- If I owned a firearm, I would use it inappropriately.
- There is no rational reason to ban moderate alcohol use in the workplace.
- As the urgency level of a problem rises, the denseness of corporate beaurocracy increases commensurately.
- I am obviously not buying enough Powerball tickets.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Monday, November 21, 2005
The Very Interesting But Poorly Scheduled Project ate the last two weeks of my life. I'm currently working on posts about the new steroid policy and the Twins hot stove rumors, but neither is ready yet. However, I do have a few bits and bobs to entertain you (and assure you I'm still alive and writing):
I just started reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's new book, "Yarn Harlot: the Secret Life of a Knitter", but already I can tell that this woman and I would get along famously. Witness the following snippet from page five, regarding buying an awful lot of yarn at once.
"I wrestled my new yarn out of the shop (ignoring the stares of the new knitter over by the mohair who was buying a single ball of something blue and clearly thought I might be dangerous). Forcing the yarn through the door of the bus, trying to avoid whacking people with it, I decided it was worth it."
Been there. Done that. Whacked the people anyway.
So lately, after acquiring a repetetive-stress injury to my right shoulder as the result of working on a computer way too much at work (the above-referenced VIBPSP) and at home (the novel, the blog--okay, not so much lately--and the email) and spending most of the rest of my time knitting holiday gifts (you guys are going to be seeing a LOT of knitting pictures in January, when they won't spoil the surprise), I've taken to working on the computer at home while standing up. It's more ergonomic, and way easier on the shoulder for some reason. I just toss a couple of phone books on the kitchen counter and plop the laptop on top of them. Instant standing desk.
And I really like it, especially because when I'm working on the novel I always have the MP3 player practically surgically attached to my ears, and I often find myself typing and dancing at the same time. Since I dance like most white girls--I have just enough rhythm to give myself delusions of adequacy--I'm sure I look utterly ridiculous, but there's something perfect about doing something you love while also dancing. That's simple happiness right there, folks. (And it's probably going to go a long way toward staving off "secretary's butt". You ladies with office jobs know what I'm talking about.)
But this also reminded me of something I saw on TV months ago. A guy who worked in an office and didn't exercise much and started getting pretty soft around the edges got this brilliant idea to build an entire office workstation onto a treadmill. You stand and walk at a moderate pace while working on your computer and talking on your office phone all day. You can even attach a printer and a fax to this thing. The whole setup will fit into a standard cubicle, and Inventor-Guy lost like 40 pounds just by using it for a year.
I WANT ONE.
That's all for now. I have a scarf to start!
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Don't forget to vote in your local elections today. Most polling places are open until 8:00, but some close at 7:00.
You can find your polling place, anywhere in the US, here.
Twin Cities area residents can find information on races and ballot initiatives here (use the MyVote area).
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Okay, so 2005 as a season kind of sucked. And the "kind of" is probably unjustified. The pitching staff was great, but most days the Twins couldn't get a run across the plate if you took out the three bases in between.
Still, there were some positives, buried deep in the agonizing tide of ineptitude.
Can we say enough about this guy? Two years ago he's a decent middle reliever in the National League with two pitches to his name. He gets traded to the American League and thrown willy-nilly into the starting rotation, where he uses his satanic slider to induce an avalanche of double plays, while pitching almost three times the number of innings he had the previous year. He works with the pitching coach, slips a third pitch into his arsenal, and in his second year as a starter breaks a record that had stood for over a century--the fewest walks allowed per nine innings. That is no trivial record, my friends. That is utter mastery of the art of control.
(He also threw no wild pitches. Not one.)
He just keeps getting better. Did you know his ERA has declined every year he's been in the majors? It's true. He led the Twins staff with a 2.45 this season.
Our fearless closer (aka "Twitchy McXanax") came in second in the Twins ERA stakes at 2.70 while racking up 43 saves (wow!) and 94 strikeouts in 70 innings of work. He was also a loyal and frequent contributor to the growing pile of evidence that my maxim "Catchers and closers--they're all crazy" is, in fact, true.
I've got your Rookie of the Year, right here. Maybe not for the AL, but definitely for the Twins. 12-5 record. 2.71 ERA. 80 innings pitched. 31 of 42 inherited runners prevented from scoring. If he can get that walk rate down, and maybe try not to hit quite so many batters, he could be nigh-unstoppable.
Yes, you read that right. Yes, Justin ended the season with a .239 batting average. BUT.
But, he maintained a good SLG (.430) and OPS (.741), hit 22 homers despite the general lack of hitting, took 44 walks, and managed to get through the whole season despite bone spurs, a nasty concussion, pneumonia, pleurisy, chicken pox, appendicitis, minor surgery, spontaneous human combustion and absolutely no offseason training due to a combination of the preceding.
He also (and this is important) went from being an average first baseman to a pretty darn good one. I'm also noticing a distinct upward trend in his range factor. He's young, and he's only going to improve.
The only Twin who lived up to his potential at the plate. Calls a pretty good game, too. One of the best-hitting catchers in the AL, he led the team with 61 walks (!!) and a .372 OBP. He's a fair fielder and getting better at throwing runners out. He needs to watch those passed balls, though.
On the lamentably infrequent occasions L-Rod got to play, he almost inevitably impressed. He was flawless in the field at second and short (his only errors came at third, a position he rarely played in the minors) and steady at the plate, hitting .269 with doubles for 20% of his hits and a walk every 11 plate appearances. He also hit .375 with runners in scoring position (I leave it to you to decide for yourselves how meaningful that stat is), racking up 20 RBI in less than 200 at-bats. I could easily envision this guy as an everyday player. Don't we have an opening at second?
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
Fourth Pew Center recently dropped me a line to ask:
So, how come so many broken bats these days? Did they outsource the manufacturing to China?
(Seriously. There really are more than I remember from The Good Ol' Days)
My knee-jerk answer is: Well, yeah, probably they did outsource or otherwise cheapen the bat-making process. Is anything made the way it used to be? Why put out a quality product when people will buy more of a cheap product AND have to replace it more often because of the higher breakage rate?
And I've been told, though I can't recall by whom, that bats break more because hitters and pitchers are stronger--something to do with opposing shockwaves and the relative stregth of each vs. the grain of the wood. A stronger swing against a harder pitch = more stress on the bat = more breaks. Makes sense, I suppose.
So. Anyone out there know the scoop?
Still on deck:
2005 - what went right?
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Free agents. Definitely not free. Often quite expensive, at least the ones you really want.
Are there any "free" agent hitters out there who could help the Twins next year? Sure. Any we can afford? There's the question.
Here are the free agents I know about, along with their 2005 team, salary, OBP, OPS and position. More players will become free agents as the offseason goes on, as teams decline options and contract negotiations go south, but the guys below are (at least technically) available.
We can't afford Mike Piazza. Even with Joe Mays' salary burning a hole in the organization's pocket, we probably can't afford anyone who made over $8 million last year, unless ol' Carl is willing to pony up some cash. Although I sure wouldn't mind seeing "P. Konerko - DH" on our lineup cards next year...
Millar and Mueller both look like bargains to me, if they ask for anything near their 2005 salaries. We sure could use a third baseman, and though most people seem to be hoping for a power bat, after last year I'm perfectly happy with a guy who gets on base at a good clip. Joe Randa looks like a similar bargain on first glance, and while I certainly wouldn't mind aquiring him, for the money I'd rather have the younger guy who switch hits.
We've also got a vacancy at second, and lo and behold there's a pretty cheap option with some decent numbers coming on the market. But we do have a few cheaper internal candidates (Cuddyer, Punto, Rodriguez), so I'm guessing it would take more power than Grudzielanek has shown to convince the Twins to eat the extra salary.
As it stands now, the Twins' best shot at acquiring more power will be in trade. But more free agents will be entering the market in the coming weeks, and some could be pleasant surprises. We'll check back when and if anyone interesting crops up.
2005 - what went right?
Saturday, October 22, 2005
So I picked up this book called Odd-Ball Knitting, which is full of patterns to use your stash on--you know, that half-skein left over from the shawl you knitted three years ago, or the lone skein of a gorgeous discontinued yarn that you scored for two bucks on clearance? Yeah, that yarn. Too much to throw away, not enough to make a scarf out of.
In the pages of this book, I found my new favorite thing in the world to knit.
The catnip mouse.
Monday, October 17, 2005
Twins Sign Tyner to Minor League Deal:
The Twins signed outfielder Jason Tyner to a Minor League contract on Friday.
Tyner batted .321 (18-for-56) in 18 games after being called up to Minnesota on Sept. 2. In 133 games with Triple-A Rochester, he batted .286 with 18 doubles, two triples, one homer and 36 RBIs.
Last week, the club removed Tyner from its 40-man roster. The 28-year-old was originally signed to a Minor League deal last year and invited to Spring Training. It's likely he will be among the invites to big-league camp this spring.
Minnesota also reinstated right-handed pitcher Grant Balfour and outfielder Jason Kubel from the 60-day disabled list. Balfour missed all of 2005 after having ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow in May. He also had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder on Sept. 29.
Kubel also missed the entire 2005 season recovering from surgery to repair torn anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee, an injury he suffered on Oct. 12, 2004, while playing in the Arizona Fall League. The 23-year-old is continuing his rehabilitation playing in the Twins' Instructional League at Fort Myers, Fla.
Raise your hand if you consider the re-signing of Tyner to be evidence that a Torii Hunter trade is not entirely out of the question.
I'm raising mine. Here's why:
I don't believe for a second that Jacque Jones will be a Twin in 2006. And I think his job is earmarked for whichever of Ford and Kubel does best in Spring Training--with the other having a pretty good shot at DH, unless we acquire one via trade or free agency in the offseason. The market's looking a bit slim (which I intend to get into later in the week) so at this point the organization can't count on any such thing, though it's certain they'll try. But trying may require a chunk of the change currently allotted to Hunter's salary.
A trade of Hunter would leave a hole in the outfield. We'd have to get someone (or several someones) really good in trade for Hunter to pull the trigger on a deal, of course. But if a team offered us, say, a good second baseman and a relief pitcher and perhaps a prospect or two, we don't want to pass it by because we're just plain short on outfielders.
The outfield without Hunter and Jones would consist of Stewart and two of Ford, Kubel, Tyner and possibly Cuddyer. One of those four might end up as the DH, and you always want a spare outfielder on the bench if you can swing it. (Nick Punto, though he performed valiantly when called upon, doesn't really count as a fourth outfielder). Then there's the possibility that Cuddyer could be playing third or second next year, which would leave us short in the outfield unless we found another DH. Unless...
Well, you see where I'm going with this. With so much positional uncertainty, a slim free-agent market, and a small pool from which to fill three outfield positions, the Twins made a very smart move with this signing.
Hey, remember when we had so many outfielders we released some just so they'd have a chance to play somewhere? I wonder if Restovich is under contract yet...
Friday, October 14, 2005
You may recall that yesterday I mentioned stumbling across pitching stats for catcher Corky Miller. Was it a mistake, the line for another C Miller of the pitching variety mistakenly attached to the wrong player?
Oh, no. It really happened.
Barons Blast Wings
July 31, 2005
Shane Victorino went 3-for-3 with four RBIs to lead Scranton-Wilkes Barre to a 9-1 victory over Rochester on Sunday at Lackawanna County Stadium.
The Red Barons scored in seven of the eight innings they batted. Victorino belted a two-run homer in the fourth inning to give Scranton-Wilkes Barre a 4-0 lead. He also doubled, singled and scored three runs from the leadoff spot, leaving him a triple shy of the cycle.
Carlos Ruiz led off the seventh with a home run and Victorino's RBI single plated Jim Rushford to make it 8-0.
Danny Sandoval went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and Jorge Padilla added three hits and scored twice to pace the Red Barons' 17-hit attack.
Red Barons starter Gavin Floyd (4-6) pitched eight scoreless innings to earn the win. He gave up four hits and a walk while striking out six. Yoel Hernandez allowed an RBI double to Josh Rabe in the ninth for Red Wings' only run. Rabe went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles -- the only extra-base hits for Rochester.
Rochester starter Ricky Barrett gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings. Jason Miller surrendered three more runs in two innings and catcher Corky Miller served up a home run to Mark Budzinski in the eighth that capped the scoring for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
|Corky Miller: Individual Stats (Pitching) 2005|
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Usually, the exodus begins after the playoffs. Not so, this year.
Third base coach Al Newman has left the Twins after nineteen years with the organization. Newman cited "some difficulties here" that he felt weren't addressed until they went beyond the point of resolution. He publicly wondered if he were being made a scapegoat (presumably by the organization, because the fans generally think highly of him) for the team's failures this past season.
TBL says: Well, that sucks. I have to wonder if the rampant immaturity that soured clubhouse relations this year spread to the staff, too.
Outfielders Jason Tyner, infielder Glenn Williams and utility man Brent Abernathy were outrighted to Rochester. All are out of options and eligible to become free agents. The organization has expressed a certain amount of interest in working out new deals with them.
TBL says: Mostly I think this is about clearing space on the 40-man roster for possible trade pick-ups, free agents and Rule V draftees. Tyner and Williams in particular did quite well for the Twins last season and should at least be rewarded with an offer. Whether or not those offers are better than any others remains to be seen. The likelihood of Abernathy receiving another offer from the Twins will probably depend on whether or not the Twins get themselves a brand new second baseman in the offseason. If they don't, the job is likely to fall to Nick Punto and Abernathy could return and be in the mix for a utility role. But I'm not holding my breath, especially if Williams is still a Twin.
Designated hitter Matthew LeCroy was outrighted to Rochester and will become a free agent. The organization has expressed its regrets at the end of a longstanding relationship but will not be attempting to re-sign LeCroy.
TBL says: With all those extra outfielders floating around the last few years, the Twins haven't been able to come up with a whole lot of at-bats for LeCroy, and LeCroy is one of those guys who's at his best when played very regularly. I advocated cutting him loose before this season--not because he's a poor player (he isn't), but because the Twins can't give him the time he needs, and he can't give them the part-time power hitter they wanted him to be. Hopefully he'll catch on somewhere as an everyday DH and finally get his chance to shine.
The $8.5 million 2006 option on the contract of right-handed pitcher Joe Mays was declined. The Twins will buy out his option year for half a million and Mays will become a free agent.
TBL says: Baker. Liriano. Bonser? Durbin? We've got younger arms who can probably manage Mays' 5.65 ERA (or better it) for a heckuva lot less than the millions we would've had to pay Joe. Of course, they say the second season after Tommy John surgery is when most guys really come back into form, so there is some risk for future embarassment with this move. But, well, he wasn't exactly Johan Santana before the surgery, y'know?
[Digression: Whilst browsing the AAA pitching stats to see if Bonser had done well enough to be included in the list above, I ran across something interesting. It seems that Corky Miller, who started the season as the Twins 4th catcher (Four catchers! Remember that?), pitched an inning in relief at Rochester sometime this season. Boy, would I love to know the story behind THAT! ]
Second baseman Luis Rivas was outrighted to Rochester and will become a free agent. The Twins will make no attempt to re-sign him.
TBL says: 'Bout damn time, too.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Friday, October 07, 2005
Third base coach Al Newman will leave the Twins to become an advance scout with the Arizona Diamondbacks, ending a four-year stint that included some
communication problems with other members of the coaching staff.
It's unclear who will replace Newman. It's possible that Ullger will return to third base, where he coached from 1995-98. He also filled in for Newman in 2003 while Newman recovered from a brain hemorrhage.
My first thought upon hearing the news of Newman's departure (well, okay, my second thought--my first was "NOOOOOOOOOOO!") was that this is a prime opportunity to get Paul Molitor back on the Twins bench, this time as the hitting coach. He's been a bench coach for the Twins in the majors, and a special hitting instructor (whatever the hell that means) in the minors. He has also, unlike the rest of the coaching staff, had a career as a player which featured impressive hitting numbers.
So. Do they go out and get Molitor? He'll probably command/demand a decent salary, but after this limp-noodle-bat season, can they really argue? Is there any good reason NOT to go out and get Molitor? I haven't heard of one, but if there is one, do enlighten me!
I just keep thinking of our hot-hitting April, and how Molitor was with the Twins in spring training. Cause and effect? Maybe, maybe not. But I'll take a maybe seriously right now.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
So the Twins season ends. They swept Detroit to leave on a high note, but after three consecutive division championships, that was little consolation. The team that looked so very promising in April collapsed long before October, degenerating into injuries, infighting and incompetence.
Sure, it was a winning season--barely. And a few years ago, with different guys and different expectations, that would have been okay. But not this year, not with this team. The Twins' hitting woes have been analyzed to death, but that wasn't the only problem they faced. A rush of minor news items at the tail end of the season point out how deep the cracks in this team go.
Hunter went down with a broken bone in July. Stewart hasn't played since mid-September. After pitching on a bum knee all season Silva was yanked to have his surgery early when it became clear the postseason was not in the Twins future. Radke missed his last several starts after battling neck and shoulder problems for months.
Old news. Here's what you may not have heard:
--Juan Rincón had surgery yesterday to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow. How long and how much this affected him is not clear.
--Justin Morneau has a bone spur in one of his elbows, too, and may have offseason surgery.
--Johan Santana has been pitching with a sore hip for weeks.
--Juan Castro strained his back and was unavailable to play in the final series.
The blow-up between Kyle Lohse and manager Ron Gardenhire made news for days. JC Romero's temper tantrum during the penultimate series, likewise.
The fact that Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau got into an argument on Thursday was also widely reported, but the punch Hunter threw at Morneau in the course of that argument has been left out in many accounts. (Oh, and Torii? You might want to keep in mind that Justin could probably pull your arms off if he so desired.)
Is this what the Twins have come to? Starters smashing chairs into the manager's door, relievers storming off the mound to yell at coaches in the dugout, veterans throwing punches at younger players? Not to mention months of both players and coaches making pointed statements in the media about how some unnamed but clearly-painted players lack passion or fortitude or both.
You know what? As much as I and other fans are fascinated by the inner workings of a baseball team, there are things that should never reach our eyes/ears. Some things should be handled by the team, within the team, behind closed doors.
If someone really does need to bust their butt more or suck up the pain of a nagging but ultimately minor injury, then the powers that be need to make that clear to them, not whine to the newspapers about it. If a player is being immature, then the coaching staff needs to sit him down and explain what's appropriate and demand that he conduct himself properly in future. If a member of the staff has behaved badly toward a player, that player needs to take his grievance up the chain, not out on a door.
In other words, guys: Shut up. Just shut the **** up, all of you, and try to act like grown men. You might be surprised how much a mature attitude in the clubhouse could improve the team on the field. And even if it doesn't make a damn bit of difference on the field, win or lose we'll respect you more at the end of the season if you act like winners.
Friday, September 30, 2005
The Twins haven't done well with bases loaded this season, and that's putting it mildly. And Justin Morneau, our lone Canuck, hasn't been doing so well at the plate this season...and that's putting it mildly.
I reached into my game bag, pulled out Cordel Justin-Moose, pointed his velvety nose in the direction of the plate and said "Justin, I want you to hit that ball many, many moose-antlers away."
And he did. Inspired by the beady gaze of my plush little friend, Morneau ignored his aching elbow and his miniscule, soul-crushing batting average and launched the first pitch he saw into the upper deck for his first career grand slam.
If, in future, you should happen to be at the Dome and look around during a Morneau at-bat to see an otherwise ordinary woman desperately clutching a stuffed moose and muttering in the general direction of home plate, remember the mojo. Eh?
Cordel Justin-Moose recounts his triumph to a rapt Tolie at home after the game.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Romero leaves game in snit
Appearance likely reliever's last as a Twin
J.C. Romero probably made his last appearance for the Twins on Wednesday night.
If so, it was a bitter ending.
The enigmatic relief pitcher likely sealed his fate with the only organization he has ever known when he showed up manager Ron Gardenhire and yelled at a coach in the dugout during the Twins' 6-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals at the Metrodome.
"That was wrong," said Gardenhire, who added that he hasn't decided whether Romero will pitch in any of the last four games this season. "Unacceptable."
Romero, who was on the trading block this summer, told the Pioneer Press last month that he would embrace the idea of being traded. The Twins already were expected to shop Romero during the offseason, and Wednesday's incident likely will push general manager Terry Ryan to try to expedite moving the talented but unreliable left-hander.
"It's in their hands," Romero said. "Either we get somewhere (with a trade) or dismiss me."
After hitting two batters in two-thirds of an inning, Romero walked completely off the mound on seeing Gardenhire step out of the dugout and summon Jesse Crain from the bullpen. Romero handed the ball to Gardenhire in passing about five feet away from the mound. After Gardenhire walked to the top of the mound, he turned and appeared to say something to Romero, who never looked back and continued walking slowly toward the dugout.
A television camera caught Romero shouting at bench coach Steve Liddle as Romero passed through the dugout.
"We all know what happened; you saw it in the dugout," said Gardenhire, who plans to meet with Romero today. "That's a little in-house thing that's going to be taken care of expeditiously."
Gardenhire, like a lot of managers, has long emphasized to pitchers the proper protocol for a pitching change, including how to hand the ball to the manager.
Romero, in his fourth full season in the majors, has had a strained relationship with the on-field staff. The staff often has been frustrated with Romero because of his stubbornness and coachability issues.
During a game in 2003, he argued with his catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, on the field. Last season, he was demoted to the minors for a stretch in midseason. And even after pitching well on coming back from the minors, he slumped in September, and Gardenhire reached a point at which he couldn't trust him down the stretch.
Even after all that, the team signed Romero to a two-year, $3.7 million contract in hopes he would gain confidence and settle down.
But Romero continued to struggle this season, although his 4-3 record and 3.47 earned-run average might suggest otherwise. He has allowed almost half of his inherited runners to score (19 of 42). Plus, he has hit six batters, a total more than that of three Twins starters. Romero also has walked 39 batters, by far more than any other Twins reliever.
I'm strapped for time here, so as much as I've looked forward to this inevitable moment since the day I came to understand the concept of the inherited runner, I won't linger to heap scorn on JC's deserving head. I'll just add this last, special message:
Lefthanded and breathing isn't enough.
Oh, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
P.S. May I suggest the White Sox as a nice fit for you?
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Monday, September 26, 2005
Twins @ White Sox, last four games of the season series.
|Thursday:||Twins 4, White Sox 1|
|Friday:||Twins 1, White Sox 3|
|Saturday:||Twins 1, White Sox 8|
|Sunday:||Twins 1, White Sox 4|
Four games. Seven runs. Two errors.
I think the concept of having one's ass handed to one upon a silver platter applies here. The fact that the White Sox have been in a tailspin for weeks only adds insult to the injury.
I know the Twins have been eliminated from both the Central Division race and the AL wild card race, but can't we at least play for pride?
The pitching staff, the only bright light in many long stretches of the season, seems to have finally either worn out or given up. Over the course of the four-game series, they surrendered 35 hits including 5 home runs. While not catastrophically awful, that's far below this staff's standard. 26 of those hits, 4 of the homers and 14 of the 16 runs in the series were coughed up by the starting pitchers.
So, rolling into the last week of the season, the hitting continues to be awful, the starting rotation (now minus workhorses Silva and Radke) is limping badly and the bullpen doing just fine, thanks. We can only hope these guys--especially the hitters because, Johan Santana aside, you can't expect a whole lot from a rotation composed of two rookies, a guy coming off Tommy John surgery and Kyle "Whoops" Lohse--pick themselves up and decide to give us some good memories to carry into the offseason.
But at least we're done with the White Sox, right?
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Well, it's offical. The Twins have been mathematically eliminated from the Central Division race.
If this surprises you, I wouldn't mind some of whatever you've been smoking lately.
The Twins are also two games from elimination in the wild card race. Most of the scenarios which would allow the Twins to beat the odds and secure the wild card involve several other teams' planes being lost in the Bermuda Triangle, so let's not hold our breath.
And so, we turn our thoughts to other things.
To hurricane relief--and be sure to check out Batgirl's "Dingers for Dollars" drive.
To the Minnesota Wild, and the return of hockey. Stronger, faster...better?
To September callups. There's something wonderful about every crop of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed rookies. The main attraction of this year's group is that they aren't the guys who blew it all in the first place.
To rooting against the Whine Sox and the Bankees. Go Cleveland! Woo-hoo!
To the coming of winter. Dust now--you might not get another chance. Where did I leave my skates, again?
To the Vikings. (snicker)
And, of course, to next year, when we will mercilessly crush them all with Santana, Liriano and the Mighty Bats of Doom! Muahahahahahahaha!
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Projects recently completed:
Twin Rib pattern shawl made with 5 skeins Lion Brand Woolspun (discontinued several years ago, dammitdammitdammit, and found on eBay). Note the funky edging!
Basic socks made with 1 skein Lion Brand Magic Stripes yarn. I do love a self-striping yarn.
Projects in progress:
My biggest and best project right now is intended for a gift, so I can't post photos. But I've got a few take-along projects going, too.
Here I'm trying to modify the candleflame shawl pattern into a scarf. The yarn is Lion Brand Jiffy. If this works, I may even attempt a candleflame hat.
Tolie likes it!
The bare beginnings of a pair of ribbed socks using one skein Lion Brand Wool-Ease Sportweight. Knitting socks on two circulars reduces transfers (and lost needles), while doing both at once eliminates that old second-sock "haven't I just done this?" angst.
No time to post patterns or technical details today, but if you're interested in the hows, whys and wherefores of any of the above, drop me a line. :)
Friday, September 16, 2005
Twins: Is Torii Hunter on the way out?:
Twins center fielder Torii Hunter has put his Golden Valley home on the market -- an indication of his personal uncertainty that he will be with the club in 2006.
The uncertainty appears justified.
The Twins will lay everything on the table over the next several weeks as the makeup of the 2006 roster is discussed, according to two Twins officials with knowledge of the team's offseason plans. Trading Hunter and unloading his large contract will be considered as an option, according to the officials.
Hunter, a four-time Gold Glove winner who broke his left ankle on July 29 in Boston, is one of the core players of a franchise that will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001. He is one of the team's most popular players and was around when the Twins rose from the ashes to become competitive again.
But the realities of the game, the fiscal history of the Twins and things he's picking up on the grapevine tell Hunter, 30, his future might not be as secure as he once believed. So his condominium is on the market.
Correct me if I'm wrong (and I know you will!), but it doesn't strike me as a particularly brilliant idea to try to address the team's weak offense by trading away the guy who's been the team RBI leader for the last 3 seasons running. Not to mention all those Gold Gloves.
Really, mightn't we do better to keep Torii and trade away some pitching and/or some speed and/or some defense to add to the hitting he provides, rather than replacing him with a player or players who may or may not be able to fill his metaphorical shoes at the plate and in the field?
I'm just sayin', is all...
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Last night, the Twins notched 14 hits, including 3 homers, took 3 walks and landed two men on base through a Tigers error on their way to a 9-3 victory over Detroit.
They also left 8 men on base, which is fine when you get 19 runners. It is not fine when you get, say, 10 runners and a double play, which is what happened to the Twins with stunning regularity all season. Hitting isn't enough (and they didn't exactly do a crapload of hitting to begin with); you have to bring the runners home.
Let's take a gander at some numbers (rankings are AL only, so it's #th out of 14, and BR=baserunners) for the season thus far:
Please note that BR and therefore LOB does not include runners who reached on an error--I wasn't able to locate that stat and I'm not about comb through every last box score to find them all!
Now, the major components of run production are 1) getting runners on, 2) advancing runners around the bases and 3) preserving baserunners until they can score. Hits and walks get runners on. Extra-base hits greatly increase your chances of scoring by simultaneously creating and advancing runners. Stolen bases advance runners, while strikeouts generally do not, and double plays and getting caught stealing eliminate runners already present.
Note that the Twins are about average in walks, strikeouts and total baserunners, but lagging badly in hits and extra-base hits. They've been simply atrocious about grounding into double plays. They're getting a lot of stolen bases, but offsetting them with far too many failed attempts. The combination of too few baserunners and too few means of advancing them has caused our boys to strand more of their runners than any other AL team.
I knew just from watching this season that we'd be near the bottom, but seeing that "14th" pop up still made me cringe.
Some would say (and I'm inclined to agree) that the best way to win a game is to start out right. Here are the first inning run-production numbers:
Hmmm. Interesting. The first thing that grabs me is the lack of strikeouts, but then I remember that our 1-3 hitters usually include Stewart and Mauer, and all becomes clear. Our stolen base success ratio is abysmal in the first inning; that sure doesn't help, nor do all those [censored] double plays. They do take a lot of walks, but again--Stewart, Mauer, 'nuff said. Otherwise, the first inning comes out looking very similar to the overall performance.
One area the Twins have had a lot of success is in extra innings. They have more extra-inning appearances than any other AL team, and have won almost 2/3 of them. The staff ERA of 2.89 in extras certainly has something to do with that, but you still have to score some runs. Did the Twins do a better job of moving and scoring their baserunners, or are we looking at a situation where the excellent pitching held down the opposition long enough for the bats to finally do something?
Don't read too much into some of these rankings--keep in mind they had more chances than anyone else! But I have to say, having your walks total more than half your hits is impressive--unless of course you choose to fault the hitting rather than praise the walking.
The LOB % is what we're really concerned with here. On the one hand, they're doing a lot less of it than many other teams in extra innings. On the other, they're doing more of it than they do in regulation, and they've been really bad in regulation. I'm inclined to call it a wash--the other team's pitching staff is bearing down harder, and so are our hitters, but not to any significant extent. The majority of the praise for our extra-inning successes will have to go to our pitchers.
So what's the core problem, here? I think it comes back to fundamentals.
- Know when to swing and when to take a ball.
- Remember that the hitter's first duty with runner(s) on and less than 2 outs is to advance the runner(s). Reaching base himself should be of secondary concern.
- Correctly identify stealing opportunities, and know how to capitalize.
While we'd all like to see them reduce their caught-stealing incidents, that's the least of their worries now. The first fundamental is probably the most important for these Twins, who have as a group been swinging at lousy pitches with wild abandon all season. The second is vital, too--swinging for the fences when you're no home-run hitter (and most of these boys are no home-run hitters) is counterproductive to the point of idiocy. I laud their desire to come through for the team, but I deplore the means many of them choose.
I wonder if Paul Molitor would like to hang around after spring training next year?
Monday, September 12, 2005
Alas, for the season that might have been.
Recall, if you will, just a few of the bright hopes with which we entered April:
And while the Cy Young is not out of the question, the others are realistically (if not yet mathematically) out of our reach.
Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth commence.
----------[five minute intermission]----------
Okay, now stop that.
We've spent Septembers knowing we weren't going to the playoffs before, if you'll recall, and not all that long ago, either. Just because there will be no postseason in Twinsland does not render the rest of the season meaningless.
Take a good long look at the September call-ups. Unlike the last few years, we'll actually get to, because we're not worried about keeping the regulars in top playing form. They've got the whole offseason to work out, after all.
Consider next season: Who will be leaving? Jones? Lohse? Mays? Hunter, perhaps, in a trade? Rivas, please? Who might we acquire, and at what cost?
And most importantly--what can the team (coaches, players and front office) learn from the hideous cluster**** this season has turned into? This leads us into the question of what went wrong in the first place (to put us in the third place--ha! Okay, not so funny...), and toward that end I'm chewing on some geekish data for future posts. But for now, let's just work on remembering that there's still something to cheer for.
And don't forget to root against the damn Yankee$, who could actually (Can it be true? Let it be true!) join our Twins in going home after 162, for once.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Last night, we (TBL, Mr. TBL, and our buddy PuckHead) headed across the river to watch the Saint Paul Saints take on the Gary (Indiana) South Shore RailCats in Game 2 of Round 1 of the Northern League Playoffs.
(Yes, Virginia, there IS playoff baseball in Minnesota this year!)
En route, we were afforded--and seized!--the chance to meet Wild goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who is just about the nicest guy this side of the international date line. Asked about the new, smaller goalie pads which are being implemented this year, "Roli" displayed a mightily bruised and, it turns out, broken finger which was injured as a result of insufficient coverage by the new-length blockers.
Note to the NHL--we fans wanted the pads to be narrower, not shorter. Leaving goalies' body parts exposed was not supposed to be part of the deal, guys...
We arrived at Midway Stadium halfway through the anthem and proceeded to our sweeeeet front-row seats. We were surprised and pretty much appalled by how empty the stadium was, especially considering how hard it was to get tickets to the last ten or so regular-season games there.
Having such excellent seats inspired me to bring my trusty digicam, so here are a few images from the game.
Saints starting pitcher Mike Meyer
Meyer again. Looks good, doesn't he? But appearances deceive, as Meyer gives up nine runs (seven earned) in four innings of work.
Saints third base coach (and former Twins shortstop) Jackie Hernandez, who rumor has it spends the offseason entirely on horseback.
A straight-ahead shot from our ten-dollar seats, with no zoom employed. And they have real beer there, unlike the Dome. Who could ask for anything more?
Saints second baseman Justin Hall in the field. The Saints fell apart defensively, bobbling to the tune of four errors.
A Saint at the plate. The Saints would smack 13 hits before the end of the evening.
The St. Paul boys put on a mighty rally, but it wasn't quite enough to win the day. The series moves to Gary tied at one game apiece.
So, jazzed up by our hockey encounter, the Saints rally and postgame fireworks, and the coffee we consumed to keep ourselves warm in the unexpectedly cool evening, we headed back across the river to Twinsland. You know the saying that all good things come to an end? Well, this good thing ended when a guy in a big ol' steel-framed car made a left turn directly into our aluminum travel-pod.
We're all okay. Let's just get that out in the open right now.
I have never been so frightened in my (admittedly fortunate) life as I was during that split second between seeing those headlights headed way-too-directly for us and the impact itself. Then there was an instant of mind-numbing relief as I concluded that I was neither bleeding nor indeed experiencing any pain at all, followed immediately by a bolt of hysterical worry for my husband and our friend the driver, succeeded by more relief as both professed to be just fine, thanks. That's a lot of emotion for the span of about five seconds, so it was no real surprise when the nervous shaking set in and we all ended up standing on the corner comparing hand tremors.
The driver of the other car was fine, too. He was even able to drive away after the nice police officers took down our information. The aluminum travel-pod, alas, gave of its own structural integrity to protect ours and had to be left where it sat, slowly leaking fluid(s) unidentifiable by streetlight.
A few phone calls in the bright light of day turned up various minor aches and pains among our party that went unfelt in the adrenaline-soaked haze of the evening's end, but nothing requiring medical attention, thank God/dess. And a twinge here and there is good for the soul, don't you think? We shouldn't be allowed to forget our fortunate escapes too quickly.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
This is how you break your fans' hearts:
1. Fall behind 5-0 in the first two innings, including a soul-shriveling grand slam in the second, after which your starting pitcher hits the showers.
2. Ride your bullpen through the middle innings while you cobble together a slow rally with a run here, a run there, until finally you lead 7-6.
3. Maintain said lead through two scoreless innings.
4. Get two outs in the top of the ninth, then surrender the tying run, followed promptly by a three-run homer that nearly punches a hole in the teflon roof of your sad excuse for a ballpark.
5. Go down meekly 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.
At the time of this writing, the Twins have, for the second game in a row, fallen behind 5-0 only to mount a rally, and now lead 8-5 going into the 7th.
Cross your fingers!
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Does anyone out there know of a site where I can get my stats sliced by game outcome? I've got an idea simmering for what should be a very interesting analysis, but I need to know things like Twins team BA and OPS in wins versus in losses to make it happen. Pitching stats, too! Drop me a comment if you know of a site that offers those splits.
(Apologies for the long hiatus--there was going to be weekend knitblogging and a Twins post today, but I've been both busy and a bit under the weather, so alas...)
Thursday, September 01, 2005
More points in favor of awarding Carlos Silva the Bright Spot in a Dismal Season Award--found this tidbit in the Star Tribune:
KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Even on a night when Carlos Silva wasn't at his best, he still showed precision control Tuesday and moved closer to a 101-year-old pitching record.
Silva gave up four runs but didn't walk a batter in 6 2/3 innings of the Twins' 7-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals. For the season, Silva has given up just eight walks in 180 1/3 innings.
In the department of walks per nine innings, Silva's number is 0.40. The American League record in that category is 0.69, set by Cy Young in 1904.
'It's not like I don't want to walk anybody, so I'm just going to throw the ball right to the middle,' Silva said. That might have been a message for the hitters. But Silva hasn't issued an unintentional walk in his past 50 innings.
'Walks will kill you, and we talk about that a lot,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. 'Our pitchers believe in that. Silva really believes in it, obviously.'
Can he do it?
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
...Frightwig, of Sundappled Wood!
TBL's Note: The excellence of the following is not in any way diminished by the fact that it was the only entry. What, are you all out of town already? Lucky sods...
I don't think there are just one or two problems that could be easily addressed with a team that is carrying poor-to-mediocre hitters at every position but Catcher. Joe Mauer is a sound hitter, and one of the best bats at Catcher in the majors, but even he has a flaw--which is that he hasn't developed much power at the plate, yet.
* The 1st baseman's line has slid to .241/.310/.441. Dougie haters, say what you will, but he never stuck us with a .310 on-base pct. even in his down seasons. And when Doug was going good (2001, 2003), he was much better than Justin. I'm sad to say that, measuring by VORP (Value Over Replacement-level Player), Morneau ranks 16th amongst AL 1st basemen. The list of those above him includes some part-timers such as Eduardo Perez, Travis Lee, Tino Martinez, and Matt Stairs. I wouldn't have thought this possible before the season, but Justin Morneau is the least productive regular 1st baseman in the AL this year.
* At 2nd base, Nick Punto for some reason has hit much better (.282/.335/.420) than he has when playing anywhere else on the field (a sad, sad .185/.257/.215). Abernathy has been a decent fill-in when he's played there (.308/.378/.385 in 44 PA's). Far too many at-bats were wasted on Luis Rivas and Bret Boone, however, and it hurt to see Luis Rodriguez tail off badly after a promising start. Those latter three combined to hit .230/.281/.274 at 2B, turning the position into an absolute sinkhole most of the season.
* At SS, Bartlett provided Guzman-level offense for the first 5 weeks. Then the manager pulled the plug on him and replaced him with a veteran utilityman whom we knew most certainly would be much worse at the plate. No surprise: Castro has hit .257/.276/.383 as the SS. Punto and Rivas have been auto-outs at the position, as well. The team's most promising option spent half the season raking AAA pitching. Ron Gardenhire made that choice.
* At 3rd base, Michael Cuddyer has hit pretty well since the start of May, and Glenn Williams had a hot couple weeks. However, Cuddles did have an atrocious April, and Gardenhire again wasted a lot of at-bats at the position this summer on utilitymen who blotted out the sun whenever they came to bat. Terry Tiffee, .200/.211/.236 in 56 PA's at 3B, has been a terrible disappointment, too.
* In LF, Shannon Stewart is having the worst season of his career, batting .283/.333/.403 when playing the position. A poor obp for a leadoff man, and a lousy slg pct. for a corner OF. By VORP, the only everyday LF in the American League who rates lower than Stewart is Scott Podsednik--and Pods has 108 fewer plate appearances. Nobody in the local media talks about this, but Stewart has been a huge drag on the team this season.
* In CF, Torii Hunter had one good month, when he hit .330/.410/.681 in June. The other three months, he hit .249/.315/.377. Then he broke his ankle. Most of the time, the most expensive player in the lineup this year was making outs and generating no power. Playing in his place, Lew Ford in about 160 PA's has hit .255/.323/.403 at CF. For all the talk about how "Lew needs to play the field to keep him focused at the plate," his .246/.316/.369 line when he plays the outfield this season really fails to back up the theory.
* In RF, the lineup has Jacque Jones hitting .255/.338/.454 at the position. By VORP, he rates 10th amongst Rightfielders in the AL. He still struggles to hit lefties consistently (.213/.265/.385), which handicaps the lineup since Gardenhire has given him 131 plate appearances against LHP this year. This season he's also lumped most of his best production in two months, April and July, while disappearing for much of the rest of the season, the charms of the Tony Gwynn Fairy notwithstanding. He would be very good in a platoon, but as an everyday regular his overall production is just mediocre for the position.
* At DH, LeCroy is hitting .255/.339/.490 in about 177 PA's; Ford is hitting .265/.339/.400 in 190 PA's. Matty is a nice weapon against lefty pitching (an eye-popping .319/.427/.648 vs. LHP) but struggles with righthanders. Ford is hitting .280/.355/.420 vs. righthanders, but is struggling badly with lefty pitching and leaves the lineup short of much power when he's the DH. When other players have been given a day to rest as the DH, it's generally been a disaster. Batters at DH besides Ford & LeCroy have hit .237/.310/.313. Ouch.
A team could get along OK with a few of these noodle bats in the lineup, but a decent offense generally needs a few average bats, a couple more who aren't All-Stars but still very good, and at least one or two Stars who can carry the show. The 2005 Twins don't have any real Stars in the lineup, not a single hitter who remotely resembles an MVP candidate, and there aren't even many average hitters on this team, either. Combine that with the manager's preference for no-stick utility players, and his refusal to platoon Jones, and there you have it. An offensive disaster.
Terry Ryan has his work cut out for him this winter.
I love the position-by-position analysis. I'd like to take a moment to consider just what Terry Ryan needs to do this winter so that we're not looking at the same problems again next year.
1. It's about time this team made a commitment to Jason Bartlett.
The kid's young--only 25--and certainly not stable offensively, but he's got a metric ****load of talent and needs the time and space to develop against major league pitching. The rest of this season will do for a start. But yanking him between Minnesota's starting nine, Minnesota's bench and Rochester didn't do him (or us) any favors this year.
2. Fix Justin Morneau.
I don't know what's wrong with him this season (though I have my suspicions--see item #3), but he's certainly not living up to his potential. I still believe he can become a .280-ish hitter with awesome power, but whatever he needs to get out of this rut, he's obviously not getting it. Time for better baseball minds than mine to bend their frontal lobes to the problem
3. Get a hitting coach.
I'm sure Scotty Ullger is a perfectly nice man, and he makes a swell substitute manager when Gardy gets his weekly ejection from the game, but he's not getting the best out of even a small percentage of the Twins hitters, and we need to get the best out of at least half of them to compete. I remain unnerved by the sheer quantities of players who have trooped through this roster after doing unnatural things to AAA pitching only to fall abruptly and permanently flat on their faces upon reaching the major leagues. Of course a certain percentage of AAA players will never make a successful transition to the bigs, but did we sign all of them?
4. Free Matthew LeCroy.
He needs playing time to get into his ball-flattening groove, and history has shown us that he just won't find it here. We could use that roster spot and he could use a team that could use him frequently.
5. Solve the second-base problem.
Inside or outside the organization, we need a second baseman. It could be Punto. It could be Rodriguez. It could be an offseason acquisition. But the infield chaos that pushed our defense to the brink of collapse in the first half still threatens. Presumably Cuddyer is back in the role of anointed third baseman, and if Bartlett is given the starting shortstop role for real this time, that only leaves us with one question mark--right in the middle of every double play. (While this isn't strictly a suggestion to improve the offense, one could argue that instability in the field takes players' minds off their duties in the other half of the inning.)
I'm a big advocate of promotion from within, but I think we've pretty much picked our AAA organization clean of ML-ready hitters, with notable lack of success. The right guy (who by virtue of playing for another team hasn't been listening to certain people's advice for the last few years) could breathe life into the offense, and maybe teach our homegrown boys a thing or two.
That's all for now. Silva pitches tonight, and that's always a good time! Be sure to tune in.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Tacking on one more day, in hopes of getting a response from someone who will actually be in town this weekend. Otherwise, TBL will be keeping the tickets for herself. So there.
What's wrong with the Twins offense, by Tuesday noon. Start typing!
Friday, August 26, 2005
Your attention, please.
TBL has in her grubby little paws two lower reserved tickets to the Sunday, September 4th game versus Cleveland. These tickets will be sent to whoever writes the most thought-provoking answer (whether TBL agrees with it or not) to the following question:
What has pushed the Twins offense from its usual fair-to-middling level headlong into outright pathetic failure? Or, conversely, are things really not as bad as they seem on the hitting side?
Email me your answer. All entries will be posted for the edification of the public!* Bloggers and non-bloggers alike are eligible. Heck, everyone is eligible. Can your cat type? Anyway, get going--you have until Monday noon.
(If you can't make that game or don't want the tickets, enter anyway! Just mention you don't want/can't use the tickets in your email. If you win, the tickets will move on to the next honorable mention, but you'll still get your digital laurels to rest upon.)
A few stats to get you started:
|Year||Avg||OPS||Runs||HR||AL Rank: Avg||AL Rank: Runs|
The Twins have now played 78.4 percent of their season, for those of you who may want to do the higher math.
* TBL reserves the right to edit typos, because she's picky that way. Content will not be altered!
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
I'm trying to find the words to describe last night's game.
It didn't start off like a pitcher's duel. The first batter squibbed a single against Santana and then stole second. Oh, dear.
But this was Santana, not Pre-All-Star-Break-Radke or Mays-Come-Lately. Johan said, "I spit upon your runners in scoring position", and he sat the next three batters down. And then the duel began in earnest.
Freddy Garcia gave up a walk in the bottom of the first, but nothing came of it. There was a double in the third by the same Whine Sock who got that single, and it elicited pretty much the same reaction from Santana. In the fourth, it was Santana who gave up the walk, and then came a long, long fly ball to left, and the only way to haul it in was for Shannon Stewart to make like a paintball against the outfield wall. Splat he did, and out of the game he went with a strained or dislocated shoulder, but the out was recorded and the duel continued.
One-two-three they went down in the bottom of the fourth, the top of the fifth, the bottom of the fifth, the top of the sixth. People were starting to whisper "no-hitter" in the seats. The Twins had two walks, it's true, but their line read 0-0-0. Two pitchers were pitching shutouts and one--the wrong one--had yet to surrender so much as a single.
Cuddyer led off the bottom of the sixth with a roller down the line that shot under the third baseman's glove. He cruised into second base, the crowd went wild, and the jumbotron flashed the official ruling on the play.
E5. An error. A #&%$ing error on the #&%$ing third baseman and are you blind, Mr. Official Scorer? Well, on second thought, it wasn't exactly a screamer, was it? I mean, his glove was right there, just not down far enough.
But oh, look, we've got a runner on second, and Abernathy's hit a grounder to the right side and he's out easy as you please but Cuddyer's at third with one out! But then Michael Ryan, who hasn't had a hit since the Clinton administration and is currently filling in for Our Hero Stewart, hits one right at the third baseman and Cuddy has to hold up and there are two outs. But Punto is up, and Punto has been hitting like nobody's business and he'll bring Cuddy home, won't he?
Actually, no, he won't. He'll launch a heart-stopper deep into right field and Jermaine Dye will run backward and leap and crash into the wall (a lot like Stewart but without the injury) and catch the damn ball, dammit all to hell.
And on we go to the seventh, which looks a whole lot like the middle innings with six guys up and down in about five minutes flat. Still the Twins line reads 0-0-0, and I'm starting to squirm a little in my hard blue plastic seat. Okay, I'm starting to squirm a lot, and I start praying to the Baseball Gods (for They are ineffable, but certainly wise and good). I tell Them, Yes, I do want to see a no-hitter in my lifetime, and I really want to see one live and in person, but not this no-hitter. Just let us get a hit! One measly hit! Please?
Santana teased them with a two-out single in the top of the eighth, then snatched the third out from the jaws of his first pitch to Ozuna. Out comes Freddy Garcia for the 8th, still pitching a no-hit shutout. I'm starting to think maybe the Baseball Gods (for They are flaky, but fair) are with Garcia tonight.
But wait, what's this?
One hit. One long and lovely hit over the centerfield baggie. The Twins would go down 1-2-3 afterward, and it didn't matter.
The Dome erupted in a cacophony the likes of which it hadn't seen since the first home playoff game in 2002, after all those long years of draught. The teflon trembled, the seats shook, and the crowd crowed. It was wild and glorious and it was magic.
We surged to our feet as Crazy Joe Nathan took the mound in the ninth. Every pitch was greeted with a swell of sound, yelps of joy or groans of anguish, depending on the umpire's ruling. When the second batter walked, I thought the boos would blow the umpire right out of the building. When Nathan struck out the dangerous Paul Konerko for the second out, I feared for the structural integrity of the Dome. And when Aaron Rowand worked the count to 2-2 (I was jumping up and down like a demented bunny from barely-restrained tension) and then struck out with a mighty swing, I swear they must have heard it in Wisconsin. Or at least St. Paul.
Twins win on one hit, one run, and one unforgettable night.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Okay, so I'm probably the one who jinxed Guerrier before his last outing. Never put a pitcher on in the tenth immediately after a blogger urges the masses to stop being so down on the guy...
That aside, those six runs were the first he's given up since the break, ending a streak of 18 1/3 scoreless innings over 11 games. It's also by far the most runs he's given up in an outing. He gave up three runs twice, once in April and once in July. He's given up two runs twice, in June and in July. He's given up one run four times.
In other words, he's yielded 20 earned runs all season, in the course of nine appearances totalling 12 2/3 innings. On the flip side, he's dealt 38 1/3 scoreless innings in 24 appearances.
Thirty-three games, and he's given up three or more runs thrice, two or more only five times. When he trots to the mound, your chances are almost 3 to 1 against any runs scoring against him. And as for inherited runners, he's logged a Rincón-like 70% stranded (30% scored).
Not bad for a rookie, eh? I think we can forgive him for Saturday.
Friday, August 19, 2005
The Twins have a .239 team average since the All-Star break.
That's 14th (aka "dead last") in the AL. They're also 14th in home runs, slugging, and OBP. They're 12th in total runs scored. They're first in strikeouts, but unfortunately that's not in reference to the pitching staff.
They have a 16-19 (.457) record since the break and have lost six of their ten completed series. One of those series losses was a sweep.
The Twins have won 10 of their 17 games in August and 6 of their last 7. They are currently on a 5-game winning streak with wins against Oakland and Seattle bookending a 3-game sweep of the [censored] Whine Sox.
During the current streak, the Twins have posted 58 hits, 27 runs, 6 home runs (half by Matthew LeCroy), 5 other extra-base hits, and 8 stolen bases (half by Nick Punto). They have won three of their five completed series this month.
This is what we've been waiting for since, oh, May-ish. And it is indeed a thing of beauty.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
On weekdays, I get up at an hour of the morning that should probably be listed as cruel and inhumane under the terms of the Geneva Convention. So by the time the sixth extra inning commenced I was feeling pretty droopy. And when the Twins opened said extra inning with a double and then failed to so much as advance the runner to third, I yawned, swore a little, and went to bed.
So, naturally, they scored five runs in the next inning (the sixteenth) and won the game.
I'd like to feel happy about that, and part of me does, but mostly I'm just sleep-deprived and kind of annoyed. You couldn't go ahead and score five runs after that double, could you, boys? Ingrates.
Of course, now that I think about it, we've won the series. Against the Whine Sox. And we've got Santana pitching tonight. That just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
You know what would be fun? Winning tonight. In nine innings. And even (dare I dream?) by a bunch of runs. Like, ten. That would definitely make up for waiting until I passed out to score last night.
Yes it would.
I've been thinking about a few players lately.
So, let me get this straight. He comes into the season as our everyday shortstop, gets a grand total of 91 at-bats to adjust to major league pitching, and is bundled off to Rochester in disgrace. After making a lot of AAA pitchers run home sobbing for their mommies he comes back and is again named our starting shorstop. He is then allowed the extravagant sum of 29 further at-bats before being relegated to the bench.
Apparently, you're only allowed to suck a little your first season (or three) if your initials are MC or LR. Cover your ears, I'm going to swear the paint off the walls now.
You know what I wonder about this kid? I wonder why we aren't using him more. He's good. (Okay, when he's bad, he's pretty bad, but he's very rarely bad.) He's got the lowest ERA on the staff, he's got a nice strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.60), doesn't give up a ton of walks, gets his share of strikeouts and then some, holds opponents to a .238 average, handles inherited runners pretty well and generally goes out there and gets the job done, whether we ask him for one inning or four. He's pitched nearly ten innings this month and has yet to give up a run.
I've noticed the fans seem to be kind of down on him. Whenever I'm at the Dome and he trots to the mound, I hear a chorus of groans. Now, he's had a couple of spectacularly bad outings, it's true, but name me a pitcher who hasn't. I think this guy's going to help this team out for years to come, and he's exactly the card we need to have up our sleeve with Balfour injured, Mulholland aging rapidly, Rincón verging on being overused, Crain increasingly succumbing to a late-season slump and Romero playing (in the words of Batgirl) "Crazy Pepe's Chug and Toss" out there.
[wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rending of garments]
Ah, Juan. My dear, darling Juan. He of the striking people out and the empty bases. He of the .219 opponent batting average and the Knee-Buckling Slider of Doom. Juan is fabulous, and Juan really needs to be the one who steps in when there are runners on, thank you very much.
Oh, Canada! Have you seen what he's been doing to the ball lately? He's not so much with the high batting average (in this he resembles the rest of the team), but when he does hit the ball (and we hope that will soon occur more often), the poor ball doesn't stand a chance, does it? I'm normally a small-ball kind of girl myself, but I do love those upper-deckers of his.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
|Chi White Sox||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||0||0||2||9||1|
And the Player of the Game must surely go to Nick Punto, with three hits and three stolen bases, with honorable mentions to Lew Ford (2 RBI and some fancy glovework, as well as the most entertaining slide into home yet this season) and Juan Rincón (struck out the side in his inning of relief).
Monday, August 15, 2005
Hello, everyone! With the advent of the Renaissance Festival--and therefore the ending of pre-Fest preparations--the pace of my life has slowed from frenetic to merely frantic and there is blogging time once again.
(Yes, there will be pirate pictures, once they've been culled and organized.)
Speaking of pirates, did you know there's a baseball team called the Pirates? It's true. They're from Pittsburgh, they're in the National League Central Division, and they aren't very good. Actually, they're pretty bad. They're not as bad as the Royals, though, who are in the American League Central Division. There's another team in the American League Central Division which is much better than either the Royals or the Pirates, and they're called the Twins.
(Don't the Twins sound better when you lead into the subject like that?)
This weekend, the Twins won a series. They only scored five runs, but they won the series. That's impressive, in an aenemic, fans-breaking-out-in-hives sort of way. They've actually won two of their four series in August so far, though you wouldn't know it from the mounting Prilosec bills among the team's loyal followers.
(Fun [?] fact: Lew Ford is the team's best hitter so far this month, with a .310 average, but he's only got two RBI because you need guys on base for that.)
On Friday, Johan "Dios, This Team is Heavy" Santana overcame lousy run support--one, count it, one run--by pitching a complete game shutout. On Saturday, Justin "This is My Boom-Stick" Morneau treated Joe "A Little Help, Here" Mays to the munificent total of two runs, only to see ol' Joe hack up twice that many in the bottom of the inning--apparently Joe only pitches mutual shutouts. On Sunday, Carlos "Please, No More Lone Ranger Jokes" Silva took the lone run his teammates managed to give him and nursed it until the sixth inning when, alas, some jerk ran in from third on a patented Silva double play grounder. But the Twins did eke out another run in the ninth to win it for fellow Venezuelan righty Juan "Señor Reliable" Rincón, so all's well that ends with a series win.
(All's well unless you're Juan Castro, that is--he went on the disabled list with a strained knee on Saturday.)
And now the Twins head back to the Central Division, and the Central time zone, to face the Whine Socks in the Windy City. These two teams haven't played each other since April, which coincidentally was about the last time the Twins were in the race for the division.
(Did I say that? That sounded a little bitter. What I meant was...well, pretty much what I said, actually.)
So what's at stake now? Pride, I suppose, or at least our tattered, patched and oft-darned dignity. We have enough games left with them to play the spoiler to their homefield advantage hopes, too, though that would require a whole lot of winning. And maybe a little ass-kicking.
(The fun starts at 7:00. In the event of a bad outing, multilingual swearing classes begin in my living room around the fourth inning.)
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
The media, they are abuzz today!
From the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Hernandez is supposed to be the top pitching prospect in baseball, and he threw 97-mph strikes with a hard-snapping curveball. He's no Daffy Duck, but he is a teenager, and the Twins have lived this one-play-short scene far too often this season for at least Gardenhire's patience.
And a sixth-inning move that went unexplained publicly might be a sign that the manager's tolerance has run out.
Center fielder Lew Ford's failure to execute a routine sacrifice bunt with runners at first and second in a scoreless game cost the Twins their best scoring chance.
Ford bunted the first pitch foul and then bunted a fastball just to the left of the mound that Hernandez fielded quickly enough to get the lead runner at third on a good play. The inning fizzled after that for the Twins when Justin Morneau followed with a strikeout.
When asked about pulling Ford from the game defensively in the sixth -- and putting infielder Nick Punto in center -- Gardenhire made a reference to the hip flexor Ford has played with and then said, 'Internal stuff... . That's in this clubhouse.''
Ford was not immediately available in the clubhouse after the game. Other players suggested that more went on between the failed bunt and the bottom of the sixth inning to prompt the change.
Whatever the specifics, it seems that with less than eight weeks left in the season and the end to a postbreak free fall nowhere in sight, the manager is ready to respond swiftly to continued failures of this underperforming lineup.
Gardy, Gardy, Gardy.
You can't spend years devaluing the bunt and then get mad when some poor schmuck can't execute.
What makes me think you devalue the bunt, you might ask? Well, mostly it's the fact that the only Twin who lays down a decent bunt with any regularity is a product of another team's farm system. I figure proper emphasis on bunting technique should have resulted in a certain basic level of competence in at least a handful of players from the Twins system.
Does "the manager is ready to respond swiftly to continued failures" mean you won't be using Romero with runners on anymore? Or that, at the very least, you'll kick his ass from here to Toledo next time he plays Inflate-O-Matic with someone else's ERA?
Lohse lost his fifth decision in seven starts since posting his last victory June 2. But he pitched a strong game, too, allowing one run on four hits and two walks, with a season-high seven strikeouts.Poor Kyle. He really has been doing a lot better lately, but he's got serious run support issues.
Let's look at those last five losses:
August 9th, lost to Seattle 0-1. 7 innings, 4 hits, 2 walks, 1 run, earned.
July 30th, lost to Boston 2-6. 5 innings, 7 hits, 4 walks, 3 runs, earned.
July 24th, lost to Detroit 2-5. 6 2/3 innings, 11 hits, 3 walks, 5 runs, 4 earned.
July 14th, lost to Anaheim 2-3. 6 innings, 7 hits, 3 walks, 3 runs, earned.
July 7th, lost to Kansas City 5-8. 5 innings, 9 hits, 2 walks, 4 runs, earned.
So, he's given up 1, 3, 4, 3 and 4 earned runs going back to early July, and took a loss in every last one. Some of those outings weren't great, but they were all winnable. In each of the two no-decisions mixed in among those losses, he gave up two earned runs. In his last two wins, back in the mists of time, he gave up no more than one earned run. Is that what he has to do--keep it to one earned run or less just to have a chance?
Sad. Truly sad.
Francisco Liriano extended his scoreless streak to 26 2/3 innings as Triple-A Rochester cruised to a 7-3 victory over Ottawa in Tuesday's doubleheader opener.Le pant. Le drool. Le swoon.
Liriano (7-1) yielded four hits and three walks while fanning four over seven innings at Frontier Field. He owns a 1.46 ERA and has allowed only one run in his last 43 2/3 frames.
The 21-year-old left-hander was named the International League Pitcher of the Week for the week of Aug. 1-7, receiving the title for the second time this season since being promoted from the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats on June 16.
Oh, September can't come soon enough, can it?
Monday, August 08, 2005
Editor's Note: TBL has been desperately busy getting ready for the Renaissance Festival. What made her decide that she really needs a sixth pair of bloomers and a new cloak embellished with embroidery (and not machine embroidery, thank you very much), she doesn't know. But suffice it to say, she's been spending more time with a needle than a keyboard these days. At any rate, let's look back on the weekend in Twinsland, or at least what bits of it TBL managed to catch:
Boston @ Minnesota
Game 1: Best. Game. Ever.
Now, I like a good pitcher's duel as much as anyone. But after a month of taking sucking lessons from Kansas City, what I really want is a blowout. An honest-to-gosh, take-that, I-spit-in-your-general-direction blowout. I want to see the other team grow tails for the express purpose of having something to tuck between their legs as they slink out afterward. I want to see the visitor's fans (who were out in great numbers that evening) wailing, gnashing their teeth and rending their logo-emblazoned garments.
It didn't look good in the beginning. When you're playing the powerhouse Red Sox and the first batter of the game gets a triple against Brad "First Inning Blues" Radke, you've mentally tallied three or four runs against before the dust has settled from the slide.
Have you met Brad's brother, Johan K. Radke?
With a runner on third and no outs, the rest of the first inning went like so: K, BB, K, K. One hit, no run, one left. I couldn't believe my eyes. Radke would go on to record eight strikeouts on the evening, ably assisted by the sparkling defensive play of Lew "Just Call Me Torii" Ford. Radke would not give up a walk or an extra-base hit after the first.
While Radke was pitching a gem, the Twins were doing things to Bronson Arroyo that would be illegal outside of a baseball diamond. Every player contributed at the plate, quite possibly for the first time this season.
Ford - 5 AB, 3 hits, 2 runs
Punto - 4 AB, 1 hit, 1 RBI
Mauer - 5 AB, 3 hits, 3 runs, 3 RBI
LeCroy - 4 AB, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 RBI
Jones - 4 AB, 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBI, 1 walk
Morneau - 5 AB, 1 RBI
Cuddyer - 4 AB, 1 hit, 1 walk
Ryan - 4 AB, 1 run, 1 walk
Bartlett - 3 AB, 1 walk
Rodriguez - 1 AB, 1 hit, 1 run
Tiffee - 1 AB, 1 hit, 1 run
I said everyone, I meant everyone!
The Twins win, 12-0.
Game 2: Opportunity Knocks Late
I was catching what may well be my last Saints game of the season Saturday night, so with the exception of checking the score on my mobile, I missed this one. However, the final at-bats of the game were replayed many times on the TV, and they were worth watching.
The score was tied at three in the bottom of the ninth, when Cuddyer hit a chopper to his counterpart at third, Bill Mueller, who air-mailed it to the first baseman's invisible, levitating twin. Cuddy scampered into second, and up comes the only Twin who successfully bunts with any regularity, Nick Punto. And Punto, naturally, bunts. The pitcher fields, juggles the ball a little, and throws exactly where Mueller just threw--which is to say, more toward the stands than his own fielder. Cuddy sprinted home, and there's your game.
Sometimes you win 'em, and sometimes they lose 'em. Boston loses, 4-3.
Game 3: There Aren't Enough O's in Oops
I missed the first half of this game, too. I know, I know--I'm a bad fan. But I really can't regret missing Shannon Stewart flipping the fly ball which consituted the second out of the inning into the stands for a fan, thereby allowing a run to Boston. I'm so glad I missed that, I refused to watch the news last night, just so I wouldn't see a replay. I don't watch Bush, and I don't watch plays like that. It keeps me from going prematurely grey.
There was a ray of hope, however. Our boys went into the ninth trailing 11-4, and quickly made two outs. Then they strung together a walk, a single, a throwing error, a double, a single, a walk, and a bases-loaded walk to score three runs and load the bases, bringing the tying run to the plate.
And then, of course, the tying run struck out, but hey--what a rally, right?
Twins lose, 11-7.
Wrapup: Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
The Twins scored 23 runs over the three games and recorded their first series win since the All-Star break (pardon me while I cringe). They had scored 22 runs over the eight games prior to the series, so we're looking at a real surge here.
Meanwhile, per twinsbaseball.com:
A seventh-inning strikeout of Roberto Petagine ended struggling reliever J.C. Romero's streak of nine batters faced without recording an out over his last three games. In that span, the lefty allowed five earned runs, six hits and three walks.
Romero owns a 14.75 ERA over his last seven appearances while also allowing six of his last eight inherited runners to score.
Can I get an "Ack!"?
The Twins are out west to face the listlessly struggling Mariners for three games. Let's hope they can keep those bats going.