Nightly Notes: Game #1
1.) It was great to see Livan Hernandez turn it on for the opener after what was really a pretty horrid spring. Amongst the most important numbers for Hernandez: he got 11 ground outs compared to 9 flyouts, and he was especially effective at keeping the ball on the ground early on; and perhaps most importantly, he was relatively effective at keeping Angels off the bases, as he allowed 7 hits and no walks in his 7 innings. That translates to a WHIP of 1.00, and considering that Hernandez had a horrendous WHIP of 1.60 last season, it's a good sign. However, just because Hernandez was very effective tonight doesn't mean that fans should get overly excited just yet -- remember how well Ramon Ortiz pitched early last season? In fact, Ortiz had an eerily similar 7 inning, 2 run performance in his debut as a Twin before eventually falling apart completely. Hopefully that doesn't happen to Hernandez, and I'm excited after seeing him pitch tonight, but I also know that Hernandez hasn't been all that great for the last few years, and I don't expect him to maintain the level he pitched at tonight.
2.) I know that a lot of people complained about the Joe Nathan signing, and I know that empirically you can demonstrate that closers are overpaid, but how great was he tonight? The one hit he allowed was a dribbler, and you just knew that he was going to close this thing out. As I said when I commented on the Nathan signing a few days ago, I think this was a good move even though the Twins almost certainly paid more for Nathan than a closer is "worth" in terms of statistical value. It's also nice to see that Pat Neshek came out ready to wow -- yes, he got a call or two to go his way, but he still struck out the side and looked filthy doing it. I have absolutely no concerns about the back end of this bullpen. Now, we'll see what happens when guys like Rincon and Reyes get back on the mound . . .
3.) There was a lot of chatter from fans before the game about Craig Monroe getting the start over Jason Kubel as tonight's DH, with many of them pointing to this move as a sign that Ron Gardenhire knows nothing about baseball. After all, how could the vaunted "lefties are supposed to play against right-handed pitchers!" trope ever possibly fail!?! Look, if I were lucky enough to be managing the Twins, I almost certainly would have started Jason Kubel. I have absolutely no idea why Gardenhire went the other way. This is not, however, a sign of the apocalypse. It's not an indication that Gardenhire is a fool (other things may suggest that, but not this). It was hardly the most egregious example of a managerial move that's ever been made. Maybe Gardy felt it was important to keep a left-handed bat available on the bench for a late inning pitch-hitting situation (someone other than one of the light-hitting switch hitters, that is). Whatever the reason, it obviously didn't pay off (Monroe went 0-for-3, while Kubel got a hit off the bench) -- but there's no reason to overreact to the decision to go with the veteran Monroe.
4.) Brendan Harris got a couple of hits today, but he also struck out twice and left three runners on base. Hits are great, and I'd rather see him on base than striking out, but they don't mean a whole lot if they don't result in runs one way or another. Let's hope that Harris can keep hitting as the season goes forward, hopefully with some ducks on the pond next time.
5.) Loading the bases with fewer than 2 outs should result in a run. Far too often last year, it didn't -- and tonight didn't give me confidence that the Twins inability to hit in that situation is going to go away anytime soon.
6.) Everybody's talking about the snow, and what would have happened if this were 2010. Bottom line, April will suck in the new ballpark. However, the rest of the season should be pretty amazing, even with the occasional rainout. I think it's worth it, but that doesn't mean I don't wish a retractable roof stadium wasn't on its way. Unfortunately, that wasn't politically possible, and I'd rather have the Twins stay in Minnesota with some new scheduling issues than see them relocate.
7.) I'll end with Carlos Gomez, and I'm not going to say much because you either saw his performance or can read about easily enough. Bottom line, he showed a lot of great stuff today while also managing to make me shudder a bit (sliding head first into first base? D'oh!). Two steals, two hits, and a walk is nothing to sneeze at, though, and you have to love the relieved expression he had on his face after the leadoff double. I think the kid will be just fine this season, but we'll see.
Labels: Nightly Notes