Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

September Callups Announced

The Twins have announced the seven players who will be joining the team on Tuesday, and there were a few surprises. Just yesterday, I made my predictions on who I thought would be picked. I was right on with my "locks" and "close to locks" categories, and all but one of the players on the callup list was at least mentioned by me as a possibility (and I'll claim partial credit for the one I got wrong -- see below). Here are the names and some thoughts:

Matt Tolbert - IF
An obvious choice. Tolbert was playing well for the Twins before being injured in May, and he finished up the AAA season on a rehab assignment. He's not really a traditional September Callup, because he's just being activated from the DL. Still, the expanded rosters made his return possible without having to send someone else down. Tolbert should get some playing time, but not enough to take time away from the regular starters who have emerged.

Matt Macri - IF
Another virtual lock who played well with the Twins in May and June and should get some opportunities to play at 3B against lefties. Macri hadn't been playing well recently, but there was really no reason not to call him up and give the team some more matchup options.

Bobby Korecky - RHP
Korecky has been the focus of many fans hopes for the callups, because the Twins bullpen has been in need of another guy who could hold down an inning here and there. Like Tolbert and Macri, Korecky made his big league debut earlier this season and (stop me if you've heard this before) played well. Like Tolbert and Macri, I had him listed as a lock to be called up.

Philip Humber - RHP
Humber, who was acquired in the Johan Santana trade, struggled early in the AAA season. Since mid-July, however, he's been excellent. Since this was his last option year, and the Twins were unlikely to simply cut a key part of the Santana deal so quickly, he was virtually a shoe-in to be given a chance next spring to make the team. This September will be a chance for the Twins to start the evaluation process in earnest, and to transition him into a bullpen role. He was listed as "close to a lock" in yesterday's post.

Jason Pridie - OF
Pridie was the third player acquired from the Rays in the Matt Garza-Delmon Young trade this past off-season. He played reasonably well for AAA, but most importantly he's got some speed. He's unlikely to get a lot of playing time as a starter, but I would expect him to be used fairly regularly as a pinch runner. His callup gives the Twins another part to play around with, which is why I had him listed as "close to a lock" in yesterday's post.

Jose Mijares - LHP
Surprise number one was Jose Mijares, who at the beginning of the season looked like he'd miss the entire year after being involved in a car accident at home. Mijares instead made a comeback, and has pitched extremely well in the GCL, Ft. Myers, and New Britain once he came back. Like Humber, Mijares will be out of options going into next season, so this isn't as surprising as it might seem simply because, like Humber, the Twins will use September to start the evaluation process.

Actually, Mijares should have a fourth option year available for next year, much as Humber did this season. The rule is that a player gets a fourth option year if he does not have five full seasons of professional experience. A full season is defined as 90+ days on an active roster, so seasons spent in short season leagues (such as the GCL and Appalachian League) don't count unless the player also spent part of the season in another league and accumulated more than 90 days of play. Mijares had just 3 full seasons entering this year, so he should get the fourth option year. I used information available in the transactions glossary at Cot's to re-familiarize myself with the rule.

Ryan Jorgensen - C
Now, the most surprising pick. I expected the Twins to add a catcher to the roster, and since Jose Morales is injured the Twins were going to have to purchase the contract of a player to add them to the 40-man roster. I thought they would go with Drew Butera, who supposedly is a solid defensive catcher and who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this December. Instead, they went with Jorgensen -- a journeyman who didn't seem to be as valuable to the organization in the long term. Call it a half-surprise in my book.

Surprising Omissions
Brian Duensing and Brian Bass both seemed to be likely additions to the 40-man roster, for different reasons. Bass had some big league experience and I figured the Twins would add him to the 40-man roster for September and then part ways with him again. Duensing is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December and almost certainly will have to be added to the roster to prevent him from being taken. It seemed to make sense to add him now and get some big league use out of him in September -- but the Twins might just want to shut him down and rest his arm for awhile.

The same rationale may have gone into not adding Luke Hughes, another Rule 5 eligible player who will probably be added before the Rule 5 draft rolls around. Since he'll be playing winter ball, however, the Twins probably wanted to give him a little bit of time off. Rob Delaney and Alejandro Machado were also both much discussed, and while the addition of neither would have completely surprised me, there were a variety of reasons that I didn't think they'd be added (see the previous post linked above for the reasoning).

Overall, I'm pleased with the selections. I think the Twins added the five players that were obvious additions, and made two other interesting and fairly logical selections. I can't wait to see some of these guys play starting on Tuesday!

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Notes Tonight

Frankly, I'm too annoyed to write something after that ending. The Twins remain just 1/2 game back thanks to the Red Sox victory over Chicago, but they need to nail games like this down. Joe Nathan has now blown a couple of saves in the last few days, and while he's entitled to be human once in awhile, I get a little nervous when it happens multiple times in a short span. Wins are precious -- the Twins need to seize them when they get the chance. Nice start from Liriano, though, and good bullpen work up to Nathan.

Incidentally, congrats to the Gophers for beating NIU (it's NIU, but still, a win is a win, especially for the Gophers). I'm also thrilled to see that the upset bug is still going strong in NCAA Football -- although I would have preferred it if Pitt (my alma mater) has not lost to Bowling Green (the Gophers next opponent, incidentally). The Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Texas A&M losses were fascinating, though. I can only hope this season is as exciting as the last.


My Choices for September Callups

On Monday, the 25-man active roster limitation that Major League Baseball imposes on all teams from April to August disappears. That means that any player on the 40-man roster is eligible to be placed on the active roster. The Twins currently have 36 players on the 40-man roster (excluding Pat Neshek, who is on the 60-Day disabled list and so does not count against the roster limit), so they could purchase the contract of up to 4 minor leaguers in order to help out in September. In addition, there are 11 players who are already on the 40-man roster, but not on the active roster, who could be activated. Here are my thoughts on the potential additions:


It can be dangerous to say that anything is a lock, but the three players I'm placing in this category really are virtually guaranteed to join the team once rosters expand. First up is Matt Tolbert, who has been playing every day on a rehab assignment with Rochester and is ready to be activated from the disabled list (alright, so it's not your traditional September callup -- but it's made possible by the expanded roster). Whether he takes any time away from the other infielders in the current rotation is questionable, but he'll give the club another option, and depth is always nice.

Second, reliever Bobby Korecky made his big league debut earlier this year and pitched well in limited action (3.48 ERA in 10.1 innings). His excellent performance with the Red Wings (2.84 ERA in 73 innings, with 71 K's and just 21 BB's) coupled with the Twins need for some additional bullpen help makes this an easy call for the Twins, and Korecky should provide that.

Third, the Twins are likely to call Matt Macri back up to the bigs to provide even more infield depth. I've listed this in the "locks" category, but this is the least certain of the locks. Macri has not played well recently, and probably wouldn't get a lot of use. Still, with the minor league season finishing up on Monday, Macri might as well be kept on the bench as insurance and to get some seasoning.

Close to Locks

I'd be extremely surprised if the Twins didn't bring Philip Humber up to the big leagues, to be used as a reliever. Humber will be out of options next year, and the Twins undoubtedly would like to evaluate him at the big league level while they have a chance. Additionally, Humber has been excellent over his last 10 games, with a 2.62 ERA and 53-13 K-BB ratio in 58.1 innings.

The Twins are also quite likely to call up outfielder Jason Pridie, who has hit .270/737 with 12 homers and 25 steals in 548 AB's for the Red Wings this year. The steals suggest that Pridie could be particularly useful as a pinch runner, and September is all about utilizing the tools that are available to you. Pridie's been awful for the last half of August, but the Twins wouldn't be calling him up for his bat anyway, so this callup seems quite likely.

Good Possibilities

Olympian Brian Duensing is not on the 40-man roster, but he'll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter and the Twins are virtually certain to add him to the roster before then to protect him. If he's going to be added anyway, why not add him now and utilize him out of the bullpen? Duensing has not had a great year -- 4.25 ERA in 133.1 innings with Rochester before he left for the Olympics -- but he's a solid prospect. The only reason I could think of that Duensing wouldn't be added is if the Twins were concerned about how he was used in the Olympics -- but he pitched for the Red Wings yesterday, which would seem to suggest that the Twins haven't done anything drastic like shutting him down.

Also a good possibility is infielder Luke Hughes, who had a great first part of the season in New Britain and who has continued to play well since being promoted to Rochester. Like Duensing, Hughes is not yet on the 40-man roster, but he is Rule 5 eligible and is another player the Twins are likely to protect before the next Rule 5 draft. The Twins do intend on having Hughes play winter ball, so there may be some desire to give him September off. Also, he hasn't played for a couple of days and I'm not sure if that's routine or due to some sort of injury. I wouldn't be surprised if Hughes was left off, but I'm leaning towards his being added.

If he were healthy, catcher Jose Morales would be a virtual lock, as carrying a third catcher is a luxury that a team can afford with the roster limit out of the way. Morales has been out since June, however, so he won't be getting the call -- but I still think that there's a very good chance the Twins could add a catcher to the 40-man roster so that they have the protection throughout September. While he can't seem to hit a lick, my money is on New Britain catcher Drew Butera, who is Rule 5 eligible this winter. Butera was acquired as a defensive catcher, and if he's any good there's always a chance he could be claimed. With the Twins having few other viable options worthy of a callup to the big leagues (Red Wings catcher Ryan Jorgensen would surprise me), Butera seems like a distinct possibility.

Guys Who Wouldn't Shock Me

There are a number of names who could find themselves being called up. Relievers Mariano Gomez and Ricky Barrett have both pitched well this season for Rochester, and could be added to the 40-man roster to provide additional bullpen help. With several other pitchers already likely to be called up, though, will the Twins want to add these guys to the roster only to drop them again when the season is done (as would almost certainly happen)?

Infielder Alejandro Machado has been excellent for the Red Wings this year, hitting .352 in 182 AB's (and .390 in his last 41 AB's). However, from what I've heard his arm strength only allows him to play second when he's in the field right now. With guys like Tolbert and Macri already virtually certain to be added, will the Twins really bother to add Machado to the 40-man roster now? What role would he play with the team if he was to be called up? Some fans may be disappointed to see a guy who is playing so well left off the team, and I wouldn't be shocked if he was added to the roster (see the heading to this section), but I by no means think that his addition is a certainty.

Familiar face Garrett Jones is another name we could see returning. Jones doesn't excite me all that much, but he's hit 22 homeruns this year and his .274 average and 811 OPS are nothing to sneeze at, especially coming from the left side. The Twins could add him to the roster for use as a late inning pinch hitting power threat.

New Britain reliever Rob Delaney has been mentioned a lot recently, and he's had a brilliant season with Ft. Myers and New Britain (1.08 ERA and 38-5 K-BB ratio in 33.1 innings with the Rock Cats). However, I think it's unlikely that he'll get the call. For one thing, he'd be asked to jump from AA all the way to the big leagues, and that would make me a bit nervous if I were GM Bill Smith. Perhaps more importantly, though, Delaney is not Rule 5 Eligible until after the 2009 season. Is he really going to pitch enough in September to justify starting the clock on his big league career a full year early? If he's added now, the Twins will need to use an option on him in 2009 -- if they hold off, they get that year essentially for free. That could be important down the road. I would hold off on Delaney.

Finally, I also would not be shocked to see the Twins bring Brian Bass back to the big leagues. His 4.87 ERA for the Twins was nothing to write home about, but he at least has some big league experience, and I could see him getting some use. More than likely, this would be a one month callup, with Bass probably being let go when the season was done to reclaim the roster spot. I'm guessing that Bass accepted the assignment to Rochester after he was cut because his agent was hoping that just this scenario would play out, with the Twins adding him to the 40-man again once rosters expanded. I'd put the odds at less than 50%, but you never know.

Other Names

It's at least possible that we could see Julio DePaula, Jose Mijares (who has pitched well after recovering from his arm injury), Sergio Santos, Anthony Swarzak, or Kevin Mulvey. For a variety of reasons, however, I think these guys are unlikely to be called up in September. Dark horse candidates could also emerge -- although I would expect any callups to have been mentioned in this post somewhere.

My Picks

Finally, I'll give you the names I'd pick. From the list of guys already on the 40-man roster, I'd activate Humber, Korecky, Macri, Tolbert, and Pridie. I would also add Duensing, Jones, Butera, and probably Barrett to the 40-man roster. I think this is extremely unlikely to be what the Twins do -- but it's probably the direction I would go in. Duensing and Barrett would add additional left-handed bullpen support, Jones would add a power-hitting lefty, and Butera would give the team an insurance catcher. I also am of the mind that you might as well utilize the 40 spots you have on the roster, especially with guys like Jones and Barrett (who can be removed from the roster without really worrying about their being claimed -- both because a claim is unlikely, and because it wouldn't matter too much if they were actually claimed). I expect the Twins to be more conservative than this, and would be surprised to see more than 5 or 6 names total called up -- but you never know. We should find out soon.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #135

As tough as the going has been at times on this monster road trip, the Twins find themselves tonight once again just a half game behind the White Sox in the battle for the AL Central. With just five games left on the trip, the Twins have to be pleased with how things have gone, even though there has been some heartbreak and some missed opportunities. Here are some notes from tonight's game:

1.) Kevin Slowey has been mostly fantastic for the month of August. He struggled a bit in his first outing of the month, going 6 innings and allowing 5 runs against the Indians on August 2. Since then, however, he's allowed just 1 or 2 earned runs in each of his five starts, and has gone at least 6 innings in all but one of those starts. He also has games in which he struck out 10 batters (tonight) and 12 batters (again against Oakland, on August 19). I would like to see him start to get through 7 innings more often, but I am more than pleased with his performance this year, and especially the recent strong run.

2.) It was huge for Craig Breslow to get through the final three innings of the night without giving up so much as a hit to the A's. The last thing the Twins needed in a game that they were in clear control of was to have a bullpen meltdown. Breslow now has a 2.37 ERA on the season, and I say again that I'm very glad the Twins picked him up to replace Juan Rincon.

3.) I don't know that offensive success on a night like tonight is all that notable -- it was pretty clear that the A's pitching was just horrid. Offensive failure, on the other hand, IS particularly notable -- and there's only one player who failed utterly at the plate tonight. Of course, it would have to be Nick Punto -- who was once again moved into the second spot in the lineup after some recent success. Punto proceeded to go 0-for-6, while Alexi Casilla went 3-for-5 in the 8 hole. Punto also left 6 men on base. The move didn't work out, but Gardy was on to something when he made the move -- Punto had been on something of a tear. On August 11, he was hitting .256 and the criticism of him playing virtually every day was at its height. After yesterday's game, Punto was hitting .293 -- nearly a 40 point increase in a span of a little over 2 weeks. I'm guessing, though, that an 0-for-6 on a night when the ball seemed to be on a tee will be enough to get Gardy to move him back to #8 tomorrow.

4.) I'm hoping for a brilliant big league debut from Michael Bowden for the Red Sox tomorrow night against the White Sox. Chi-town will be throwing Mark Buehrle at Boston, so the rookie will probably need an extremely solid start to beat the pale hose. On the plus side, Bowden has been great in the minors this year -- he posted a 2.33 ERA in 104 innings at AA before being promoted to AAA, where he also pitched will. I also think that guys who are debuting often have a fair amount of success because the opposition doesn't really know what to expect. If Bowden can deliver tomorrow, the Twins will have a chance to move into first behind The Franchise.

5.) I will be in college football heaven tomorrow despite the relative lack of big games. Hey, the opening weekend is opening weekend even if it features games like Oklahoma-Chattanooga and Villanova-West Virginia. I don't expect any of the top 25 to lose tomorrow (except, obviously, in the two cases where two top 25 teams square off), but I think #25 Pitt needs to be very careful against Bowling Green and #11 Texas should probably not look too far ahead Florida Atlantic. Basically, I'm betting the chalk tomorrow -- every top 25 favorite should win, including #6 Missouri over #20 Illinois and #9 Clemson over #24 Alabama.

6.) This is not a political blog, so I'm not going to express any political positions (you can see me do that on Marty's blog from time to time, but not here). I will say, however, that I was fascinated by John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate today. What I find particularly interesting is that both major candidates selected running mates who cut against a major theme -- Obama's selection of Joe Biden cuts against his argument for "Change," while McCain's selection of Palin cuts against his argument for "Experience" (which of course is usually framed against Obama's "lack of experience"). All I know is I can't wait for election day -- I follow it with at least as much enthusiasm as I follow sports, and election day in a presidential election year is probably more exciting to me than any given sporting event.

7.) I hope to post my thoughts on September callups tomorrow. If for some reason I don't get around to that, I'll do so on Sunday. I also intend to post a nightly notes column after tomorrow nights game, and after Sunday's game as well. Also, I intend to appear on Marty's radiocast/podcast on Sunday night at 8 PM Central, so I invite you all to listen live if you get a chance. Busy weekend!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blog Update

I know, I know, I haven't given you a REAL nightly notes post in several days. Sadly, I'm paid to do lawyerly stuff and to teach, not to blog. I'm still settling into my first week of the new semester, which has led to what is, I hope, an uncommonly large amount of evening work. I should have the opportunity to post a notes column tomorrow night, and I also plan on talking about who I would name as September callups if I were GM Bill Smith -- probably in a post on Saturday.

Oh yeah -- isn't it great that college football is back? I can't wait until Saturday!


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No Notes Tonight

I'm working on another project, and I'm not going to get a post up tonight. Still, I had to take a second to comment on tonight's win. The Twins absolutely could not afford to be swept by the Mariners. I'm sure the road trip is at the point where it's starting to drag on everybody a little bit, and the guys are tired and would love to be home. Still, you have to take advantage of games against bad teams like the Mariners, and unfortunately the Twins largely couldn't do that. Getting the win today, though, snaps the losing streak -- and because of the fact that the Twins needed to battle (and needed a great throw from Denard Span out in right field), maybe it will also serve to fire up the guys.

Let's hope the wins continue in the days ahead. Hopefully, I'll be back with a notes post tomorrow night. Until then . . .


Monday, August 25, 2008

Brief Notes

It's too late for me to put together a full notes column, so here are a few brief, scattered thoughts:

1.) It won't be often that Joe Nathan is the guy who lets the bullpen down. Eddie Guardado did a great job in the 8th (and he just looked right in a Twins uniform again), and unfortunately Nathan gave up that leadoff double and didn't get any help from Punto with the error. It was just one of those nights.

2.) I was completely unaware until I looked at the scoreboard that the White Sox and Orioles had completed a game from four months ago before starting tonight's game -- nice to see that the Twins are only a game back, rather than 1.5.

3.) Liriano's ERA is down to 3.83 after yet another respectable start. This was, incidentally, the first game he's pitched the Twins have lost since he returned to the big leagues.

4.) I'm annoyed we were beat by R.A. Dickey. Nothing else to say about that one.

5.) I'm not sure why Ron Gardenhire decided to call out Mike Lamb by saying that he was more laid back than the Twins had hoped for, and that the team "play[s] at a different level." I guess if I were talking about a just-fired employee, I probably would have said something to effect of "unfortunately, it didn't work out -- we wish Mike the best of luck." I just found it a bit out of character, and I assume there's a back story there somewhere.


Welcome Back, Eddie! UPDATED

Imagine my surprise when I returned home today and discovered that the Twins have reacquired Eddie Guardado! I know a lot of Twins fans were clamoring for a bullpen move, and this seems to have been about the best move available. Guardado was having a very solid season with the Rangers, posting a 3.65 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 49.1 innings spread across 55 games.

Certainly, the Twins didn't give up anyone overly important to the team, as the Rangers picked up rookie league pitcher Mark Hamburger in the transaction. The write up on La Velle Neal's strib blog mentions that there are talent evaluators in the Twins organization who feel that Hamurger could make the big leagues some day -- but if that happens, it's going to be a long time from now. The Twins are trading a marginal prospect who has a shot at the big leagues for a proven (albeit old) lefty who can help in the 7th and 8th innings.

While I'm generally supportive of the trade, then, I wonder who is going to be sent out to make room for Guardado. None of the pitchers seem like obvious choices -- Guardado could replace Craig Breslow outright, but Breslow has a 2.36 ERA and 1.19 WHIP this year, so he's pitched better than Guardado and that wouldn't make much sense. He could also replace Boof Bonser, but they fill very different roles in the bullpen so that wouldn't make much sense either.

Instead, it seems likely that the Twins will expand back to 12 pitchers tonight. There seem to be three possibilities for who could get sent down: Mike Lamb, Adam Everett, and Randy Ruiz. With Alexi Casilla back in the fold, and with Nick Punto and Brendan Harris both capable of playing short or third as needed, the obvious answer seems to be Everett. Lamb and Ruiz fill niche roles that others in the organization don't necessarily fill adequately. Everett is a spare part, a player who is wholly redundant.

So long as the Twins don't make a puzzling move to make room for Guardado, then, I fully agree with this move. Guardado should bolster a bullpen that obviously has been struggling, and in a straight up exchange of Guardado for Everett on the roster, the Twins are better off with Guardado. I give this one my enthusiastic support, even if I don't expect Guardado to be brilliant. The bottom line is that he should help the team, and that's all that matters.

UPDATE: Now that was a bit unexpected. The Twins have designated Mike Lamb for assignment to make room for Guardado on the active roster. While I identified Lamb as a possible casualty in the original post, I thought it made more sense for the Twins to cut Adam Everett. I've rethought things a little bit -- I had identified Lamb as filling a niche role, for instance, but that "niche" was a left-handed corner infielder. Lamb, after all, occasionally played first base when Justin Morneau was the DH. On second thought, however, Brian Buscher can probably fill that role equally well.

The other possible argument against cutting Lamb is that the Twins are on the hook for nearly $4 million through next season. Obviously Bill Smith felt that there was no place for Lamb with the team in the future -- even though this season's poor performance is a bit of an aberration in Lamb's historical performance. It would have been easier to cut Adam Everett -- but Smith made a tougher decision. I only hope that Lamb doesn't catch on somewhere next year and hit .300 with 20 homers.

As for Everett, this was probably the final hurdle that he needed to jump to stick with the team for the rest of the year. From my standpoint, I don't really know what he brings to the team, and if I were the Twins GM I almost certainly would have cut him instead of Lamb. Still, I don't think Smith made the wrong move so much as I think he made a somewhat unusual and bold move.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Podcast Appearance

I was once again a guest on Marty's livecast/podcast this week. The five of us on the show discussed a whole bunch of topics, from (of course) the bullpen to Nick Punto to the Olympics. I should have posted this before the show, since you could have listened live and even called in had you been so inclined. I'll try to remember next time! As it is, you can check it out and listen to the recording if you're interested. Thanks to Marty for hosting.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hernandez Done in Colorado?

Livan Hernandez has now made three starts for the Rockies since being rather unceremoniously dumped by the Twins at the end of July. Forget about the argument over whether he should or not have have been signed by the Twins at the beginning of the year -- we've had that argument already. Far more interesting to me is whether any team should have bothered to actually pick Hernandez up when the Twins cut him.

The easy answer is to look at what Hernandez has done since joining the Rockies. Simply put, he's been miserable -- he lasted just 2.2 innings while allowing 9 earned runs in his first start, went 6 innings and allowed 6 earned runs in his second start, and yesterday allowed 6 more earned runs in 3.2 innings. That's an ERA of 15.32 in three starts. Based on that alone, the answer is clearly no.

Of course, that's the kind of "analysis" that I despise -- looking solely at the results doesn't tell you anything about the process that went into making a decision. Good things can happen to teams that make bad decisions, and bad things can happen to teams that make good decisions. After all, if there's a 99% chance that something will happen, that still means that once out of every 100 times it doesn't happen, and vice versa. In purely economic terms, the person who buys a lottery ticket made a bad investment whether he wins or not. This kind of analysis frustrates some people who prefer to look only at results, but if you don't analyze the process behind the decision-making you don't know whether a team (or GM or Manager or whoever) is consistently making good decisions or is just getting lucky (or, alternatively, if your criteria for evaluating decision-making is flawed).

With that in mind, what do I think of the Rockies decision to get Hernandez? On the one hand, they had nothing to lose. Hernandez didn't cost them a player (a far cry from the year before, when the Rockies inexplicably gave up Matt Macri in exchange for the horrendous Ramon Ortiz), and the prorated portion of his salary (a little over $1.5 million) isn't going to break the bank for a team. The Rockies felt that they needed a pitcher who would give them innings to take some strain off the bullpen -- and following the same logic that caused the Twins to sign Hernandez in the first place, the Rockies pulled the trigger and acquired a player with a reputation for eating innings.

The problem is that the Rockies must have ignored Hernandez's performance in June and July, when he had an ERA well over 6.00. Giving credit where it's due, Hernandez did go 6 innings or more in 7 of his 11 starts during that span -- but if he's giving up 5 or 6 runs consistently in those starts, how valuable is that to a club? Remember, the Rockies started August just 8 games back in an NL West that at the time looked fairly weak. The Dodgers and D-Backs have been playing better of late, but the Rockies are still just 9 back.

Believe it or not, I'm forced to conclude that this wasn't a horrible decision by the Rockies. If you look at the 15.32 ERA, and if you remember how harsh I've been on Hernandez and how vociferously I argued that his performances for the Twins weren't worth a damn, you might wonder how I arrive at this conclusion. Really, though, it's all about expectations and needs.

The Rockies should have expected Hernandez to post a 6.00+ ERA -- he'd been doing it consistently for two months. They could NOT have expected that in three starts he'd be as dreadful as he has been. The Rockies did not have any other options that could have been expected to outperform Hernandez (a significant difference with what the Twins were doing), and since they were down by so many games they had to take a chance that Hernandez would be able to step in and give them a chance to win some games. In fact, they did win in Hernandez's second start, when he gave up 6 runs in 6 innings. If he had been able to regularly post 6 run starts while allowing 4 or 5 runs, the Rockies may have been able to win some ballgames with him starting.

Somewhat surprisingly, then, I find myself in the position of excusing the Rockies. Hernandez was never going to be a stud for them -- but that's not what they needed, and hopefully not what they expected (there was some breathless chatter from the local papers when he was picked up, but I attribute that to media hype and not to the guys who actually do this for a living). Unfortunately for the Rockies, they took a shot and lost.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #127

Wow -- what a way to start off the mammoth road trip! Both teams had a chance to get beyond 1 run over the course of the game, but it took extra innings to get this thing decided. Since I need to work in the morning, I'm going to post this column with the game still going in the 10th inning. Hopefully, the Twins can pull it out and get off to a winning start on the trip. Here are some notes:

1.) How fun was it to see a fast paced pitcher's duel? This had the feel of an October baseball game, what with Lackey and Baker twirling gems and getting out of the few tough stretches unscathed. I know some people love watching offense, but give me a well pitched ballgame like this any day -- the tension was there from the start. I love it! Hopefully, the rest of the games against the Angels will be similar.

2.) How about Baker! He's clearly developed into the Twins ace, and today he was spinning some unbelievable curves while spotting pitches effectively. He walked a couple batters, which is somewhat uncharacteristic -- but he also only gave up 4 hits so he had a great WHIP. His 6 K's were also welcome. The only run he allowed, of course, was the Teixeira homer, but I can't blame him for giving up that homer. Tex looked like he reached out and GOT that one, and used his raw power to drive the ball. The pitch maybe could have been put a bit more out of reach, but it didn't strike me as a true mistake pitch. Either way, one run over 8 innings against the best team in baseball is fantastic.

3.) Carlos Gomez was great today against John Lackey. I was especially impressed by his second at-bat, when he held off from swinging at a ball that he couldn't have done anything with before getting the game-tying single. There was nothing brilliant in Gomez's performance tonight, but it was a comfortingly solid outing from a guy who the team needs to get consistent performances out of.

4.) A couple of days ago I commented negatively on Delmon Young's defense in a game when I felt that he looked bad. Tonight, I have to give credit where credit is due -- on Chone Figgins' 3rd inning hit down the left field line, Young took the right angle and correctly read the ball off the wall. That, coupled with the respect the Angels obviously have for his cannon of an arm, resulted in Figgins being held to a single. Had he taken the wrong angle, or if he didn't have that gun, Figgins would have been on second. Maybe this explains why I'm disappointed when he takes what seems to me to be the wrong angle -- it's because he's so effective when he does the job the right way. Hopefully he keeps this kind of thing up, because if he can take bases away from hitters, it could dramatically help the Twins.

5.) Bringing Matt Guerrier in to pitch the ninth was a somewhat gutsy move for Ron Gardenhire. Guerrier, of course, has been really bad for the month of August -- but if the Twins are going to have success in the last 40 days of the season, they need him to be successful. For all intents and purposes, Guerrier is still the setup man. I recognize that it's easy for me to say that it was the right move after the fact, since he succeeded -- but I think I would have said the same thing regardless, and if you had asked me in the 8th who I wanted to pitch the 9th, Guerrier would have been the answer. Especially now that the Twins have only 6 guys in the bullpen, they just can't afford to ignore him.

6.) Do you realize that the Blue Jays are just a game behind the Yankees after clobbering the bombers 14-3 tonight? Think about that -- the Yankees could find themselves in fourth place in a couple of days. I'm thrilled, of course -- I desperately want the Yankees post-season streak to end -- but I'm also a little stunned.

7.) It's not often that Justin Morneau plays the role of goat, but he left 7 men on, including grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the 8th and striking out looking with 2 on in the 10th. He's still the biggest run producer on the team, and I'll take him at the plate in a clutch situation any day, but today wasn't his day.

8.) I was also thrilled to see Alexi Casilla back, and he made a few nice plays in the field. Aside from his first inning single, though, his offense was a bit problematic. As a matter of fact, a few times tonight he looked a little, dare I say, Gomez-like in his impatience at the plate. I attribute it to a bit of over-excitedness on his first day back. And no, I'm not saying that I wish Nick Punto was still hitting in the 2 spot.

9.) One week to the start of the college football season. Next Thursday night brings us Stanford-Oregon State and North Carolina State-South Carolina. Those aren't exactly marquee matchups, but I guarantee you I'll be watching!


Bass Accepts Assignment

That didn't take long -- Brian Bass had 72 hours to decide whether or not he would head to Rochester or become a free agent, but he took only about 1/3 of that time to make the decision. I suggested yesterday that I would suggest accepting free agency if I were his agent, but after a day to think about it I actually think Bass's best option was to accept the assignment to Rochester.

The reason is relatively simple; with the season drawing to a close, and Bass not having pitched well enough to justify anyone rushing out to scoop him up for the rest of the year, Bass had very little chance to catch on with a team for the remainder of the season. By accepting the assignment to Rochester, Bass at least has a chance to be added to the 40-man roster again when rosters expand in September.

Why would the Twins do this? Four things combine to make it a possibility: (1) the Twins will be looking to add arms in September; (2) Bass has big league experience, even if not all of it is great; (3) the Twins have 4 spots open on the 40-man roster to add players as necessary; and (4) there probably aren't 4 other guys in the organization who it makes sense to add to the 40-man roster for the stretch run. If the Twins don't plan on keeping Bass around past this season, they could add him to the roster for September and remove him when the season is over to open up the roster spot again, so it wouldn't really hurt the team to bring him back in September.

So, I was wrong yesterday -- I wouldn't have recommended free agency as his agent, I would have recommended that he accept the assignment. I just hadn't thought through all of the implications of the decisions. For what it's worth, I hope Bass comes back in September and gets a chance to redeem himself a little bit. I don't want him pitching in any meaningful games right now, but I wish the guy well in his future endeavors, and if he can take care of some innings for the Twins in the process, what's not to like?

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Welcome Back, Alexi!

I'm sure all Twins fans are thrilled that Alexi Casilla is on his way back to the Twins, having been activated after today's win over the A's. Somewhat surprising is the fact that the Twins outrighted Brian Bass to Rochester to make room for Casilla. This is surprising not because Bass has been particularly good or particularly useful (I'd argue that he wasn't as bad as many fans thought, but he wasn't exactly good either), but because with all of the Twins bullpen woes of late its a bit odd to see the team respond by cutting the number of pitchers from 12 to 11.

Still, this move makes sense -- the Twins are a bit banged up, and they obviously didn't want to cut Adam Everett or option Randy Ruiz to Rochester. I hope that the team is able to make it with a 6-man bullpen (this is my preferred roster arrangement, incidentally), but I am somewhat doubtful. I think there's a good chance that the Twins could end up calling up a pitcher at some point on the road trip -- probably someone like Bobby Korecky.

This move also means that Bass is off the 40-man roster, and that gives the Twins yet another open spot on the 40-man roster to add players if they so desire. It's not the most pressing issue -- they already had several open spots on the roster (they're up to 4, I believe), but it's an interesting thing to keep in mind.

Bass earned his spot in the bullpen this spring, and at times this season he looked like a decent pitcher. The Twins probably stuck with him for longer than they should have simply out of necessity, however. I don't know if he'll accept the assignment to Rochester (if I were his agent, I'd probably recommend leaving -- why use up your arm with a team that's not likely to keep you around for long anyway?). If he accepts the assignment, it's probably in the hope that he's re-added to the roster in September -- which is more than likely his only chance of getting on a big league roster again in 2008. It's an interesting call for Bass and his agent, and I'm very curious to see what he chooses.

Either way, the Twins will be better off tomorrow than they were today. Casilla is a valuable piece to have in the lineup, and thankfully this will stop the "why is Nick Punto hitting second" refrain that has been a relative constant over the last few weeks. The Road Trip From Hell is daunting, but it seems slightly more manageable with a key component like Casilla back in the fold.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #124

I wish there were better news to discuss, but the Twins are once again in second place (barring something ridiculous happening in Chicago) after not doing a whole lot against the A's today. Here are a few notes:

1.) This doesn't really belong up top, but it stuck in my mind the most so that's where it's going. I agree with Nick Punto that he shouldn't have been wrung up by the ump in the 6th inning. However, you're Nick Punto. Get over it. I'm a Punto defender, but far too often he just sits back and watches strikes float on past him (this is especially irritating when he's hitting in an important situation with men on base). Punto needs to learn that with two strikes, he simply should not trust his eye -- because it isn't very good. That pitch looked fairly nasty, so he might not have been able to do anything with it even if he'd swung. However, I'd be thrilled if he just adopted a uniform policy to try to foul off any pitch within a foot of the strike zone when he's got two on him already. For that matter, Brendan Harris should have done the same thing at the end of the game. You can't sit back and hope a pitch is a ball.

2.) Tonight didn't feel for me like Nick Blackburn was pitching well, but the bottom line is that he turned in a very solid performance. I will never complain about an eight inning, 3 earned run performance. Blackburn also gave up just 6 hits and 2 walks, so his WHIP was a perfectly acceptable 1.00. Tonight was frustrating because the offense didn't get anything done, and that sort of carried over to my feelings about Blackburn while he was actually pitching. This was just one of those nights when perception and reality differed, at least for me. I will say that I probably wouldn't have sent him out for the eighth inning, but I understand where Gardy was coming from -- with the bullpen struggling so much recently, he really did need every out he could get from Blackburn.

3.) I know there are some folks who are really pleased about Delmon Young's progress defensively -- but tonight just seemed like a major regression in his skills. I don't know, he just never really seems all that fluid out there to me. That's not the most important thing in the world to me; for the most part, Young is plenty good enough out there for me, especially if he hits. It's just a little frustrating at times.

4.) I never want anyone to get hurt, but the Adam Everett injury may provide the opening necessary for the Twins to get Alexi Casilla back on the roster without cutting someone or sending down a player who shouldn't be sent down. It sounded earlier today in an ESPN article like Gardy was suggesting that Everett would still be around when Casilla was back -- which would seem to indicate that Randy Ruiz was the most likely player to be sent down in a couple of days. That would be a mistake; Ruiz provides a thumper from the right side (although he has no big league homers at this point, I don't doubt that with his swing and his frame, it's just a matter of time), while Everett provides . . . what? At the same time, if Everett goes on the DL for a couple of weeks, the Twins could keep him on the roster in September. It wouldn't hurt to still have him available in case of an injury or as a late inning defensive replacement.

5.) On a completely non-baseball related note, I saw advertising tonight for "The Scorpion King 2," which seems to be coming out direct-to-DVD. I have no problem with cheesy sequels -- they obviously make money, or they wouldn't be made. What's completely non-sensical to me about this particular movie, however, is that it's not actually a sequel -- it's a prequel. Does it make any sense whatsoever to call a PREQUEL "The Scorpion King 2"?

6.) Nice to see that little league homers are possible in the big leagues too -- too bad that one won't count on the stat sheet for Mauer.

7.) I approved when the Twins claimed Craig Breslow, and I was pleased to see him bail out Jesse Crain tonight. He hasn't been perfect, but he's really only had one outright BAD outing as a Twin -- back on July 9, he gave up 2 earned runs in just a third of an inning off of a hit and a walk. Sure, he's allowed some inherited runners, but the Twins are much better off with Breslow than they would have been with Juan Rincon.


Friday, August 15, 2008

The Football Season is Upon Us!

Hopefully you didn't think I was talking about American Football . . .

Tomorrow is the start of the 2008-09 Barclays Premier League -- you know, the one with Manchester United and Chelsea and all the rest. While I'm not quite as excited about tomorrow's season opener as I am about the start of the NFL or NCAA football seasons, I will admit that I'm getting up at 5:30 to watch the very first match of the year.

Since the Twins are easily handling the Mariners, and since blowouts aren't all that much fun to cover, I'll limit myself tonight to a predictions post for the Premier League. If any of you are also English football fans, feel free to leave your own predictions in the comment section.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I'll reveal that I will be rooting for Manchester City and Hull City this year. This is sort of the equivalent of a baseball fan saying that he roots for the Brewers and Pirates -- the Brewers (read as "Man City") are sometimes decent but never seem to get to the promised land, and the Pirates (read as "Hull City") essentially have no chance to win. Of course, my attachment to Hull is brand spankin' new, since they just earned a promotion to the top tier (can you imagine if Rochester was playing for a chance to get into the big leagues?). With that said, here are my predictions for this season's finishing order:

1.) Manchester United
2.) Chelsea
3.) Liverpool
4.) Tottenham
5.) Arsenal
6.) Aston Villa
7.) Portsmouth
8.) Everton
9.) West Ham
10.) Blackburn
11.) Manchester City
12.) Middlesbrough
13.) Wigan
14.) Newcastle
15.) Fulham
16.) Bolton
17.) West Bromwich Albion
18.) Sunderland
19.) Hull City
20.) Stoke City

These predictions are based on the hours and hours of research that . . . well . . . ok, no, I pretty much pulled them out of my you-know-what. I know a little bit about the Premier League, and I pay a bit of attention to transfers and what-not, but for the most part I'm guessing. Considering how poorly my performance predictions turn out even when I think I know something, however, it probably doesn't make a wit of difference.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Waiver Wire Thoughts

You've probably seen the Strib reporting throughout the day (culminating in this article) about the Twins efforts to secure Raul Ibanez and/or Jarrod Washburn from the Mariners. According to the article, the Twins placed a claim on both players, and actually won the claim on Washburn. In the end, though, the Mariners and Twins couldn't reach an agreement on the terms of a trade, and because the waiver placement was revocable, Washburn stays a Mariner.

Let me express here my extreme pleasure at this turn of events. I don't want the Twins to have anything to do with Washburn. He's been a serviceable big league starter for much of his career, and even with his numbers slipping a bit over the past few years (especially his WHIP, which has creeping upwards) he's better than a lot of starters in the league. Two things about Washburn made him incredibly undesirable in my mind, however:

1.) According to the article, the Twins intention had they landed Washburn was to move one of the current starters to the bullpen to provide depth. Certainly, the pitcher being moved wouldn't have been Francisco Liriano or Scott Baker. That means either Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, or Glen Perkins would have been shifted into a relief role. Now, it's impossible to see the future, and maybe replacing Boof Bonser or Brian Bass with Slowey, Blackburn, or Perkins while slotting Washburn into the rotation would have made the Twins better overall. I doubt it, however. With only relatively rare exceptions (such as Blackburn's last start), the Twins starting pitching has actually been very good. Each of the starters in the current rotation has better numbers (and significantly higher upside) than Washburn. As a result, I feel pretty strongly that this would have made the Twins weaker overall. Unless Slowey, Blackburn, or Perkins would have immediately slotted into the setup role and been effective in it (I doubt both propositions), then I find it hard to see this move being beneficial.

2.) The Twins would have been on the hook for the remainder of this year and all of next year on Washburn's contract. Looking ahead just to next year, Washburn is due $10.35 million. The Twins don't need him in the first place, so spending over $10 million on him for next year would have been a tremendous mistake. Why waste the money when the current starters have proven that they can be better starters than Washburn is already? The Twins are better off taking that $10 million and finding a couple of decent bullpen arms in free agency this off-season.

Thankfully, the Mariners front office still has blinders on. They appear to have scuttled the deal because the Twins wouldn't give them a young starter in return. Trading for Washburn would have been bad -- giving up a legitimate prospect for him would have been laughable. Thankfully, Bill Smith recognized that such a deal didn't make sense, and left Washburn to the clueless Mariners.

Would bullpen help be nice? Obviously, the answer is yes. But the answer is not to break apart the current starting rotation, which has been a strength of this team. Find a real reliever or play with the hand you've got. Hopefully, today will mark the last of the insanity regarding waiver rumors.

PS: From reader Kris in the comments of the previous post, Twins 6th round pick B.J. Hermsen has signed with the Twins for a $650,000 signing bonus, plus some extras. The signing surprised me a bit because Hermsen was drafted a bit lower than he had hoped, and he seemed to be interested in going to Oregon State and giving the draft another go in a few years as a more developed player. Instead, the two sides came together and got a deal done. Good for those involved -- I'm glad to see Hermsen in the fold. We'll see if any other signings go down before tomorrow's deadline.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Abbreviated Notes

I've got to be quick tonight, so I'm just going to dash off a few quick thoughts on the Twins win today and possibly a few other things:

1.) For all the griping about the bullpen (and I've been right there with ya, especially during the brutal stretches), there are some pretty solid ERA's in the bunch -- Breslow (2.67), Reyes (2.41), Crain (3.26) and of course Nathan (1.05) all pitched today. I realize that everything about a pitcher is not captured by ERA alone, but I suspect that most teams in baseball would be pretty happy with four guys who have ERA's like that.

2.) In what is clearly an effort to make me look like a fool, Delmon's recent surge in power came shortly after I declared that his first season as a Twins would almost certainly have to be labeled a disappointment since his run production numbers were off. I should have just stuck with my initial analysis from around the All Star break when I said that he'd have a really solid second half. Never give in, never surrender!

3.) I gave Bill Smith a hard time on Marty's podcast the other day (well, sort of -- I gave him a C because I felt free agency was a debacle that needn't have happened), but at least he doesn't do foolish things like, I don't know, sign Carlos Silva to a 4-year/$48 million deal. As bad as I felt the Livan signing was, it was only for one year and was for a pretty small sum of money relative to what a lot of free agents get. It was by no means an anchor dragging the franchise down. The Silva deal? That had no chance of working out.

4.) Of course it's more fun to watch a close race like the 4 x 100 freestyle relay from the other night where the US nipped the French by a touch. Still, there's something about watching sheer, unadulterated dominance like last night's 4 x 200 relay. My preference would almost always go to the close race, but since I'm pulling for Phelps to pick up 8 golds there's something to be said for a no-doubter.

5.) That's it for tonight -- if there's something important to discuss tomorrow, I'll post. Otherwise, expect me back on Friday.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blog Update

I'll be back with some notes tomorrow. Hopefully, the Twins will still be in first place at that point, although it looks like they're going to need a win tonight to make that happen, what with the White Sox leading the Royals handily midway through the game. Catch ya tomorrow.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Podcast Appearance

For the first time in about a year (and boy, will you be able to tell if you listen!) I appeared on a podcast. Marty's had an open invitation to a number of Twins bloggers since he resurrected his weekly Twins podcast, and for the first time this year I had a chance to call in. I'm joined by the inimitable Seth Stohs, who Marty for some reason suspects of being a serial killer (listen to the end, if you dare). We discuss the expected topics, and Marty attempts to inject some artificial animosity at a few points to prevent it from being an agree-fest. If you have a yearning to hear Seth, Marty, and I bantering incoherently, I suggest you check it out.


Nightly Notes: Game #117

I wrote about 12 intros for this post. Considering the end result, I don't really feel like a substantial rewrite, so here are some notes:

1.) Scott Baker looked very good for most of the game, striking out 7 and giving up 7 hits and a walk in 7 innings of work. He generally scattered the hits that he allowed, and I certainly can't complain about the 2 earned runs he allowed. A couple of years ago it would have been hard to think of Baker as the veteran leader of the Twins rotation, but that's pretty much exactly what he is now. The nice thing is that I honestly feel pretty confident that he's going to pitch a dandy game every time he's on the mound.

2.) The bullpen coughed up the lead once again in the eighth inning tonight, although Adam Everett and the first base ump are also to blame. I know for some of you the solution would have been to bring in Joe Nathan, but if the rest of the bullpen can't get through one inning of work with a 2 run lead against the Royals, it's a bad sign. Nathan can't come in and pitch the last two innings of every game, and this is one of those where I would have done exactly what Gardy did and tried to get through with other pitchers. Unfortunately, things didn't work out today.

3.) It was interesting to see Mike Lamb hitting 7th and Brian Buscher hitting 8th in the lineup. Buscher quite obviously is having a much, much better season than Lamb is -- so I suspect that Lamb was hitting seventh to keep him separated from Adam Everett, who was the number 9 hitter in the lineup.

4.) Speaking of Everett, I was going to be nice today. After all, he picked up a couple of key RBI hits. Then, he made that completely inexcusable throw in the 8th that resulted in the Royals scoring the tying run when the inning should have been over. Everett was supposedly brought in for his defense, and while he's occasionally shown some range, he's been tremendously disappointing with his glove (or in this case, his arm). He had plenty of time to make one of the most routine throws a shortstop can make, and he choked. He's human, and it happens to everybody, but in that situation its inexcusable for a big league shortstop to make that mistake.

5.) Staying with the Everett theme, I have to question letting him hit in the 7th inning. He got an RBI single, so it's sort of bad form for me to complain. Was it really the right decision to let a guy who was hitting .195 entering the game hit in that situation? Unless Brendan Harris was unavailable today (which may be the case, but I hadn't heard of it), there was really no reason to let him hit there. Again, it worked out, so I can't complain too much. But either Gardy knew something that the rest of us didn't know, or he made the wrong decision and got lucky.

6.) I'm going to second guess Gardy again for something he did in the third inning. The Twins had runners at 1st and 2nd with Denard Span up and no one out. They had a 1-0 lead at that point, and Gil Meche was struggling a bit with his control. The Twins decided to have Span sacrifice the runners to 2nd and 3rd, probably because Gardy figured that Meche is a pretty good pitcher and he should play conservative to try to guarantee another run.

Here's why I disagree with the decision. First, the next batter up was Nick Punto. Now, I've been as big a defender of Punto this season as anybody, but even I don't particularly trust him to get the job done there. As it turned out, he struck out on three pitches and suddenly there were two outs in the inning. If Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau had been coming up, I might have agreed with the bunt -- but Punto has been struggling and the odds were against him delivering a big hit. Also, as I mentioned, Meche had been struggling a bit with his control. Why not let Span, a guy with a decent eye who could make Meche work for it, hit? Finally, I just have a real issue with killing your momentum when you've been getting on base and have nobody out. For me, this was not a good decision.

7.) Speaking of Span, I think the way he's been used indicates pretty clearly that there would have been no "controversy" if Michael Cuddyer had been activated tomorrow. Carlos Gomez would have been riding the pine, with Span starting in center. Today's off day for Gomez was due to Kubel having to play in the outfield since Morneau was going to DH and Lamb was at 1B -- not necessarily because Gomez needed a breather. He's clearly behind Span on the depth chart at this point, and he should be.

8.) I'm excited to see if Michael Phelps and his teammates can get him his second gold when they compete in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay tonight. My question is why the guys who are going to race in the final don't have to be the guys who qualify -- Phelps was resting when the US team qualified with a placeholder. It's not just Phelps -- two of the French swimmers who will be battling the US tonight also didn't compete in the prelim. What exactly is the justification for this free substitution?

9.) I'm a big NASCAR fan. I watch every Sprint Cup race, and at least part of most of the Nationwide Series races. Today was a horrible day for me -- I'm unbelievably sick of Kyle Busch and his punk attitude, and that's made worse by the fact that he just keeps winning. On the other side, I'm a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fan, but his crew chief was terrible today, making absolutely the wrong calls on how to run pit stop strategy (when the TV guys keep saying "this is a mistake, because" . . . and then the "because" happens, you know somebody is doing something very wrong).

10.) Yao Ming draining a three to open the US-China game this morning was great. I think the "Redeem Team" proved themselves to be a pretty formidable squad by the end, though. I'm looking for gold. With Mike Krzyzewski coaching the men's squad, is there any hope that Tennessee Volunteers coach Pat Summit, quite possibly my overall favorite basketball coach, will someday coach the women's team? I'd love to see it.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #116

So far, so good -- the Twins will head into tomorrow's series finale with the Royals as the first place team in the AL Central, with a good chance to extend the lead further. Here are some notes:

1.) Once again, Francisco Liriano was OK but not great. Also once again, he showed flashes of being the pitcher he once was, with some impressive K's. In the end, though, his control once again seemed to get the better of him -- while he walked only 2, it didn't seem like he was hitting his spots as often as I would've liked to see. This was just his second start back, though. Hopefully in another start or two he's going about 7 innings with a similar number of runs allowed. Even if he didn't go enough innings to get a quality start, is there any question that you'd rather have Liriano out there than Livan?

2.) Boof Bonser deserves some credit. Most of his outings have seemed cumbersome, even when he has a large lead and should be relaxing. Tonight, he got through 2.1 innings without giving up a run -- although he had some help from his defense, and also from a friendly ump. Still, the game didn't blow up on him, and that was a positive.

3.) I'm pleased with how Delmon Young has picked up his game a bit, and I was going to very generously say that maybe this season won't be viewed as a disappointment when all is said and done. Then, I looked once again at his run production numbers -- especially his paltry 44 RBI's -- and realized that there's pretty much no way to avoid the scarlet "D". I still have faith that he'll turn into a reliable player for the Twins down the road, but this year was unquestionably rough.

4.) I was stuck listening to the Royals feed tonight, and was somewhat amazed in the 6th inning to hear the announcers talking about the imminent return of Michael Cuddyer. I would have thought that some intern somewhere would be responsible for monitoring the news about the opposition during a series so that such gaffes didn't happen, but based on what I heard it seems as if the production notes are put together before the start of the series, and that's that.

5.) I was going to rag a bit on Adam Everett's bunting prowess, but he ended up drawing a walk so I can't complain too much. The post-that-never-will-be would have gone something like this: "How can you be a light hitting shortstop who spent your entire career to this point in the NL at the bottom of a batting order and NOT BE ABLE TO BUNT!?!". Thankfully, that rant isn't really necessary.

6.) How is it that the USA has not one, not two, but three women capable of winning medals in fencing? In case you somehow missed it (NBC will be focus-grouping you to find out how they managed to not reach you if this is the case), on the first day of competition the USA won three medals -- a gold, silver, and bronze in women's fencing. I actually watched a bit of this late last night. While I'm thrilled we pulled off a medal sweep in the event, I ask again: how do we have three women in the country good enough to medal in this event? Is there an underground fencing movement I've never caught onto to? (Obviously the answer is yes, by the way -- I'm sure we also have Olympic Handball leagues floating around out there too -- amazing).

7.) I'm just going to rag on the NBC once more before closing. I don't mind tape delayed events. In fact, I think that when the Olympics are in a time zone 12 hours away from the bulk of the US audience, tape delaying is to be expected. One of the big selling points for NBC this year, though, has been that numerous prime time events (especially swimming finals) will be LIVE. Seems that's not true for those of us in the Mountain Time Zone. For reasons that escape me, NBC is tape delaying the events by an hour. Despite this, the giant LIVE chyron is still floating across the top of the screen. Don't tease me like that, NBC!

8.) Looking forward to tomorrow's series finale. Hopefully the Twins can pull off the sweep, and get some more help from the Red Sox.


Blog Update

Nice to see the Twins take care of business last night against the Royals -- with the White Sox playing the Red Sox, the Twins need to win at least one more of the next two games, and a sweep would be great. I intend to put up a Nightly Notes post tonight after the game -- and maybe the Twins will find themselves in first place again at that point.

Incidentally, I'm sorry to hear about Michael Cuddyer's injury. Even though he hasn't had a great year even when healthy, he still is a player who has obviously been very successful at the big league level, and it would have been nice to have him back. Thankfully, the Twins have been winning without him, and now the Twins don't have the dilemma of what to do with Denard Span and Carlos Gomez. Hopefully, Cuddyer can heal quickly and return to the team by the end of the season -- but I have no idea how long a broken foot takes to heal, so we'll see.

Enjoy your Saturday, and I'll be back tonight.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #114

About bloody time. Each of these three games against the Mariners started essentially the same way -- the Twins jumped out to a lead, then the Mariners came back. Today, the comeback was stopped when the Mariners had just 3 runs and the Twins were able to pick up the win. That should have happened in each of the first two games, as well -- the Twins have no business losing 2 of 3 to the Mariners, even in Seattle. All is forgiven if today is a sign of things to come. Here are some notes:

1.) Nick Blackburn wasn't great today, but he was still good enough to get a quality start. Blackburn managed to avoid completely disintegrating, and while he allowed a lot of baserunners (9 hits and 1 walk), he held the Mariners to just three runs. After the last two days, I'm certainly not going to complain!

2.) I doubt he's really all that fast, but Randy Ruiz looked like he was boogeying in the 8th inning when he scored from first on Brendan Harris' double. I also liked to see him stroke his 8th inning hit solidly up the middle. I didn't see his first hit. So far, though, he's managed to get 3 hits in his first 9 big league at-bats. I'm rather pleased, even though it's a meaningless result with so few at bats to go on. I suspect he'll be heading back to Rochester soon, but I suspect we'll see him again in September.

3.) Denard Span is a stud. Without his offense (and defense!) the Twins wouldn't have won tonight. I'm a Gomez fan, but it's quite clear that Span has to start in center when Michael Cuddyer comes back.

4.) Nick Punto's offensive bubble may have burst -- he's down to hitting .275 after an 0-for-4 day. I still think he's a decent player, even offensively, but I'll probably stop shouting that from the rafters as I was doing a few weeks ago!

5.) Livan Hernandez had his contract "assigned" to the Rockies today, meaning that the Twins will get nothing back from the Rockies in exchange for him. I can't say that I care too much -- Hernandez wasn't really worth anything. Of course, the Rockies gave up Matt Macri a year ago in exchange for Ramon Ortiz, and he was even worse than Livan. Maybe they learned their lesson. What's interesting is that the Rockies seem to view Hernandez as some kind of savior -- an established fifth starter. I guess so long as they know what they're getting . . .

6.) Joe Nathan is supposedly on his way to being used more often in the 8th inning. To be clear about how I feel in this regard -- so long as it isn't overdone, I'm ok with this. My concern is only that, if Nathan has to start warming up in the 8th rather than the 9th repeatedly, it could reduce his effectiveness. I have no proof of this, it's just a concern. If it's done right, though, I can't argue with the fact that it's likely to be effective. Hopefully guys like Guerrier and Crain can step up again to make using Nathan in this way unnecessary.

7.) I don't particularly like Joba Chamberlain, as I've explained before -- but I don't want to see him get hurt, either. Unfortunately, he's heading to the 15-Day DL for reasons that ESPN says haven't been specified. I hope it isn't serious; I want to see Joba get beat on the field.


Monday, August 04, 2008


I'm literally out of words to describe tonight's 7th inning. I could complain about the decision to leave Glen Perkins in the game despite the fact that he was laboring, but I won't. I could complain about the shoddy defense that helped the inning last forever, but I won't. The Twins wasted a golden opportunity tonight (barring a comeback -- but I'm going to bed, so I won't know whether that happens until the morning), but this is baseball and these things happen. I'm annoyed, but I'll get over it. Hopefully the team does the same.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #111

A few months ago, it seemed virtually impossible that the Twins would be battling for first place in August. Unlikely or not, that's exactly what we've been seeing for the past few weeks -- and now the Twins find themselves all alone in first, displacing the White Sox after a convincing win over the Indians and a Kansasy City blowout of the ChiSox. Here are a few short notes:

1.) It sure looked an awful lot like Francisco Liriano still has some dominant stuff. In his six innings of work, he struck out 5 and allowed just 3 hits, although he also walked 3 batters. If Liriano can figure out how to avoid throwing so many balls, I don't see any reason why he can't once again become a dominant force. I was extremely encouraged at how deceptive many of his sliders appeared to be. If I had to guess (and since I'm not a pitching coach or even remotely close to an expert, that's all it is), I would say that the biggest reason for all the balls was partly mechanical and partly mental -- I'd guess that he just wasn't concentrating on perfectly repeating his motion with each pitch, leading him to be a bit wild. Part of that could be due to the fact that he was making his return to the big leagues. In the end, it doesn't matter -- Liriano did exactly what he needed to do today, and gave we fans a legitimate reason to dream about the post-season.

2.) Over the next week, the Twins play 3 games in Seattle and 3 in Kansas City. While it's always tough to play well on the road, the Twins need to take advantage of these series to try to put some distance on the White Sox. Chicago is at home with a 3 game series against the Tigers and 4 against the Red Sox. Even with the road/home difference, it's a far easier week for the Twins. Let's hope they take care of business.

3.) Mike Lamb looked a little rough at 1B a couple of times, but the swipe tag (I think it was in the 4th, but I could be misremembering) that he made at the end of an inning was nicely done. Still, it makes you appreciate Justin Morneau's glove -- and five years ago, who would have thought that we'd be saying that about Morneau? It's another reason to appreciate the big guy; he's worked hard to make himself a very good defensive player.

4.) Any guesses on the odds that the Twins will make it a clean sweep by getting rid of Adam Everett and Mike Lamb before the end of the season? I'm going to say no more than 5%, because I don't think the club will cut Lamb -- but then again, I didn't think they'd cut Hernandez either so my psychic powers are apparently a bit out of whack.

5.) Just an update on the "First Half Grades" posts. The last week of moving made it impossible to get anything else done with that series, and now there's less than a month left in the minor league season. As a result, I'm going to hold off to the season's done and just cover that material in a season-in-review type fashion. My apologies to anyone who was waiting for those posts.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Directing Traffic

Trying to, anyway. I just wanted to point those of you who might be interested to the discussion in the comments of this post, wherein reader TT and I have been going back and forth on whether it was a mistake to sign Livan Hernandez in the first place. In a nutshell, my argument is that past performance indicated that Livan was going to be a bust, and that his strong performance in April and May was an anomaly. TT's argument is that I'm ignoring the reality of what actually happened in favor of my expectations. Obviously, I think I'm right -- but either way it's an interesting discussion that points to two very different ways of looking at results. Take a look if you get a chance.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Bleacher Report

Marty included me in the recent Twins Talk Weekly Roundtable, which you can find by clicking the link. There were just two of us, so it wasn't quite a "Roundtable." Nonetheless, there are some interesting questions covered, including how long Livan would be a Twin (we both said he'd stick around for the rest of the year -- psychics we ain't) and whether the Twins semi-recent 5 game losing streak meant anything. Check it out if you get the chance -- it's a pretty quick read.


Well, Well, Well

Wow! I have to say that I find the Twins moves today satisfying and quite interesting overall. In case you hadn't heard, the Twins today designated Livan Hernandez and Craig Monroe for assignment. They'll be replaced on the roster by Francisco Liriano and Randy Ruiz. So far as I'm concerned, it's impossible for the replacements to be any worse than the two fellows their replacing, so I'm fully in support of these moves.

The Twins should never have signed Livan in the first place, as I've been saying since before the season started. I know that some of you feel that he benefited the team with his experience and his ability to "eat innings" (who cares, says I -- if the innings are crappy then he's not valuable). Still, the Twins essentially didn't lose anything but $5 million and some pride by signing him. Some might argue they lost a roster spot, but Liriano needed some time in the minors anyway, so I'm not all that worried about the roster spot he took up.

Unfortunately, the Twins actually gave up a player to acquire Craig Monroe -- and it's looking like a pretty bad trade right now. Full disclosure: I pretty much backed up GM Bill Smith when the deal was done, because I didn't think the Twins were giving up too much. The player we gave up, a first baseman/outfielder by the name of Doug Deeds, is having a pretty great season in AA for the Cubs, however. He's hitting .341 with 9 homers and 46 RBI (and a 940 OPS) in 334 AB's. That's no guarantee that Deeds will have any future success at higher levels, but considering that the Twins got virtually nothing out of Monroe it still looks like a pretty bad deal.

Finally, a word on Randy Ruiz -- I'm really excited to see whether he can do anything at the big league level. He's been around forever, starting off his minor league career in the GCL with the Reds in 1999. He's been busted for steroid use. He's come back (presumably) clean. And this year, he's been great for the Red Wings. I was excited about him in Spring Training, and I was even rooting for him to make the club back then. Instead, he'll get his chance tonight as a first time big leaguer. Good luck, Randy!

Anyway, two thumbs up for these moves. Let's hope the Twins get the series with the Indians off on the right foot with a win tonight.