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Category:MLB
Posted on: May 19, 2009 6:00 pm
Edited on: May 19, 2009 6:04 pm
 

Black hole at the 2 spot

In a year where Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel have been tearing the cover, they seem to be coming up short in the RBI category. That could have a lot to do with the awful play of Twins #2 hitters. Manager Ron Gardenhire has mostly slotted Matt Tolbert, Brendan Harris,  and Alexi Casilla between Span and Mauer. In 161 at bats the 3 have combined for a paltry .192 average, 17 runs, 14 walks, and 36 strike outs. That is more whiffs then walks or hits.

 

So what needs to be done? Here are a few ideas I have. Play Kubel in left field against righties and Delmon Young against lefties. Kubel is hitting .365 against righties and .179 against righties. Last year Young hit .300 against lefties. That would leave the DH spot open and allow rookie switch hitting catcher Jose Morales to play some games at DH and bat 2nd. Morales is batting .333 in 20 games this year. I hate to say it, but the days of Michael Redmond as a backup catcher for the Twins should be over. It has often been said that he would be a great addition to the coaching staff at some point. I say the sooner the better. His legs are too old, and his throws are 2nd is starting to be abused by opposing base-runners.

 

Another possibilty is batting Delmon Young in the 2 spot. He has not been hitting for power since he became a Twin, but has a respectable
 on base percentage. Much better then we have seen in the two hole this year.


And finally, bring back Alexi Casilla. Casilla has seemed to be a permanent resident in the Gardenhire doghouse and was sent to the minors on May 6th. Two things have happened since then. Firstly, Casilla is hitting in the minors, he has a batting average of .312 and an on-base percentage of .380. The second, Joe Mauer is back with the team. You can expect the #2 hitter to see better pitches hitting in front of Mauer.

 

I doubt Morales will stay with the big club for long, and it is too early to give up on Young's power swing, so it seems like it may be time to give Casilla a 2nd chance. He may not deserve it in Gardenhire's eyes, but the Twins sure seem to need it.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 16, 2009 10:23 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2009 11:06 pm
 

Twins @ Yankees - Deja Vu' all over again

 

Deja Vu' all over againIn the first 3 games the Twins have enjoyed late inning leads; however, they have been unable to hold back the Pinstripers. Friday it was Melky with a 2-RBI single off an overused Joe Nathan. Saturday it was A-Rod's first round-tripper in New Yankee Stadium, for an extra inning win. And finally, in spite of a brilliant defensive play at the plate by Joe Mauer, the Yankees had their third straight walk off win, this one courtesy of a Johnny Damon solo home run in the 10th.  

At least the series finale was a different sort a tough loss for the Twins. Glen Perkins pitched atrociously, allowing 6 runs without getting out of the first inning. R.A Dickey came in to stop the bleeding, and pitched 4 1/3 with out allowing a run. The Twins pecked away at the Yankee lead getting the game within 2, until Mark Teixeira hit a solo homer, his 2nd dinger of the game, in the bottom of the 7th. That would be the difference in the game, as the Twins managed to score 2 more, but lost 7-6, in non-walk-off fashion for a change.

On the bright side, The New M&M boys are littering the bleachers with long balls, unfortunately for the Twins, they all seem to be solo shots.

The Twins always seem to have a tough time going to the Bronx, in recent years they have lost 88% of the games they have played there. That being said, they had a legitimate shot at winning in all of the games of this series. The fact that they didn't win in any of them is maddening. 

For those of you who read my blogs this may start sounding like a broken record (or skipping C.D.), but the Twins are only losing games because they are not hitting with runners in scoring position ( 1 - 25 the 1st 3 games of the series) and the bull pen has been unable to close out tight games (bullpen ERA of 9.45 the 1st 3 games of the series). Until one, if not both of those traits change, the Twins will have a hard time staying near the top of the division.

Next up the Twins head Chicago, where in the past we have faired almost as poorly as in New York.

 

Posted on: May 13, 2009 12:36 am
Edited on: May 14, 2009 4:37 pm
 

Twins vs Tigers. Get your brooms out

Tuesday: In game one of this series the Twins beat Armando Galarraga and the Tigers 6-2 by continuing to hit the ball hard. In the first inning Tigers' left fielder Clete Thomas robbed Joe Mauer by pulling one back from the other side of the left field fence. In the 2nd Joe Crede hit a 2-run home-run to give the Twins the lead. In the 3rd, Mauer hit one to almost the same spot as he did in the first; however, this one was more of a line drive and remained just out of the reach of Thomas for the Twins 2nd 2-run homer of the game. Jeff Larish hit a solo homer in the 6th, but the the Twins got the run back in the bottom half of the inning when Young beat out a double play. Kevin Slowey pitched 6 innings, spreading out 8 hits and 2 free passes while only allowing the one earned run. Jesse Crain then came in for the 7th and quickly gave up a solo home-run to Ramon Santiago, followed by a 4 pitch walk to Curtis Granderson. Crain was then pulled without recording an out as he raised his era to 7.88. Jose Mijares, Matt Guerrier, and Joe Nathan all pitched perfectly to close out the game; although, with the Tigers giving up a walk to Carlos Gomez, a stolen base, and a Denard Span rbi single in the 8th, it was no longer a save situation for Nathan.

Slowey is now 5-1 despite an era just under 5.00. Joe Mauer had his 5th straight multi hit game and is currently batting .500. Yes, .500.


Wednesday: In a game that lasted just shy of 5 hours, in the bottom of the 13th with 2 strikes and 2 outs, Twins' 3rd baseman Joe Crede hit a walk-off grand slam off of Tigers' reliever Brandon Lyon to beat the Tigers 14 - 10. Home base umpire Paul Schrieber seemed to have a bit of an inconsistant strike zone, which resulted in a 14 walks. He also gave Magglio Ordonez a bit of a nudge back to the dugout when Ordonez disagreed with a called strike 3, which would lead to a Jim Leyland ejection. Schrieber has since apologized. The first 8 innings gave us a total of 18 runs, including back to back home runs from Miguel Cabrera and Jeff Larish, as well as a game tying 8th inning pinch-hit blast by Jason Kubel. Brandon Inge and Justin Morneau also hit round trippers. 

Then the 9th inning came and the bats cooled down. There were no real scoring threats until the top half of the 13th inning when Curtis Granderson hit a one out triple off of Twins reliever Jesse Crain. He then battled with Placido Polanco, getting him to pop out to  shallow left field on a pitch inside. Then with 2 strikes on Josh Anderson, Crain failed to come to a set position, resulting in the go ahead run coming in on a balk.
All ended well; however, when Brandon Lyon load the bases in the bottom half of the 13th, setting up Joe Crede's base clearing walk off grand slam.

 

Thursday: In the get away game both pitchers began the game dealing. The Tigers broke up the shut out with a 5 run inning against Scott Baker in the 6th. In the 7th the Twins finally got to Justin Verlander, who went 6 1/3 with 2 earned runs and 13 strikeouts. The Tigers brought in Bobby Seay to stop the bleeding, but he was unable to do so as he got only one out and was charged with 4 runs, including the go ahead run to Jason Kubel. Joe Crede continues to hit his way into the hearts of Twins fans with the 2 rbi single to score both Kubel and Morneau off of Zack Miner, for Crede's 2nd 2 out game winning hit in 2 days. The Twins' bullpen finished the game smoothly, including Joe Nathan in a 1-2-3 9th to record only his 6th save.

 

The Twins were able to complete the 3 game sweep of the Tigers to go above .500 for the first time since they lost the 11 inning game to Kansas City on May 2nd, and will hope to continue their winning ways as they head to New York for a 4 game series with the Yankees.

 

 

Posted on: May 12, 2009 4:53 pm
Edited on: May 19, 2009 4:14 pm
 

Taking Back the Plate

I have been watching some recent game highlights on Zack Greinke and noticed that he was not afraid to throw inside, brushing back hitters. He has hit only one this year, but has pushed back several more. This got me wondering how much intimidation and the willingness to keep batters from crowding the plate might have to do with getting the upper hand on batters. The following players rank in the tops in both wins and strikeouts, but also in hit batters over their careers.

 

 

- Walter Johnson:   #3 in hit batters, #9 in career K's, and #2 in career wins

- Randy Johnson:   #4 in hit batters, #2 in career K's, and #24 in career wins 

- Nolan Ryan:   #11 in hit batters, #1 in career K's, and #14 in career wins

- Roger Clemens:   #10 in hit batters, #3 in career K's, and #9 in career wins

- Cy Young:   #12 in hit batters, #20 in career K's, and #1 in career wins

- Bert Blyleven:   #14 in hit batters, #5 in career K's, and #26 in career wins

- Greg Maddux:    #17(tie) in hit batters, #10 in career K's, and #8 in career wins

- Pedro Martinez:   #17(tie) in hit batters, #13 in career K's, and #83 in career wins

 

When a pitcher throws high and inside it keeps the batter from leaning out over the plate and sets up the low and away pitch, the hardest pitch for a hitter to get the sweet spot of the bat on. So why are more pitchers not throwing gas  between the batter and the strike zone? In recent years umpires almost always warn both teams when a batter is hit. If a pitcher then throws anything close to the batter, it is likely he will be fined and ejected from the game.

 

Hopefully players like Zack Greinke will continue to throw inside and have success. Otherwise we may never see a dominant fastball pitcher like Ryan or Clemens again.

Posted on: May 11, 2009 5:38 pm
 

Joba in a Huff...

So Huff is showing up Joba? What is it that Joba does any time he strikes someone out? Im sure a hitter doesn't like getting fist pumped at having just been made a fool of by a nasty slider either. On the same note, when Tiger does his fist pump is he not showing up all the bums in the tournament that couldn't clean his spikes, let alone make the putt he just sunk. Ok, so the Tiger thing was a bit of an exaggeration, but baseball players shouldn't be whining about being shown up. Instead they should do what they have done in the past. The next time Joba faces Huff, he show whizz one under his chin. And as far as Huff goes, wasn't putting one in the bleachers showing Joba up enough? 
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 9, 2009 10:55 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2009 6:07 am
 

When it rains it Pours. Twins v. M's


FRIDAY
:
The Twins tee off on the M's beating them 11 - 0. Scott Baker goes 7 strong, striking out 5 and walking none. Jesse Crain and Joe Nathan each pitch one scoreless to complete the shutout. Not only did the the pitching come through in a big way, but the bats took off. Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris hit the Twins first 3 run homers of the year. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau also hit back to back home runs in the 5th inning.

SATURDAY: The Twins hot hitting comes through again as the M & M boys go back to back for the second game in a row to beat the Mariners 9 - 6. Michael Cuddyer hit the Twins' 3rd 3 run home run of the season the day after they hit their first 2. In a game that could have been billed as a great pitching match-up, we saw Felix Hernandez give up 5 runs in just 4 innings while Francisco Liriano pitched 3 innings of no hit ball before struggling to get through the 4th and 5th. Hopefully the Twins batters will continue to stay hot while the starting pitchers are struggling with big innings. Thankfully they have the talent to do so. 

Joe Mauer was hitting .500 at one point in this game.


SUNDAY: The Twins failed to put the M's away during the early innings and it came back to cost them the game. Erik Bedard seemed to be pitching out of a jam his whole time on the mound. He walked 5 and gave up 5 hits in 4 2/3 innings, but the Twins only managed to score 2 runs off him. The bullpen pitched well for the M's until Brandon Morrow made it interesting in the 9th. Nick Blackburn pitched 7 strong shut out innings for the Twins, holding onto a 2 run lead. In the 8th Jose Mijares got one out, walked Jose Lopez on 4 pitches (only Lopez's 4th walk of the season) and gave up the game tieing homerun to Ken Griffey Jr. Mijares was then pulled for Jesse Crain who gave up 2 more runs without recording an out. Craig Breslow gave up another ER in the top half of the 9th. Fresh off the DL, Brandon Morrow entered the 9th with a 3 run lead. Nick Punto hit a single and stole 2nd base. Morrow got the next 2 batters before giving up an RBI single to Joe Mauer. He then walked Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer on 8 consecutive pitches out of the zone before getting Brendan Harris to ground out with a full count to end the game 5 -3 Mariners. 

 


The 3 game sweep of the slumping Mariners was well within the Twins' reach today; but Twins hitters continued to struggle to get big hits with men in scoring position, and were unable to avoid a big inning defensively. Although Blackburn pitched great, bouncing back from a bad outing in Detroit, the bullpen gave up its 4th loss of the season. The Twins have one of baseball's higher bullpen ERAs (which has been one of the team's strong points over the last few years). They will need to turn this trend around to make the post season.

Posted on: May 8, 2009 6:19 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2009 6:34 pm
 

Twins swept by the Orioles

The Minnesota Twins lost a close one to the Baltimore Orioles last night. Losing 4-5 to an 8th inning RBI single despite out-hitting the Orioles 14-9.
You may want to blame the recent slump on poor pitching; however, If you look closer you will also see a lack of timely hitting. Last night there were 9 men left on base with 15 chances to drive them in. This is after last year leading the majors by batting over .300 with runners in scoring position. You can also look at such flukes as a rain shortened game or at the Tuesday game in Detroit were the Twins gave up an incredibly high 3 errors for a team that has long prided itself on good defense.
There is no need to panic my fellow Twins fans. The Twins have been hitting the ball hard and getting men on base the last few games. This should translate to more run support for a pitching staff in need of some leads. If you look at those good signs, as well as Michael Cuddyer starting to hit the ball well, Joe Mauer being back, and it looking like this may be Jason Kubel's break out year... the AL Central is well within this teams grasp.

Posted on: May 8, 2009 2:06 pm
Edited on: May 19, 2009 4:04 pm
 

So the face of the franchise wears a mask...

I know a lot of baseball fans think Joe Mauer is a good baseball player, but i wonder if his lack of power in his young career has worked as a disguise for his greatness.  His career batting average is over .315. The best catchers in the history of the game are widely considered to be Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra,  and Pudge Rodriguez who all had career batting averages below Mauer's. At 26 years of age his best days should still be yet to come.

He has had some trouble staying healthy so far; however myself, like the Twins, seem to think them a series of fluke injuries and seem content to keep him behind the dish for the foreseeable future.

So far this year Mauer has come to the plate 22 times and has reached base more then half of those times. He may be the most patient hitter in the game, never afraid to take pitches and bat with multiple strikes on him.

I know he has a long way to go to legitimately be included with the catchers i named before, but here is looking forward to a long career in which it is not too far fetched to believe that Joe Mauer has a chance to be the best catcher is the history of the game. So pay attention when your watching that pure swing, you may one day be telling your grandchildren about this guy.

 
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