Happy ‘elmon Young Day!

Happy ‘elmon Young day! Today is brought to you by the letters D and O, the numbers -17.9 (his career UZR) and .23 (his career BB/K), and the creator of both Nick Punto Day and ‘elmon Young Day, Andrew Kneeland. A little background:

On February 12, Twins bloggers across the country (well, mostly in the midwest, but a few ex-pats, such as myself, made it a national event) held “Nick Punto Day,” in which we celebrated (and denigrated) the player that most of us love to hate. Or hate to love. Or, if you’re Karlee of OMGMnTwins, love to love and love even more to destroy anyone who hates. Now, three months later, Andrew has decided (and many agree) that given the mixed feelings most of us hold about ‘elmon (apostrophe to be explained in a minute), a similar day to feel out the strengths (not fielding) and weaknesses (fielding) of our dear left fielder. This is an entry in that series. So, dear reader, bear with me, this’ll be a long one. I’ve got a lot to say about ‘elmon. But even I doubt that the feelings of the fans can be adequately expressed in mere words.

‘elmon was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays on November 28, 2007 for one-time starting pitching phenom Matt Garza, starting shortstop Jason Bartlett, and minor league reliever Eduardo Morlan. The Twins also received Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie in the trade. On first blush, it seems like an even trade. Two uber-prospects – Garza and Young (who had been runner-up to Dustin Pedroia in 2007, his 21-year-old season) – two decent non-star shortstops (Bartlett and Harris), and two (would prove to be minor league-only) other players (Pridie and Morlan) all changed hands. This blog didn’t exist back then, so unlike other blogs, I cannot link to an old post raving about how great the trade was for the Twins. Thank God for that. That would be embarrassing.

I’ll be honest, though, even though it pains me. At the time I was thrilled. I was a fan who had never bought into Matt Garza, despite his impressive stats in the minors and during his solid-but-not-spectacular short 2006 stint in the Show. The main thing I can remember from back then was Garza refusing to throw his breaking pitches in the minor leagues, while the coaches insisted he not throw his (very good) fastball every pitch. That refusal led to Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey getting a 2007 call-up before him. This made Garza bitter, and he struggled through the 2007 season, even though he ended with a good 3.47 ERA (which outperformed his 4.18 FIP – likely due to good infield defense). There were games where he would literally stalk out to the mound, and he ended the year with a 5-7 record.

Count me among those that wondered, once Bill Smith was promoted to replace Terry Ryan as the Twins manager, whether Garza, who had been one of Ryan’s “babies,” was on his way out. And so he was, just a few months later. Let me talk for just a second about those other involved players. Jason Bartlett went on to have a couple very good years in Tampa Bay (including being undeservedly voted team MVP in their World Series appearance in 2008). Bartlett is a good defensive shortstop who hits for a decent-to-good average with little power. In a pre-Hardy world, doesn’t that look good? He was exchanged (in effect) for Brendan Harris, a bad defensive shortstop who had hit 12 homers for Tampa Bay in 2007. He became a part-time player with little upside the very next season, when he was supplanted at shortstop by first Adam Everett and then later Nick Punto, and was placed at second base, where he was eventually replaced by Alexi Casilla. Sigh. Today, he’s a role player, who gets more playing time than he deserves. The Twins also received Jason Pridie, who has only played a couple of games in the majors, giving up Eduardo Morlan, who was substituted at the last minute for Juan Rincon. Morlan was my major reason for disliking the trade when it happened, because he was one of our top relievers in the minors. However, he hurt his shoulder (I think) and has not risen above AA, which is the level he was at when the trade came down.

So, what was my first reaction to the trade? “Ugh, shouldn’t Bill Smith be working on trading Santana, rather than trading for an outfielder?” Yep, that was it. Sure, I was sad to see Morlan go, and rather pleased to see an outfielder who could hit for power coming over. Especially one that was heralded as an “excellent defensive outfielder with an extremely strong arm.” I’ll refrain from linking to who said that one, because I don’t believe in cruel and unusual punishment.

Prior to the Twins trading for him, the only time I had really heard of Young, other than having a casual awareness of his rookie-of-the year runner-up season, was due to his longstanding behavioral problems. In AA he once was suspended for three games for bumping an umpire.  The icing on the suspension cake (mmmmm, cake) occurred when he was playing in AAA Durham. ‘elmon was struck out on a called third strike, and hung around to argue it. So the umpire ejected him. On his way to the dugout, Young turned around and threw his bat at the umpire; it hit him on the chest. The next day, ‘elmon said, through his agent, that he didn’t actually mean to hit the umpire with the bat. Somehow, that didn’t satisfy the International League authorities, and he was suspended indefinitely, which was later reduced to 50 games. The whole affair was caught on video, which, if I did the embed thing right, is located below.

The incident was enough to prompt the famous (and retired) BatGirl to create a Lego story about his arrival in Minnesota (by the way, running a google search for “bat girl” returns several extremely frightening results). Young continued his behavioral problems with the Rays in 2006 and 2007, and managed to wear out his welcome in just over one season in the bigs: he made nearly all his teammates in Tampa Bay hate him both on and off the field. However, he hit a bunch of homers, and projected to hit more in the future, which was enough to make the Twins want/need him. However, the behavioral problems did not go away once he arrived in the Twins organization. Multiple sources reported that he was refusing to take any guidance from the Twins’ coaching staff and would only listen to his father’s hitting advice. He apparently was aggravating the other outfielders due to his reluctance to chase down balls hit into the gaps and balls that were foul but in play. Of course, that turns out to be caused mostly by the fact that he was unable to run at any decent clip.

So, how good on defense was this “excellent defensive outfielder with an extremely strong arm?” Well, terrible. His UZR for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (they hadn’t yet changed their name) was -7.5, which is bad, but not epically bad. His next seasons were epically bad, though, as he turned in a -19.5 UZR in 2008 (in 152 games) and a -14.4 UZR in 108 games in 2008, which works out to a UZR/150 of -22.9. True, his arm was strong, but he never got to the ball, so what did we, the fans, care if he actually threw it? He made a total of 15 outfield assists in those two years. He couldn’t range forward or backward, and God help us all if he had to dive for it. He somehow managed to give Prince Fielder his first inside-the-park home run after diving for and missing the ball, badly (sorry for no video, MLB took down all the copies I could find). This lack of “D” (defense) is why, when I write out his name, I write it ‘elmon. See? No D. (This is borrowed from the fine fellows over at The WGOM).

His bat has somehow been very bad, while being good. He hit .290 and .284 his first two seasons with the Twins, and looks to be doing something similar this season. He has not been fast, as he stole 14 bases in 2008, and only two last season. His on-base percentage has been lacking, as he has struck out five times for every walk. So, let’s look at some graphs, shall we? This is all from the fine folks at Fangraphs. The first graph is of Delmon’s batting average over time.

It’s clearly trending downwards, though it is still above average (barely). Hopefully it rebounds. Graph 2: on-base percentage (just for kicks, compared to Mauer, Mr. OBP, and Cuddyer).

Below average, which is a trick, given that his batting average has been above average. It comes from all those strikeouts and so few walks. Graph 3: BB%.

Not so great, except for this season, which we can (probably) expect to revert to the mean.

So, what’s the takeaway from this overly long look at ‘elmon? Well, it’s tough to say, at least for someone as statistically inept as I am. However it’s worth noting that Delmon is still very young. He has had a lot of attitude and behavioral problems, but those seem to be working themselves out as he’s grown up. Last year, he was forced to deal with an event no one should have to deal with: the death of his mother from cancer. Then, at the end of the season, he turned it on and started performing much better. He lost 30 lbs over the off-season, which I think has sent a message to a lot of people, myself included: he does care. It’s an acknowledgment of the problems he’s had, and there has been a real change this season. He’s running out ground balls (and beating some out, now that he’s lighter and faster). He’s getting to more balls in the outfield (and still looking ugly while he’s doing it).

But I think I have more hope for ‘elmon than I did last year. When he lost the weight, it seems he also lost the attitude, which seemed to have been weighing him down more than the weight itself was. He has, I think for the first time, a real shot to NOT go the same direction that his brother, Dimitri, famously took, or that Milton Bradley seems dead set on taking now. I think he just might make it. And if he does, he still might just make that trade look pretty damn skippy.

(Follow me on Twitter at @calltothepen, and while you’re there, check out the tag for Delmon Young day: #DelmonYoungDay to see what else has been written).

Important Game #6: Slowey Out for the Year

(Note: I’ll be posting several articles that I had partially written since Friday but didn’t have time to finish. Please check back often for the rest! As, always, I’ll be tweeting @calltothepen. Follow me there or subscribe to my posts using the button on the sidebar!)

Here’s a quick refresher about the series:

Basically, the premise of the series is that certain games have an effect that is far greater than their mere impact on the win-loss column. These games are mentally and physically definitive of a season, and before the new season begins, by looking back and remembering and feeling the emotions of last season one more time, we can understand what happened, what went wrong, and most importantly, what went right. So, climb aboard the side-burn express, and keep your hands, arms, feet, heads, and all other extremities inside the vehicles at all times as we embark on one final excursion through the highs and lows of last season.

Courtesy MLB.com

July 3rd: Twins lose in extras 11-9, then suffer a far worse loss the next day.

This is the only one of the games in on the list that are important, not only for what happened in the game itself, but from news that blossomed based on a seed planted during the game. This was, as the title implies the final game of 2009 that was pitched by our erstwhile and potential ace, Kevin Slowey. But more about that in a little while. First, a discussion of the Important game itself.

The 2009 Twins were perhaps the most hot-and-cold team I can remember following. They would seemingly go for weeks at a time without a quality start from their pitchers (quality = good, not the meaningless counting stat), then turn it on and win a bunch in a row. Overall, the offense was somehow acceptable, despite the fact that their obscenely high batting average w/ runners in scoring position in 2008 came back down to earth, and they did it with barely a warm body in the second position in the batting order. The batting average, OBP, and SLG% was the worst of all the second hitters in the majors. However, as good as the offense was on the season, the pitching staff was shaky from the start, in large part stemming from some extremely poor personnel management.

For whatever odd reason, the Twins broke camp with Luis Ayala. Ayala is a topic for another day and possibly his own post, but suffice to say I can’t fathom why the Twins signed a sinkerballer whose fastballs have never really sunk to be middle-relief/low-leverage setup guy when he thought he was signing a contract for high-lev setup or closing if Joe Nathan went down. So, Ayala wasted a roster spot for three months. The Twins also brought Phil Humber north, perhaps hoping beyond hope that he would be able to contribute better at the MLB level than he had in Rochester. He didn’t, and was released April 17 to make space for Juan Morillo, who spent all of a week or so in the majors before being sent to the minors and eventually going to Japan. R.A. Dickey also came to Minny, and proved to be valuable, if uber-hittable. He also was released eventually. The trend continued all year: rather than trading or doing anything to get a serviceable relief pitcher (up until the Jon Rauch trade and the Ron Mahay signing), the Twins acted incredibly stupid. The Twins lost Craig Breslow, perhaps the greatest unheralded hero of the 2008 squad, to waivers because they were impatient with his good-but-not-as-steller-as-last-year numbers, only to bring up Sean Henn. Face it. Stupid moves abounded. More on this in another post later this week.

But the biggest problem was the starters, three of the five of which regressed significantly. Kevin Slowey was on pace to win 20 games before he was lost for the season (see below), but his peripherals were not-so-sparkling. Scott “Timmy” Baker started the season hurt, then lost six straight. Francisco Liriano lost the ability to handle the strike zone. Glen Perkins started brilliant, then came down with a phantom-like, mysterious shoulder injury that no one but him could locate. Only Nick Blackburn was rock-steady, with a nearly identical season to 2008. This forced the Twins to rely on a hodge-podge of Dickey, Armando Gabino, Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing, and Jeff Manship to start fourth-and-fifth games. Duensing even had the honor of being murdered by the Yankees in the first game of the playoffs. Anyway, the whole idea I’m trying to put out here is how bad a shape the starting staff was last year.

Inge hit by a pitch to the jersey. Deja Vu much? Image Courtesy MLB.com

The game on July 3rd started out disastrously. Kevin Slowey gave up six runs in the first three innings, before he was removed due to soreness in his wrist. Brian Duensing came in and made a valiant effort to hold the line, going 3.2 innings, giving up just one run. The Twins offense did their best to back up the Twins starter, and managed to tie the game at 7 based on a run each in the third and fourth innings before exploding for five in the sixth. The Twins brought in Bobby Keppel to keep it tied when Duensing indicated that his arm was about to fall off, and, somewhat surprisingly, he continued his scoreless streak with 1 1/3 inning. He was followed by perfect outings from Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, and Jose Mijares, all of whom pitched scoreless innings (or two). The Tigers and Twins matched runs in the 14th. At this point, the game felt just slightly epic. I wondered if the game would ever be over.

Brendan Harris hits a triple, his only hit. Image Courtesy MLB.com

Offensively, the heroes included Denard Span, who was 5 for 8 with a triple, a run scored, and an RBI, Joe Mauer, who was 2 for 6 with a walk and an RBI, Delmon Young, who was 3 for 6 with his third home run of the season, Michael Cuddyer, who was 3 for 8 w/ 2 RBI, and Justin Morneau went 3 for 7 with a walk and an RBI. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Carlos Gomez, Matt Tolbert, Brian Buscher, and Nick Punto went a combined 0 for 9, with 2 walks (both by Punto).

Pitching a game that lasts 16 innings can be tough, but it becomes excruciating when the starter leaves after 3 innings. Dickey was the last available pitcher of the night, and I think he was literally in the game until his arm fell off or Michael Cuddyer was able to convince Gardy that his sinker was good enough to get outs. Unfortunately, the Twins offense wasn’t able to win the game in any of the preceding 6 extra innings, and the Tigers mauled Dickey for three runs in the top of the 16th. The Twins’ comeback fell short, and they fell back to 2.5 games behind the Tigers in the Central.

As hard as the loss was to bear, the next day the Twins got even worse news: that Kevin Slowey would be heading to the disabled list. Though Slowey had had some rough times, when he was on, he had been arguably the best pitcher on the Twins the past two seasons. He was originally put on the DL for a “strained wrist”; the hope was that he’d be back in a few weeks. Unfortunately, the wrist never felt better, and it was eventually discovered that he had a broken wrist, and probably had since being struck by a line drive off the bat of Juan Uribe in his final start of 2008. He had surgery and ended with two pins in his wrist, which even at the beginning of this season were still causing him grief. For it’s ability to impact the Twins even this year, July 3rd joins the countdown as Important Game #6.

Important Game #7: Scott Baker is Epic

Here’s a quick refresher:

Basically, the premise of the series is that certain games have an effect that is far greater than their mere impact on the win-loss column. These games are mentally and physically definitive of a season, and before the new season begins, by looking back and remembering and feeling the emotions of last season one more time, we can understand what happened, what went wrong, and most importantly, what went right. So, climb aboard the side-burn express, and keep your hands, arms, feet, heads, and all other extremities inside the vehicles at all times as we embark on one final excursion through the highs and lows of last season.

Scott Baker Delivers

Courtesy MLB.com

August 14: Twins Offense Erupts in Baker’s Gem, 11-0

There is an old adage that one game a season does not make. Pull out the Yoda-rific inverse sentence construction, and you have a truism to end all baseball truisms. I went to several Nationals games last year (because apparently I like to be punished). Two of them were against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now, one of my best friends is from Arizona. We’ll call him RL. RL LOVES the Diamondbacks. During the season, he does lives and breathes the D-Backs. So when he found out that they would be in DC for a three-game weekend series, he wanted to go. I just like watching baseball, so of course I was in. We went to all three of the games.

As a matter of pure baseball, the games were abominations. If there is a just and loving God, He apparently fell asleep when he was shaping the course of these three games. Or else He is really, really mean to me. Two of the games had 24 hits or more. Two of them involved more than ten runs. All of them had extremely horrible pitching. All of them had horrible fielding, although it seemed like the umpires had simply given up on calling errors. All of them had horrible baserunning. And, let’s not forget the fact that these were games between arguably the worst two teams in the majors last year.

But at the same time, there was something sublimely beautiful about them. Watching Adam Dunn lumber after an overthrown ball while the nearly-empty stands sit in silence. Seeing Chris Young run in on a fly ball, only to have it fall ten yards behind him. Feeling the disbelief when Christian Guzman take off to steal second base on the most obvious pitch-out I’ve ever seen. Feeling even more disbelief when he did the same thing a few innings later only to beat out the throw because Montero, at least in my imagination, simply couldn’t believe he’d try to take second on another obvious pitch-out. The sheer ineptitude of the two teams, by the third game, had sunk in so deeply that, by the end of it, Washington didn’t seem like such a bad team. Based on those three games, it seemed like they would have a worthwhile season.

Of course, the Nationals lost 103 games last year, the D-backs lost 92. The games I saw certainly did not make the Nationals’ season.

Also Courtesy MLB.com

The point of that long digression is, of course, that to someone watching Important Game #8, the season would have seemed sewn up. The bats clicked, the defense clicked, and by God, Scott Baker was DOMINANT. In his complete game shut-out, he only needed 94 pitches to destroy the somewhat-pathetic Indians, with five strike-outs and only two hits. He did not walk a single person. This was good enough for a Bill James Game Score of 88, the highest on the Twins last year, and the highest for the team since Kevin Slowey threw an 89-Game Score game in 2008. Baker looked like an ace. I know few people will call him that on a regular basis, but he certainly looked the part during this game.

And even better, the offense woke up to take it home! Since the All-Star Break, the team was 10-15, falling even further back of the Tigers. A great deal of this was due, as always to zero production from the 2-hole prior to the O-Cab trade and the continuing insistence of Gardenhire to put two of Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, and Alexi Casilla in nearly every game. Poor Brendan Harris. But Joe Crede started this game, and Casilla started at 2B.

Also Courtesy MLB.com

The offense in this game reacted to Baker’s excellence by putting on a show of their own. Jason Kubel proved that the Dude indeed abides, putting up 5 RBI on three hits (one that left the yard). Casilla had 2 hits and an RBI. Joe Mauer had three singles, walked twice, scored two runs and drove in two more. Mountie dominated, with two hits, two runs, and two RBI. The game was a blast to watch.

But lets be honest. The Twins pitching was in a huge rut. Glen Perkins was sort-of-kind-of-we-can’t-decide-hurt and Francisco Liriano was doing his best to work his way out of the rotation. Slowey was gone. Nick Blackburn was in the midst of his worst stretch of the season. The bull-pen was far from lock-down, even after ridding themselves of Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey, Luis Ayala, and whats-his-face that could throw 103.

See? EPIC!

But for one shining night, the Twins looked like they had what it took. Sure, it involved completely removing the bullpen from the picture and scoring 11 runs, but I think at that moment, everyone watching the game thought to themselves, “hey, we might actually have a shot at this!” And Scott Baker was indeed epic.

Lets talk about love / the bullpen

The Twins’ bullpen has been long lamented by me and many others that write on the interwebs. Most of them are better at statistics than me, which is why I generally shy away from using advanced statistics to make predictions or to analyze the past performance of a pitcher. If you want someone to use stats, try here or here or here.

My place in the storied (yeah, right) history of the Twins blogosphere is to point out what should be obvious, and thus waste everyone’s time. Hence today’s observation:

The bullpen kinda, sorta stinks.

Yeah, yeah. I know, don’t let all your jaws hit the floor in unison. This is the kind of observation that I get (not) paid for. No compliments, it’s what I do.

However, it’s true. The Twins have now lost 12 games with their bullpen, which is fifth worst in the league (there are three teams tied at 13).Their ERA is 4.19, which isn’t bad, except when you think about how many extra runs the starters have absorbed because of the bullpen’s ability to strand. They have been, in short, really bad.

However, the bullpen has only had to throw 197.1 innings, which is fourth-fewest, and in my opinion, fourth best, in the AL. (just as an fyi, I use the AL as a measuring stick because NL rules lead to a very different role for the bullpen from time to time). The starters have done a good job of eating innings, which is pretty impressive, given the poor records of Scott Baker, and, especially, Francisco Liriano. As  a matter of fact, the Twins starters have thrown the most innings in the AL (and are only 1/3 inning behind St. Louis for the overall lead) at 429.1 innings.

The bullpen’s ERA is better than the starters, mostly thanks to disastrous outings by Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins, and Scott Baker in April (4.19 to 4.55). However, the bullpen ERA is helped by incredibly low numbers put up by Joe Nathan, Jose Mijares, R.A. Dickey (as a reliever), and Matt Guerrier (at 1.69, 2.57, 2.14, and 2.84, respectively). The numbers then jump up by more than a full run to 4.18 (Luis Ayala, may he rest in peace), 6.00 (Brian Duensing, in AAA), 6.28 (Craig Breslow, may he enjoy the yellow and green in Oakland), 7.36 (Sean Henn, who for some reason is still with the team), 8.15 (Jesse Crain, in AAA), 12.46 (Phil Humber, may he rest in peace), and 22.50 (Juan Morillo, in AAA). (Note: I know ERA is bad as a measure, but I don’t do advanced stats, so there we go).

Ouch. So, pretty much what we can conclude from this is that the four anchors of the bullpen have been great most (or all) of the season, and especially lately. However, the rest have been wretched. Ironically, yesterday the Twins got rid of the best of the worst when they dfa’d Ayala, for doing basically what the Twins should have expected him to do from the time they signed him, as Aaron Gleeman pointed out this morning. They basically switched him for Bobby Keppel, who should take up the mantle as yet another mediocre righty in the ‘Pen.

Despite the obvious problems with the bullpen, though, there is no reason the bullpen can’t be a reason the Twins will succeed, rather than  something they have to overcome to succeed. The four studs are more than capable of mixing and matching to take the eighth and ninth innings and the seventh if necessary. However, the Twins have no semi-effective mop-up guy, or a guy that could throw multiple innings other than Dickey, who should really be placed in higher-leverage situations.

However, the starters might be in line to need more time off. Nick Blackburn is on track to throw 212 innings, and he, Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Liriano are all on track to throw career highs in total innings (Perkins would be too if he hadn’t been on the DL). The starting staff will tire and will likely start to break down a bit, which means that we need middle relief that actually works. Unfortunately, no one but Dickey has been adequate in that role, and he will likely be placed in higher leverage situations because he has been so good to this point. Henn needs to stay out of situations where there is less than a four run lead or a six-run deficit, but that isn’t going to be an option if middle relief is needed. Keppel hardly inspires confidence, as he seems like a cheaper and probably less effective Ayala.

So, what about Glen Perkins? He has been rather ineffective as a whole as a starter this year, though he has had flashes of brilliance. What if he was sent to the ‘Pen to be the long-reliever? I don’t doubt he would be really good in that role. Lacking that, maybe Swarzak could come back to fill that role; he did quite well in two of four outings as a starter, but maybe he’d do better only seeing each hitter once.

So, note to Bill Smith: we don’t need Huston Street, and we really don’t need LaTroy Hawkins. We need a Brad Penny. Or, barring that, we need fewer mediocre minor league free agents.

Important Games #8 – September 23 (Twins win, 9-3)

I had a hard time ranking the games at the end of the season that really determined the Twins’ fate? Sure, it would make sense for the top seven games to all be in the Twins-Sox series and the Twins-Royals series, plus the tiebreaker. However, I decided that not only would it be boring, it would be self-defeating. There were many more important days in the 2008 season, and for different reasons. There were also a lot of really dramatic games that really weren’t that important in the long run. I mean, remember that KC game where Delmon Young did his best to lose the game on an attempted foot-first sliding catch that ended in an inside-the-parker? And then the Twins came back to win it? That was really dramatic game, and one of the worst to watch (at least, after the seventh inning, but it really wasn’t important, other than reinforcing that Delmon Young couldn’t field.

And what about games that resulted in players getting cut? I could pull out the last game where Livan pitched or Monroe hit before they were cut August first, but those games weren’t very important overall (I made a big deal about Rincon’s last game, but that game was important in and of itself). I could talk about either of the games where Lamb or Everett were cut. Again, not important. Brian Bass also sucked, but he was cut after another game that may or not make an appearance on the countdown.

This is not one of those games. By this time, the Twins roster was established, for better or for worse. This is the first of that momentous series against the ChiSox.

Box Scores and summary after the break. Continue reading

Missed Week Edition

Man, what a busy two weeks, no?! Spring training games started (well, a little more than a week ago), we saw Joe Crede in the field (I use “we” in a figurative sense, since none of the games he as played in have been on TV), we lost Boooof indefinitely, we didn’t sign Juan Cruz, someone else did, and much, much more. Let’s go through some of the action.

  • Juan Cruz ended up falling through the cracks, as the Twins apparently offered him something (typically) ridiculous. What do I mean by ridiculous? I mean they offered him a 1-year, 2 million dollar deal (sorry, can’t find the link for that, but I clearly remember reading it). In all honesty, that’s just rubbing his nose in the fact that he, a Type A free agent, had yet to be signed. That said, I guess the Twins might have been hedging their bets, since it likely would have cost them a bit to trade for him in the “trade” portion of the “sign-and-trade” portion of the deal.
  • The NEXT day, the Royals signed Juan Cruz. This wasn’t a sign and trade, just a sign. However, the Royals had their first round pick protected because it was #12, and the top 15 are protected. They lose their second round pick to the D-Backs. Ummm… sorry, but I don’t know where the Royals get off thinking they are planning to compete this year. They are just the cellar-dwe– Oh, they might be better this year? Oh. My bad. In all honesty, the rather intense back end of the bullpen that the Royals have (Farnsworth, Cruz, and Soria) is the best in the division, possibly the best in baseball. Now all they have to do is get a lead occasionally to get to those guys.
  • This brings the D-Backs to SEVEN (!!) picks in the first two rounds and the sandwich supplemental round this year. Had they offered arbitration to Adam Dunn, it would have been NINE. Note to D-Backs: he didn’t want to sign. He thought he was going to get rich. Poor planning on your part.
  • Manny signed… really don’t care.
  • A-Rod is out for the first month (at least) of the season. Longer, if he has the torn labrum repaired. Didn’t Mike Lowell have a torn hib labrum last year? Maybe someone reading this will know. (Or was it J.D. Drew? I thought he had a back issue, but…). Due to his general ickiness, I don’t really feel sorry for him, despite the fact that I don’t care about any potential steroid usage. This likely doesn’t affect the Twins in the slightest, as they don’t play the Yanks until May 15, and A-Rod should be over the shoulder by then.
  • Speaking of A-Rod, I lived in Oregon, which is Mariners country, when he debuted with the M’s. The announcers gushed about how awesome he was and how great his future career would be. Nice that people are right occasionally. A-Rod will be in the Hall someday, and I can think back to that debut.
  • So… how ’bout Perk? I have to say, the best story coming out of ST for me so far is the dominance of Perkins, who everyone seemed to think was the weak link in the rotation (minus a couple people that thought Blackburn would be the weakest). So far, Perk has thrown nine innings, and has not allowed a run, for a 2-0 record, with 5 Ks and a 0.88 WHIP. Since he has generally pitched the beginning of games, he has been facing the starters of the other teams, and has been nothing short of impressive. Today, he threw his first three innings in 31 pitches. It was beautiful. Or, it sounded beautiful on the radio.
  • Baker and Liriano both started out badly, but rebounded in their last start. Slowey has not yet given up a hit or a walk in five innings with 3 Ks. Blackburn also looked good in his first start, but then was skipped due to soreness in his surgically-repaired knee.
  • I think the only thing I can say about Nathan pulling out of the WBC is that is sore shoulder seems to have been a convenient excuse. While every blogger and fan threw up a little in their mouth upon hearing he had shoulder soreness, but it turned out he was laughing up his sleeve the whole time; as a bullpen session the next day yielded a non-sore shoulder.
  • Ditto Johan.
  • Corey Koskie got picked up by the Cubs on a minor league contract. They hope he can back up Third, First, and the outfield if necessary. I read that there were Cubs scouts at Hammond Stadium, and got excited for a trade, but then this happened, and I was pleased for Koskie, but sad for us. But then again, is there anything the Cubs have that we would be willing to go get?
  • Humber has been wretched. Jason Jones has been hit-or-miss. These are the two guys that needed to prove themselves the most, and they haven’t stepped up. If Humber doesn’t make the team out of spring break, he will be claimed off waivers. I don’t think there is room for him on the Twins, especially if he keeps Mijares or Dickey of the Major League club, but I hope he can stick with another team. I imagine Jones will be a starter at Rochester, after the Twins offer him back to the Yankees and the Yankees take some kind of marginal prospect in exchange for allowing us to keep Jones.
  • Where does this leave the opening day ‘pen, at least to me? I see something like this: Nathan (closer), Crain (set-up), Ayala, Guerrier (middle/mop-up), Breslow (LOOGY), Mijares (LOOGY/set-up). That is for an 11-man staff, something I view as a dim possibility, though I would like to see it. When the Twins abandon that good idea, they will add either Humber or Dickey to be the long-reliever; I am pushing for Dickey, myself. I love the idea of going from a power pitcher (well, sort of) like Liriano for six innings, then to Dickey for two innings, and then to Nathan for the ninth. Call it a pipe dream. I also just really like Knuckleballers.

I am planning on starting a new project over the weekend: a review of the most important games of 2008. Here’s the plan: I’ll watch a game every few days, and then I’ll recap it and give it’s importance in the Twins’ overall season. I am starting with what I view as the tenth most important game (as I see it): Sunday June 8. That was the second to last game of that devastating 4-game series against the White Sox. Final Score – 12-2.

I also hope to have thoughts on the WBC up soon. I’ll do my best on that one.

Also, I wanted to thank everybody for their good wishes during my paper weeks the last 2-3 weeks. I finished the paper; 32 pages on the theories of social obligation that underlie the law. It almost killed me, but now I’m pretty darn proud of it. Thanks again.

edo

Worst. Inning. Ever.

So. The third inning was arguably the ugliest defensive inning of the season for the Twins. No errors show up on the box score, but there were at least three judgment calls for the official scorer.

  1. Brendan Harris – had a slow line drive hit almost right at him… and let it roll out of his glove. No chance at throwing out Ichiro.
  2. Next play: line drive to shallow left field. Young lumbered forward and dove, feetfirst, for the ball, which  bounced in front of him. It was the ugliest thing I have seen in a Twins uniform in at least two years.
  3. The next batter hit a first-pitch 2-run homer off Scott Baker.
  4. Then there was a little one-hopper to Harris, who made the easy play at first.
  5. Then it was a ground ball to Buscher, who took it off the heel of his glove. It went straight up, and he had NO IDEA where it went… it ended up dropping about a foot and a half from his right foot.

By the end of the inning, the M’s had scored four runs and led 4-2. Let’s hope the rest of the game works out better.

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