little different?

Needless to say, the end of May and beginning of June has seen some interesting things from the Minnesota Twins. Being the, as Paul Allen would say, “great baseball mind” that I am, I would like to give my thoughts on certain things.

Justin Morneau officially passed Mark Teixeira in the All-Star Game balloting, and now leads the Yankees first baseman by nearly 200,000 votes. This is absolutely the way it should be as Morneau is having an “MVP caliber” season, batting .350/.460/.636 with 13 HR and 43 RBI. Teixeira is hitting a measly .229/.346/.392 with 9 HR and 37 RBI, numbers that aren’t even in the same stratosphere as Morneau’s. If Teixeira somehow ends up regaining the lead and ends up starting for the AL, I may actually vomit.

Joe Mauer leads the American League in All-Star votes with 2,617,822 while putting up a fairly mediocre season. Don’t get me wrong, Lou Marson or Gerald Laird would love to be putting up numbers like Mauer has this season, but when you look at what Mauer did last season after missing all of April, this season doesn’t even compare thus far. Obviously Mauer has lost some of his power due to the fact that Target Field seems to resemble the Polo Grounds at times when balls are hit into the power alleys (where Mauer hits a majority of his homeruns), but he still should have more than 2 homeruns and at least have a few at home.

Francisco Liriano gave the baseball world even more confirmation that he is ready to assume the role of an ace on the Twins pitching staff with his latest outing against the Braves. Liriano and fellow Tommy John “recoveree” Tim Hudson dueled on Friday night, with Liriano getting the best of Hudson, picking up the 2-1 victory while pitching 8 innings, striking out 11 and walking none. Aaron Gleeman wrote an excellent article over at his blog, comparing 2010 Liriano to his former 2006 self.

Over the weekend, rumors emerged around the Twins and Red Sox having discussions involving the Twins acquiring Mike Lowell. I would fully support this move for many reasons. For one, Lowell is a significant upgrade offensively over Nick Punto, who is currently hitting .221/.295/.290, at what is typically a power position in third base. Additionally, although Punto is an above average defender, Lowell is no slouch at the hot corner, and wouldn’t prove to be much of a defensive drop-off. I also believe that given his age (36) and the fact that Adrian Beltre has the third base position locked down for the Red Sox, Lowell would more than likely be able to acquired for mid-level talent, rather than one of our top prospects. All of these factors make this an attractive deal, and considering that the Twins feel they have the pieces in place to make a World Series run, I don’t see why Bill Smith and Company wouldn’t make think long and hard about this.

This is an exciting time of year for not only baseball, but sports in general. The baseball season is entering the “dog days of summer,” the NBA finals are winding down, the NBA draft is a week from Thursday, and the NFL season is right around the corner with OTAs and minicamps already taking place. With me having taken nearly a month off from blogging, I don’t see myself having a shortage of topics to write about in the weeks to come.

Please feel free to comment or e-mail with any feedback or suggestions. In terms of topics and anything related to the blog, I appreciate hearing feedback and accept it openly. If you enjoy reading, tell your friends!

Coming Tonight!

The wait is over, I am moved into the new house, and am fairly "settled in." I wanted to post this before I left for work and let any readers know (if they are even still checking) that a new post is coming TONIGHT! Check back later!