Posted on: July 13, 2009 7:21 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2009 11:55 pm
 

Mid-Season Report Cards

Minnesota Twins Mid-Season Report Cards

By: Christopher Torola

The GREAT:

Catcher: Joe Mauer - Games - 64, BA. - .373, R - 49, HR - 15, RBI - 49, SB - 1 

Not only has Joe Mauer been the the teams MVP, he should be on the short list for MLB's MVP award this year. After missing the first month of the season, he has put up amazing numbers. Most notably, his increased power. Given he has one of the best swings in baseball the jump in power does not seem to be taking away from his MLB leading batting average, which if he maintains, will be his 3rd batting title in just 4 years. Add his amazing hitting numbers with his Gold Glove caliber defense behind the plate and we have an overall grade of: A+.

1st Base: Justin Morneau - Games - 88, BA. - .311, R - 59, HR - 21, RBI - 70, SB - 0

Justin is the Twins' other candidate for both the team's and the American League MVP. He has managed to increase his power numbers while also increasing his batting average. Hitting behind Joe Mauer and Denard Span has really helped Justin's RBI numbers as well, as he is on pace for 130 RBIs, a number that should increase being that both Mauer and Span missed significant time in the first half. Maybe the most under-rated part of Justin's game is his steadily increasing defense. He has only one error at 1st this year and plays in almost every game. Although he was not voted to start at 1st in the All-Star game by the "fans", I tend to agree with the players that voted him number 1 at first base, and strongly beleivethat Justin is the AL's best first base men, not an easy task with the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, and Kevin Youkilis in the field. Overall grade of : A+.

Closer: Joe Nathan - Innings Pitched - 34 1/3, Wins - 1, Loss - 1, ERA - 1.31, Saves - 23, Ks - 43

Joe Nathan has been one of the, if not the most reliable, closers in all of baseball since taking over the job for the Twins. This year is no exception. Before last year most followers of the Twins, myself included, thought that we would lose Nathan along with Johan Santana and Torii Hunter. When the Twins resigned Nathan to a multi-year deal, they may have made the biggest impact signing of the three. He continues to do an amazing job slamming the door shut in the final inning for the Twins. Overall grade: A+.

The GOOD:

Starting Pitcher: Kevin Slowey - Innings Pitched - 90 2/3, Wins - 10, Loss - 3, ERA - 4.86, Walks - 15, Ks -75

Despite average numbers, Slowey has been able to accumulate an amazing win/loss record. He is 10 - 3 which is tied for 3rd best in the American League with Roy Halladay and Jered Weaver. In the mold of Twins pitchers Slowey has excellent control, averaging one walk every six innings. Although currently on the disabled list, he should be back shortly. His overall grade: A-.

Starting Pitcher: Nick Blackburn - Innings Pitched - 123 1/3, Wins - 8, Loss - 4, ERA - 3.06, Walks - 29, Ks -54

Although Blackburn's record is slightly behind Kevin Slowey, he have been the better pitcher up to this point. He has the teams best ERA, 6th best for starters in the American League. He has been able to go late into games, saving on the bullpen. 15 -17 wins is not out of the question is he continues to command his dominating sinker ball. Overall Grade: B+.

Outfielder: Denard Span - Games - 73, BA. - .292, R - 50, HR - 5, RBI - 31, SB - 16

Span has been the lead off hitter that the Twins have been missing for so many years. He has excellent plate discipline taking many pitches per at bat. In doing so he reaches base at a good clip, as seen by his .387 on base percentage. He also, has speed on the base paths and is leading the team in stolen bases. Pair is excellent stick work with his ability to play all outfield positions with great range and a strong arm, and Denard's overall grade: B+.

Left Fielder/DH: Jason Kubel - Games - 77, BA. - .311, R - 38, HR - 14, RBI - 45, SB - 0

 Kubel has finally stepped up with his bat, proving that he can be the Twins everyday designated hitter. He will likely never be better then adequate in the field since early career knee surgery, his bat has kept him in the line up in most games. He will spell players at left field from time to time but is best served as a masher. He definitely has his splits vs. right and left-handed pitchers, hitting under .200 against leftys with no home runs. Against rightys, on the other hand, he is hitting .351 with 14 long balls,  16 doubles, and 1 triple. Overall grade: B

Right Fielder: Michael Cuddyer - Games - 82, BA. - .273, R - 50, HR - 14, RBI - 47, SB - 4

The biggest step forward for Cuddyer this year may be that he is actually playing. Last year seemed to be a series of fluke injuries for the Twins right fielder. After a slow start, he has been on fire at the plate. He also expertly play's the Metrodome's baggy in right field. With his strong and accurate  arm most opponents have learned not to even try take the extra base on him. Overall grade: B.

The current Twins bull pen: Wins - 5, Loss - 2

The bullpen currently consists of Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, Bobby Keppel, Brian Duensing, and R.A. Dickey. Guerrier had been great as a set up man this year. Dickey was able to completely save the teams bullpen pitching in both long relief as well as high pressure close game situations. Mijares has been the Twins left handed specialist. Keppel has been great since coming to the Twins, while Duensing is still to fresh to call. The bullpen as a whole has seen its ups and downs, but the crew currently holding down the fort gets an overall grade of: B-.

3rd Base: Joe Crede - Games - 68, BA. - .234, R - 32, HR - 14, RBI - 40, SB - 0

Crede does not hit for average. He also misses a lot of games due to his back problems. I guess it is good that we knew that when he was signed. He does hit for power, and is top of the line at defending the hot corner. If i were grading him compared to what the Twins have had recently at 3rd, his grade would be much higher. As is, overall grade: C+.

The BAD:

The rest of the Rotation. Scott Baker - 7-7 5.24 era, Fransisco Liriano 4 - 9 5.47 era, and Glen Perkins 4 - 5 4.71 era.

None have wining records. Baker and Liriano were expected to be the 1-2 punch in the rotation. Both have started to pick their games up but will need to improve for the Twins to see the post season. Perkins has been about as good as should be expected for a #5 pitcher. Overall Grade: C.

The UGLY:

Shortstop : Brendan Harris - Games - 76, BA - .275, R - 30, HR - 5, RBI - 26, SB - 0

Harris has had the ability to ride out a couple hot streaks this season, but has also had extended slumps. He is forced to hit in the 2 hole in the line up, but would be better suited as an 8 or 9 hitter. He has a strong arm at short, but is lacking in range. Overall grade : D+.

2nd Base: Nick Punto - Games - 63, BA - .201, R - 26, HR - 0, RBI - 16, SB - 8

While never know for his bat, Punto is barely holding a .200 batting average, which is pathetic for a major league baseball player. He has great defense, and can make many highlight reel stops, but I would argue that his batting short comings outweigh his defensive prowess. Overall grade: D.

Center Fielder: Carlos Gomez - Games - 77, BA - .235, R - 28, HR - 2, RBI - 18, SB - 7

The Twins would love to be able to go 1-2 with Denard Span and Carlos Gomez, but until Gomez learns some plate disipline, he will continue to be relegated to splitting time in the OF with Kubel and Young. A large number of Gomez's games have been as a defensive replacment, so although he has 77 games, he has only 187 at bats. Carlos Gomez has the raw talent, but until he learns how to be a major league hitter, he will continue to be below average. His defense on the other hand is amazing. His year to date grade is low, but should improve as he gets more at bats. Overall Grade: D.

Left Fielder: Delmon Young - Games - 56, BA - .266,  R - 20, HR - 3, RBI - 25, SB - 2

Delmon has seemed lost at the plate since joining the Twins. His power has virtually disappeared. He has been swinging at the first pitch seemingly more often then not. He is still very young and has plenty of talent, but lacks the defensive skill of Carlos Gomez, which will continue to cause him to split at bats with Gomez against left handed pitching. He has not lived up to expectations since being traded for Matt Garza. With more time Young should improve, but I would be very surprised were it to happen this year. Overall Grade: D-.

Posted on: July 10, 2009 3:01 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2009 7:35 pm
 

My Top 10 Quarterbacks going into 2009.

Top 10 QBs

By: Christopher Torola


 Drew Brees - Is the NFL's answer to the spread offense. Last year he threw for over 5,000 yards and connected for 34 touchdowns. Since arriving in New Orleans it has seemed that Brees and head coach Sean Payton have been completely on the same page. This year Brees should also have a healthy Marques Colston and a full off-season to work with tight end Jeremy Shockey. Combine that with an O-line that only allowed 13 sacks in almost 650 passing attempts along with the fact that his running back, Reggie Bush, is a better weapon catching the ball than he is rushing it and you end up with the NFL's top QB heading into the 2009 season.


Peyton Manning - is always at or near the top of current QB lists. His ability to dissect defenses at the line mixed with a strong arm and the sure hands of Reggie Wayne, along with blossoming new comer Anthony Gonzalez, make Peyton my number two QB for this year. He is several years removed from his 40 touchdown days, but still has one of the best O-lines, is another year removed from his surgery, and what has to be an improved running game will only help his passing numbers this year.

Philip Rivers - Broke the 4,000 yard mark for the first time last year. As LaDainian Tomlinson declines, Rivers has begun to take the reigns as the team leader. AT 27 he is still a young QB. He has a great competitive drive that may come off as cocky, but he is developing a game to go with it. He led the NFL in passing touchdowns last year totaling 34. The only concerns here are that uber-tight end Antonio Gates is another year older, Vincent Jackson doesn't have the surest hands, and Chris Chambers hasn't really lived up to expectations... but that, like his unorthodox throwing style, hasn't stopped Rivers yet.


Kurt Warner - is another year older, but does that really matter when you are tossing the ball to the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin? Last year he proved that he could still throw for 4,500 plus yards and 30 touchdowns, and all that was done with no running game to speak of. He got his team almost as deep into the play-offs as possible. He is likely to start performing at a lower rate some day, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise.

Ben Roethlisberger - Has never had amazing numbers, but did throw 32 TD's in 2007. He also just won his 2nd Super Bowl and is only 27 years old. He is as clutch as they get, thats right Brady. He may also be the games best playmaking QB. As a big man he is able to keep plays alive much longer then they should be. Team that with a rocket launcher arm the the ermgence of Santonio Holmes and you have Big Ben, number 6 on my QB list.

Tom Brady - Although some may think me crazy for putting him this low on the list, I had a hard time putting him this high. He is coming off of a serious knee surgery, and was already not very mobile. It may also take him some time to recover his throwing strength and rhythm.  That being said, he still has Randy Moss and Wes Welker to catch the ball. He has always made good reads, and he knows how to win. I doubt he will ever throw 50 again, and i can almost guarantee he won't hit 40 this year, but his history is too good to place him any less then 6th on my list.

Donovan McNabb - Has consistently been one of the NFL's best passer. He has also consistently been hurt. He has also consistently had little talent at the wide receiver position since the infamous departure of Terrell Owens. He made it to the 2nd round of the play-offs last year with the help of always steady Brian Westbrook and new comer DeSean Jackson. As long as Westbrook continues to catch the ball out of the backfield, Mr. Chunky Soup will remain a top flight QB.


A Healthy Brett Favre as a Minnesota Viking. This may be the Viking homer in me, but I am basing this off a few things. If he plays for the Vikings, that means his surgery was a success. When healthy last year with the Jets he still looked like a top QB. The year before he took the Packers to the NFC championship game. Playing for the Vikings he would be souronded by talent in a great O-line, Bernard Berrian, emerging tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and rookie play-maker Percy Harvin. Combine those players with the NFL's most explosive running back, Adrian Peterson, and Vikings receivers should see a lot of single coverage. Put all that together and old number 4 comes in at number 8 on my list... and that is only because he may not actually play.


Aaron Rodgers - had a few extra years of study behind Favre and in his first season as the starter, it has seemed to pay off. He threw for over 4,000 yards and connected for 28 TDs. He also ran for 4 more. If he improves his red zone offense he could be a force to be reckoned with. I still feel he is at least a year or two away from becoming one of the top passers. In all fairness, I despise the Packers and had a hard time including Rodgers on my list, so he may be lower then he should be.



The number 10 spot falls to Tony Romo. It may just have been an off year where he missed a few games due to injury, but he also lost his best receiver in Terrell Owens. Some say the Owens loss is a good thing, but look what has happened to other QBs the years following his departure. Romo did get Roy Williams, but he has never been T.O. That leaves Jason Witten as Romo's top target, and eventually opposing defenses will learn to double team him. I would have ranked Romo higher, but he always has a second half crash, and until he can prove he can handle the pressure, he will stay in my top 10, just towards the bottom of it.
Posted on: July 9, 2009 7:03 pm
Edited on: July 9, 2009 7:09 pm
 

Thank GOD that's over.

Twins limp away from their series with the Yankees.

By: Christopher Torola

The saddest part about this series, other than the Twins failing to win even one game against the Yankees this year, is it seemed like the Yankees weren't really trying that hard. They made multiple base running mistakes, throwing errors, and didn't hit for power until they were extending their lead in the late innings of the third game. I am not sure what it is about the Yankees, whether it might be the mystique or something more tangible, but the Twins do not play good enough baseball when facing the Bronx Bombers. 

The one great moment in the series was watching gifted young outfielder, Carlos Gomez, make a perfectly timed jumping catch to pull back a would-be grand slam off the bat of Alex Rodriguez. It is also nice that Joe Mauer has enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, which he is currently winning by a landslide. None of which changes the fact that the Twins will have as many wins versus the Yankees this year as Justin Morneau had hits in this series; zero.

Today's game, in my opinion, was even hard to watch. Half of the Twins runs were on bases loaded walks, and a third was a result of a throwing error. To me that says that the Yankees gave the Twins more runs than they earned today, even though they did have to take the walks. I imagine it was even hard for Yankee's fans to watch two teams make so many amateurish plays. Their lone bright spot, other then picking up a game on the Red Sox, may be Mark Teixeira finally ending an almost month long homerless streak.

As of now, the Twins are four games back of the Tigers and two and a half behind the White Sox (who misplaced their minor league starting pitcher today... How do you lose a guy the size of Bartolo Colon anyway?) and are in third for the division.

Posted on: July 6, 2009 8:27 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2009 8:36 pm
 

It took the Tigers 16 innings...

It took the Tigers 16 innings to keep the Twins from tying them for 1st in the division. 

By: Christopher Torola

The three game series the Twins played against the Tigers is what baseball is all about. Each game was relatively close, with the possible exception of Sundays game. It seemed that any mistake a player made at any point was likely to cause your team the game.

The Tigers took the series opener in what was truly a marathon of a game. Kevin Slowey pitched only three innings and gave up six runs, putting the Twins behind right out of the gate. Slowey has since been put on the disabled list, and will have his strained wrist looked at. After giving up a couple runs Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, replaced starting pitcher Luke French with Zack Miner so as not to let the game get away from his team. Miner was able to close out the fifth inning, but only recorded one out while giving up five runs to tie the game. Then in the fourteenth inning, Twins super reliever of June, R.A. Dickey gave up a RBI hit to Placido Polanco one pitch after Poloanco fouled a pitch into his own family jewels. In the top half of the inning Michael Cuddyer hit a RBI single scoring Joe Mauer; however, Justin Morneau got thrown out at third base trying to advance on the throw. Dickey then gave up three more earned runs to Polanco in the sixteenth. The Twins were only able to score one unearned in the top half of the inning, losing a heart-breaker to the Tigers.

Fortunately for the Twins they were able to take the next two games, reducing the Tigers lead in the division to just two games.

Justin Morneau is on a complete tear. He was named player of the week for last week, hitting just shy of .500 and blasting four home runs (including a fountain shot in Kansas City). He was also named to his third straight All-Star game. Although the "fans" selected Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, the players made Justin their top choice.  Joe Nathan, like all pitchers, was selected as one of the coaches picks, and Joe Mauer was picked by the fans to start the game. The only player to receive more votes than Mauer was Derek Jeter, take away what you will from that. Some local fans are upset with the "life-time achievement" pick of Tim Wakefield over over Nick Blackburn, who has lowered his era below the 3.00 mark.

The Twins still have two tough series to get through before the All-Star break though, hosting the Yankees and the White Sox. They will need to play well to hold serve with Detroit, as the Tigers will be hosting the Royals and the Indians.

Posted on: July 1, 2009 7:08 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2009 7:17 pm
 

Could it be !?!?

The Twins are two games above .500.

By: Christopher Torola

It may have taken until nine games before the All-Star break, but it has finally happened. On this day, July 1st of 2009, Glen Perkins took the mound for what, at first blush, seemed no different then any other afternoon get away game against a division rival; however, on this day there was to be something different. While scattering ten hits and one earned run over seven innings, Glen Perkins did something that Twins' pitchers had failed at eight times on the season... he won a game to get the team to two games over the five-hundred mark. 

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 29, 2009 6:36 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2009 7:26 pm
 

A big next two weeks for the Twins!

Take what you can get.

By: Christopher Torola

The Minnesota Twins finished inter-league play on a high-note, taking two out of three games against both the Brewers and the Cardnials. Now they move on to some big games. The three game series at Kansas City is important for the Twins. They need to start really beating up on the weaker teams in the division. A sweep of the Royals on the road would do well to get some momentum going into a tough home stand, which may be needed when the Twins welcome the Tigers, Yankees, and White Sox before All-Star weekend.

The Twins had several positive occurrences take place over the last road trip. Francisco Liriano put together a great game, throwing six strike outs and only two earned runs over seven innings for his second win in as many starts. If he can turn around his season in the second half, the Twins pitching staff could make the move from good to formidable. 

The team also seem to get healthy over this trip. Denard Span rejoined the team Friday and picked up right where he left off, scoring five runs over the last four games. Joe Crede played in all six of the last games, getting eight hits, including a home run deep into the left field stands. Michael Cuddyer also played in all six of the last games, scoring three runs and driving in two more.

There is one Twin that just can't manage to stay healthy. After hurting his ribs sliding head first into first base during the first game of the Milwaukee series, Nick Punto met up with the team in Kansas City, after missing the last five games, but is scheduled to play in tonight's game. Despite the fact that Matt Tolbert, who with some regular at-bats last week is now in the midst of a four game hitting streak.

Now that the Twins are back to playing American League games, we can see Jason Kubel go back to DHing, while Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez replace the pitchers in the batting order. This seems to be the healthiest the Twins have been in a long time, and with a tough set of games going into the All-Star break, we should get a good look at what this team is made of.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 22, 2009 9:02 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2009 10:52 pm
 

A home split vs. the NL...

Not good enough.

By: Christopher Torola


The Twins took two out of three from the Pirates and one out of three from the Astros last week. This was a great opportunity wasted. The Twins played two bad National League teams at the Metrodome, and should have faired better. Meanwhile the Tigers went four and two, increasing their lead in the American League Central to four games over the Twins.

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that the Twins have found their power stroke this year; but they seemed to have lost their identity in doing so. They already have five players (Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, and Joe Crede) with more then 10 home runs. The Twins had only three players reach that mark all of last year. The only problem with this is, they seem to have forgotten how to play baseball. They are not advancing runners, stealing bases, or properly laying down sacrifices. Far too many base hits have been wasted by double plays and runners swinging for the fences and striking out. Worse yet, they seem to be making an abundance of base running errors recently. I noticed a lot of Twins base runners caught in run downs over this last home stand.

 

Some of this can be chalked up to injuries. Both Nick Punto and Denard Span who combined for a third of the Twins stolen bases last year, are currently nursing injuries. Span is on the DL because of an inner ear infection and Nick Punto, who was recently activated, may be heading right back as a result of a head first slide into first base. Joe Mauer missed some time with Flu-like symptoms. Even Twins Iron-Man Justin Morneau missed a game with general soreness.

It is not much longer until the All-Star break. If the Twins can stay strong through the remaining inter-league games, they may be able to take some momentum into a three game series at Kansas City, followed by a tough home stand that will have the Twins playing the Tigers, Yankees, and the White Sox prior to a much needed resting period over All-Star weekend. 

 

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 16, 2009 2:33 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2009 2:42 pm
 

One For The Road.

Despite a recent slew of injuries, the Twins play .500 ball on the road.

By: Christopher Torola

The Twins just completed a ten game road trip, and came away with as many wins as losses. Not bad considering that Nick Punto spent most of that time on the DL, and during the trip the Twins lost at least some playing time from Michael Cuddyer (finger), Denard Span (dizziness), and Joe Crede (back). If the Twins can win games with only eighty percent of the best players on the field, they should be able to play even better once back at full strength. All that being said, the rest of the American League central played just as well or better over their last ten games, and the Twins are now three games out of first place.

On the road trip where the Twins played the Mariners, the Athletics, and the Cubs; the boys from Minnesota never gave up more then four runs in any of their losses. Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker each pitched two games and had quality starts on all of their outings. If they can keep that up, the Twins should quickly pick up games on the Tigers to sit atop the division. Justin Morneau has not completely broken out of his slump. The most telling stat for him on this road trip is that he struck out seven times and only walked once. As if we need a reminder how good Joe Mauer is playing, as he continues to seemingly hit the ball at will his average actually dropped while getting fifteen hits in forty-two at bats. It also appears that Twin's outfielders Delmon Young (ten hits) and Carlos Gomez (six hit in the seven games he got at-bats) are starting to play their way back to respectability.

The rest of the month is spent in inter-league play (and two games at Kansas City). The Twins will host the Pirates and the Astros this week. Both teams have been playing well their during the last 10 games, but remain tied for last place at the bottom of their division. Taking that into account as well as the fact that the Twins are five and one in the National League Central so far this year, it would seem like a perfect time to pick up some ground on the Tigers who just lost two out of three to the Pirates and are now playing the much tougher Brewers and Cardinals.

It should be an enjoyable rest of the month to watch, as inter-league play is always fun to watch, especially if your a Twins fan.

Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com