Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Thoughts on the Trade Deadline

Once again, the deadline has come and gone -- with the Twins making no moves to complement the Luis Castillo deal that they made yesterday. Reports keep coming in that the Twins clubhouse is grumbling, and there have also been a great many complaints from the denizens of various message boards. I want to say up front that as a fan, I'm disappointed that nothing was done today. I thought there were some opportunities for trades that didn't happen. This does not mean, however, that I think the Twins made a mistake by not making any moves today. I'll expand on that in the bulk of this post. Here, for your edification, are my thoughts on the deadline -- starting with Twins stuff and moving on to thoughts from all over:

1.) I mentioned the Luis Castillo trade yesterday in a stub post, but haven't fully expanded on my thoughts. I view this trade as a net positive for the Twins, and here's my reasoning:

First, let me start by saying that I think the Twins needed to strongly explore trading Luis Castillo. The most obvious reason is that Castillo is a free agent at the end of the year -- and with all of the hand-wringing over whether or not the Twins will be able to afford to keep Torii Hunter, it was pretty obvious that the Twins were not going to re-sign someone like Castillo who is relatively expensive and also fairly replaceable. After all, Castillo's numbers don't exactly blow you away: his .304 batting average is nice and all, but it's fairly empty -- his .709 OPS ranks 8th amongst qualified AL second basemen, his 18 RBI's are dead last (although to be fair this isn't entirely his fault -- the Twins 7-8-9 hitters, who Castillo would be driving in, have been out to lunch all year), and he hasn't scored many runs (again, not entirely his fault). The OPS numbers are worrisome enough before you factor in his defense, which is great when he can get to balls -- and downright bad when you factor in things like Range Factor, where Castillo comes out 11th out of 11 qualified AL second sackers.

Now, I don't know what the formula that determines whether a player is a Type A or Type B free agent is -- but I'd be willing to guess that having nothing more than a pretty good batting average while having a downright terrible OPS and poor defensive numbers probably doesn't classify you for either. It's possible that Castillo would have squeaked through as a Type B (if you think he's an A, you're hallucinating) -- but I rather doubt it. In other words, in my view the Twins would have received nothing for Castillo in the absence of a trade. By making the deal, the Twins got a terrible offensive catcher who nonetheless supposedly has the defensive skills to someday be a Major League backup, and an unproven outfielder at the High A level. In my book, that's not bad for a guy who was going to leave. Consider also that the Mets didn't have any competition for Castillo -- they were the only team that was remotely interested, and that drove down the cost.

So, really, the only argument that I think can be made in favor of keeping Castillo a Twin and then letting him walk after the season is the argument that the Twins are in the playoff race, and the Twins shouldn't have exchanged a veteran (Castillo) for a rookie (Casilla) in the middle of the race. To this I say "humbug." Castillo is not an important enough piece to make a significant difference in the race, and the Twins may as well try out Casilla. Taking all of this into account, I think that the Castillo trade made sense, and was as good as the Twins were going to get given the circumstances. You can't turn water into wine -- and anyone expecting more out of Castillo was hoping for that kind of miracle.

2.) The Castillo trade led to one of the more interesting trade deadline developments -- and it didn't even have anything to do with an actual trade. I'm referring to the griping that has come from the Twins locker room (supposedly) about this deal. Now, I think the players have every right to speak their mind, and I think it's touching that they cared enough about Castillo to be sad to see him go. Bottom line, however, is that the players and the GM have very, very different jobs. Players can afford to get to know and like a player, and to be disappointed when he's traded. That is a liability in a GM. Terry Ryan had to look at his options dispassionately, and when he did so he made the same conclusion that I made -- Castillo needed to go. He then got the best deal he could in a market that was against him. It would be very, very foolish for the players to get so upset about Castillo heading to the Mets that they stopped playing -- and I don't think they will. The locker room is angry now, but these guys are professionals, and they'll get over it.

3.) What about not making a trade today? This, perhaps, was the thing that upset fans more than anything at the deadline, and as I said above, I wasn't immune to that. I don't know what kind of deals the Twins discussed as the deadline drew near, but I guarantee you that they looked at a number of options. In the end, I think deals were brought down by a combination of factors: the unavailability of quality pieces at the positions the Twins needed (Morgan Ensberg was a horrible option, Mike Piazza didn't want to play here, etc.); the Twins resistance to trading away prospects for rent-a-players; the apparent disinterest around the league for players like Juan Rincon or Carlos Silva.

What's interesting to me is how many Twins fans were clamoring for Ensberg -- a player who has been absolutely wretched for some time now. The fact that people are upset at Ryan for not picking him up mystifies me, and demonstrates that many people seemed to be interested in making a trade solely for the sake of making a trade. That's foolhardy, and I'm glad the Twins resisted.

Finally, let's also not forget that the Twins will be getting Michael Cuddyer back soon, which will help the team significantly, and also that there is still a chance to make moves during August through the waiver process. I don't know if the Twins will make any moves in August or not, but the opportunity will be there.

4.) One more thing to consider -- the Twins division rivals didn't do a lot at the deadline either. The Tigers made no moves, although they considered (for some reason) adding Jack Wilson from the Pirates, and the Indians added Kenny Lofton last week but made no other moves. It's not like the Twins put themselves in a major hole relative to the rest of the division by doing nothing but trading Castillo. For that matter, the Yankees and Angels didn't do a whole heck of a lot either.

5.) It's completely meaningless, but it's interesting to note that in their first two at-bats post-trade, Luis Castillo is 0-for-2 for the Mets while Alexi Casilla is 2-for-2 for the Twins. Just a note of interest that I don't believe has any significance whatsoever.

6.) The Braves were obviously very aggressive, and I think they made some great moves. The Pirates picking up Matt Morris is just mystifying. Finally, I'm frankly stunned that the Cubs didn't do anything to give themselves more of an edge against the fading Brewers, and that the Dodgers didn't do more than pick up Scott Proctor from the Yankees.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Site Update

I rather doubt that many of you care, but this is my blog so I'm going to mention this anyway -- tonight, I finally finished moving things out of my old apartment, and it's clean and ready to be turned over to the landlord. I've been in a slow-burn moving process for the last couple of weeks, and I'm very, very sick of it by now. The upshot -- theoretically I should be able to return to a more normal blogging schedule starting tomorrow. For tonight, congrats to the Twins on putting the Castillo trade behind them and picking up another win. We'll see if they have more to think about during tomorrow's game -- I'm frankly hoping for Juan Rincon and Carlos Silva to be packaged to someone, anyone who's interested. Heck, if Kyle Lohse can get traded, the Twins ought to be able to move Silva for something, right?


Castillo to the Mets

I will of course be commenting on this in more detail later, but I'm about to go out to a goodbye dinner for my soon-to-be former roommate, so I can't get to this now. Let me just say that I think this deal, while not ideal, is about as good as the Twins could have expected to do considering that not a lot of contenders needed a second baseman. I congratulate Terry Ryan on making a move rather than sitting on his hands. More to come later . . .


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Nightly Notes

Not going to get much up tonight -- I was hopeful I'd get a break in the middle of the day to blog, but it didn't happen. Anyway, congrats to Garza for an awesome start, and to the Twins for winning a tough series in Cleveland. Over the past three days, the club gained 2 games on Detroit and 1 on Cleveland, and find themselves just 6.5 games behind the Indians and 7 behind the Tigers. I have said that I don't believe the Twins have the depth necessary to make another come-from-behind run at the division title, and I still believe that -- but the Twins are in much better shape today than they were when the weekend started, and I have some hope that they might prove me wrong.

I still believe that the Twins should be sellers at the deadline -- Luis Castillo should go to the Mets if they'll take him, Carlos Silva should be dealt (I've referred to him multiple times as arbitration eligible at the end of this year, but I was a year off on his service time), and if the Twins get a good offer for Torii (which I don't think will happen), they should probably take it -- unless, of course, they have a plan in place to sign him to a 4-year deal, which is the best option of all. No one on the market now is worth paying for in prospects. The one exception to this (and it's a fairly big one) is if the Twins were to find an everyday caliber third baseman or outfielder who would be with the team in 2008 -- at that point, TR should consider dealing a prospect or two, because the Twins should have a formidable pitching staff and, with an upgraded offense, should be able to compete for a playoff spot. But the thought that the Twins would try to swing a deal for the recently designated (for assignment) Morgan Ensberg, or for Jeff Conine, or anyone along those lines is not a pleasant one. Prospects over rent-a-players any day.

The Twins need to take care of business against the Royals in the next series, and it should be fun to watch -- but I expect the team to look different when the series is over than it does going in. We'll see what the deadline has in store.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #103

Sometimes, the game of baseball delivers strange but wonderful games. Today was one of those days, as the Twins beat the Indians 3-2. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) Normally, a solid start from Cy Santana would warrant first mention. But how could I not lead off this post with a quick mention of Jason Renyt Tyner's first career Major League homerun in 1,220 at bats? At the beginning of the season, there was some talk that Tyner just might finally be prepared to hit his first homerun this season, after he worked with Joe Vavra on turning on pitches. Now, I unfortunately didn't see this homerun (I caught about 2 innings of the game after it was already 2-0), but I think I heard that it went to right field (cry pardon if this is wrong), so maybe this was the result of Vavra's help this spring. Congrats to Tyner for ending the drought, and in what ended up being a very meaningful way!

2.) Johan regained his form today after a down performance the last time out. Ten strikeouts through 5 innings and 12 through 7, just 2 earned on 4 hits and a walk -- pretty nice performance. I'm glad that the Twins are giving Johan a bit more free reign with his pitch count over the last few starts, but I hope they don't let him go 114-120 every time out.

3.) Brian Buscher went 0-for-4 today, but picked up his first major league RBI -- the game winner, nonetheless. He's now 2-for-8 in his first two ballgames, and I would guess that he'll continue to get playing time until and unless he gets down to .200 or below. The Twins aren't out anything by giving Buscher a legitimate shot (and a legitimate shot is not 3 or 4 games).

4.) Ty Wigginton won't be going to the Twins this year after being traded to the Astros, and neither will Dmitri Young after signing an extension with the Nationals. Frankly, this is good news -- the Twins should no longer be in "buyer" mode, so the fact that two of the guys mentioned as possible pickups by the team are now off the market just takes away the temptation of going after them.

5.) Luis Castillo is a perfect fit for the Mets, and the Twins should make just about whatever deal the Mets are willing to make. Hopefully Terry Ryan doesn't decide to pretend that he's Jim Bowden and start demanding every prospect in the Mets system in exchange for Castillo. This deal makes far, far too much sense not to happen.


Site Update

Marty made a comment on my last past that, to paraphrase, asked whether my lack of blogging the last two days was an indication that I thought the Twins were out of it. This made me realize that it was time for a Site Update. First, yes, I think the Twins are out of the playoff chase. I said as much on Wednesday in my "Is it Over?" post, and nothing that has happened since has changed my mind.

However, this is not why I haven't blogged in two days. If you've read the blog recently, you might have caught the fact that I'm in the process of moving. That is the biggest reason why I haven't blogged the last two days -- I have to surrender my apartment on the 31st (at noon sharp, as the *ahem* wonderful folks *ahem* in the property management office have . . . erm . . . "politely" reminded me -- they rented the place out for the 1st, you see -- something of a quick turn around time). Today and tomorrow are my last two full days to finish moving and to clean, so I may very well be MIA today and tomorrow as well (although I shall try to comment on the games -- and if there's a trade, I will force myself to sit down and post my thoughts).

So, that's that -- for now, I'll leave you with this: I liked Brian Buscher's debut. He has a solid swing that looks to me like it's Major League ready, and while his defense isn't spectacular, it's not as bad as his one poor inning made him look, either. He is the best story of the Twins minor league season (although the re-emergence of Trevor Plouffe as a legit prospect is right up there, in my book), and I would love to see him have a solid enough 2+ months as a Twin to earn himself the job on a full time basis in 2008.

Until next time, go Twins.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

McDonald Down -- Buscher on the Way?

By now, you've probably heard that Darnell McDonald's stay with the Twins has ended rather prematurely, after he went 1-for-10 since his callup. This means that Lew Ford and Jason Tyner will be playing out in right until Michael Cuddyer returns -- while I'm not terribly enthusiastic about that, I also don't think Darnell McDonald was an adequate solution, so I'm neutral on this move.

I'm much more enthusiastic about the fact that Brian Buscher appears to be on his way to the Twins. As I mentioned earlier tonight, it's time for the Twins to look to the future, and start to give some young guys a chance to prove themselves. Brian Buscher is one of the few great stories amongst Twins minor league position players this season, and I'm ecstatic for him. Buscher is 26, and has steadily worked his way up through the Giants organization. Somehow, he was left unprotected and was taken in the minor league Rule 5 draft by the Twins from the Giants (man, we love to take prospects from the Giants). He's risen from AA to AAA already this year, and has hit .308 and .319 respectively with the Rock Cats and Red Wings, with 13 homeruns between the two. If anyone in the organization has earned a callup, it's Buscher (well, Buscher and Matt Tolbert). With the gaping whole that is 3B for the Twins right now, there's no reason not to call up Buscher and let him play.

Now, there's an interesting question here -- the Twins 40-man roster is full. The most obvious solution to this problem, if the Twins don't want to lose anyone, is to move Glen Perkins to the 60-day DL. My guess is that that's exactly what's going to happen, since Perkins is far, far away from returning from his injury -- and 60 days has already passed since he was injured, so he could be removed whenever the Twins felt the need anyway. Alternatively, the Twins could decide to part ways with someone like Carmen Cali, who is out of options as of next year and is unlikely to be with the team.

Either way, the addition of Buscher is a positive -- but he should be joined by Matt Tolbert, with Luis Rodriguez getting a pink slip. Unfortunately, I doubt that's going to happen.


Is it Over?

There are going to be a lot of posts like this popping up on various blogs after the Twins were swept in grand fashion by the Blue Jays over the last 3 days (11 runs in an inning? Really? Yuck). Some of them will be the same kind of defeatist comments that seem to be popular amongst the eternally pessimistic (Patrick Reusse and Sid Hartman may not have blogs, but they display this kind of attitude all the time). This is not a defeatist post. I'm always optimistic. That doesn't mean, however, that I don't think the Twins are done as far as the playoffs are concerned.

Let me just come out and say this straight up -- I believe the Twins are done so far as the playoffs are concerned this year. This team is too flawed to be fixed by the addition of a Ty Wigginton or a Jeff Conine (Jeff Conine? Are you kidding me?). There is talent here, to be sure -- Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, and Justin Morneau are three of the best in baseball at their respective positions, Johan Santana is the best pitcher in baseball when he's on (and has a legitimate shot of picking up another Cy Young this season), and the bullpen is still, usually, very good. But the problems are significant, and aren't going away. The self-destruction of Nick Punto, the regression of Jason Bartlett, the inability of Jason Kubel to develop into a true every day player (although he's had some really great stretches) have hampered this team, as have a variety of injuries. This is a flawed team, and they will not catch fire the way that previous comeback kid versions of the Twins have done. So, yes, in the playoff sense, it's over.

The funny thing is, though, that in some sense this is freeing for me as a fan. I didn't think this Twins team was a playoff caliber team from the start of the season. I think there's very little that Terry Ryan could have done to change that in the off-season while staying within budget. This was a transitional year all the way. I don't expect the Twins to make the playoffs every year (although, of course, I root for that). This is freeing because I won't be watching games the same way for the rest of the season. Close losses won't bother me nearly as much. Instead, I'll be looking at player development and looking ahead.

The Twins should start moving into player evaluation mode any day now (in fact, they may have started, if the rumors of a Brian Buscher callup tonight are true -- more on that in a later post). Frankly, this part of the season is just as fun for me as is watching a playoff run. I'm looking forward to seeing how the starters perform, whether Scott Baker can earn himself a look for spring 2008, whether Matt Tolbert or Alexi Casilla or Brian Buscher or Garrett Jones makes a solid showing if and when given the chance, and whether the Twins make any moves to shore up the farm system with free agents and/or arbitration eligibles. This is not a time for anger or sadness -- it's a time for excitement. It's a new season, folks -- and I'm excited to write about it.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #99

Yech -- not a good way to start a roadtrip (or to return to blogging), as the Twins suffered a rough 6-4 loss against the Blue Jays tonight. Here are my short notes (didn't get to watch the game, yet again):

1.) Johan Santana is human after all in the second half of the season. The usually flawless one gave up 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks over 5 innings (but at least he kept up his streak of starts of at least 5 innings). It's just an anomaly, I'm sure, but the Twins need Santana to be nearly flawless if they're going to catch up to Cleveland or Detroit.

2.) Rondell White's return was . . . well . . . a bit raw. I'm sad to say that I'm with the group (the very, very large group) of people that don't think Rondell is going to do much for this team. Of course, I said that last year -- and he came back pretty strong, playing a key role for the Twins down the stretch. This time, things feel very, very different. Hopefully he'll make me eat crow like he did last year.

3.) Justin Morneau already has 28 homeruns -- remember when Twins couldn't hit 30 in a season? Yeah, he's making me forget that, too.

4.) I feel that it's important to note that one Nick Punto went 2-for-3 today. How sad that this is noteworthy.

5.) Having Jason Tyner's arm in right field makes me awfully nervous -- again, I didn't get a chance to watch the game, so I don't know if this was a problem or not, but the difference between Cuddyer and Tyner in right field is tremendous.

6.) It's not Twins related, but I want to say that the Michael Vick situation is remarkably dramatic. I just read that NFL Commish Roger Goodell has told Vick not to report to camp, and I can't imagine a scenario in which Vick puts on a uniform in 2007. The NFL cannot win in this situation, because a significant number of people will think the wrong decision is being made no matter what is done. I find what Vick is accused of to be tasteless and wrong, and fully support laws against the barbaric act that is dog fighting. At the same time, I firmly believe that Vick deserves a chance to demonstrate his innocence. I couldn't serve on his jury, because based on what I've read, I believe he's guilty -- but he should have his chance to prove otherwise. I understand why the NFL is taking pre-emptive action, and considering that Vick will continue earning his paycheck, I don't think he has much of a complaint against the NFL. I still wonder whether this is a good decision by the NFL, and whether Roger Goodell's league might be heading down a very troublesome road. Honestly, though, I don't envy Goodell -- as I said before, there is not a good way to handle this situation. It will be very interesting to see how this develops -- and it won't be going away for a very long time.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

No Nightly Notes; White Activated

Unfortunately, I was overly optimistic about getting a nightly notes column up. I will make every effort to write one up for every game this week, and by the end of next weekend all moving-related things should be over and done with, so things should return to normal.

For now, I just want to briefly comment on the Twins decision to activate Rondell White and send down Garrett Jones. I don't know whether White has it in him to have another stretch like he did when he came back last year, but he has to be a better option than Jones. Unfortunately (and this really isn't terribly surprising), Jones has simply looked overmatched at the Major League level (his triple yesterday being a notable exception). White should be a better option for the team as the DH (where he's likely to get the most playing time). Darnell McDonald is probably a better option in the outfield than Jones would have been (might have been -- alright, IS), so I understand the decision to send Jones down and keep McDonald.

That's it -- all I've got. Hopefully, White will come back strong and give the Twins another much-needed bat in the lineup as they try to battle back into position to make a playoff run.


Darnell McDonald

I just wanted to put up a few things about McDonald before I forget to. I spent a little time researching to try to find out some basics about McDonald, and here are the results. Keep in mind that researching transactions can be an iffy proposition because the sources can be spotty, but here's what I think I've found out:

After being originally drafted back in 1997, McDonald was added to the Orioles 40-man roster for the first time in November, 2002. McDonald was then optioned in both 2003 and 2004 (spending some time in the bigs with the Orioles in 2004). He was outrighted to the minors and became a minor league free agent in the off-season between 04 and 05, and since that time has not been back on a 40-man roster, playing on a series of minor league contracts.

So, my conclusion is that McDonald has one option left. That means that the Twins can keep him around if they want to by optioning him to the minors when Cuddyer comes off of the DL (or sooner, if they need the roster spot for something else -- like Rondell White's return, for instance).

I've been absent for the last day and a half due to moving and blogger issues, but should have a right up for today's game sometime this afternoon.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Cuddyer to the DL; McDonald Promoted

UPDATE: That was fast. Michael Cuddyer is headed to the DL. Original post follows, with a new closing paragraph discussing Cuddyer. Here's the original post:

Joe Christensen is reporting that Darnell McDonald, the 29-year-old outfielder that the Twins acquired from the Washington Nationals a few weeks ago (in exchange for not re-acquiring Rule 5 draft pick Levale Speigner when the Nationals removed him from the team's active roster) has been called up to the big leagues. Problem is, no one seems to know who is being removed from the roster to make room for him. Even the Twins website is ambiguous -- it has McDonald'd contract being purchased, but also says nothing about a replacement player.

First things first -- Alexander Smit was removed from the 40-man roster when he was waived (and subsequently claimed by the Reds), so McDonald slots into his old position on the 40-man. Now for the confusing part -- who McDonald is replacing.

The speculation so far has centered on Michael Cuddyer, who has been rumored to be heading to the DL. That doesn't seem to be backed up by cryptic comments from Twins brass, however, and seems possible that he will be fine in a couple of days. I tend to think that Cuddyer ending up on the DL is the most likely scenario, but the alternative is that the Twins are sending Garrett Jones back down to make room for McDonald. Why do this? The probable reason is that, even if Cuddyer doesn't need to be disabled, he probably will need to miss a few days. Torii Hunter is probably also still a little touch and go. Garrett Jones is simply not a very good outfielder, so down by two players at the position, the Twins may simply be looking for an insurance policy in the outfield for the next few days.

Either way, I think was a logical step for the Twins, and I expected McDonald to be called up at some point this season. For one thing, he's hitting a combined .307 this season between Rochester and Columbus, with a solid .813 combined OPS. For another, he's 29, and will be 30 when next season rolls around, so the Twins undoubtedly want to find out what he's capable of doing in order to decide whether to keep him around. Third (and related to the second reason), he may very well be eligible to be a minor league free agent at the end of the season (I would guess he is, but haven't found out for sure). All of this added up to McDonald getting a shot with the Twins at some point this season, and the time appears to be now.

UPDATED: So Michael Cuddyer is headed to the DL, and the Twins playoff chances just took a significant hit. I'm happy for Darnell McDonald, who will get another chance to demonstrate that he's an MLB caliber ballplayer -- but this is pretty bad news for the Twins. Still, on the plus side it's a good chance to evaluate another ballplayer. Mentally, I'm already shifting into "player evaluation" mode from "rooting for the playoffs" mode -- but I'm always optimistic, and will stay so now thanks largely to the Twins starting pitching. Anything can happen, though, so we'll see.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #95

I'd like to say that getting swept by the Tigers at home doesn't hurt the Twins playoff chances, but that would be a lie. While the last three days didn't end the Twins season, it made things a whole lot more difficult. Once again, I didn't get a chance to watch the game, so I'm not going to comment in depth. I still wanted to say a few things, though. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) Scott Baker continued the Twins streak of solid pitching performances, although this one wasn't quite up to the level that previous starters have set since the break. He went 6.1 innings and gave up just 3 runs (which is fine), but he gave up 10 hits on the day and walked a batter. All in all a good performance, but there was certainly room for improvement.

2.) Anytime Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer are out of the lineup, the Twins probably aren't going to win the ballgame. Now, just imagine next year without Torii Hunter in the lineup ever, and you might see why I'm pushing so strongly for the Twins to re-sign him.

3.) The best thing about the game was probably Jason Kubel's 3-for-4 performance, which included his 8th homerun of the year. He's still hitting just .248 on the season, but he's had a fair number of games this season where he's been very good -- hopefully he can start stringing some of them together.

4.) Tough luck loss for Joe Nathan -- but stretching him to two innings is inherently risky, and tonight it didn't work. I wouldn't worry about it too much -- especially because the offense could have prevented it by scoring some more runs.

5.) The next three days will be huge for the Twins, with a tough series against the Angels on tap. John Lackey is first up tomorrow, and that's going to be a tough ballgame. If the Twins lose the series, it's probably time to shift them fully into the "seller" column.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007


No notes tonight -- I have tomorrow off from work to do some new-house related things, and have been busy with some preliminary stuff tonight. I will direct you to Joe Christensen's blog for some very interesting tidbits on tonight's game. I should be back tomorrow with a post in the evening regarding tomorrow afternoon's game (which unfortunately I won't be watching).


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #93

What a game -- it ended with a negative result for the Twins, but there was at least one major positive for the Twins. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) The positive I was referring to before: obviously it was Matt Garza. In his second big league start of the year, Garza went 7 innings and gave up just 3 hits and a walk. The one run he allowed was unearned, keeping intact his 0.00 ERA. He struck out three batters. Most impressive to me, however, is the fact that Garza is pitching right now, not just tossing fastballs to the plate. It looked effortless for a lot of the night. The Twins have had excellent starts from each of the guys in their rotation so far in the second half, and should that continue the Twins will win a lot of ballgames. Tonight, Garza demonstrated the phenomenal talent that he possesses, and it's a shame that the offense did absolutely nothing for him. Incidentally, for the first time tonight I felt that Garza put it all together and showed flashes of becoming an ace in the future.

2.) This is also Garza related, but I felt that it deserved its own note. Garza has pitched 15 innings and been nearly flawless so far since being recalled from Rochester, so inevitably there will be those out there who say he should never have been in Rochester to begin with. There are basically two possibilities -- either Garza benefited from his time in the minors or he didn't. First, lets just keep in mind that two starts doesn't prove anything, really -- Ramon Ortiz had some great starts in April, after all. But let's just assume for now (for the sake of this post) that Garza has indeed turned a corner and is going to be a solid major leaguer from now until he retires. I personally think that his time in the minor leagues was important to his development, and that had he started the season at the big leagues, he might never have had a breakthrough. Others undoubtedly see it differently, and believe that Garza would have been successful in the bigs no matter where he started the season. There's no way to prove this one way or the other, but its an interesting question to think about. Either way, he's undoubtedly strung together a pretty impressive start to his 2007 season.

3.) Jason Bartlett was undoubtedly the goat tonight -- his error led to the game-winning run for the Tigers, and he didn't much of anything at the plate. It happens to everybody, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating. He needs to shrug it off, because it wasn't all his fault, after all -- there were 8 other players on the team who should have picked him up, but it didn't happen. We're drawn to Bartlett because we want a scapegoat, but blaming him is just the easy way out.

4.) Joe Mauer struck out looking in the Bottom of the 6th with runners at 1st and 2nd and 1 out. Strikeouts are a part of the game, but this one was not a good strikeout, by any means. Robertson threw a beautiful pitch low and away that was perfectly placed. Mauer watched it go by him, and was rung up by home plate umpire James Hoye. The problem here might be that Mauer has such a good eye at the plate that he trusts it too much. That pitch looked like it may very well have been outside (I can't believe I'm saying this, but ESPN's K-Zone might have come in handy there). Even if Mauer was right, however, he made the wrong decision in not swinging at that pitch, because it was much, much too close for comfort. Wade Boggs would have flicked his wrists and fouled that ball off down the left field line, forcing the pitcher to try something else to get the out -- that's what great hitters do. Joe Mauer is a great hitter, but this is one skill that he either hasn't yet developed or that he is for some reason hesitant to use. The umpires aren't perfect, Joe -- time to start fouling pitches like that off instead of watching them go by.

5.) The Twins need to pull off wins the next two games, or they'll be in for a giant let-down after the sweep of the A's. With Johan Santana on the mound tomorrow, they have a great chance -- but I'm a little worried by the Bonderman/Baker match-up on Thursday.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Twins Trade Primer

With two weeks left to the trade deadline, and teams just starting to make some interesting moves (see Jason Kendell to the Cubs), its time to run through the Twins organization to see which players are at key check points in their career, and therefore more likely to be involved in a trade. The checkpoints I'm particularly interested in looking at shouldn't be too surprising -- guys who will be free agents at the end of the year (or who could be if an option is declined), arbitration eligible players, guys who will be out of options going into the 2008 season, and guys who must be added to the 40-man roster or be exposed to the rule 5 draft. I won't be covering absolutely everybody who fits into one of those categories in this post -- but I aim to get close. Here goes nothing:

1.) Free Agents to Be

Ramon Ortiz - SP - $3.1 million
Luis Castillo - 2B - $5.75 million
Jeff Cirillo - IF - $1.5 million
Torii Hunter - OF - $12 million

Options for 2008
Joe Nathan - RP - $5.25 million ($6M option/$1M buyout)
Rondell White - OF - $2.5 million ($2.5 vesting option/.25M buyout)

Let's start with the obvious on the options -- Rondell White is not going to get anywhere near the plate appearances that would be necessary for his option to vest, and the Twins aren't going to be bringing him back any other way. He's a free agent-to-be if ever there was one. It's equally obvious that he isn't going anywhere in a trade; even if he were to get healthy, why would anyone swing a deal for him at this point? As for the other option player, Joe Nathan will have his option picked up the second the season is over. I wouldn't be completely opposed to some creative GM'ing that involved Nathan in a trade (if the return was perfect), but that's extremely unlikely -- and I'm very, very content to know that unless a great deal comes TR's way, Nathan will be closing again for the Twins next year.

As for the pure free agents, if you read this blog at all you know that I think Torii Hunter should be re-signed -- but if the Twins aren't going to get that done in the next two weeks, they need to either try like the dickens to trade him, or find a way to add pieces and make a legitimate run at a playoff spot with Torii. Losing Hunter at the end of the season as a free agent is an acceptable result only if the Twins do so because they make the decision that they are good enough to compete for a World Series title this year and so need Hunter's bat. Speaking for most fans who have watched this team over the course of the first half of the year, I think it's safe to say that this team as presently constituted is not there yet. Keeping Hunter after the deadline while picking no one up would be silly. But let's also be realistic here -- who is going to overpay for Hunter now knowing that he's just going to turn around and test the market in the off-season? If your answer was "no one," then you win. Looking through the contenders, there are few (if any) teams that even need a player like Hunter right now. Maybe Milwaukee. Theoretically Boston. Beyond that, things get rough. The market is just not there for Hunter at the deadline, so I don't expect him to be traded.

Elsewhere, the Twins should make a run at trading Luis Castillo, but as with Hunter I don't think the market for him is going to be very substantial. Alexi Casilla is going to be taking over at 2B next season barring something very unforeseen -- the Twins may as well make that move now if they find a taker for Castillo. Jeff Cirillo and Ramon Ortiz have no trade value -- they'll finish the season as Twins and disappear into the baseball free agent ether.

2.) Arbitration Eligible Players

Matt Guerrier - RP - $.4075 M
Juan Rincon - RP - $2 M
Carlos Silva - SP - $4 M
Justin Morneau - 1B - $4.5 M
Michael Cuddyer - OF - $3.575 M
Lew Ford - OF - $.985 M
Jason Tyner - OF - $.4 M
Jason Kubel (Super 2) - OF - $.3875 M

Luis Rodriguez (Super 2) - IF - $.392 M

That's quite the list. The Twins aren't going to be parting ways with Morneau or Cuddyer at the deadline, or with new "it" boy Matt Guerrier, who is having a breakthrough season. It's also extremely unlikely that Jason Kubel is going anywhere, as the Twins are still hopeful that he's going to develop into a useful piece (of course, his time is quickly running out). The rest of these guys are expendable, and could find themselves involved in a package deal if someone were willing to take them. The Twins should have parted ways with Lew Ford last winter, and if the Twins are smart would be this winter. Juan Rincon and Carlos Silva are perhaps the most interesting guys on the list -- I think that if the Twins move Silva, it would get them a long way toward being able to afford Torii Hunter next year (when the expiring free agent contracts are taken into account). Rincon has lost his job as the setup man, and you have to wonder what his role with the team would be next year. Finally, Luis Rodriguez is borderline for two reasons -- one, if he spent the rest of the season with the Twins, he'd be right on the cut-point to get super-2 eligibility; second, he simply should not be with the team for the rest of the season, and if he's sent to the minors, he can kiss arbitration eligibility good bye. I can't imagine that anyone would want him in a deal, but it wouldn't hurt to try to throw him in as an extra part and see the team blinks.

3.) Out of Options

Scott Baker - SP
Carmen Cali - RP
Garrett Jones - 1B/OF

Boof Bonser - SP
Jason Kubel - OF

First things first -- the "potentials" on this list have both already been optioned in two seasons, so if either Bonser or Kubel were sent down this season, they would be out of options and would have to make the roster after Spring Training 2008. Of course, that's not going to happen with either of them -- both should easily stay on the roster for the remainder of this season, and should make the team next spring.

How about the other guys? It's unlikely that any of them will be traded, but with decisions on these players looming, its a possibility. Scott Baker is probably the most likely to be traded simply because the Twins have so many starters in the system for next year, and something has to give.

4.) Rule 5 Eligible

* I'm not certain on all of these players, but this is my best guess. Both players who are eligible for the first time in 2007 and who are already eligible but are not yet on the 40-man roster will be included on this list*

Matt Allegra - OF - New Britain
Kyle Aselton - RP - Ft. Myers
Brad Baker - RP - Rochester
Brian Bass - RP - Rochester
Daniel Berg - 1B - Beloit
Nick Blackburn - SP - Rochester
Brian Buscher - 3B - Rochester
Tristan Crawford - RP - New Britain
Doug Deeds - 1B/OF - Rochester
Korey Feiner - C - New Britain
Jesse Floyd - SP - New Britain
Matthew Fox - RP - Beloit
Angel Garcia - RP - New Britain
Dave Gassner - SP - Rochester
Kyle Geiger - C - New Britain
Garrett Guzman - OF - New Britain
Adam Hawes - RP - Ft. Myers
Danny Hernandez - RP - Beloit
Luke Hughes - IF - New Britain
Bobby Korecky - RP - Rochester
Tim Lahey - RP - New Britain
Jose Leger - C/IF - Beloit
Jose Lugo - RP - Beloit
William Luque - IF - Beloit
J.P. Martinez - RP - New Britain
Frank Mata - RP - New Britain
Darnell McDonald - OF - Rochester
Felix Molina - 2B - New Britain
Jose Morales - C - Rochester
Matt Moses - 3B - New Britain
Trent Oeltjen - OF - Rochester
Yancarlos Ortiz - IF - Beloit
Edward Ovalle - OF - Ft. Myers
Rodolfo Palacios - C - Elizabethton
Brock Peterson - 1B - New Britain
Javi Sanchez - C - Ft. Myers
Danny Santiesteban - OF - Beloit
Jay Sawatski - RP - New Britain
David Shinskie - RP - Ft. Myers
Eli Tintor - OF - Beloit
Matt Tolbert - IF - Rochester
Luis Ugueto - IF - Ft. Myers
Danny Vais - RP - Beloit
Gil Velazquez - IF - Rochester
Tommy Watkins - IF - Rochester
Dwayne White - OF - Ft. Myers
Glenn Williams - 1B/3B - Rochester
David Winfree - 1B/3B - New Britain
Johnny Woodard - 1B - Ft. Myers

I'm not going to say much about this list, other than to say that I would expect Matt Tolbert and Nick Blackburn to be added to the roster at some point. Matt Moses is going to be an interesting call, as will Brian Buscher.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #92

The Twins didn't gain any ground today, but they didn't lose any either -- and a 4-game sweep, even over a somewhat diminished A's team, is a great way to start the second half of the season. As an aside, I'm in the process of moving, so the blogging will be light over the next couple of weekends. Now, onto tonight's notes:

1.) Boof had a better outing tonight than he's had in awhile, and started to extend himself just a teensy bit, as he lasted 6.1 innings. I said after Scott Baker's start that at least 6 innings and 3 or fewer runs is a perfectly acceptable start, and Bonser did that and a tiny bit more tonight, so I'm content. And just to make a perfectly obvious comment, how awesome was the starting pitching in general this weekend for the Twins? Even with a sometimes anemic offense, the Twins will find themselves right in the middle of the Wild Card and AL Central races.

2.) A bit of a bounce-back evening for Dennys Reyes tonight, after he allowed a couple of inherited runners to score in his last outing. However, it wasn't all sweetness and light -- he walked a couple of batters in just 1 inning. Nice to see him continue to lower that ERA, though.

3.) Jason Tyner did a pretty admirable job filling in for Torii Hunter today, going 2-for-3 with a walk and scoring a run. Yesterday, he went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Every time he gets a start, I read people complaining about him, but he's hitting .284 and honestly isn't a bad option. I'm certainly much more comfortable with him out there than with Lew Ford, so I'm not going to complain in the least.

4.) I'm sure someone else has mentioned this, but how about the Twins targeting Shannon Stewart for the stretch run? It's going to be very, very difficult for the A's to admit that they're done, but they're now 44-48 in a tough division and have no chance of catching the Wild Card. If the A's accept the reality of their situation, then they may accept a trade. Stewart signed a 1-year, $1 million deal with the A's for this year, so trading him would give them a chance to get something for nothing (unless they plan on making a bid to bring him back next year, which is certainly possible). Stewart is hitting .306 with a .366 OBP on the season -- that's a substantial improvement over anyone the Twins have available. I really doubt that this is going to happen, for a lot of reasons -- but the Twins should see if there's a mid-level prospect who the A's would take in exchange for Stewart.

5.) Nice to see Joe Mauer get on a roll today out of the DH spot. A solid 3-for-4 day, including the game winner. Great game for Joe.

6.) The Twins have an off day tomorrow -- frankly, I'd prefer to put it off. This team is playing pretty decent baseball, so it would be nice to keep the momentum going. Still, this should give guys a chance to rest up before playing the Tigers, so I can't complain too much.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Second Half Predictions

It's time for me to lay my credibility (what little of it is left after I predicted in February that the White Sox would run away with the AL Central by winning 101 games) on the line once again and make my second half predictions. I'm looking at winners, losers, trades, awards, and anything else that catches my fancy over the next 30 minutes or so. Here goes nothing:

1.) Who makes the playoffs?

AL East -- Boston Red Sox
AL Central -- Detroit Tigers
AL West -- Los Angeles Angels
AL Wild Card -- Cleveland Indians

You see what I did there? Yep -- I was as boring as possible and went with the first place teams. The Red Sox are an easy pick; even if David Ortiz's injury woes are more serious than it sounds like they are, the Sox still have a great team with solid pitching, as well as a 10 game lead over a Yankees squad that for the most part has looked old and uninspired. The Angels have just a 2 game lead over the Mariners out West, but does anyone actually think Seattle is for real? As for the battle in the Central, it's much too close to call -- but I like the Tigers staying power this year much more than I did last year, and they have the experience necessary to hang on. The Indians have such a good team that they should be able to hang on for the Wild Card. While I would love to see the Twins catch up (and it certainly is possible), I'm predicting that they'll fall short this year.

NL East -- New York Mets
NL Central -- Chicago Cubs
NL West -- San Diego Padres
NL Wild Card -- Milwaukee Brewers

The National League is much more interesting than the American League this year in terms of playoff battles. The Mets are in 1st right now out East, but have issues with their pitching staff and some clubhouse discord. Nonetheless, I just don't believe in the Braves (although Atlanta is bound to be better in the 2nd half simply because Andruw Jones should improve his play). The Phillies always make things interesting, but can never get the job done -- why would this year be any different? In the Central, the Cubs look more and more like they're getting over the clubhouse problems that plagued them early on -- and the Brewers are coming back to earth. The lead right now for Milwaukee is just 4.5 games, and I think the Cubbies can make that up. I love the Western Division race, where everybody but the Giants is no more than 5.5 games back and anything can happen. In the end, the Padres pitching (especially Jake Peavy and Chris Young) convinces me that they'll hang on. Milwaukee will fight with about 5 teams to secure the Wild Card, and I'm not convinced by my own pick. Somebody has to win it, though.

2.) Who Wins the Awards?

OK, I haven't yet posted my full votes for who I think should win the awards this year (in other words, the guys who I would vote for if I had a vote) -- but I'm nonetheless going to post the list here of the guys who I think will win the awards; that's often not the same thing. Keep in mind that this list is also reaching into the future to predict what will happen in the second half, while the First Half Awards list, when posted, will be focused solely on who has done what to this point.

AL MVP -- Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
AL Cy Young -- Johan Santana (MIN)
AL Rookie of the Year -- Jeremy Guthrie (BAL)
AL Manager of the Year -- Jim Leyland (DET)

A-Rod is having the type of season that makes irrelevant the question of whether his team is going to make it to the playoffs. In years where no one really stands out from the crowd, I think that question is important for tie-break purposes -- but Rodriguez is putting up silly numbers for a team that is older and slower than at any point since he's been in New York. Unless he severely slumps in the second half (not likely), he will win the MVP. I'm picking Johan because he has a proven second-half track record, he's currently not far beyond the current "leader" in the Cy Young race (that'd be Dan Haren), and because he's a multi-year winner of the award, so the voters have shown that they're perfectly happy to vote for him. The award could still go to Haren (if he doesn't collapse in the second half) or someone like C.C. Sabathia (if the Indians make the playoffs and he wins 22 or 23 games) -- but my money is on Cy Santana. Jeremy Guthrie seems to me to be the best all around choice for the ROY -- he's pitched better than Daisuke, and none of the hitters in the AL who qualify for the award are playing well enough to overcome Guthrie's strong season. Finally, with MOY, I think Jim Leyland has been better this year than last. His team hasn't collapsed (yet) like they did last year (and honestly, I thought Ron Gardenhire deserved the award last year), and he's (so far) weathered the storm of pitching injuries that have confronted the Tigers.

NL MVP -- Derek Lee (CHC)
NL Cy Young -- Jake Peavy (SDP)
NL ROY -- Hunter Pence (HOU)
NL MOY -- Lou Piniella (CHC)

Notice the Cubs love? Unlike in the AL, I think the NL MVP is going to turn on who gets into the playoffs, because no one seems to me to be having a run away season. My personal choice in the first half is Chase Utley of the Phillies, but I don't think the Phillies will get in, and I don't expect him to get a lot of support. Derek Lee is one of the keys to success for the Cubs, and I think if he puts him a solid second half and gets his team to the playoffs, he'll win the award. Honestly, though, the MVP could probably go to 5 or 6 guys at the end of the year, so it will be interesting to watch. The Cy Young race is likely a 3-way battle between teammates Peavy and Chris Young along with the Dodgers Brad Penny. I like Peavy in the battle because he gets more strikeouts and will, I think, win more ballgames than his teammate. They'll probably finish with similar ERA's -- so I give the nod to Peavy. Hunter Pence is, in my mind, dominating the race for National League ROY. Lou Piniella deserves MOY if he can find a way to catch up to the Brewers and make the playoffs after a disastrous early start to the season.

3.) What "Big Names" get traded?

Ummmm . . . Yeah, coming up blank here. The modern trade market is not favorable for big deals getting done, so even though there are guys who should be traded (Torii Hunter, for instance, if the Twins decide they can't afford him -- and you all should now by now that I think that's a mistake and he should be locked up for another 3 or 4 years), I don't think they will be. I will say that Kansas City's Mike Sweeney should be sent packing by the Royals -- he's a free agent at the end of the season, and that team isn't anywhere close to winning -- but what will they get for him? He's hitting just .245 and is on the disabled list, so even this deal might not get done. The best chance for a big deal, then, might be in Chicago -- where the White Sox very well may trade Jermaine Dye and Jose Contreras. Sadly, I think the once frenzied trade deadline is once again going to be relatively lackluster this season.

4.) Which Twins prospects will make their Major League Debut?

The best bet is on Matt Tolbert, who should have replaced Luis Rodriguez on the roster weeks ago. He's probably not a long-term Major League caliber player, but why not give him a shot? Rodriguez has been horrid. Elsewhere, it wouldn't be a complete shock if Denard Span, despite having had a very poor season in Rochester, was called up in September to make his debut. The Twins may also consider giving a chance to Brian Buscher, a third baseman who was claimed in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft who has played very well at both AA and AAA this season. Finally, one of the lesser known pitching prospects who have moved from AA to AAA this season may get a shot in September if higher ranking prospects like Matt Garza and Scott Baker struggle -- Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing both fit the bill, and it wouldn't be a shocker to see either of them, especially if the Twins are out of contention in September.

Sadly, I'm out of time -- so this is the end of the post. Hopefully, I'm right on 7 of the 8 playoff teams (let's go Twins!).

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #89

The Twins got off to a phenomenal start in the second half, beating the A's 6-2 tonight to (hopefully) set the tone for what's to come. I was at a movie with some friends (good chance you can guess which one), so I didn't get to watch the game. That's not going to stop me from putting together some notes -- and here they are:

1.) Oh, Scott Baker, what to make of you!? Tonight's performance wasn't great, by any means -- I rag on Boof Bonser quite regularly for needing 100 pitches to get through 6 innings -- but it really wasn't bad at all. Two runs, 5 hits, a walk, 3 K's and 6 innings of work will usually be good enough. With the Twins bullpen, if the starter can go 6 and give up, say, 3 or fewer runs, I'm not going to complain. Considering how things ended for Baker in the first half, this was a great step back in the right direction. The last thing the Twins need right now is to start having to figure out who is going to be slotted in to start -- they need the current five guys to step up and keep their jobs.

2.) One walk and nothing else in three innings of work for the bullpen. We've come to expect that this season out of Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan, but not so much out of Dennys Reyes -- as I pointed out last week, however, Reyes has been great since coming back from his injury. May I suggest that this is the real (new-ish) Reyes, and that his early season struggles were pretty much a result of his injuries? He certainly could still explode, but if he continues to perform and his ERA starts to drop again, he'll have proven himself.

3.) Garrett Jones had a nice return to the lineup, going 2-for-4 with a run scored to raise his season batting average to .250 -- safe to say that's going to get him more playing time. He did leave 2 runners on, but so did many of the other Twins (and Kubel left FIVE guys on base tonight), so can't complain too much about that.

4.) Michael Cuddyer goes 4-for-4 to start the second half -- way to go! The Twins really need him to step up, because the offense cannot work without him contributing.

5.) Interesting note today that Twins Territory pointed out to me: the Twins placed Alex Smit on waivers to remove him from the 40-man roster, and Smit was then claimed by the Cincinnati Reds. Smit was added to the roster in November, and was assigned to Ft. Myers to start the season. To put it kindly, he was downright bad in Ft. Myers, going 1-4 with a 5.86 ERA in 50.2 innings. Frankly, it baffled me when the Twins added him to the roster, because it meant he had three years to climb three levels in the organization, and he had shown no signs of being able to do that. The mere fact that he's left-handed shouldn't have been enough to get him a roster spot, but it appears that it did. Now, Smit is the Reds problem (leave it to Wayne Krivsky to take a Twins cast-off -- I'm kind of surprised he didn't claim J.D. Durbin back at the end of spring). TT wondered whether or not this is a precursor to a bigger move, with the Twins clearing roster space. At this point, I don't know the answer to that question -- but if I had to guess, I would say that it may be good news for Matt Tolbert, who is not on the roster. I've been pushing for Tolbert to replace Luis Rodriguez on the roster for some time now (despite his recent struggles at the plate), and maybe this move will clear the way for that to happen. It's certainly possible that the Twins waived Smit without an ulterior motive, but I'd be awfully surprised if that were the case. Expect something to happen in the next few days.


Sid's Insanity

I'm not going to say much on this Sid Hartman piece -- which suggest that the Twins need to bring Luis Castillo back next season because there is no one in the organization who can replace him -- other than to say that I think the man has lost it. Castillo is a good player and all, but he's a ticking time bomb -- those knees could go out at any moment -- and the Twins may as well turn over second base to Alexi Casilla next year and save the money. Since I've said this before, I'm not going to waste time here going into it in-depth. Honestly, though, the Twins 2008 season will not turn on Castillo's presence in the lineup. I will say that Sid is right about Torii, though.


Catching up on Transactions

A number of moves have been made throughout the Twins organization in the last few days, and I'm a bit behind the curve in commenting on them. Hopefully, this post will get me up-to-date on that front.

First, as expected by . . . well . . . everyone in the blogosphere since the announcement that Rondell White wasn't coming back, the Twins have called up Garrett Jones for the second time this season. Expect him to get significantly more than 8 at bats this time through (he went 1-for-8 in his earlier stint with the team). I expect that the Twins will use at least the next two weeks to evaluate Jones, since this is his last option year and they'll need to make a decision on him one way or the other by the end of spring training 2008. That doesn't mean that I think Jones will play every day -- against left-handed pitchers, especially, Jones is likely to get the day off. Then again, Jones is hitting .333 against left-handed pitching in 99 at-bats this season, so the Twins might want to consider letting him get some at-bats against the lefties. Unless Jones is very impressive, I expect him to get sent down again in a couple of weeks when (if) Rondell White gets "healthy" (in quotes because, really, is he ever going to be truly healthy again?) -- but I expect no matter what happens now, Jones will be with the Twins in September as the evaluation process continues.

In the "about darned time" department, Rob Delaney was promoted from the Low A Beloit Snappers to the High A Ft. Myers Miracle, joining a flood of players who have already made that trip so far this season. Delaney had a 0.77 ERA in 46.2 innings for the Snappers, so it was clearly time to make this move. Replacing him on the Snappers roster is Anthony Slama, a 39th round selection from 2006 who was playing with Elizabethton so far this season. Slama's 2.45 ERA was solid, but he had pitched just 7.1 innings in E-town, so this could be a big jump. I'll be watching his performances closely for the next couple of weeks to see whether he adjusts.

Another promotion (from July 6) involved Brad Baker, who was promoted from New Britain to Rochester. This move was, shall we say, a bit perplexing. Baker had a 5.33 ERA with New Britain before his promotion in 77.2 innings of work. His K-BB ratio was actually solid (56-25), which is great and all -- but he's given up too many hits and too many runs to really justify this call up. Nonetheless, he's pitched well so far in a couple of innings with Rochester, having not yet given up a run.

The Twins also signed Mark Hamburger, a right-handed reliever out of Mesabi Range Community & Technical College, and assigned him to the GCL. So far, he's pitched 3.1 scoreless innings of relief. The 20-year-old attended an open tryout and pitched well enough to be signed by the club. Hopefully, he'll turn into a feel good story over the remainder of the season.

It's possible I missed something somewhere -- if you happen to spot an error or ommission, please drop me a line in the comments or via an e-mail.

Thanks to an anonymous commenter, I realized that I missed Angel Garcia earlier. Garcia was promoted to AA New Britain after putting up a 3.38 ERA in 45.1 innings for the Miracle. The move was made to make room for the addition of Rob Delaney to the Miracle roster. Thanks again for pointing this out, and if anyone else sees anything I missed, let me know.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All-Star Game Thoughts

First, let me say that overall I enjoyed watching tonight's All-Star game quite a bit. The implosion of J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez (admittedly, Rodriguez's "implosion" was pretty minor) nearly resulted in an impressive NL comeback -- but alas, the AL picked up a 10th straight victory and once again earned home field advantage in the World Series. Since I didn't get any thoughts up before the game actually happened, I'm not going to give as detailed of a run-down as I normally would have (it's a little bit late for that). However, I did want to get my thoughts on the blog, so here goes nothing:

American League

Victor Martinez (CLE) should have been the starter in this game (.324/.936/16 HR/68 RBI/44 R), and Jorge Posada (NYY) belonged on the team as well (.326/.904/9 HR/48 RBI/46 R). Ivan Rodriguez (DET) actually won the right to be on the team by winning the fan vote, and I can't argue with his inclusion -- he beats out Kenji Johjima (SEA) because he has 46 RBI's to Johjima's 32, and 35 R's to Johjima's 28. Johjima has a slightly higher BA and a moderately higher OPS -- but the bottom line is run production, and Rodriguez has the advantage. He belonged on the team, but not in the starting lineup. Bottom line: Good choices for the AL behind the plate.

First Base
There are just two guys to talk about here, with David Ortiz (BOS) winning the fan vote and Justin Morneau (MIN) getting on through the player's ballot. I don't particularly like the idea of voting for a DH at a position that he doesn't really play, but that's the system so I'm not going to complain about it too much. However, let me say that this was not the year that Ortiz deserved to get a spot on the team. His numbers (.314/.990/14 HR/52 RBI/55 R) are fine, but Gary Sheffield (DET) didn't make the team despite overall better numbers (.303 BA and .970 OPS are lower, but 21 HR, 58 RBI, and especially 78 R are all higher, and Sheffield has also stolen 12 bases this year while striking out 24 fewer times than Ortiz). And, honestly, if Ortiz is a first baseman, then Sheffield is a first baseman. Jim Leyland also should have found a way to add another 1B to the team, because several other players -- Kevin Youkilis (BOS) and Carlos Pena (TBD) especially -- had at least colorable claims to a spot on the team. Bottom Line: The wrong DH made the squad thanks to fan voting, and Jim Leyland blew a chance to take another good hitter to San Fran.

Second Base
Statistically, Placido Polanco (DET) and Brian Roberts (BAL) are having the best season's amongst the AL second-sackers easily. There's really not much to analyze here -- only three second basemen in the AL have an OPS over .800 -- and Polanco (.815) and Roberts (.848) are two of them. The other is Dustin Pedroia (BOS), who actually has the highest OPS at .850. Nevertheless, Pedroia has about 90 fewer AB's than Polanco and 103 fewer than Roberts -- and he's also driven in fewer runs and scored way fewer -- 28 fewer than Polanco, and 22 fewer than Roberts -- so I don't think he's that strong of a candidate. Bottom Line: Good choices for the squad.

Third Base
Alex Rodriguez (NYY) dominated the fan vote -- and with a .317 average, 1.078 OPS, 30 HR's, a stunning 86 RBI's, and an equally ridiculous 79 R's scored (for a diminished Yankee team, remember), he's an absolutely obvious choice. Mike Lowell (BOS) is second amongst AL third basemen in average (.300), OPS (.869), HR's (14), and RBI (63) -- although his 39 runs rank just 7th. Still, it's clear that he's been the second best in the AL this season, and he deserves his place on the team. Adrian Beltre (SEA) and Casey Blake (CLE) get honorable mentions, but really don't come close. Bottom Line: Good choices all around.

Derek Jeter (NYY) won the fan vote, and he deserved to be on the team -- but as a backup. His .336 BA, .871 OPS, 44 RBI, and 57 R are solid, but overall they don't quite measure up to Carlos Guillen (DET), who has a .328 BA, .968 OPS, 67 RBI, and 51 R. It's the OPS and RBI categories that particularly get to me -- and the fact that Guillen plays for a better team (generally, I think with close decisions, the better team gets the edge). Here, though, I don't think you even have to go that far -- Guillen just has better numbers overall. At least he rightfully has a place on the team. Michael Young (TEX), unfortunately, did not deserve his spot. He ranks 6th in BA against shortstops, 7th in OPS, 5th in runs, and T-4th in RBI's. There had to be a better option available for the Rangers, right? Well . . . maybe not. Kenny Lofton (.301/.817/20 RBI/53 R) and Sammy Sosa (.245/.747/14 HR/63 RBI/35 R) are probably the other two legit options -- none of the pitchers are even remotely close -- and really, does a guy with just 20 RBI's or with just a .245 BA belong in the game? As much as I wouldn't have put in Michael Young normally, the every team is represented rule pretty much required his inclusion, so I have to agree. Bottom Line: Grudging acceptance of the choices.

Vladimir Guerrero (LAA), Magglio Ordonez (DET), and Ichiro Suzuki (SEA) -- a.k.a. Mr. All-Star MVP -- won the fan balloting, and all were exceptional choices. Ordonez has a stunning .367 BA and 1.050 OPS to go along with 70 Runs and 70 RBI's. Obvious, obvious choice. Suzuki has a .359 average, .870 OPS, 39 RBI's and 61 runs -- and 23 stolen bases -- and also clearly deserved his place. Guerrero was third in BA (.325), second in OPS (.962), first in RBI's (75), and has a reasonable, if somewhat low, number of runs scored (46). I agree with all of these picks. The backups all have something going for them as well -- Torii Hunter (MIN) has a .301 BA, but most importantly has a .900 OPS (third highest amongst AL OF's), 69 RBI and 55 Runs. Carl Crawford (TBD) is a D-Ray with good numbers (.285/.781/51 RBI/48 R/23 SB). Alex Rios (TOR) has a solid OPS, and high productivity (R+RBI) -- .870 and 115, respectively. Grady Sizemore (CLE) has scored more runs than anyone else in the AL and leads outfielders in SB's -- all while putting up solid numbers elsewhere (.280/.864/15 HR/46 RBI/73 R/24 SB). That leaves Manny Ramirez (BOS), and here I have to disagree with the pick. Ramirez has put up a .284/.851/11/45/45 -- but Curtis Granderson (DET) beats him clearly -- .283/.884/12/43/62. He's also hit 15 (!) triples and stolen 9 bases. His 82 K's are remarkably high, but Sizemore has 91 -- so that category certainly shouldn't have disqualified him (he's producing, after all). Granderson for Ramirez would have been a good, and smart switch. Bottom Line: 7 out of 8 isn't bad, but Manny should have stayed home this year in favor of Granderson.

Dan Haren (OAK) was the clear favorite to start this game, with an ERA nearly a half point higher than everyone else (2.30), 101 K's and just 32 walks, and a solid 10-3 record. Johan Santana (MIN) -- 2.75/125-30/10-6 -- also was clearly deserving, as was John Lackey (LAA) -- 2.91/98-32/11-5. I also can't complain with Gil Meche (KCR) -- the only Royal who belonged, and whose 3.54/88-36/5-6 (sorry about the record, big guy) should have earned him consideration even absent the every-team-gets-a-player rule (although they wouldn't have been enough to get him -- notice I just said he deserved "consideration"). C.C. Sabathia (CLE) has a fairly high ERA for an All-Star -- 3.58 -- but his 119-18 K-BB ratio is phenomenal, and his 12-3 record is great (record in and of itself doesn't mean a lot, but it's part of a nice, holistic approach). Justin Verlander (DET) has a low ERA and good numbers elsewhere (3.14/97-39/10-3), so he belongs. That leaves just Josh Beckett (BOS), who's numbers (3.44/92-21/12-2) are good enough that he, too, belongs on the team. With apologies to Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) (2.74/72-18/4-2), Chad Gaudin (OAK) (2.88/68-48/8-3), and Mark Buehrle (CHW) (3.03/98-32/11-5), everyone else belonged, and there just wasn't enough room.

As for the relievers, J.J. Putz (SEA) was an easy choice with his 0.88 ERA and 24 saves (and silly 44-7 K-BB ratio), and Francisco Rodriguez (LAA) has put together a good enough season to get on as well (2.33/24 saves/53-16). Jonathan Papelbon's (BOS) sub-2.00 ERA (1.93), 20 saves, and 46-10 K-BB -- along with his membership on the best team in baseball -- made him a must-take. Bobby Jenks (CHW) does not deserve to be on the team based on the merits -- 3.28 ERA/23 saves/33-12 K-BB -- and probably should have lost this spot to Mark Buehrle, who has better numbers. I guess Jim Leyland thought yet another closer was essential. The fans also got it right by voting in Hideki Okajima (BOS) with his 0.83 ERA and 37-12 K-BB ratio. Bottom Line: Bobby Jenks was the only mistake, with Mark Buehrle deserving to get the White Sox's reserved spot.

National League


Russell Martin (LAD) was an easy and deserving choice to start for the NL with his .306 BA, .865 OPS, 11 HR, 60 RBI, and 51 R -- not to mention his 16 steals (for a catcher!). He leads the league amongst catchers in each of those categories, so this is obvious. Far less deserving was backup Brian McCann (ATL), who clearly made it on by reputation alone, since he's hitting just .262/.752 this year. Johnny Estrada (MIL) has better numbers (.293/.762/34 RBI/31 R) -- although McCann has 15 more RBI's, to be fair -- so probably should have gotten the nod. I guess I just think that .262 is skirting a little too low for an All-Star when there are guys with higher averages available. Bottom Line: McCann was not an All-Star in the first half this year, and should not have been on the team.

First Base
The NL's most hog-wild position, Tony LaRussa ended up with 4 first basemen on his team. Prince Fielder (MIL) won the fan vote, and it's easy to see why -- his .284 average and .996 OPS were coupled with 29 HR's, 70 RBI's, and 62 R's -- he leads each of those categories except batting average amongst NL first basemen, and deserved the start. Dmitri Young (WAS) and Derek Lee (CHC) lead NL first basemen in batting average (.339 and .330, respectively) , and both have reasonable OPS's (.902 and .890) -- although in the NL, those are actually not great numbers. Still, the batting averages alone, coupled with the team issue (for Young), make them solid choices. Albert Pujols (STL) also deserved his spot, because his numbers were simply superior to those of his nearest competitors, Todd Helton (COL) and Ryan Howard (PHI). Somehow, 4 first basemen is starting to make sense to me, considering the numbers these guys put up this year. Bottom Line: Insanely, Tony got these picks right.

Second Base
Chase Utley (PHI) won the fan vote, and rightfully so -- his numbers are arguably MVP worthy through the first half (.325/.972/15 HR/68 RBI/64 R). Orlando Hudson (ARI) and Freddy Sanchez (PIT) also made it onto the team, and while Hudson is a solid choice with his .296/.834/47/40, Sanchez is not (.296/.708/32/33). These being the Pirates, however, there really was no other choice -- no, not even Jason Bay, who is hitting just .254 this year. While Kelly Johnson (ATL) was a more deserving choice (.287/.852/42/55), he wasn't so good that I can call him a legitimate stub. Bottom Line: I grudgingly accept the choices as the right ones.

Third Base
David Wright (NYM) won the voting, but shouldn't have -- his .292/.879/16/51/49 numbers are nice, but they don't compare to any number of his peers. For one thing, the other third baseman to make the team was Miguel Cabrera (FLA), and he put up .324/.969/18/61/52 -- an improvement in every category, and by quite a bit in several of them. Chipper Jones (ATL) missed time this year, but has still put up numbers that were deserving of a bid (.329/1.011/15/41/48). Aramis Ramirez (CHC) also has a solid case at .312/.913/15/51/36. Bottom Line: Wrong starter, and with just 2 spots, Wright should not have made the cut.

Jose Reyes (NYM) won the voting, and I can't bring myself to disagree. He has a .307 average, an .825 OPS out of the leadoff spot, and an 80's-like 46 SB's this season. J.J. Hardy (MIL) is more puzzling -- his .280/.833/18/54/48 aren't bad, by any means -- but what about Hanley Ramirez (FLA) and his .331/.926/14/35/70 with 27 SB's? Or Jimmy Rollins (PHI) and his .286/.847/16/53/71? Bottom Line: Another poor decision in the NL, this time by the players and not the fans. Ramirez and Rollins should have both made the team at Hardy's expense (and probably at the expense of one of the 3000 closers Tony LaRussa selected).

Here's where things went horribly off the rails in the NL. Carlos Beltran (NYM), Barry Bonds (SFG), and Ken Griffey, Jr. (CIN) won the fan vote in the NL, and only one of them even has a legit claim. Well, OK, maybe two. Let's start with the easy one, though -- Carlos Beltran was not an All-Star this year. Not even close, as a matter of fact. For one thing, his .264 battinga verage and .817 OPS are drowned out by a host of other players numbers (he's 23rd in BA, for example). This was entirely a team-based vote, and was probably the worst mistake by the fans all year (unless you count David Ortiz winning the AL 1B vote). Griffey -- I can dig it. He's hitting .286, which is ok -- and his .958 OPS puts him third in that category amongst NL outfielders. He also leads the pack in homeruns with 23, and has solid production numbers with 59 RBI and 49 Runs. Bonds -- I'm ambivalent, but his sick 1.101 OPS and 91 walks are enough to convince me that he belongs in the starting lineup.

Amongst the backups, Matt Holliday (COL) was an obvious choice with his .341/.964/69 RBI/56 R numbers. Alfonso Soriano (CHC) was more of a stretch, however, at .309/.884/33/60. The 60 runs probably save him here, and his OPS isn't bad -- but these numbers just don't excite me much. Carlos Lee (HOU) gets the nod because he's driven in 73 runs while keeping the batting average and OPS reasonably high (.297/.869) and scoring a solid number of runs (48). That leaves Aaron Rowand (PHI), the man I least expected to see on this list. He does have solid numbers, though, with a .310/.863/43/52. Is that really better than Brad Hawpe (COL), though? I don't think so -- Hawpe is hitting .310/.949/60/44 -- clearly an improvement. Bottom Line: Beltran doesn't even belong on the team, let alone in the starting lineup -- and Aaron Rowan should have been left off to make room for Brad Hawpe.

Jake Peavy (SDP) was a deserving All-Star starter, with a 2.19 ERA/125-34 K-BB/9-3 record -- but he arguably wasn't even the best pitcher on his team -- Chris Young (SDP) put up unbelievably solid numbers, with a 2.00 ERA, 99-36 K-BB, and 8-3 record. Young nonetheless had to win the fan vote to make it on as the last player selected -- an egregious offense that never should have happened. He was an All-Star all the way. Brad Penny (LAD) (2.39/82-34/10-1) was also clearly All-Star worthy. Beyond that, things get harder to figure. John Smoltz (ATL) deserved his bid (3.07/75-35/9-5), but unfortunately couldn't play. Brandon Webb (ARI) had to wait for an injury to get in despite solid numbers (3.37/112-47/8-6), and the same is true for Roy Oswalt (HOU), although he was closer to the line (3.53/94-44/8-5). Then there was Ben Sheets (MIL), a solid choice against whom I can't argue too loudly (3.41/87-25/10-4). Unfortunately, these selections meant that very deserving candidates like John Maine (NYM), Ian Snell (PIT), Tom Gorzelanny (PIT), and Oliver Perez (NYM), amongst others, were left off of the list.

The sheer number of closers selected was probably the most bizarre thing, however. Tony LaRussa went with six closers for reasons that are hard to fathom. Let's start with the good -- Takashi Saito (LAD) has a 1.47 ERA, a sick 47-4 K-BB, and 23 saves. Yep, that's an All-Star. Trevor Hoffman (SDP) -- 1.91 ERA, 20-6 K-BB, 25 saves -- is weak in the K department but is still getting it done -- All-Star. Billy Wagner (NYM) also passes the smell test with a 1.64 ERA, 51-10 K-BB, and 17 saves. But why not stop there? The team didn't need the good but not great Francisco Cordero (MIL) and his 2.86/49-12/27 numbers or Jose Valverde (ARI) and his 2.83/38-14/26. And the club certainly didn't need Brian Fuentes (COL) and his 4.06/31-11/20. Fuentes ended up having to bow out due to injury, but what were the players thinking in the first place? Bottom Line: Way too many closers made this roster at the expense of some very deserving starting pitchers. There may be a time when 6 closers are warranted -- but this was not that time.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Cali Down, White Coming Back?

UPDATE: The Strib is now reporting that Rondell White will not be able to answer the bell at the start of the second half, and all signs point to Garrett Jones being the most likely addition to the team. Can't disagree with this decision -- might as well give Jones another look right now, and there really are no other options. Here's the original post:

The Strib reported last night that Carmen Cali was optioned back to AAA after Sunday night's game, with no move made yet to fill the open roster spot. This move makes sense, because the Twins bullpen will be rested coming out of the break, and because Cali was, shall we say, ineffective in his return to the team.

Presumably, the Twins will be activating Rondell White in time for Thursday's game against the A's -- but I have to wonder if he's going to be ready to go. I hope that he is, because I think that he could help the team out quite a bit if he's healthy. After all, he can't possibly be worse than the LF platoon that's been run out there so far this year. That would also give Jason Kubel regular playing time as the DH, and hopefully he'd be able to settle in and perform in that role.

But what if Rondell isn't ready to come back? My guess is that the Twins would go with Garrett Jones -- and he'd probably get a few games to see if he could run with the DH spot himself. It wouldn't make sense to bring up a pitcher, and no one else in Rochester is really in position to be called up (unless it's a straight-up swap of Luis Rodriguez for Matt Tolbert, in which the Twins simply would have nothing to lose by trying out Tolbert at the position, despite his recent struggles). We should find out on Wednesday what the direction the Twins are going to go.

Oh yeah -- congrats to Justin Morneau for making it to a swing-off in the homerun derby tonight. It would have been fun to see him make the second round, but at least he did reasonably well, and certainly didn't embarrass himself!


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Podcast Appearance

I called in to Marty's podcast today, and he and I discussed the Twins first half and what to expect in the second half, the All-Star game, keeping a third catcher on the roster, and other things. Check it out if you have an hour to spare.


Nightly Notes: Game #88

After raising our expectations on Friday, the Twins were unable to deliver over the last two days and ended up with a series split against the White Sox. As a result, the team enters the break on a down note, and will have to bounce back after the break. Here are today's notes:

1.) Carlos Silva is starting to make me a little nervous. Silva's ERA was at 3.98 after he picked up the win against the Marlins on June 23. Since then, he gave up 5 earned runs in 7 innings against the Blue Jays (raising his ERA to 4.15), then 5 more against the Yankees in 5.1 innings (raising his ERA to 4.37), and now he gave up -- you guessed it -- 5 earned runs, this time in 5 innings, against the White Sox (raising his ERA to 4.58). That's a seriously bad trend, as he's been giving up the same number of runs in fewer innings each time out. For now, his place in the starting rotation is secure -- but if the Twins are going to have any chance of making the playoffs this season, Silva will need to get his ERA back towards 4.00.

2.) The bullpen was once again outstanding, and gave the team a chance to come back (although, unfortunately, the offense didn't take advantage of the opportunity). Juan Rincon dropped his ERA back below 4.00, Pat Neshek struck out the only batter he faced, and Dennys Reyes had another solid outing. Incidentally, Reyes has now not given up an earned run since May 20 -- in other words, before he went on the DL -- and has dropped his ERA from 6.57 t0 3.86 in that span. Reyes has pitched 7.2 innings since coming back, allowing 7 hits and walking 2 batters while striking out 5. This is how he pitched last year, and it's an encouraging sign.

3.) Signs of life out of Nick Punto, perhaps? The embattled third sacker went 2-for-3 with a double to raise his batting average to .211 -- and remove him for now from the Mendoza-line danger zone that he had entered. Unfortunately, Jason Bartlett had a rough day, striking out 3 times before getting a hit to go 1-for-4. Jason Kubel also struck out 3 times in going 0-for-4 to drop his batting average to .250.

4.) Those are the only game related notes for the day, but I'm going to give you a quick highlight of things I'm going to be writing about in the next couple of days. First, I've still yet to get to my first half awards. I expect to finish that tonight at some point. Tomorrow, I'll be writing up my thoughts on the All-Star selections, including my views on who was snubbed and who got a gift by being selected. On Wednesday, I expect to write up my thoughts on what fans should expect in the silly season of trade talk that will run from now until the end of July (and possibly longer, of course, with waiver trades). I'd also like to write a big post summarizing my thoughts on how the season has gone so far for the Twins minor league system -- things like which players have had breakout years, which have disappointed, and who might earn themselves second half promotions. Finally, I'm working on a "special project" post that I don't want to say too much about just yet. I will say it has to do with Terry Ryan -- but that's the only teaser. Considering the number of projects I'm working on for the blog right now, this is probably at least a week away -- but we'll see.

5.) Just one last note -- the Twins unfortunately are going to have to deal with Mark Buehrle for a few more years after he signed a 4-year, $56 million deal with the White Sox today. He took quite a bit less than he could have received on the open market, and I have to wonder if that was a good idea -- the White Sox team that I thought was competitive turned out not to be, and despite their victories yesterday and today over the Twins, I think this team is finished being competitive as currently constituted. The odds of successfully rebuilding seem low to me -- so while I applaud Buehrle for staying in a place that he enjoys, I think he's going to be frustrated with the performance of his team. I was kind of hoping for a big trade over the break to get this thing settled once and for all, but that's not going to happen now unless another team gets busy working the phones and swings a different deal. A Buehrle trade was the best, and probably only, chance for a blockbuster during the break.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Nightly Notes: Games #85 & 86

If there were two games this season that I'll look back on and say "man, I wish I hadn't missed those," yesterday's games will undoubtedly be the ones. The Twins put up 32 runs over the two games, and pasted the White Sox to sweep the doubleheader and gain a game and a half in the standings on the Indiands. Here are yesterday's notes:

1.) The starting pitching yesterday was obviously split. After stringing together a couple of good starts in a row, Scott Baker forgot that he had learned how to pitch and got pasted for 7 runs in 5 innings on 9 hits and a walk. As well as he's pitched at times, his season ERA sits at 5.71, and if Kevin Slowey hadn't fallen apart so completely against the Yankees on Thursday, there's a good chance that Baker's inconsistency would have cost him his starting spot. As it is, Baker will likely be left alone to continue his development -- but the only reason is because there's no one to take his place right now (as well as Nick Blackburn has pitched for Rochester, I don't think the Twins have any interest in promoting him to the big leagues this season, and Glen Perkins is not healthy yet, so Baker gets a reprieve until either Ramon Ortiz earns another chance to start, or Slowey works his way back to the bigs).

2.) Matt Garza made a pretty solid statement yesterday by going 6 shutout innings and giving up just 5 hits (with 3 walks) and striking out 6. Now, I regularly bash Boof Bonser for going just 6 innings, so why am I cutting Garza some slack? Well, first off, because it was his first Major League start of the year, so I expect him to improve as he settles in (admittedly an iffy proposition). Secondly, though, I find it hard to complain too much after six shutout innings. His start was inefficient -- 99 pitches through 6 innings -- but he still got the job done, and the bullpen is capable of taking it over from there. He will need to start improving his efficiency and extend into the 7th and 8th innings as he moves forward, but for a first start this was very impressive.

3.) The bullpen was a mixed bag yesterday. In game 2, Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan combined for 3 perfect innings against a demoralized White Sox team. Unfortunately, game 1 was a different story. Ramon Ortiz gave up 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and a walk in 2 innings, and Carmen Cali made his return to the Twins by giving up his first runs of the season -- 4 of them in 1.1 innings off of 5 hits and a walk. Juan Rincon finished the game without allowing an earned run of his own, but he walked a run in again. As many people in the blogosphere have noted recently, he's just no longer one of the Twins top relievers.

4.) Justin Morneau hit three home runs in game 2. Torii Hunter went deep in each game. Jason Kubel hit a grand slam in game 1. Michael Cuddyer and Jeff Cirillo also went deep. When is the last time the Twins showed so much power in one day? I think more than anything, this speaks volumes about the struggles the White Sox are going through -- but it's an encouraging sign for the Twins.

5.) Perhaps the most encouraging days were had by the Jason's Bartlett and Kubel. Kubel is really starting to get more comfortable at the plate, and is driving the ball. Bartlett is taking to the second spot in the batting order with zeal. It's not an original idea on my part, but I'll second all of those who recognize that it's incredibly important for the Twins season that Kubel develop into a solid anchor hitter in the seventh spot, and Bartlett continues to hit in the 2nd spot, setting the table for the mashers in the middle of the order. Very encouraging day for those two.

6.) Ron Gardenhire's doomsday scenario finally came to fruition yesterday, as he lost his DH in the bottom of the first inning after Joe Mauer had to come in and catch for an injured Mike Redmond. I've always said that it's silly to carry three catchers solely to guard against this situation, and I continue to argue that point -- it's not worth wasting a roster spot to carry a catcher for a scenario that unfolds only very, very rarely. Yes, the one game it happens you are handicapped because you effectively lose a spot in your batting order (although it thankfully didn't bother the Twins yesterday), but that's all -- if the injured catcher is hurt too badly, you can juggle your roster in time for the next day's game. Hopefully, now that Gardy has lived through this situation he'll be less concerned about carrying the third catcher because he's seen that it's not the worst thing in the world. It's also possible, though, that he'll turn around to Terry Ryan and say "see, it can happen -- bring back Heintz."

7.) The Twins have a chance to pound a stake in the White Sox heart today and tomorrow. Hopefully they do so -- and get some help from the Red Sox and Blue Jays so they can gain some ground on the Tigers and Indians. If the Twins could gain one more game on each team and finish the first half down by just 5, they'd be in good shape to make a run at a playoff spot. Even if they don't, they'll still be well within shouting distance. It looks like it's going to be another very interesting stretch run this season.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Garza's Big Start

I'm sitting at work watching bits and pieces of the CBS Sportsline Gamecast of the Twins game. Since for some silly reason the good people of Boulder don't pay me to watch the Twins, I have the window open and occasionally take glances to see what's happened, but I don't actually get to follow the flow of the game. That why it was so shocking to see that Kevin Slowey had gone from getting 2 outs in the second inning with no real threats around, to seeing that the Yankees had made it 5-2 following what supposedly was a pretty solid Melky Cabrera dinger. A quick glance at Kevin Slowey's numbers (as of this moment, so this will be changed by the time anyone reads this) shows that his ERA at the moment is sitting at 6.17 for the season. That's more than enough to make a blogger sit back and think "hmmmmmm . . .".

I'm not going to say that I saw this coming, because I didn't. I thought that Slowey had the potential to be solid once he was called up. At the same time, I didn't expect him to be dominant -- a 4.50 ERA would have been more than enough for me to be satisfied. Unfortunatley, Slowey has taken to giving up homeruns at a pace that would make Boof Bonser blush (12 homers in 36.1 innings, as of the 3rd inning of today's game, for Slowey -- 14 homers in 96.1 innings this season for Bonser). The reasons for those homeruns vary quite a bit -- sliders that don't slide, or worse, slide right into the middle of the zone and overconfidence in a fastball that seems to be a bit above average but isn't going to make anyone forget Roger Clemens being the two most notable.

So, with this in mind, it's probably not too difficult to see where I'm going with the title to this post. Matt Garza will get a chance to start a game in the Major Leagues for the first time this season when he takes the mound against the White Sox tomorrow, and he has a truly golden opportunity. Unless Garza goes out on the mound and either (1) throws 60 pitches in 2 innings because he's nibbling with his curve, or (2) shakes off Joe Mauer everytime he asks for a changeup, Garza is almost certainly going to be given a shot after the All-Star break to fill Slowey's spot in the rotation. After all, the alternatives are either to continue sending Slowey to the mound to give up gopher balls, or to restore Ramon Ortiz to a place in the rotation. Frankly, I don't see the Twins doing either unless they simply have no other choice.

This is not the end of the world for Slowey. The coaching staff has now seen what he can do (and what he can't, which is more important right now), where he tends to make mistakes, and how he responds to big league pressure. That means that they can give very specific instructions to the folks down in Rochester regarding what Slowey needs to work on from now until the end of the season (or until his next callup). That process can only make Slowey a better player, and hopefully he'll embrace it.

The Twins should actually make a move tonight to send Slowey to AAA in time for tomorrow's double-header, where an extra body (Garrett Jones or Matt Tolbert if the Twins want a position player, Carmen Cali if they want an extra arm) would be welcome and useful. If they do, Garza's start won't be quite as big for him, because he'll be virtually guaranteed a rotation spot after the break. It will, however, be just as big for we fans, because it will provide a good indication of whether or not the Twins will have a chance to be competitive down the stretch. Either way, tomorrow should be very interesting.

UPDATE: The Twins have done the smart thing and sent Slowey back to AAA, calling up Carmen Cali to give them an extra arm during the White Sox series. We'll see what the Twins do coming out of the break, but for now this was the right move. If only they'd sent Luis Rodriguez down with Slowey and called up Matt Tolbert.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Site Update

I find myself in the unusual position of not having watched much of the Twins at all over the past 3 days -- and that means that I don't have a lot to say about the games. This unusual situation is going to continue tomorrow, when the Twins play while I'm at work, and on Friday, when I have a going-away BBQ to attend for a friend who's moving to Seattle. As a result, my coverage of the games with Nightly Notes columns are likely to be spotty at best, and for that I apologize (I know there are some of you out there at least who enjoy reading what I post). I hope to get back to a more regular posting schedule over the weekend. For the record, I do intend to finish up the post on the First Half awards (but it's not happening tonight), which I will bump to the top when it's complete. I also intend to comment on the All-Star game before the game is played, so look for that probably on Saturday.

Until then, my apologies for the sparse posting of the past few days. I hope you all enjoyed your 4th (I know I did!), and also that your return to work tomorrow and Friday is manageable.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

First Half Award Winners

I'm not in the mood to write up a post on an 8-0 loss to the Yankees that I didn't even watch, so instead I'm going to finally (after two days of promising it) write up my First Half award winners. However, it's late and I'm not going to get the whole thing up until tomorrow. Until then, here's my pick for AL MVP -- I'll be posting my NL MVP and both league's Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year picks tomorrow sometime during the day.


1. Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
2. Magglio Ordonez (DET)
3. Vladimir Guerrero (LAA

Come back to me again in September/October, and I might change my mind on this one. I significantly discount the contributions of players who do not help a team make it into the post-season -- not so much that it's impossible for me to support a guy on a losing team for MVP, but enough that that player must be putting together a season that is significantly better than everyone else. At this point, Alex Rodriguez may be playing for a losing team, but he's also having a ridiculous season. At last count, Rodriguez had a very respectable .322 batting average and a league leading 1.091 OPS. He also leads the league in runs scored (74 -- 9 more than second place), RBI (80 -- 7 more than second place), and homeruns (28 -- 8 more than second place). I'm not a fan of strikeouts, and he's struck out 66 times in 298 at-bats -- but with that kind of run production it really doesn't matter. A-Rod is clearly having the best season in the American League, and he deserves to be #1 on this list right now, even with the sub-.500 discout. Magglio Ordonez (.369/1.061/65R/68RBI/13HR) is a very solid second place, and if his numbers were a little closer to A-Rod's, I might give him 1st place just because his team is in playoff position. He's just not quite there, though. Vlad Guerrero gets my third place vote largely due to his high average (.328), 3rd highest league OPS (.987), and 2nd highest RBI totals (73).