Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Saturday, September 30, 2006

So much for that idea . . .

I really would have liked to see Glen Perkins make the playoff roster, but he doesn't seem to have the arm resilience to be used in situational relief, and the Twins don't see any reason to take him over others if they can't use him as a second Dennys Reyes. This would seem to be good news for Carlos Silva and Matt Garza, who should both make the roster. In the article, there is also an indication that Alexi Casilla will be around as an injury replacement, and won't make the roster outright. That's in line with what I projected, so I guess I'm 50/50 for now.

Notes from the Day

1.) Not the start the Twins would have hoped for out of Matt Garza. Anything, absolutely anything would have been enough in my opinion to secure him the start in Game 4 of the first round. Now, I'm not so sure. The Twins may decide to stick with a veteran considering Garza's track record with nerves. I guess despite what I posted yesterday, I think it's even money on whether the Twins take Silva or Garza, and I think whoever doesn't get taken as the Game 4 starter will be left off the roster in favor of Glen Perkins.

2.) Michael Cuddyer moved into a tie with Gary Gaetti '86 for 17th on the Twins single season RBI list. Two more RBI's would move him into a tie for 14th.

3.) The Tigers have to lose tonight and tomorrow for the Twins to win the division, and the Twins have to do their part tomorrow with a victory if the Tigers do muff things up and lose tonight. I suspect that if the Tigers win tonight, Scott Baker will get the start tomorrow.

4.) I mentioned last night that Jason Kubel hadn't started a game since September 10. That streak ended, but his horrible month did not as he went 0-for-3. The fact that he got a start today probably means that the Twins really would like to have him on the post-season roster, and I still think he'll make the cut. He sure isn't making the decision an easy one, however.

5.) There is still a vague hope for some playoff craziness in the National League. If the Reds win both remaining games, the Cardinals lose both, and the Astros split their two, then the NL Central scenario would begin playing out on Monday. Meanwhile, if the Phillies win both of their remaining games while the Padres and Dodgers lose both of theirs, the NL West/Wild Card scenario would need extra frames.

Friday, September 29, 2006

My Postseason Roster

It's almost time to set the 25-man playoff roster. I'm going to ignore questions of whether players were on the roster by the drop-dead date (August 31) because there are loopholes available to teams with players on the DL, so the Twins can pretty much finagle anyone they want to on the post-season roster. I'm not going to say anything about the obvious picks because, well, they're obvious. I'll do my best to defend my later picks (and there are really only a couple of tough calls).

#1 - Johan Santana (Game 1 starter)
#2 - Boof Bonser (Game 2 starter)
#3 - Brad Radke (Game 3 starter - he's as close to healthy as he's going to get)
#4 - Matt Garza (Game 4 starter - trust him more than the spotty Silva)
#5 - Joe Nathan (Closer)
#6 - Juan Rincon (Setup - at least that's what we'll call him, for old times sake)
#7 - Dennys Reyes (Lefty specialist)
#8 - Pat Neshek
#9 - Jesse Crain
#10 - Matt Guerrier
#11 - Glen Perkins (see justification below)
#12 - Joe Mauer (Catcher)
#13 - Justin Morneau (1B)
#14 - Luis Castillo (2B)
#15 - Nick Punto (3B)
#16 - Jason Bartlett (SS)
#17 - Rondell White (LF)
#18 - Torii Hunter (CF)
#19 - Michael Cuddyer (RF)
#20 - Jason Tyner (DH)
#21 - Mike Redmond (#2 C)
#22 - Luis Rodriguez (IF)
#23 - Phil Nevin (IF/DH - justified below)
#24 - Lew Ford (OF - justified below)
#25 - Jason Kubel (OF - justified below)

Honorable mentions left off the list (i.e. everyone else on the active roster right now):
P - Carlos Silva
P - Willie Eyre
P - Scott Baker
C/IF - Chris Heintz
IF - Alexi Casilla
IF - Terry Tiffee
OF - Josh Rabe

First, the obvious: Scott Baker and Chris Heintz have no business being on the post-season roster, period. I can't think of any really good justifications for having them on the roster, unless you want to argue that Heintz should be on so that the Twins can use Mauer and Redmond in the same game. I don't see the Twins doing that, however, since it's not something they even toyed around with much in September, when experiments with the lineup are more likely. So, if this is something you're pushing for (that'd be you, Marty), I hate to break it to you but it isn't going to happen.

That leaves five guys who reasonable arguments can be fit together for, but Willie Eyre really doesn't have much of an argument. He's not a starter, and there are better options for long relievers, so unfortunately for him it's pretty much a numbers crunch. See you next spring, Willie.

There's also not much of an argument to be put together for Josh Rabe. The Twins don't use him now, so why would they add him to the roster for the post-season? If anything, the roster is already too outfielder-heavy, so subtraction, not addition, is probably in order. I like what I've seen from Rabe, and suspect that he'll get a good long look in the Spring for a roster spot, but there's not much chance of him being added to the post-season roster now.

That leaves Tiffee, Casilla, and Silva. The arguments for taking the first two on that list are easy: as I already mentioned, the roster I have listed above is outfielder heavy. The Twins may decide that having another infielder is a plus, and both Tiffee and Casilla can fill that role. Casilla gives you more speed off the bench (arguably a great reason to take him, and if he makes the roster that will almost certainly be why), while Tiffee gives you a bit more Major League experience and more power. If I had to take one of these two, there's no question that it would be Casilla because of the speed factor, so that probably puts Tiffee on the outside looking in.

Silva is a tough cut, and not putting him on the post-season roster would almost certainly indicate that the Twins intend to not bring him back next year. With Brad Radke retiring, that could be risky because of Silva's veteran status, so it'll come down to whether the Twins think they can find another veteran to help Santana or not. It would be very hard to bring him back next year after leaving him off the roster now; that'd be a pretty serious shot at him. Why bring him? Because he could most easily slide in to make an emergency start if necessary, and because a long relief role could work for him. Plus, he's a high paid veteran compared to the alternatives, which makes him a bit more attractive since you pay his salary either way.

Those are the arguments FOR the guys I've listed above, but I stand by the roster that I have at the top of the post. Here's why I take the guys I take over the alternatives:

Glen Perkins (over Carlos Silva, Scott Baker, or Willie Eyre)
As mentioned above, the only real choice here is Perkins or Silva (or "none of the above," I guess, if the Twins choose to go with a 10-man pitching staff, not unheard of in the playoffs). I like Perkins for two reasons, however. First, he's a lefty. With Dennys Reyes the only other lefty in the 'pen, having Perkins available may be a plus, and would certainly add flexibility. The way he handled Jim Thome tonight was fantastic, and leaves me with little doubt that he's capable of handling himself in that situation. Also, as a guy who's been a starter all season, he's capable of fulfilling the Carlos Silva "emergency starter/long relief" role, if necessary. Add to that the fact that Silva has been horribly inconsistent, and I go with Perkins.

Phil Nevin (over Terry Tiffee or Alexi Casilla)
Forget about the guys I already ruled out: Why Nevin over Tiffee or Casilla? Well, Nevin and Tiffee are capable of filling very similar roles as IF/DH pinch-hitter types. Tiffee adds the ability to hit from the left and so could be more valuable off the bench in some situations, but Nevin is much more powerful and has significantly more experience. That's ultimately his biggest strength (although actually hitting a few homers instead of just being a "power threat" would really, really be nice). I take Nevin because he helps balance the bench with some power, and really that's the only reason. He'll probably get a few starts at DH as well.

Lew Ford (over Terry Tiffee or Alexi Casilla)
Ford is the backup center-fielder. He's had a very poor season, and very well might be in his final days with the Twins. But I take him because of the flexibility he gives me in the outfield, with the ability to play any position in an injury/replacement situation, and because he has a bit of speed.

Jason Kubel (over Terry Tiffee or Alexi Casilla)
I would wager that if Casilla makes the team, it will be at the expense of Kubel, who has barely emerged from the dugout over the past few months, and hasn't done much of anything when he has. As a matter of fact, he's just 1-for-6 in September, and that 1 hit came back on September 10, which was also the only game he started in September. I don't know if it's the knee, or a lack of confidence in himself (and in him by the Twins management), or what, but he's definitely out of the Twins graces. That said, he's the left-handed Phil Nevin, a potential power threat from other side that helps balance the bench. If he isn't on the roster, there is nobody who fills that role for the Twins. That's why I think he'll make the roster, but Casilla and his speed also adds a different dimension that may be desirable to the Twins. And, if you remember back to the last time the Twins were in the playoffs, Kubel's performance against the Yankees in 2004 was not exactly awe-inspiring, unless you like to see a youngster take big hacks (and miss badly) against high fastballs. I'm not so sure Kubel would do much better this time around, but I bet we'll get a chance to find out.

Nightly Notes

Alright, forget about the loss for now. The Tigers blew it against the Royals (thanks for coughing up the save, TJ), and there's nothing we can do about the loss anyway. Here are the things to take away from tonight:

1.) Bonser wasn't great tonight by any means, but remember he was pitching on short rest so that he could be set up for the playoffs. His start was adequate, and would have been better but for a couple of pitches that were left up and ended up sailing over the fence. He'll be fine when he starts Game 2, whoever that ends up being against.

2.) Brad Radke's shoulder was no worse than normal when he woke up this morning, meaning that unless there is a setback over the next few days, he should be the starter for Game 3 of the playoffs. That's fantastic news for Twins fans, because Radke has been very solid over the last half of the season, and provides the kind of veteran leadership that could be crucial. I know I certainly feel much better knowing that only 1 game will be started by Carlos Silva or Matt Garza (although wouldn't it be great if we could just sweep the series and not need a fourth starter at all in the first round?).

3.) Sometimes, young players who don't know any better come up in September and have statement games. For the Twins, this has not just been confined to September, as we've seen guys come up from AAA and contribute all season. One of the most remarkable and unexpected of these statement games may have been turned in tonight by Glen Perkins, who really didn't seem to be in any position to have such a game just a few short months ago when he was struggling to win ballgames in AA. At the end of the year, however, Perkins started to show something, and the Twins gave him a shot to help out the Red Wings in the International League playoffs. He responded with a 7 inning, 10 strikeout performance that perked up Terry Ryan's ears a bit more, and almost certainly contributed mightily to Perkins September call-up. He had been pretty solid in his first couple of appearances, and then tonight he was perfect until his last batter, going 3.2 innings with 5 K's before finally giving up a double to Paul Konerko, who would end up scoring. Perkins threw a yakker to Jim Thome that was unbelievable, and he pitched with confidence that belies the fact that he's barely thrown five innings at the major league level. I don't know if Glen Perkins will make the post-season roster; I don't even know if I want him to. But after this, there's no question that the Twins management is going to give him a very, very hard look.

4.) An interesting note appears in the above-linked article suggesting that if the Twins have a chance to win the division on Sunday, Carlos Silva will get the start. If not, Glen Perkins or Scott Baker would probably get the call. With Matt Garza starting tomorrow, that doesn't necessarily mean anything about who would get the playoff start in Game 4, if necessary. That game will be on Saturday, so either one would have the necessary rest to go in the playoffs. Perhaps a more interesting question is why the Twins aren't slotting Silva in to start that game regardless; could it be that they've already decided he isn't going to be starting in the playoffs, and so if the game is meaningless they'd rather have him available as an emergency long man if one of the early starters gets bombed or has to leave early due to pitch count? I think this is a pretty solid hint, but who knows; things could change if Garza struggles tomorrow.

5.) It would have been great if the Twins had been able to complete the comeback tonight. Homeruns from either Justin Morneau or Torii Hunter would have provided for a storybook ending on back-to-back nights, but unfortunately I didn't have much confidence when Phil Nevin came to the dish. Sad but true fact: I had more confidence in Lew Ford's ability to drive in Cuddyer than I did in Nevin. And I really do want to like the guy.

6.) Michael Cuddyer accounted for all three Twins RBI's tonight, pushing his season total to 105. He moves into a tie with Bob Allison '61 for 20th on the Twins single season RBI list.

Not exactly bad news . . .

Randy Johnson's playoff status is in doubt, after he was diagnosed with a herniated disc. Hate to see people get injured, but . . . not really feeling sorry for the Yankees.

Great Weekend (and maybe more) Ahead

You know, the last weekend of the Major League season is a lot of fun, and it's even more fun when you have storylines like "epic collapse" (which could be applied to Detroit as well as St. Louis), and when the Twins are battling for playoff positioning rather than for their playoff lives (which would be way too stressful).

What's really interesting is that there is a very legimimate possibility that the season will stretch out beyond this weekend, and quite possibly all the way into Tuesday; the race for the NL Central could need a Tuesday one-game series between St. Louis and Houston to settle things, on the same day that the American League kicks off the playoffs.

So if you, like me, are a fan of complete insanity and one-game playoffs, you should be rooting for the following things to happen:

1.) NL Central race
St. Louis goes into action tonight leading the Astros by 1/2 game in the division race. With both teams having 3 games left this season, you might ask why St. Louis leads by just 1/2 game; the answer is that they have played one fewer game, thanks to a rainout against the Giants earlier this year. Meanwhile, the Reds are barely alive, 2.5 games out.

Assume for a moment that the Reds are eliminated, because things go completely insane of they don't. If the Cardinals and Astros finish within a half game of one anther (who is leading doesn't matter), the Cardinals would have to make up the game against the Giants on Monday. If, after that game, the two teams were tied, they would play a one-game playoff on Tuesday (in Houston, thanks to a coin flip) to determine the division champion.

Things truly descend into madness if the Reds actually stay alive and get involved in the mix. If the Reds and Astros are tied, and St. Louis is a half game ahead or behind of them both, the Cardinals would make up the game against the Giants on Monday; if after that game they were tied with the Reds and Astros, things would get really interesting, as described here. Basically, the rub is that the Reds, leading the head-to-head matchups agains the other two teams, gets a choice: to play at home on Tuesday against the Cardinals, with the winner advancing to play the Astros on Wednesday (the Reds getting that game at home as well), or they could sit out on Tuesday and play on the road against the winner of the Reds-Cardinals game. Homefield advantage vs. one-lesser game - I think I'll take one less game.

Confused yet? I certainly am.

2.) NL Wild Card
This could also get interesting, but not quite as crazy. If the Dodgers, Padres, and Phillies all end up tied in the standings, there would be games on Monday and Tuesday to decide who was in and who was out. On Monday, the Dodgers and Padres would play to determine the winner of the NL West. That would game would be held in Los Angeles, thanks to the result of the infamous coin flips that occurred recently at MLB offices.

At some point in the past, this game would have been the only one played even in a three way tie scenario: the game, #163 for both teams, counted as a regular season game. As a result, after it was played, the winner would obviously win the division, but the loser would fall 1/2 game behind the team from OUTSIDE the division that they had been with (in this case, the Phillies). The result? The Phillies would automatically win the wild card by virtue of their higher regular season winning percentage.

MLB figured out that this wasn't the best way to settle things, however, and so decided that the loser of the divisional championship game would play again, the next day, against the non-divisional team. So, here too we could find ourselves playing into Tuesday to determine who gets into the playoffs.

This scenario is also pretty unlikely; the Phillies would need to sweep their series against the Marlins, San Diego would have to get swept by Arizona, and Los Angeles would have to win 2-of-3 against San Francisco. That's essentially a called shot in 9 games, and it's not likely to turn out that way.

I expect we'll be seeing at least one Monday game, and for the first time that I can remember, a Tuesday ending to the regular season is within the realm of possibility. Craziness.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nightly Notes

1.) There must have been some magic in that old Homer Hanky . . . I pulled it out from its hiding place in the bottom of the 8th inning to give it a little tune-up. Glad to see the magic is in the hanky, ready and rearin' to go.

2.) How is it possible that we've caught the Tigers? Oh, yeah . . . because the Tigers haven't been that good in the last half of the season. On July 1, the Tigers were 55-26. They're now 95-64, meaning that they've gone 40-38 over the last half of the season. Over the past month, they've gone 13-15. These are disturbing trends for the Tigers, because they just keep going down hill. I still think the Tigers have a dangerous team, and the Yankees or A's are going to have to be careful in the first round . . . but I think the Tigers are the least likely AL playoff team to make the World Series.

3.) Congratulations to Alexi Casilla for his first major league hit. He looks like a solid, slick-fielding middle infielder, and I expect to see a lot more of him in the coming years.

4.) How serious is the Luis Castillo injury? Hard to know, but it's never encouraging when a player talks about how things are OK on the road and get bad when coming home. I'm not going to address this in depth now, but could Castillo be on the trading block in the off-season due to his difficulties staying healthy in the Metrodome?

5.) Great, great performance by Brad Radke. This was absolutely the best-case scenario, and as Dick and Bert pointed out numerous times during the telecast, the only question left is whether or not his arm falls off tomorrow. If he feels nothing worse than ordinary soreness (ordinary for a guy with a busted wing, that is), he will absolutely get a start, probably in Game 3. Radke has had up and down moments over the last 12 years, but he's a solid major leaguer and a good guy who chose to come back to Minnesota rather than take more money elsewhere.

6.) Enjoy the series against the White Sox . . . maybe A.J. Pierzynski will self-destruct knowing that none of his antics can possibly mean anything in this series.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Nightly Notes

1.) I'm not going to say that the quest for the Division title is over, but it sure doesn't look good. With four games left, the Twins need to win two more than the Tigers, and the Tigers get to play the Royals for the last three games while the Twins play the White Sox, who will probably be hungry for some vengeance. Ultimately, I think that's ok, because . . .

2.) While I want the Twins to win the division, I think playing the Yankees in the first round is the better scenario in terms of our ability to advance. Yeah, they're the Yankees. But the Twins should get two games out of Johan Santana, and if he pitches like he's capable of that should be two wins. That means we need one more starter to step up and shut down that fearful lineup. If you go to a seven game series, as you would in the ALCS, the Twins would still likely get only 2 starts out of Santana because most teams go with a 4 man rotation in the playoffs. That's 2 wins that would be needed from other starters. Besides, if we face the Yankees in the first round, we can follow the formula of the 2002 Angels and beat them (unexpectedly) on the way to winning the World Series.

3.) Michael Cuddyer is now tied for 22nd on the Twins single season RBI list, with 102.

4.) I said to watch the starts by Silva and Garza closely. If Carlos wanted to earn a spot in the playoff rotation, this surely won't help matters. I think the Twins are now hoping that Brad Radke can give them 5 innings in Game 3, and if Garza shows anything, anything at all in his last start (probably on Saturday against the White Sox), he should get the Game 4 start. As Dick & Bert pointed out tonight, Silva could very well make the post-season roster as an emergency long man.

5.) The Twins have so far been doing what I suspected they would in giving 1-2 regulars a day off in these post-clinch games. Tonight was Luis Castillo (plus the DH role for Michael Cuddyer), and Joe Mauer was yesterday (he should get one more), so who's up tomorrow? My guess is that tomorrow will be Jason Bartlett's chance (as is supported by the Twins Notes on the Twins website), but Torii Hunter would also be a likely candidate with right-hander Luke Hudson on the mound. Justin Morneau is also likely to get an off-day over the next four days, and Nick Punto could use a day off as well.

My Stab at the MVP Debate

WARNING: This is a long, rather rambling post. My cold (and the Aspirin I took to control it) may have contributed to this (of course, so might my natural long-windedness). The conclusions I draw are at the very end of the post, so if you just want the final rub, scroll down.

MVP discussions are a dime a dozen this time of year, as are hackneyed analyses of who should win and why. I figured it was my turn to put forth some claptrap arguments about who should and who should not be the MVP, and I confess to not knowing who I will nominate as the preferred award winner when I'm done boiling things down. So, here goes:

I see two related but distinct components that make up the MVP - How "valuable" a player is to his team, and how great his stats are. Obviously, these are pretty closely related; a player with horrid stats is not going to be that valuable, and vice-versa. However, I think the two can be considered as separate parts of the whole.

This is an important aspect of the award because, of course, the award is called the "Most Valuable Player" award for a reason. There are two parts to "value" that I think are useful to consider: how much did you help your team win, and how much of your teams run production were you responsible for?

Start with the first consideration. I think there is something to be said for giving bonuses to players whose teams made the playoffs, or at least were in contention. I don't, however, think that any player should be excluded from consideration for this reason alone. I also don't think there should be a bright-line rule that penalizes every player whose team doesn't make it in; the White Sox were in the toughest division in baseball, and stayed in the race until the end, so if Jermaine Dye suffers any penalty at all for this column it should be minimal. David Ortiz, however, should get less benefit of the doubt on this score; the Red Sox haven't been in contention for quite awhile.

Next is the question of how much of your team's production are you responsible for? I'm not going to get into really crazy statistics, because I think the two really valuable ones in this regard are RBI's and Runs. Runs are, after all, what this game is all about. By looking at runs, you also even out (to some degree) differences between "high on base" guys and "power" guys. High on base guys score because they tend to get more hits and draw more walks, and because they tend to be faster. Power guys score runs because they hit homeruns and drive themselves in, and because they tend to hit a high number of doubles, putting themselves in scoring position. I don't care how you do it; if you score runs you're producing value for your team.

One more factor I didn't mention earlier is position on the field. First, I'm a firm believer that the Cy Young award is the pitchers MVP award. If I were lucky enough to have a vote, I would never use it for a pitcher. Designated hitters are closer calls. The big thing for me, though, is that they don't have their own award like the pitchers do, and they are playing every day. Just because I would consider voting for a DH, however, doesn't mean that I put them on an even playing field. A poor-fielding position player would (or should) have that counted against him in MVP voting, just as a good-fielding player should have that be a plus. I count not fielding at all in the same territory as being a poor fielder, and deduct appropriately.

Now to the numbers. A player with 60 homers, 150 RBI's, and a .330 batting average is a shoo-in, and I don't care how valuable he was to his team, by any measure. The stats above would just be so overwhelming as to make the rest of the discussion unnecessary. What about a year like this, however, where there is no such standout in the American League?

Well, for me the question comes down to what percentage of your teams production can you account for? The simplest measure I can think of is to look at the players runs compared to the teams runs, the players RBI's compared to the teams RBI's, and to add one more section, the percent of runs driven in by the player (player RBI's / team R's).

That's my "formula," in a nutshell. Complaints will include the fact that I don't count batting average, on-base percentage, win shares, Value over Replacement, etc. etc. etc.

First, let me say that batting average and on-base percentage are nice stats, but I consider them to be secondary stats. Runs and RBI's will account for them, on average (or so goes my hypothesis). At some point, some level of simplicity has to enter into the argument, and a player who hits just .275 but drives in a high number of his teams runs is, to me, just as valuable as a guy who hits .330 and drives in slightly fewer runs.

As for Win Shares and Value over Replacement player: I. Don't. Care. VoRP is an interesting stat, great for deciding, for instance, whether you want to go after Player A or Player B in the off-season. I don't see it's utility in looking "intra-season" at a players MVP potential. As for win shares: sorry, devotees of Bill James. This is just a silly stat. "Defining" 3 win shares per win? A convoluted, inaccesible formula? This is the absolute worst of the nonsense that can happen when you get a bunch of stat lovers together and throw them in a room. The increased attention to stats in the Bill James/SABR era is great; made up stats like win shares are not.

OK, that said: I consider there to be five legitimate contenders for the AL MVP award. They are, in no particular order, Derek Jeter (NYY), Justin Morneau (MIN), Frank Thomas (OAK), Jermaine Dye (CHW), and David Ortiz (BOS).

Jeter, Morneau, and Thomas are all in the playoffs. Dye narrowly missed. Ortiz is on the worst team in the bunch, and is a DH at that. Two strikes against him. The rest I consider on an even footing. Ortiz will have to blow me away in the comparison categories to have any chance of winning my "vote."

Player - Runs (% of team) - RBI's (% of team) - RBI/team Runs
- 114 R (12.5%) - 96 RBI (10.8%) - (10.5% team runs driven in)
Morneau - 95 R (12.1%) - 129 RBI (17.5%) - (16.4% team runs driven in)
Thomas - 75 R (10%) - 109 RBI (15.3%) - (14.6% team runs driven in)
Dye - 102 R (11.9%) - 119 RBI (14.4%) - (13.9% team runs driven in)
Ortiz - 112 R (13.9%) - 137 RBI (18%) - (17.1% team runs driven in)

The chart is messy (my apologies), but some really interesting things come out of it. First off, David Ortiz has been an absolute force, easily leading all three of these categories. In fact, only Justin Morneau is anywhere close in either the (% of team RBI's) and (% of team runs driven in) categories. Those two categories aren't really fair for Derek Jeter; he's a top of the order hitter, and he's not a power hitter. But, he hasn't accounted for a significantly higher percent of team runs than Justin Morneau has for the Twins. Additionally, his numbers are inflated because he plays with the New York Yankees, who have by far the most RBI's and most Runs scored in the league. In other words, he's surrounded by great players. This is why Derek Jeter is NOT the MVP.

What about Dye? He has reasonable raw numbers, but comes in fourth in every one of my percentage categories. Dye is NOT the MVP.

Frank Thomas has put together a remarkable year. He's clearly the Comeback Player of the Year. But even on a team that is relatively anonymous offensively, his %'s are lower than Morneau's and Ortiz's. No, he wasn't healthy all year; but that cuts against him a bit. The team didn't need him to be healthy all year to make the playoffs. It's a tougher call, but that's why Frank Thomas is NOT the MVP.

So, it's Justin Morneau or David Ortiz, and really I think it's a wash. The question is whether you place more importance on playing a position and making the playoffs, or at sheer value to the team measured in terms of run production. Looking at the numbers above, Ortiz is clearly superior in terms of raw numbers and %'s. Is he far enough ahead to overcome the demerits?

I say no, for one reason. Looking at the numbers, Morneau and Ortiz are clearly ahead in the (% of team RBI's) and (% of team Runs driven in) categories, far and away ahead of the other 3 MVP competitors. If Morneau were in the Dye/Thomas range for those numbers, it would probably be enough for me to give the award to David Ortiz. But, it's not, and that's why David Ortiz is NOT the MVP.

So, I've convinced myself; if I had a vote, I would indeed give it to Justin Morneau for AL MVP. And now everyone can tell me how "coincidental" it is that I came up with a Twin for the award. Fair enough, but if you make that argument, please tell me how Derek Jeter (who I consider the front-runner based on what I've been reading from sports writers) or your preferred candidate deserves to win.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Playoff Rotation

Well folks, I'm thrilled. Boof Bonser is going to be starting Game 2 of the playoffs, and that's the way it should be. Somewhere in one of the posts below I mentioned that this was what I wanted the Twins to do, and for one very basic reason: Bonser has been pretty darned good, and has easily earned that spot.

The start is being made possible by moving his next start up to Friday (it was scheduled for Saturday). My preferred solution was to start Bonser on Saturday and limit him to 60 pitches or so, but this is better because he'll be starting the playoff game on regular rest.

That means the question spots in the rotation are in the 3 and 4 spots, and Brad Radke could go a long way towards answering one of the questions with his start on Thursday. I'll go on record as saying that I don't think that Radke will be on the playoff roster, because honestly that would be ridiculous, based on the damage he has suffered in his shoulder. I certainly hope I'm wrong; Radke at 70% is better than any of the other options available for Game 3. I just suspect that his body is going to let him down.

So, that would leave Game 4 for either Silva or Garza. As I said yesterday, watch carefully; the way they pitch this week very well could be the determinative factor on who gets to start (and who is likely left off the roster altogether).

Marty's Podcast

I was on Marty's podcast again this week, and the two of us had a pretty good discussion. As always, if you have 10 minutes or so and want to listen to Marty's silky-smooth *cough* voice, hop on over.

Monday, September 25, 2006

What is he talking about?

UPDATE: You know what happens when you get caught up in the moment and don't think through what you're writing? A post like the one below happens. I leave it up for historical documentation of my excitability. As a reader pointed out (and as I was thinking moments after writing the article), Bonser wouldn't be in line to start Game 1 or 2 if he kept his regular start on Saturday, and there is no convenient way to juggle the rotation. So, it looks like a Game 3 start for Bonser is in order. This means, of course, that I am less than fair to Ken Rosenthal in the post below. Sorry, Ken. Oh yeah . . . I stand by my ESPN comment, regardless. And now for the original post:

I never go to Foxsports.com; I much prefer getting my national sports news from ESPN, which has a better website, better writers, more insightful commentary . . . you get the drift. But tonight, feeling the need to see articles on the Twins from every possible source (call it post-clinch euphoria), I wandered across to the aforementioned website and came across the following article.

It's an examination of what Ron Gardenhire should do if the Twins needed to win the last game of the season, which Johan Santana is lined up to start. The article isn't yet completely moot - that last game could be very important in the race for the AL Central. Nevertheless, the article shows a lack of understanding of the Twins situation, and makes the author, Ken Rosenthal, look a little bit less than fully informed.

For one thing, the "Yankees are evil and must be avoided at all cost" mentality was widely evident throughout the writing. Ron Gardenhire's decision, made a few days ago, that Johan Santana would almost certainly not start the last game of the series is criticized as flawed because *gasp* the Twins would have to face the Yankees. Yeah, the Yankees are good. But ya know what? Facing the Yankees in a 5-game series, with Johan Santana starting 2 of those games, isn't such a bad thing. It's at least a close call as to whether facing them in the first or second round would be a better option. So, this is just an annoying point.

Far more worrisome is that Rosenthal seems to actually think that Carlos Silva is the second-best starter on the Twins staff. The quote: "Even if Santana won the game to clinch the division title, the Twins' Game 1 starter likely would be right-hander Carlos Silva, whose ERA is 5.95. Their Game 2 starter likely would be rookie right-hander Matt Garza - unless right-hander Brad Radke could pitch with a stress fracture in his right shoulder."

Hey, Ken? You posted this article an hour ago, AFTER Boof Bonser had put together yet another solid start. You know, the guy you failed to mention at all? Ken? Seriously, Carlos Silva? This makes no sense at all. Depending on what happens this week, Silva may not even be on the playoff roster. This is what happens when someone who doesn't know much about the team tries to analyze what's going to happen with them. I'd rather read Sid Hartman than going back to Foxsports, and that's saying something. ESPN, I'll never leave ya.


I'm so incredibly pumped that the Twins have returned from exile and will once again be a part of the playoff picture. I don't care who the Twins end up facing in the first round, but I do hope that they can win 2 more games than the Tigers over the next 6 days and win the division. Division titles are what you play for, not Wild Card berths, so hopefully the Twins can keep things going. Here are some thoughts on the night and what's to come:

1.) Luis Castillo over-running the (rather half-hearted) stop sign from Scott Ullger could have been a huge play. We saw Castillo get thrown out in Baltimore in a situation where he shouldn't have been running. There's a fine line between being aggressive and being foolish, and with the heart of the order coming up, I'd much prefer for Castillo to stop at 3rd and let the hitters drive him in. That said . . . I'd like Nick Punto not to slide head-first into 1st Base, too, but that aggressiveness seems to work out for him. I just hope Castillo doesn't get pegged out at the plate in the playoffs.

2.) Torii Hunter was great tonight, and there's no question he's running much, much better than he was just a few weeks ago. This convinces me that an off-season of rest is going to put him back to where he was before. What do you do with a guy who is the heart of the team, a gold-glove caliber fielder, and a power threat? Three guesses . . .

3.) Justin Morneau is now all alone in 2nd place on the Twins single season RBI list. He's 11 behind the record, with 6 games to go. It would take some pretty impressive mashing, but based on what we've seen this season, I'm not going to discount the possibility.

4.) Boof Bonser should start the second game of the playoffs. I don't care where it is, or who we're playing. The man is a stud.

5.) I strongly suspect Jason Bartlett will get at least one day off between now and the end of the regular season, having started 93 straight games. Calling Alexi Casilla . . .

6.) The Twins should give several guys a chance to play, but there's a fine line between resting your regulars and sitting them too much. The Twins should give 1 or 2 guys off a night, and nobody should get more than 2 days off down the stretch. We might even see Luis Rodriguez and Jason Kubel, who have both disappeared into the void.

7.) Brad Radke is on pace to start on Thursday. It's possible that his start could be pushed back, but I think the Twins would prefer to start him on Thursday to give him the maximum recovery time before any possible start in the playoffs.

8.) Watch the starts by Carlos Silva and Matt Garza very closely; If Radke gets a playoff start, only one of these guys is likely to get a start, assuming the Twins go with a 4-man rotation in the playoffs (as has become the norm). The loser of that battle very well might be left off the post-season roster altogether, with all of the talented arms the Twins have in the bullpen.

9.) Enjoy the next six days, everybody! It's the calm before the playoff storm. Next week is going to be great!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Magic Number Talk

Several pertinent things to discuss about Magic Numbers. Here goes:

1.) The Angels have been eliminated from the Wild Card race. That leaves just the White Sox in position to catch the Twins.

2.) The Twins magic number of 2 means that if they win 1 more game this season, at worst they would play Chicago in a one-game playoff. That's because ending the season with a magic number of 1 means that you're tied with the other team. So, a win against the Royals, even if the White Sox win their three games against the Indians, would be incredibly meaningful. Of course, a magic number of 2 also means that all the Twins have to do to clinch a playoff spot is win one game against the White Sox in that series. The White Sox have to sweep, in Minnesota, as well as get a lot of help over the next 4 days. I like those odds.

3.) Detroit has crept back into the lead for home-field advantage in the playoffs, by .5 game over the Yankees. Their magic number to clinch the number 1 seed is 7.

4.) Speaking of Detroit, their magic number for clinching the AL Central is now at 6. With their victory today, they clinched a playoff spot. The White Sox only hope is to catch the Twins for the Wild Card.

5.) Oakland's elimination number to win home-field advantage varies depending on which team would win HFA: Detroit - 5; New York - 6; Minnesota - 7

6.) Minnesota's elimination number to win the division is 6.

There are other numbers I could give you, but I think this is plenty.

Enemy Intel Report

The last intel report of the year; thankfully, the number of teams of importance is heavily reduced, since the White Sox are the last team that could catch the Twins.

Minnesota Twins
4 games vs. Kansas City (Mon-Thu)
3 games vs. Chicago White Sox (Fri-Sun)

Detroit Tigers
Off Day (Mon)
3 games vs. Toronto (Tue-Thu)
3 games vs. Kansas City (Fri-Sun)

Chicago White Sox
3 games @ Cleveland (Mon-Wed)
Off Day (Thu)
3 games @ Minnesota (Fri-Sun)

New York Yankees
1 game @ Tampa Bay (Mon)
3 games vs. Baltimore (Tue-Thu)
3 games vs. Toronto (Fri-Sun)

Oakland Athletics
3 games @ Seattle (Mon-Wed)
4 games @ Los Angeles Angels (Thu-Sun)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nightly Notes

1.) It sure wasn't pretty, but a win is a win is a win. This one was hugely important for the teams, because of what's happened over the past few days, and (as mentioned below) what happened this afternoon. Now the Twins can go for the series victory tomorrow.

2.) I was following the White Sox game in the early afternoon, and was thrilled by yet another horrid start from Mark Buehrle. The game was delayed after five innings with the Sox trailing 7-2, and I went out shopping for some necessities and for some grub. When I came back, the Sox had staged a ridiculous comeback and won the game 11-7. Had the Twins lost today for the third day in a row, that win might have been looked back on as the "turning point" that cost the Twins a playoff shot. Instead, the Twins magic number reduces by one, and the White Sox lose another day in the race. Their elimination number is now just 3, with 5 Twins games and 4 Sox games left before the season-ending series between the two.

3.) Crazy bullpen use by Ron Gardenhire today, but it worked. Matt Guerrier struggled a bit in his 1.1 innings, and with the Twins leading 6-5, Ron Gardenhire rather stunningly brought in Glen Perkins, who had a total of 1.1 innings and 18 pitches thrown at the major league level. The move worked, and Perkins went 0.2 innings before giving way. The Twins then proceeded to use everybody except Juan Rincon and Willie Eyre through the rest of the game, culminating with a solid 9th inning from Joe Nathan. Like the game itself, this was weird but effective.

4.) The Boston Red Sox lost today to Toronto, and this loss coupled with the Twins win eliminated the Red Sox from the playoffs. The Angels victory staved off the inevitable; their elimination number from the wild card is down to just 1.

5.) Rondell White went 4-for-4 today. Torii Hunter hit his 29th HR. What on earth is going on here? Food for thought: is it actually possible that BOTH of these players could be brought back by the Twins for next season? (My self-imposed blackout prevents me from answering that question, but I figured asking it was ok)

6.) Justin Morneau moved into a tie for second place with Harmon Killebrew's 1962 season on the Twins single season RBI list. Congrats to Justin! Hopefully many more are to come. Incidentally, if he wants the record, he'll need 15 RBI's in 8 games. Probably not going to happen.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Exception to the Off-Season Speculation Rule

I know I said just two days ago that I was putting a black-out on speculation for off-season issues until the Twins season ends. However, I'm making an exception for this post, for reasons that I'll explain momentarily. I'd like to spend just a little time talking about managers who may or may not be back with their teams next year, and the timing of managerial firings when a season ends is often quite unpredictable. In fact, it's not unheard of for teams to fire managers a few days before the season ends, and it's very common for a manager to be let go the same day or the day after the season ends. So, if I followed my own rule, I couldn't talk about this at all except ex post facto, and that's nowhere near as fun as making predictions that can be ridiculed when they come out wrong.

So, here's the list of the five managers I think are most likely to be let go, including a percent chance of their being fired:

#1 - Joe Girardi - Florida Marlins - 99%
When you are nearly fired in the middle of the season, and when reports such as this one on ESPN circulate saying that there's no chance you'll be returning, DESPITE the fact that your team has vastly overperformed expectations, you know things are bad. All I know is that the results indicate that this shouldn't be happening, but I can't see how Girardi doesn't get the hook when the season is up.

#2 - Dusty Baker - Chicago Cubs - 90%
He can't survive another year, can he? Girardi has been mentioned as a likely replacement for Baker if both are canned, and that move probably makes sense. How much blame Baker should get for the recurring injuries to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior is debatable; the fact that the Cubs haven't performed for the past few years under Baker isn't. This move needs to be made, if for no reason other than to give the team some fresh ideas and energy.

#3 - Buck Showalter - Texas Rangers - 60%
The Rangers just aren't that good, and haven't been since Showalter came on board. Most of the blame should go on the GM, who hasn't put together enough pitching to win. Nevertheless, this team should be better than it is, and Showalter deserves much of the blame. The interesting question is whether the third time will be the last for Showalter, who has managed in New York, Arizona, and Texas. Could someone else fall for the Showalter "charm" and give him another managerial job if he loses this one?

#4 - Mike Hargrove - Seattle Mariners - 25%
This number would have been higher, but I heard recently that Hargrove was involved in the decisions on which coaches to retain for next year. Why the Mariners would do that if he wasn't coming back, I don't know. Nevertheless, the Mariners are going nowhere under Hargrove, and he hasn't put together a solid managerial season since he was in Cleveland. Like the Cubs, it's probably time to make a move if for no reason other than to rejuvenate the club.

#5 - Joe Torre - New York Yankees - 10%
Here's my curveball. Torre is under contract through the 2007 season (he'll make $7 million next year, by the way). Nevertheless, I think that if the Yankees win the World Series, Torre could very well make the decision to retire a year early. It's not often you get to go out on top, and the Yankees "struggles" the last few years should prove to Torre that there are no guarantees he would win again in 2007. The Yankees are probably the team best positioned to win the Series this year, and that's why I rate Torre's chance of departure so high.

Honorable Mentions
Felipe Alou - San Francisco Giants (they just aren't that good)
Eric Wedge - Cleveland Indians (highly unlikely, but this team seriously underperformed)
Ozzie Guillen - Chicago White Sox (inflammatory is fine when you're winning . . . )

Playoff Pitching Rotation

Normally, I put information from the Twins Notes updates on the Twins website in my own "notes" posts, but the news posted today in this column was worthy of its own post, in my opinion. The big news is that, contrary to previous speculation, Ron Gardenhire probably would NOT pitch Johan Santana on the final day of the season, even if a place in the playoffs was on the line.

Now, I certainly hope that this isn't going to be an issue. With the White Sox losing big in the 8th against the Mariners, it appears as if the Twins will have a great chance of clinching the Wild Card spot by the start of that series, let alone by the end of it. Nevertheless, this is baseball; the White Sox could go on a tear while the Twins fell off, and lots of really bad things could ensue. In other words, that last game of the season could still be extremely important. There's also the distinct possibility that the Twins could be fighting for playoff positioning in that last game, with a chance to win the division, or to finish 1st or 2nd amongst the division leaders record-wise.

So, then, there are two questions: should the Twins use Santana in the last game of the season if 1.) they need to win that game to clinch a playoff spot, and 2.) if they need to win that game for playoff positioning?

I'll start with the second question, because I think it's far easier to answer. Despite the fact that he's been human in his last two starts, Johan Santana is the best pitcher in baseball. Having him available for two games of a five game series potentially makes the series a "win 1-of-3" series, and those are pretty darned good odds. I don't care if the Twins are facing the Yankees or A's in the first round; if Santana is available to start 2 of the games, I'm pleased. So, no, I don't think the Twins should start Santana just for playoff positioning.

It's a far different story if the team needs a win to make the playoffs in the first place. Not starting Santana when a win is needed is a calculated risk: if you win the game anyway, you have Santana available for the playoffs. But if you lose . . . season over. To me, this is too much of a risk. I think you do whatever you need to do to survive, and if that means using your best pitcher on the last day of the season, knowing that he won't be available until late in the first round, that's what you do. Santana should be on the mound if the Twins need a win to clinch on October 1.

As for the rest of the playoff rotation? Tough decisions once you get past Santana. Bonser is almost certainly the guy for Game 2, but do you go Silva or Garza in Game 3? Do you start Santana on short-rest in Game 4, or do you go with whoever didn't start Game 3? Does Radke factor into the equation at all? How about Scott Baker? These are all difficult questions, and at this point I think impossible to answer. The Twins will be watching all of these guys' starts in the next 10 days, and will have some very difficult decisions to make once the playoffs role around (or at least, so I hope).

UPDATE: Patrick Reusse makes the tongue-in-cheek (I hope) suggestion that Willie Eyre should be left behind on the East Coast to scout the Yankees and then get the start in game 1 against the Yankees (should that end up being who the Twins play in the first round). I say, if we're going creative, why not give the ball to Yankee-killer Scott Baker? By far his best two starts of the season have come against the Yankees. If Garza and Silva struggle as the season ends, this might not turn out to be as funny as it seems right now . . .

Panic? Nah . . .

Two days, two losses. It's unfortunate, and it looks like this one is going to hurt a little bit, as Detroit is on its way to beating the Tigers. I've been watching the White Sox/Mariners game, and have been cursing as my TV a fair amount as I've watched the Sox slowly get back in this thing. Let's hope the Seattle bullpen can buckle it down.

But if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: this is baseball, and you're going to lose ballgames. It's part and parcel of playing every single day. We're getting down to crunch-time, and I sure don't want to see many more losses over the next 6 games, but I'll hold out on pushing the panic button until and unless the lead in the Wild Card shrinks to about 2 games.

Incidentally, the Toronto Blue Jays were eliminated from the playoffs tonight by the Boston Red Sox. That leaves the Red Sox and Angels alive behind the White Sox. My hope is still to eliminate all three of them by the time the Twins and White Sox meet up a week from tonight; after all, wouldn't be fun to see, oh, let's say Glen Perkins and Matt Guerrier get starts on Saturday and Sunday to finish up the season in meaningless games with the soon-to-be-former defending champs?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Crazy Night

Detroit loses in the afternoon, giving the Twins a chance to take over the division lead. Minnesota loses (with Johan Santana on the mound, nonetheless), giving the White Sox a golden opportunity. The White Sox give up 9 runs to the Mariners and lose the chance. Frankly, I'll take it. The magic number drops by one in both races, the Twins get out of Boston with a series victory, and life goes on.

I don't have much to say tonight; I've been at school all day and just finished an exam, so I didn't get a chance to see any of the games. If something catches my eye in the morning papers or on one of the sites that I check, I'll post something. If not, I should get a chance to watch tomorrow's game and will have a write-up on it if there's anything worth saying (which I assume there will be).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Record Comparison

Just for fun, here's something for you to ponder.

Twins Record After 151 games
- 88-63
2003 - 82-69
2004 - 88-63
2005 - 77-74
2006 - 90-61

Twins Season Record
2002 - 94-67
2003 - 90-72
2004 - 92-70
2005 - 83-79
2006 - ???

So all of those really fun teams from the "revival era" of 2002-2004? This team is better. Even more remarkable? The fact that, as mentioned in the previous post, they were 28-34 on June 12. That means they've gone 62-27 since that point, which is a winning percentage of .697; that translates to a record of about 113-49 over the course of a full season, by the way. This is a pretty darned good team, and it sure likes that 21st century team record of 94 wins set in 2002 is about to get re-aligned upwards.

Quick Notes

1.) Boof looked great tonight, and not just with the results. Before our eyes, he has transformed into a confident, capable Major League starter. I love watching him pitch. The Twins haven't announced anything about their post-season rotation, but is there any doubt that Bonser is going to figure prominently?

2.) If the Twins win tomorrow, they will eliminate the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox from post-season play. Toronto's elimination number is sitting at 1, while Boston's is at 2. The Angels aren't far behind, with an elimination number of 3.

3.) In the Gammon's article which I linked to in a previous post, he mentioned that Ozzie Guillen called every day while he was in the hospital. That makes me feel a little more generous towards Guillen, but I still think he's a vastly over-rated manager. Then again, he has a ring on his finger, so what do I know . . .

4.) I was hoping that Glen Perkins would get a chance to make his Major League debut tonight with the Twins leading big going to the bottom of the 9th, but Juan Rincon needs to work out the kinks, so giving him some extended outings will probably be the norm the rest of the way, as the Twins try to get him right for the post-season.

5.) Justin Morneau is now just 1 RBI away from moving into a 2nd place tie on the All-Time Single Season RBI list. Meanwhile, Michael Cuddyer is now tied for 24th on that list, with 101 RBI's.

6.) Torii Hunter must have been jealous about Morneau breaking the 30 homer mark. Incidentally, the last time the Twins had a player hit 30 homers, in 1987, they actually had 3 guys pull it off. Kent Hrbek (34), Tom Brunansky (32), and Gary Gaetti (31) all turned the trick that year.

7.) Chicagosports.com has a poll up asking fans whether the Sox have a chance to get into the playoffs. The overwhelming response? "They Gone," a takeoff of one of Hawk Harrelson's horrendous catch phrases, which received 59.2% of the votes. A further 26.8% answered "I never can tell with this team," while a lowly 13.9% answered "Absolutely - - they still have a run in them." Fatalistic or realistic? You decide. (By the way, my answer was of course "They Gone.")

8.) Lest anyone forgot, I want to take you back to June 13, the day the Twins began their first season series against the Red Sox. The Twins entered that game with a record of 28-34, and were coming off a series win against the Orioles. That series was nice, but coming as it did on the heels of a miserable West Coast road trip which saw the Twins go 3-7 against the Angels, A's, and Mariners, winning a series at home against the Orioles wasn't nearly enough to justify saying things had turned around. Over the three games against the Red Sox, however, the Twins picked up wins from Dennys Reyes, Brad Radke, and Carlos Silva in sweeping the series. They outscored Boston 18-6. Basically, they dominated a team that most people were picking to be a force all the way into the playoffs. This also marked the three day stretch that saw the Twins cut Tony Batista, promote Jason Bartlett, and trade Juan Castro. In other words, June 13 - 15 were the most important three days of the Twins season, by far. Remember them well . . . maybe we should have a party next year.

9.) A belated honorable mention for Frank Thomas as MVP. I mentioned that I think Jeter and Morneau should finish 1-2 (preferably the other way around) in the voting, and I said why I don't think Ortiz or Dye will win the award, but nowhere did I mention Thomas. So, now having given him his honorable mention, here's what I think about his chances. As Mike Wilbon said on PTI a couple of days ago, Thomas is the ONLY MVP caliber player on his team. As a result, his numbers (.279 BA/38 HR/105 RBI) are pretty darned solid, and look even better because he's clearly been highly valuable to his team. But I can't help but looking at the batting average and thinking that Morneau, who is hitting about 45 points higher and who has more RBI's, is a more deserving player. Thomas is easily the comeback player of the year, and should get consideration for MVP. He just shouldn't win it.

Off-Season Prediction Blackout

There have been a number of things that I've thought about posting for awhile now, mostly predictions and thoughts on what will/should happen during the off-season. However, as much as I'd like to post on these things, I'm going to hold off. There's one simple reason for this: playoff runs are special, and deserve our full attention. Why worry about, for example, which players will be added to the 40-man roster in November, or who will have their option picked up, or whether the Twins will go after Free Agent X this winter, when the team is battling for a playoff spot and has a chance to win a World Series? So, other than things directly related to what the Twins officially do, on and off the field, between now and whenever the season is over, I am not going to comment on these things.

What will be forthcoming when the season IS over?

1.) An analysis of some kind of the season that was
2.) My recommendations regarding players with options, free agents, and arbitration eligibles
3.) Predictions on who will be added to the 40-man roster
4.) A list of stadiums no longer in existance that I would have liked to see (I promise)
5.) Weekly updates on Winter League action
6.) Transaction monitoring
7.) Whatever else seems pertinent

And if it's 2007 speculation you're looking for, there are many other fine Twins blogs who have begun to delve into such issues with some seriousness. Seek and ye shall find.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Nightly Notes

1.) A hearty welcome back to Peter Gammons, who has written a column that is posted all over ESPN (Insider Account required). The summer wasn't the same without him.

2.) My pestering of Twins front office execs produced results, in the form of a correct 40-man roster now being posted on the website. This is why I love the Twins . . . how many other teams have people in the front office not only willing to answer questions, but to take care of little stuff like this that only affects a tiny fraction of Twins fans? I mean, let's face it; the vast majority of fans (and probably even the majority of people who read a transaction-oriented site such as this one) don't really care whether an extra person is listed on the 40-man roster.

3.) Justin Morneau made a statement that he belongs in the MVP race. His batting average after tonight should be around 5th in the AL (ESPN hasn't updated to include today's 5-for-5 performance yet, so I don't know where he'll fall exactly), 10th in Homeruns, and 2nd in RBI's. David Ortiz has two strikes against him (DH and non-playoff team), while Jermaine Dye has one strike (non-playoff team). For me, that means that the race is between Jeter and Morneau. While I am a Jeter fan (he's probably the only guy on the Yankees that I could even think about whom I could say that), Morneau's higher run production numbers cinch it for me. If Jeter wins the batting title, I'd say he's a lock because he plays for those darned Yankees. But Morneau deserves to come in second, assuming the Twins hold on and make the playoffs.

4.) The Texas Rangers were eliminated from the Wild Card tonight. They're still (barely) alive in the AL West. That's one down, 4 to go (Blue Jays, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox - quite possibly in that order).

5.) I'm thrilled with how things have shaken out in the first two games of the White Sox/Tigers series. The Twins are 1/2 game behind the Tigers, and have increased their lead on the White Sox. Seriously, what's not to like? Other blogs have discussed this issue in more detail, but suffice it to say I was just hoping for a split between these two, and that's what's happened.

6.) I feel bad about this, but I have to admit to being very, very worried whenever Juan Rincon takes the mound. For some crazy reason, I suspect I am not alone.

Update on the Roster

Thanks to Jan at the DTFC Twins Forums, the answer to my mysterious question has been solved. Jan pointed out that when Mike Smith was sent back to the minors, he was not optioned, as was reported on the Twins website and on ESPN (scroll down to see the specific transaction), but rather "outrighted to the minors." This means that the player is removed from the 40-man roster immediately, but is still paid according to the terms of their guaranteed contract (thanks wikipedia). This can only be done once in the players career.

So, despite what the Twins website says at the moment about Mike Smith being on the 40-man roster, he is not. The Twins roster sits at 40 (as I was told yesterday), and there are no pending moves. Hopefully the Twins update the website to reflect this fact.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Roster Discussion

Perplexed by the fact that the Twins website lists 42 men on the 40-man roster, I did a little bit of digging today, sending an e-mail to my favorite member of the Twins front office. I was a bit surprised when, within 2 hours, I received a reply. The response informed me that the Twins roster was sitting at 39 when Perkins was added, so no moves were necessary. The most interesting thing I found out was that there is no leeway given to teams; the roster cannot go over 40 men, period.

Obviously, I take this information pretty seriously, since it's coming from someone who was directly involved in the decision. The only problem is, the Twins website doesn't reflect this. One of the 42 men is Shannon Stewart, who is on the 60-day disabled list and therefore doesn't count against the roster limit. That leaves 41 people. In other words, someone who is listed as being on the roster is not, in fact, on the roster. I've tried to find out who this is, but obviously am not going to respond to the reply I received and ask for a diagnosis of the entire roster. It's a mystery.

So who is the imposter? Well, it's one of the following players, and I've not been able to find the answer thus far. Here are the names:

J.D. Durbin
Dave Gassner
Justin Jones
Jose Mijares
Errol Simonitsch
Mike Smith
Garrett Jones
Alex Romero

I'll continue to dig, and hopefully find an answer soon. I'm also hopeful that the Twins website will be updated to reflect the correct roster soon. If anyone out there happens to know the answer to this question, please let me know.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More on the Perkins Call-Up

There was more going on behind the scenes with the addition of Glen Perkins to the 40-man roster (and his subsequent call-up) than at first met the eye. Perkins had a so-so season, and so the decision to add him to the roster seemed a little unusual at first. Looking a little more closely, however, shows why the Twins added him.

When players are drafted, the clock starts ticking on their Rule 5 Draft eligibility. The Rule 5 Draft is conducted in December at the GM meetings. Players are protected either if they are on the 40-man roster, or if they haven't yet been in the system for long enough to be eligible. If players are 18 or younger when they are signed, they become eligible in the 4th draft after they sign (so an 18 year old signed in 2003 will be eligible for the draft in 2006). Meanwhile, a player 19 years or older when signed becomes eligible in the 3rd draft after they sign (so a 19 year old signed in 2004 would be eligible for the draft in 2006).

There are a series of complicated rules regarding Rule 5 Draftees, the most important being that a team drafting a player in the Rule 5 Draft has to keep that player on the active 25-man roster all season, or else offer the player back to the team from which the player is drafted.

How does this relate to Perkins? Simple: he was 21 years old when he was signed, in 2004. The upcoming Rule 5 Draft is the first in which he would be able to be selected, and as a lefty starter with upside, some team such as the D-Rays or Royals would almost certainly draft him, hide him in the bullpen (much as the Twins did with Johan Santana after picking him up in a Rule 5 Draft situation). The Twins added him to the roster now because they decided they could use the protection of having him on the roster for the remainder of the year, and because they were going to add him anyway after the season was over to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

Who else is likely to be added to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 Draft in December? I'll go more in depth on this when the season is over, but for now, here are some of the names that you may see added to the roster in November.

Kyle Aselton - SP
Matt Tolbert - IF
Deacon Burns - OF
Danny Santiesteban - OF
Matt Moses - 3B
David Winfree - 1B/3B
Eli Tintor - OF
Denard Span - OF (eligible as of 2005)
Brock Peterson - 1B (eligible as of 2005)
Daniel Matienzo - 1B (eligible as of 2004)
Garrett Guzman - OF (eligible as of 2004)

No predictions as of yet as to which of these names is going to be added, but all of them are possibilities.

Enemy Intel Report

The second to the last report on the week's upcoming games, and there are some doozies in this hugely important week.

Minnesota Twins
Off Day (Mon)
3 games @ Boston (Tue-Thu)
3 games @ Baltimore (Fri-Sun)

Detroit Tigers
3 games @ Chicago White Sox (Mon-Wed)
1 game @ Baltimore (Thu)
3 games @ Kansas City (Fri-Sun)

Chicago White Sox
3 games vs. Detroit (Mon-Wed)
4 games vs. Seattle (Thu-Sun)

New York Yankees
3 games @ Toronto (Mon-Wed)
Off Day (Thu)
3 games @ Tampa Bay (Fri-Sun)

Boston Red Sox
Off Day (Mon)
3 games vs. Minnesota (Tue-Thu)
3 games @ Toronto (Fri-Sun)

Oakland Athletics
4 games vs. Cleveland (Mon-Thu)
3 games vs. Los Angeles Angels (Fri-Sun)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Off Day (Mon)
2 games @ Kansas City (Tue-Wed)
Off Day (Thu)
3 games @ Oakland (Fri-Sun)

So, no matter what, the Twins will be losing 1/2 game in the standings to either Detroit or Chicago tomorrow. I guess, since we're now so close to the division lead, I would rather have Detroit lose tomorrow, giving the Twins a chance to take the division lead on Tuesday. This is going to be a pretty crazy week.


Following Rochester's season-ending loss to Toledo, the Twins promoted 2 players to the big leagues. One was not remotely a surprise; the other most definitely was.

First, Terry Tiffee was recalled for what may be his last stint with the Twins. He is out of options, and the Twins will have to decide what to do with him no later than next spring. If they don't cut ties with him before then, he would have to make the team out of spring training, or would have to clear waivers to be sent to the minor leagues. Tiffee won't get a lot of playing time, but he could be useful off the bench in late inning situations.

Second, the Twins decided that having another lefty in the bullpen might be nice, and called up former Gophers starter Glen Perkins. Perkins had to be added to the 40-man roster for this move to work, but so far there is no word on who was removed to make room for him. My strong guess is that it was Mike Smith, and we should know before too long. Perkins had a rough year, but pitched much more effectively towards the end, and finished his season in AAA, helping the Red Wings with their playoff run. He should make his major league debut at some point in the next two weeks, but I highly doubt that he will get a start or much action. Next year, he will probably begin the season at the AAA level, although it's possible that the Twins could decide to use him at AA to start the season. Being added to the 40-man roster was a big step for Perkins, though, and indicates that the Twins think he's close to making a breakthrough (or at least closer than he looked, based on his season stats).

Congrats to Tiffee and Perkins! Hopefully they can contribute to the playoff push.

Elimination Numbers

Looking for something to count down to while waiting for the Twins to clinch the Wild Card? How about watching AL teams get eliminated from the Wild Card chase over the next week or so? An elimination number is basically a Magic Number in reverse; a team with an elimination number of 2 will be eliminated from the race with any combination of 2 losses and/or 2 wins by the team leading the race. Here are the elimination numbers for the AL teams still mathematically alive in the Wild Card race.

Texas Rangers - 2
Toronto Blue Jays - 6
Boston Red Sox - 7
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - 7

It would be great to have all of these teams off the list by the end of the week, so full attention can be paid to the White Sox.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Just wanted to draw a couple of things to your attention:

1.) The White Sox bullpen - it's not that good.

2.) Carlos Silva - recently he seems to have forgotten that he's spent all year being really, really bad.

3.) Sadly, the Red Wings lost, and the season is now over for them. Tiffee watch is down to one day.

4.) Magic numbers are up-to-date.

Catch ya tomorrow.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Well . . .

That's why you don't bet on baseball. I guess we should have known this would happen; when a matchup is so unbelievably lopsided in baseball, things usually don't go as planned. Hopefully the A's can help us out and keep the White Sox 2 back.

Incidentally, the Red Wings also lost tonight, 6-0. Game 5 to decide the International League championship will be played tomorrow. Good luck to the wings.

UPDATE: Thanks, Oakland. Keep up the good work.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention earlier that Justin Morneau is now 3rd on the Twins single season RBI list, behind two Harmon Killebrew seasons. Four more RBI's will have him all alone in second. He must not have liked hearing me say that it was unlikely he'd reach the record. Hopefully he can keep it going.

G'bye, Jim

Jim Kaat is retiring from broadcasting after tonight's game. I remember him teaming with Ted Robinson during my formative years; that's the first announcing team that I can remember. They were, of course, the voice of the 1991 World Series champion Twins. In recent years, listening to Kaat has required watching the hated Yankees, but he was and is by far the best of the announcers who appear on the YES network, and the telecasts will lose something significant with his departure.

I wish Kaat the best of luck in the future, and express my respect for him from my little corner of the blogosphere.

Notes on the Rotation

ESPN had Matt Garza listed as the starter for Sunday's series finale with the Indians, but the Twins website has debunked that rumor, with the Twins deciding to go with Scott Baker in that game. There are a lot of angles to cover that stem from this move, so here goes.

First, let's start with the obvious. Had the Twins stuck with the rotation they'd been throwing out there, Sunday would have been Matt Guerrier's second start. He will now return to the bullpen, and I think that's the right move for the Twins. The main reason is that Guerrier has been a positive force for the Twins out of the bullpen this season, and his presence will be needed with all of the young starters. Guerrier was never going to be that much better than Scott Baker as a starter, and he's more valuable to the Twins as a guy who can come in about 2 games every trip through the rotation, to put out fires or eat up 2 or 3 innings. That's certainly not a role that you're going to put Scott Baker in, at least not if you want him to succeed. As a result, the bullpen got worse and the rotation didn't get THAT much better (and based on Guerrier's first start, not better at all). I'm glad the Twins made this move, because it smacked of desperation - and the Twins should not be desperate.

Second, I haven't seen anything official yet on who is going to start on Tuesday in Boston. The Guerrier/Baker spot in the rotation is normally followed by the Liriano/Garza spot, so it's possible that Garza will be asked to get that start. The alternative, of course, is to skip Garza and go with Bonser on Tuesday, Santana on Wednesday, and Silva on Thursday against the Red Sox. This is the option that I prefer. Garza has struggled the most of the four possible starters in that series (although he's also been cursed with some poor offensive performances, making his record look worse than it should be), and I think he's more likely to find success in a start against Baltimore than in a start against Boston. There are two reasons that I think the Twins are going to go in the other direction, however, with Garza, Bonser, and Santana going in the Boston series: 1.) It gives the starters an extra day of rest, which may be useful at this juncture of the season, and which takes full advantage of the off day, and 2.) it complies with the stated goal of having Santana lined up to start the season finale against Chicago on October 1. Here's how the rotation would look from the Boston series to the end of the season, if the Twins adopt the second plan.

Tuesday, 9/19 (@ Boston) - Garza
Wednesday, 9/20 (@ Boston) - Bonser
Thursday, 9/21 (@ Boston) - Santana
Friday, 9/22 (@ Baltimore) - Silva
Saturday, 9/23 (@ Baltimore) - Baker/Radke
Sunday, 9/24 (@ Baltimore) - Garza
Monday, 9/25 (Kansas City) - Bonser
Tuesday, 9/26 (Kansas City) - Santana
Wednesday, 9/27 (Kansas City) - Silva
Thursday, 9/28 (Kansas City) - Baker/Radke
Friday, 9/29 (Chicago) - Garza
Saturday, 9/30 (Chicago) - Bonser
Sunday, 10/1 (Chicago) - Santana

Finally, you see above that I put Radke as a possible starter in the Baker slot as early as a week from Saturday. We keep getting reports that Radke is playing catch and doing everything possible to get ready for a return. I think there is no question that he will start the 9/28 game against Kansas City, because he'll never be pitching again (you can forget a post-season appearance, unless his arm somehow is miraculously made whole between now and then), and that will be a chance for him to say goodbye to Minnesota. If Baker struggles on Sunday, however, and Radke says he's ready to go, I think the Twins may gamble and give him a start in Baltimore as well. The only problem is, that could jeopardize his last home start. The Twins have to worry about making the playoffs, however, so they'll do what they think is most likely to net them wins.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

One Game!!!

1.) Detroit must hate off-days. They've had two of them in the last four days, and the Twins have played, and won, on both. The result: a full game gained by the Twins, and nary a thing the Tigers could do about it. I find it amazing that the Twins keep positive, keep winning, keep grinding it out. If the Twins make the playoffs, I think it will be all the sweeter because this shouldn't have been possible. What a ride.

2.) Nice and funny comments from Ozzie Guillen in the Chicago Tribune. The best quote? Try this on for size:
"Three games in Minnesota, and we have to sweep them?" Guillen said. "I doubt it. I doubt it because they have one guy there (American League Cy Young Award candidate Johan Santana) we have to kidnap. Maybe poison him . . . give him some Venezuelan food."
Maybe we should post a guard . . .

3.) Justin Morneau is now tied with Kirby Puckett '88 for 4th on the All-Time single season RBI list, with 121. Looking up, all he can see is Harmon Killebrew. The Twins record is 140, so Morneau needs to average more than 1 per game to reach it. While I sure HOPE that Morneau knocks in runs at that pace in the last 16 games, it seems unlikely. Still, second place is just 5 RBI's away, and should be easily reached. Meanwhile, Michael Cuddyer's 100th RBI earned him a place on my list, and he joins Rod Carew '77 in a tie for 25th on the list.

4.) The Red Wings decided that they didn't like the feeling of losing in game 1 of their championship series with Toledo. They got some major help in yesterday's Game 2 when Kevin Slowey, fresh off an appearance with Team USA, went 7.2 innings, allowing just 1 ER on 5 H's to pick up the win. Andres Torres and Garrett Jones both homered in the game, and Rochester won 6-1. Then, in tonight's Game 3, Glen Perkins went 7 innings, allowing 3 ER's on 6 H's while striking out 10. Jones hit another homerun, as did Jose Morales, and Rochester won 10-4. They go into tomorrow's game 4 with a chance to wrap up the title. I said it before, but I'll say it again: it's amazing that Rochester is on the verge of winning the International League title considering that so many of the players that started the season with them are now with the Twins.

5.) Some fella by the name of Santana goes tomorrow. Excited? Oh yeah . . . his opponent is 1-9 with a 6.24 ERA. More excited?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Updates, Notes, and Such

1.) How could I not talk about today's sad news regarding Francisco Liriano first? I (and every other Twins fan out there) was incredibly excited about the return of the Frisco Kid, especially after he threw three pain-free pitches for Rochester on Saturday. I believed that the injury was an aberration, and that things would be fine from here on out. I was obviously wrong. But you know what? The Twins have continued to win (forget about today) despite not having Liriano or Radke in the rotation. Liriano would have been a great addition, but this team looks to be a playoff team even without him. The season isn't over, there is no reason to despair. I think a little bit of disappoint is perfectly in order, however.

2.) Bobby Jenks has appeared in 4 games for the White Sox since September 4. In those games, he's 0-1 with 1 save . . . and 2 blown saves. He's allowed at least 1 ER in each of those games, and his ERA over that stretch is sitting at 17.42 (wowsers). Now, I'm not saying Jenks is a bad pitcher. He has 40 saves this season, and he's got good stuff. But if I'm Ozzie Guillen or a White Sox fan, I'm awfully worried that his psyche is a bit messed up because of what's happened over the past 10 days. The entire White Sox bullpen has been a trouble spot, and the Sox just don't look like a great team right now.

3.) Matt Guerrier pitched OK yesterday, and now that Liriano is probably out for the season, he seems likely to get a few more starts. My guess now? Garza will return to Liriano's spot in the rotation, and Guerrier will start until Radke is ready to come back at the end of the season for a start or two. If Radke can't take the ball again, then Guerrier will stay in the rotation. I think the Twins are done giving Baker starts this season, but he should get a chance again in the spring.

4.) AAA Playoff Update: Mike Smith pitched remarkably well for Rochester last night, giving up just 1 ER on 4 H's in 7 innings of work. The bullpen, however, let him down. Beau Kemp allowed 4 ER's in just 1/3 of an inning, and took the game 1 loss. Terry Tiffee was the offensive player of the day for Rochester, going 3-for-4. Unfortunately, it didn't matter, and the Red Wings find themselves in a hole going into game 2 of the series tonight.

5.) This was probably clear after his most recent injury, but I thought I'd finally update the Rondell White situation, and pretty much put the nail in the coffin of his vesting option. White needed 400 plate appearances this season for his option to vest for next year. He has 305 PA's, with 19 games remaining. That means White would need to start every game and pick up 5 PA's per game, and clearly that isn't going to happen. I don't think you'd need three guesses to figure out whether White will be back next year.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Notes Coming Tomorrow

I've adjusted the Magic Numbers in the sidebar, but I'm not going to make it until the end of the White Sox game, so the Wild Card magic number could still drop by one tonight. I'm going to post some notes tomorrow (nothing dramatic . . . a Morneau RBI update, some talk about the rotation, that sort of thing), so look for that during the day (I hope to get to it during my lunch break tomorrow, around noon Mountain). Until then, bask in the glory of another remarkable win!

UPDATE: The Wild Card Magic number has been adjusted to reflect the White Sox loss last night to the Angels. Thanks, Halo's!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Marty's Podcast

Marty Andrade was kind enough to have me on his podcast again. It was fun, as always. If you have 10 minutes or so, stop by and have a listen. I wish I could warn you that it was profane and shouldn't be listened to in mixed company, but . . . we're not that cool.

Awww, what the Heck

With three weeks left in the season, it's time to get a little cheeky. That's why I'm putting the Twins magic number for the division relative to the Tigers on the sideboard to go along with the Wild Card magic number relative to the White Sox. By the way, you think the Tigers are a little bit worried right now, with the Twins sitting just 1.5 back in the division race?

Twins or Vikings?

This weekend, I faced college football, tennis, and NASCAR competing against the Twins. Tonight, it's the season opener for the Vikings. Living in Colorado, this is a true dilemma; I can watch the Twins every night thanks to MLB Extra Innings, but I need a nationally televised game (such as tonight's Monday Night Football) to watch the Vikings. The result? Lots of channel flipping, with an emphasis on the Purple and Gold.

Minor League Playoff Update

The Beloit Snappers season ended when they got rolled yesterday, 15-3, by Kane County. Ryan Mullins started the game and gave up 4 ER's, but it's Frank Mata's 0.1 inning that is really impressive; he gave up just 3 hits and 0 ER's, but 7 UNEARNED runs were credited to him. Yuck. Offensively, Jose Leger went 3-for-3 with a 2B, and Eli Tintor went 2-for-4. Yeah, those were pretty much the highlights.

That means that Rochester is the last Twins affiliate alive in the playoffs, with their International League championship series kicking off tonight against Toledo. Mike Smith gets the start as the Red Wings seek to get off on the right foot.

UPDATE: OK, I lied. I was a little overeager and jumped the gun on the start of the International League championship series, which actually begins tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/12). Good luck to Rochester and everyone's favorite Smith tomorrow.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Enemy Intel Report

Minnesota Twins
3 games vs. Oakland (Mon-Wed)
4 games @ Cleveland (Thu-Sun)

Detroit Tigers
Off Day (Mon)
2 games vs. Texas (Tue-Wed)
Off Day (Thu)
3 games vs. Baltimore (Fri-Sun)

Chicago White Sox
3 games @ Los Angeles Angels (Mon-Wed)
Off Day (Thu)
3 games @ Oakland (Fri-Sun)

New York Yankees
1 game @ Baltimore (Mon)
3 games vs. Tampa Bay (Tue-Thu)
3 games vs. Boston (Fri-Sun)

Boston Red Sox
Off Day (Mon)
3 games @ Baltimore (Tue-Thu)
3 games @ New York Yankees (Fri-Sun)

Oakland Athletics
3 games @ Minnesota (Mon-Wed)
Off Day (Thu)
3 games vs. Chicago White Sox (Fri-Sun)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

3 games vs. Chicago White Sox (Mon-Wed)
4 games @ Texas (Thu-Sun)

This is a huge week for the Twins, but look at what the White Sox have to face this week; this is not a great time to have to take the West Coast swing, and hopefully the Angels and Athletics do us a few favors. Leading by 1.5 over Chicago, Minnesota has to worry about playing Oakland and a Cleveland squad that would love nothing more than to ruin the Twins post-season plans. And what's with Detroit's bizarre schedule, giving them 2 off days within 4 days?

Notes from the Game

1.) How fitting that the Twins blew out Detroit to win the series and move to within 2 games of the division lead. After that disappointing first game, this whole series had the feel of a statement series, with the Twins announcing that they weren't going to disappear from the race. Detroit is 10-22 in their last 32 games, and that smacks of a team unable to make adjustments and stay ahead of their opponents. The pitching is still there (despite what happened today), and 2 games is nothing to sniff at this late in the season, but the Twins are in excellent shape to make a run at the division title.

2.) The series that starts tomorrow against Oakland is just as important as the series against the Tigers. The Twins could easily end up playing Oakland in the first round (if the Twins win the Wild Card and the Athletics finish ahead of the Yankees, or if the Twins win the division and the Yankees finish ahead of the Athletics). Proving that you can beat a team in the regular season isn't essential to post-season success, but it does prevent a team from worrying about that issue.

3.) My prediction of the starters for the rest of the year is already off, as the Twins are keeping Bonser on regular rest and taking Garza out of the rotation as a stop-gap for Liriano on Wednesday. When and if Garza moves back into the rotation probably depends on how Matt Guerrier does on Tuesday; if he looks solid, he'll probably hold down the spot. If not, I expect the Twins to go back to Garza.

4.) Torii Hunter's phenomenal performance in the second inning was a thing of beauty, and demonstrates why he's so important to this team. He was completely responsible for the run, as he got a base hit, stole second, advanced to third on a strikeout when Vance Wilson made a sloppy throw to first to retire Jason Kubel, and then scored on a sac fly that was incredibly shallow. Are "intangibles" like guts and awareness worth $12 million a season? No. But when packaged with the Twins undisputed clubhouse leader, a guy who when healthy is the best Center Fielder in baseball, I don't see how the Twins could possibly fail to pick up the option. Torii Hunter will be a Twin next season, and that thrills me.

5.) One of the reason that the Tigers are losing so many games is that they aren't executing when forced to by aggressive teams like the Twins. Look at how they responded to Torii Hunter's shananigans for a good example of this. Jim Leyland is a great manager, but for some reason these guys aren't playing crisp baseball. Unless that turns around, they're going to miss the playoffs.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


1.) Terry Tiffee's return to the big leagues will have to wait for at least another 5-7 days, as the Rochester Red Wings were victorious tonight over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre . The Wings won 2-0, and saw dominant pitching from Francisco Liriano, who was on a strict pitch count and went 3 innings, and then from Glen Perkins, who went 6. Between the two of them, they allowed just 1 hit and 3 walks. Tommy Watkins (2B) and Alex Romero (LF) both drove in a run. They'll know face the Toledo Mud Hens for the International League title.

2.) The Twins have finally decided that they're sick of watching Scott Baker pitch poorly against everyone other than the Yankees, demoting him to the bullpen. Getting the start on Tuesday in his place will be Matt Guerrier, and he couldn't be happier. This was the next logical move for the Twins, as they continue to try to find a way to patch the holes in their rotation. With Francisco Liriano scheduled to return to the rotation on Wednesday, coupled with the news that the Twins believe Carlos Silva has rediscovered the grip on his sinker, it seems likely that the Baker/Guerrier spot in the rotation will be the one replaced. I believe this means that the starters for the rest of the season will look like this: 9/10 - Santana; 9/11 - Silva; 9/12 - Guerrier; 9/13 - Liriano; 9/14 - Garza; 9/15 - Santana; 9/16 - Bonser; 9/17 - Silva; 9/18 - OFF; 9/19 - Liriano; 9/20 - Garza; 9/21 - Santana; 9/22 - Bonser; 9/23 - Silva; 9/24 - Liriano; 9/25 - Garza; 9/26 - Santana; 9/27 - Bonser; 9/28 - Silva; 9/29 - Liriano; 9/30 - Garza; 10/1 - Santana (unless the Twins have clinched). Got that?

3.) Liriano's start tonight for Rochester looked in doubt for awhile, as there was a fairly substantial rain delay before the game started. It would have been unfortunate if the Twins had gone to all the trouble to send Liriano out on a rehab start only to have him get shelved. That would have pushed his return back, and probably would have meant he'd be appearing out of the bullpen as soon as tomorrow. Instead, he remains on track for a Wednesday start. Incidentally, there was one harrowing moment, when a ball was hit back up the middle and hit off of Liriano's foot. He didn't need any attention, but that too could have been disastrous.

4.) The White Sox looked like they were going to blow a 10-1 lead tonight, when they gave up 7 runs in the 7th inning. With a 2-run lead going into the 9th, the Ozzie Guillen chose to stick with Mike MacDougal for 2 outs and then Matt Thornton for the final out rather than bring in Bobby Jenks. Perhaps his disastrous outing yesterday has caused a wee bit of doubt to creep into Ozzie's mind. After all, I don't think 12 pitches yesterday was enough to tire him out to the point of not being usable. Unless there is something else that made Jenks unavailable tonight, I strongly disagree with this move on Ozzie's part; it could mess with the psyche of his closer. Then again, blowing another save probably would mess with his psyche more, and the White Sox won, so I can't fault him too much.

Great Day

This isn't really a baseball post, although baseball is mentioned. Instead, I have to mention how much I got into sitting around and relaxing today while watching the numerous great offerings that Sport offered us today. Tonight, I was actually trying to catch pieces of FIVE sporting events simultaneously:

1.) Twins/Tigers
2.) Ohio State/Texas
3.) Minnesota/Cal
4.) NASCAR @ Richmond
5.) Francisco Liriano's start for Rochester

In addition to that, today featured Notre Dame beating Penn State (and as every Pitt alum knows, Penn State Sucks), and the Women's final at the U.S. Open. I can't remember being so entertained by a series of sporting events, and have to say that this is why I think the two months from the start of September until the end of October are the best of the year in terms of what's on the plate in the sporting world. Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. I'll post some nightly notes a bit later on, and promise they'll all be related to the Twins.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Dance Continues

1.) The Twins continue the Wild Card polka with the White Sox, who are matching the Twins moves step-for-step. There is still a slight chance, as I write this, that the Indians could come back in the 9th against Bobby Jenks and give the Twins a great present, but I'll take being 1/2 game ahead for at least another day. UPDATE: Alright, I guess that's not a bad alternative. Bobby Jenks' line tonight? How about 12 pitches thrown, 4 H's, 3 ER's (and maybe 4...I'm so excited I'm posting this early), NO OUTS recorded. Yikes. Oh yeah, thanks for the present, Cleveland. Now, hold it down in the bottom half of the inning and we're in business. UPDATE 2: Ok, that sucked . . . 2 runs in the bottom of the ninth to give the White Sox a win. Oh well . . . at least Bobby Jenks sucked royally; hopefully that will mess with him mentally a bit. And at least we still have that 1/2 game lead I was so happy about earlier.

2.) Francisco Liriano will have a game to pitch in tomorrow, as the Rochester Red Wings lost their game tonight against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 6-3. Pete Munro started the game, going 4.1 innings and giving up just 3 ER's, but 10 H's. Jason Miller gave up 2 ER's in 1.2 innings and was pegged with the loss. Garrett Jones went 3-for-3 in the losing effort. Again, though, the good news to this is that Liriano gets a shot to start tomorrow's Game 4, and remains on track to start on Wednesday.

3.) Justin Morneau's great night netted him 3 RBI's, giving him 118 on the season and putting him just 1 behind Larry Hisle '77 and Harmon Killebrew '71 for 5th place on the Twins All-Time single season RBI list.

4.) Alexander Smit went 7 innings and allowed just 3 H's in leading Beloit to a series victory over Peoria in round 1 of the Midwest League (Low A) playoffs. Eli Tintor hit a 2-run homerun in the 8th inning to give Beloit the lead, and Dan Leatherman pitched the 9th to pick up the save after Adam Hawes and Ryan Mullins patched their way through the 8th. Congrats to Beloit for advancing. I have no word yet on when the second round begins, or who the opponent will be. I'll post something on that when I find out, which will probably be tomorrow sometime.

5.) Great to see Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau swinging with such authority tonight. Looked a lot like mid-June out there.