Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #62

Sixty-two down, One Hundred to go. The Twins looked fairly solid tonight, and picked up an important win against the Braves, with two more to go in the series. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) Normally, I start out with a discussion of the starting pitcher. Tonight, I'm changing it up by offering three congratulations up top. First (and second), congratulations to Juan Rincon and his wife Roselen on the birth of son Santiago Rafael, and to Carlos Silva and his Maria on the birth of their son, Justin Emmanuel. Finally, congratulations to Justin Verlander on tossing a no-hitter against the Brew Crew. Yes, the Tigers are a division rival -- but no hitters are pretty cool, so I think it's worthy of a big "congrats."

2.) Now, onto the starter. For the first time in quite awhile I just sat back, watched the game, kept score, and tracked pitches. Here's what I saw from Slowey: (1) he's using a lot of fastballs (55 fastballs to 22 off-speed pitches, by my count -- which is off by 2 from the official count of 79 pitches), but seems to be locating them pretty effectively, with the double-play ball in the 6th being a perfect example; (2) he appears to have some really effective off-speed stuff -- but when he makes a mistake on one of his off-speed pitches, it's a big, big mistake that has a tendency to leave the yard; (3) he's getting more efficient every time he pitches. He only had 1 K tonight, but he wasn't really pitching for strikeouts. A big part of the reason that his pitch count was down was because he was throwing pitches that were intended to be hit -- but they were well-placed so that when hit, for the most part, they were hit at people. The homeruns were, of course, the exception -- but both of them came on sliders that hung, badly. Additionally, Slowey absolutely cruised through the 4th and 5th, and would have gotten out of the 6th on 9 pitches if Bartlett hadn't made an error to keep things alive. That inning blossomed into a 20-pitch affair that saw Slowey tire very, very quickly. Props to Gardy for not pulling him from the game with the game on the line -- it was an important opportunity for Slowey to battle out of his own jam, and he did the job. I think part of the explanation for what happened with 2 outs in the 6th is that Slowey started to press -- he was overthrowing his fastball, as evidenced by his completely missing the strikeout with several fastballs. That caused him to throw more pitches generally, and to come in with relatively straight fastballs that were hit hard. It was only 11 pitches, but those 11 pitches looked completely different from what came before, and it was clear that 6 was all he was going to go, despite having a relatively low pitch count. Still, a very encouraging outing -- he looked like a Major League pitcher tonight.

2.) Another great performance from the trio of Guerrier, Neshek, and Nathan -- whose respective ERA's are now 1.60, 1.16, and 1.91. Yeah, Nathan gave up a couple of hits -- but he got the job done, yet again, and that's what counts.

3.) In his first three at-bats, Joe Mauer didn't look particularly comfortable at the plate. Then, stepping into the box in the 7th inning having gone 1-for-12 since coming back to the team from injury, Mauer hammered a high fastball into right, showing that he was just fine. He picked up another hit in the 9th just for good measure. I'd say he's just fine, folks.

4.) Michael Cuddyer's arm is an unbelievable asset, and it really is stunning that people are still running on him. However, lost in the gorgeous throw he made today to nail Willie Harris at 2nd was the excellent positioning that came before it. Cuddyer recognized that he wasn't going to catch that ball, and turned to prepare himself for the bounce before the ball was even over his head. He played it perfectly, whirled, and nailed Harris. I don't care if you have a cannon for an arm or not -- if you misplay balls you aren't going to throw anybody out. Cuddyer's excellent defensive instincts (which are not always on display, sadly) have helped him get several of those 14 outfield assists.

5.) Alright, this is really not fair. I should stop myself. I should just let it go. But -- I can't. Eight of the starters in the Twins lineup had at least 1 hit today. the one guy who didn't -- well, his name rhymes with "Booooooooooo."

6.) Don't look now, but the Yankees are rattling off wins left and right, and are now tied with the Twins in the wild card race. *Sigh* I was so hoping that the Yankees were finished. Sadly, it looks like we're all at least going to have to endure a pennant race that involves the Bronx Bombers. At least there's still a very good chance that they miss the playoffs.

7.) The White Sox had by far the easiest draw in Interleague Play this year. I ran the numbers at one point, and I think the combined winning percentage of the teams they play was somewhere around .440. And yet, they went 1-2 against the Cubs in May, went 1-2 against the Astros this weekend, and are now 0-2 so far agains the Phillies, with the rubber game of that series set for tomorrow afternoon. I predicted that the White Sox were going to win the division, because of the strength of their offense -- but that offense just hasn't turned on at all. This team isn't going anywhere this October, and that means Trader Kenny should be firing up the ole' trade machine any time now. It could be fun to watch this team get dismantled, if for no reason other than Kenny Williams genuinely seems to like making trades. He could very well come up with some doozies in the next 6 weeks.

8.) Ty Wigginton is a nice enough player, I guess -- but he's not worth trading away any of the Twins young starters for, and I include Scott Baker (who I don't think has a future in the Twins rotation) in that list. Why not? Simply put, he's a career .265 hitter with, at best, moderate power. Yes, he has 11 homers this year, and hit 24 last year -- which is a pretty consistent pace -- but I don't see him as a significant improvement for the team. Obviously, Nick Punto is not having a good year -- but there are some signs (such as a 2-for-4 night tonight) that maybe the average is coming up. I like Punto's speed and aggressiveness -- and I don't think Wigginton would do much in those areas. This is not to say that I think Wigginton is a bad player. I think he's an adequate ballplayer -- and he might even be an improvement on Punto (see, I'm giving in that much, at least). That, to me, is not worth giving up a young arm. Why not save a guy like Baker and package him with another prospect or two for an even better player, if you're so determined to make a deal?

9.) Sounds like Dennys Reyes may be back by Thursday. There was no discussion of it anywhere that I saw, but this begs the question of who will be going down when Reyes is activated. The two most obvious candidates are Carmen Cali, if the Twins choose to stay with 11 pitchers, or Chris Heintz, if the Twins decide to go back to 12 pitchers. I'd like to submit another name, however: why not consider sending down Luis Rodriguez, now that Nick Punto is available as a backup middle infielder? Punto can handle backup shortstop and second base duties, Cirillo (and Heintz, if needed) can fill in at third. If needed, Cirillo can even scoot over to second. Heintz is actually serving an important role right now, what with Mauer and Redmond both being everyday players at this point, so why make a move to send him down? And Carmen Cali has pitched well enough to keep his job, at least until Glen Perkins comes back. Rodriguez seems like the answer to me.

10.) Rondell White is actually scheduled to play in honest-to-goodness baseball games (of the Extended Spring Training variety -- see link above) soon. There will be plenty of interesting questions to ponder when he gets healthy, but let me offer this helpful bit of advice to Terry Ryan: when the time comes, and you have to choose between Ford or Tyner -- you keep Tyner.



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