Monday, November 06, 2006

The Ace of Twin City?!

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A Japanese ball fan flashes a board to welcome Minnesota Twins' pitcher Joe Nathan as others flock together with him to take look at U.S. players from stand before the start of the third game of the Major League All-Star team against their Japanese counterpart in Tokyo, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2006.
(AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Baby Kay of the Milky Way

I have things to say, rants and philosophical musings, about the way the Twins went down to Oakland and what Terry Ryan should do this winter, but probably will do instead, but right now it doesn't feel particularly important to sit down and blog it all out. This week, as baseball moved on minus the Twins, I've also become a new father--and how is Torii Hunter's contract option supposed to compete with this little girl?

Meet Katherine Anne.

This is a picture I took just after she came home, Thursday afternoon. She's wearing a hat knitted by my sister, Kristi. Great-Grandma Dee sent the blanket.

I'll have more pictures later, probably on Kate's own web page. For now, if you'll excuse me, I have to make a shopping/food run and then, baby willing, maybe take another nap.
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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Out of Fairytales

In what had once looked like a lost season, with the Twins posting a 25-33 record and trailing the White Sox by 11 games and the Tigers by 11.5 games on June 7, Minnesota clinched at least the wild card berth with the team's 93rd win last night.

After that low point in June, management made a few big changes, most notably replacing the regular 3rd baseman and Shortstop with a career utilityman and a 26 year-old rookie who supposedly lacked the leadership qualities and "fire in the belly" to play in the major leagues. Nick Punto was just a stopgap to improve the fielding at 3rd base; and some insiders intimated that this was Jason Bartlett's last chance to stick with the club. The team immediately started to play better, and, after winning 7 straight games, climbed back to the .500 mark with a 34-34 record on June 18.

Late that night, I wrote on the Bat Cave bulletin board:

Right now, the Twins have 94 games left. To reach 90 wins would require a 56-38 record the rest of the way, a .596 clip. That might be too optimistic to expect of the team at this point, but I would be very pleased to see the team approach that kind of record, regardless of in what place the Twins finish.

Of course, the team since then has exceeded not only my expectations, but my wildest hopes. Heading into tonight's game with the Royals, the Twins have a 93-63 record with 6 games to play. How did this happen?!

On the morning of June 20th...

Brad Radke was 5-7 with a 5.83 ERA. Afterwards, he was 7-2 with a 3.04 ERA--and the Twins were 10-3 in his starts--even while he was pitching with a torn labrum.

Francisco Liriano had made just 6 starts, posting a 5-1, 1.50 mark. Afterwards, he continued to dominate opponents with a 6-2 record and 2.15 ERA in 10 starts (although the Twins lost both his no-decisions).

Boof Bonser was 1-1 with a 5.81 ERA. Since then, he's 6-4 with a 3.52 ERA and has been an invaluable substitute for Liriano in the rotation; the team is 7-2 in Bonser starts since he took Cisco's place on August 12th. In postseason, he ought to be the #2 starter in the rotation.

Carlos Silva was 3-8 with a 7.07 ERA. Since then, 7-6 with a 5.17 ERA. Erratic, but occasionally effective, enough so that the Twins have a 10-8 record in his starts since June 21st.

Johan Santana was 7-4 with a 2.87 ERA. Since then, 11-2 with a 2.80 ERA, with the Twins going 15-3 in his starts.

Jesse Crain had a 5.51 ERA. Since then, a 1.86 ERA.

Dennys Reyes had just 16 appearances, posting a 1.65 ERA. Since then, a 0.54 ERA... 2 earned runs in 36 apps.

Pat Neshek wasn't with the team. Since his first appearance on July 7th, he has a 2.31 ERA and 0.80 WHIP.

Justin Morneau was hitting .267/.324/.522; just over a week before, he'd been at .235/.295/.454 and there was some talk of him possibly going back down to AAA. For whatever reason, the light switched on with him in mid-June. He was 16-36 with 5 HR and 18 RBI from June 8-18 to help the Twins get to .500, and he's gone on to hit .363/.422/.598 since.

Torii Hunter was hitting .266/.340/.425. Since then, he's been a-hackin'... balls over the wall while batting .290/.324/.545. At times, since returning in late July from a foot injury, he has struggled to cover his territory in Centerfield, but there's no question that his bat has been a potent force in the Twins offense since late August.

Joe Mauer was carrying the offense with a .380/.447/.528 line when the team was at .500 in June. Since then, even through talk of a slump and the grind of playing behind the plate all summer, he's still hit a great .323/.425/.493. If it's possible for a Sports Illustrated cover subject who's leading the league in hitting to have his contributions overlooked or taken for granted even by the team's own broadcasters and fans, I think that's the case with Joe Mauer. He has come up big for the Twins all year while playing the most demanding position on the diamond, and deserves to be hyped for the MVP award. But he didn't hit 30 homers and he's not one of the pirantas, so forget it.

Luis Castillo was hitting .286/.353/.363 (and sinking) and looked like he belonged on the DL. Since then, .304/.364/.377.

Michael Cuddyer had been part of the regular lineup for about 7 weeks, hitting .272/.371/.529 on the season. Since then, batting between Mauer and Morneau, he's continued to be solid at .280/.354/.475.

Nick Punto had joined the regular lineup for a little more than a week. He was hitting .287/.376/.352 on the season. Since then, Tiny Superhero has hit .300/.360/.395 while hoovering all balls in play at the hot corner.

Jason Bartlett had been with the team less than a week, hitting .389/.450/.444 in his first five games. He's been a huge upgrade over the deposed dictator, batting .314/.374/.404 while playing stellar defense on the season.

Rondell White was hitting .182/.209/.215. At that point, Ron Gardenhire had given up on him--he didn't get another at-bat while he was on the roster in June. After his "rehab" in AAA ended at the All-Star break, he's hit .317/.353/.549.

Jason Tyner and Josh Rabe would not join the team until the All-Star break. Rabe has hit .286/.314/.490 in a fill-in role, while Tyner has hit .316/.347/.359 as the team's fourth piranta.

A lot of this seemed wildly improbable, even inconceivable, back in June. Honestly, I still have some trouble accepting that it's real. Even a couple weeks ago, I had my doubts. But the team has been spinning its magic for over 3 months, now. Maybe it's the mania setting in, but at this point the only other team in the majors that I can see giving the Twins real trouble in a postseason series is the damn Yankees--and that's mainly because the New York lineup is so loaded. The Yankees pitching rotation of Johnson-Mussina- Wang-Wright doesn't look all that imposing this season. If Twins pitching can continue to work its mojo, or if the Yankees might be avoided altogether, it's looking like the Twins may prove to be the best team in baseball this year.

Back in June, who wouldathunk?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

All Right, For Moss...

Last night I heard Dick Bremer muse that Detroit's 5-game lead in the division to start the day may not really be 5 games. That is, if you consider how the Twins could win 3 of 4 against the Tigers this weekend, thereby making up 2 games in the standings right there. Easy-peasy!

Inspired by his impeccable reasoning, I'm going to assume that the Twins will play at a .750 clip the rest of the season. Roughly, that should leave the Twins with 99 wins and a breezy sail to the postseason. Was there ever a doubt? Put in the deposit for postseason tickets now, my friends.

Actually, I have been doubting the Twins' chances of holding off the White Sox, much less catching the Tigers, since Francisco Liriano went on the Disabled List. I figured Radke may not last the season, the gimps at 2nd base and in Centerfield were not inspiring any confidence in their future down the stretch, any number of the little "piranhas" could go belly-up at any time, and I'd written off Carlos Silva long ago. It seemed that the team leaned too much on Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano to be Supermen. With Liriano out of action for a significant length of time, how could the team win the 95 games or more to make a serious playoff bid?

As it's happened, the Twins are 13-10 since August 12, the first day Boof Bonser replaced Liriano in the rotation, and 3-2 in Bonser's starts. Good enough to make up 2 games on the White Sox, turning a deficit of 1.5 games into a half-game lead in the wild card race, while the Red Sox have tumbled from a half-game behind Minnesota to a full 6 games back. Even the Tigers have done the Twins the favor of slipping on a 9-16 skid to put Minnesota within 4 games of the division lead now--and only 3 games behind in the Loss column. Mighty considerate of the other guys to take a nap, just when the Twins must go without such an essential part of the team's success.

Still, do the Twins have the look of a legitimate pennant threat?

The Twins offense lately has often looked shaky, leading Batgirl to curse even worse than Bert Blyleven and the local press to make snide remarks about dead fish. In the last 10 games, the team has scored 2.7 runs per game. Luis Castillo missed an important series last weekend with an ankle injury, and Torii Hunter's bad foot still makes him a liability in Centerfield. Joe Mauer looks tired at the plate. Nick Punto and Jason Tyner have cooled off. The only help acquired by Terry Ryan is Phil Nevin, now hitting .210/.297/.398 as an AL player this season, as opposed to his .274/.335/.497 line in the 67 games he got to enjoy in the friendly environs of Wrigley Field and the NL. (Why do the Twins keep getting hitters after they go off the steroids?) Brad Radke has a stress fracture in his shoulder which may end his season and career. The starting rotation after Santana still seems like a grab bag, and nobody still knows for sure what Liriano may be able to contribute after he returns.

Yet, Johan Santana continues to be heroic as usual, winning one game after another. The team is 6-0 in Santana starts since placing Liriano on the DL, while the man has posted a 1.43 ERA; and, in fact, the Twins have not lost in a Santana start since July 9, a streak of 11 wins. Cy Young, once again, is saving his team's season.

In a race where the competition is playing like it belongs in the playoffs, perhaps just one Superman pitcher would not be enough to lift his team over the top. Santana has five more starts; and even if the team can win them all, to reach 95 wins the Twins would still need a 10-9 mark in the other remaining games, which is better than the team has been doing since losing Liriano. But as long as the White Sox and Tigers continue to struggle with their own flaws, the story could have a happier ending.

Everything else about the season has been so improbable, why not?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

More Roster Juggling

After making his spot start in today's 10-2 loss, allowing 4 earned runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in 4 innings, Boof Bonser was sent back to AAA Rochester, replaced by... Mike Smith?

You're forgiven if you did not know Smith from Smithee, or that he's a 28 year-old righthander who appeared in 14 games for the Blue Jays in 2002, and has posted a 9-4 record with a 3.52 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and 6.75 K/9 in 125.1 IP with Rochester this season. The Twins plan to use him as Brad Radke's back-up in case he has another early exit on Thursday, or else give Smith the start on Sunday in Kansas City.

Scott Baker must wait at least 10 days for a return to the Twins, unless he's recalled sooner to replace a player going on the Disabled List. That may give Smith two starts to make an impression, while Baker works in Rochester to make his coaches happy and send along glowing reports to Terry Ryan's office. The timing may work out well for Baker, unless Smith catches a few flakes of magic pixie dust from hanging around Jason Tyner and Broccoli Rabe this week.

The only Red Wings pitcher besides Bonser and Baker currently on the 40-man roster is J.D. Durbin, who has pitched well but is done for the season because of a nerve problem in his right biceps. There remains one empty spot on the 40-man, which is likely to go to Matt Garza, but Terry Ryan on television lately sounds like he would prefer to keep Garza in AAA until September. That's sensible: Garza, 22, began the year at Fort Myers, moving to AA New Britain in mid-May, and now has just 4 starts to his credit at AAA. Ryan says he wants Garza to work on his secondary pitches before jumping another level. The Twins may push back Garza's arbitration eligibility by delaying the start of his service clock until September, as well.

So, depending on what happens with Smith, Radke, or Liriano this week, Scott Baker may still have one more window of opportunity with the Twins this season, before Garza will be demanding Ron Gardenhire's attention and, perhaps, great affection.

Baker Down, Bonser Up, Cisco On the Shelf

Scott Baker is back on the Yo-Yo Express to Rochester, after the Rangers touched him for 8 runs in the 4th inning in last night's 9-0 Twins loss. However, perhaps it's just a necessary roster move to press Boof Bonser into an emergency spot start in today's game, after Francisco Liriano was scratched because of what the club is calling "discomfort in his left forearm," and not a knee-jerk reaction to a blowout loss.

Baker cruised through 3 innings last night, but then Carlos Lee led off the 4th with an 0-2 double off the Baggie. A groundout moved him to 3rd, before scoring on a Hank Blalock single. Nick Punto then made an impressive diving stop on the 3rd baseline to limit Ian Kinsler to an infield single; but with the next batter, Matt Stairs, he took a routine double-play ball but botched the throw to 2nd base, scoring Blalock and putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, instead of ending the inning.

Baker, to his credit, went right after the next batter, Rod Barajas, quickly bringing him to an 0-2 count. He meant his next pitch to move Barajas off the plate with a little chin music, just as a young pitcher is taught, but it got away from him and hit Barajas on the hands. Up comes Brad Wilkerson, and Baker again starts him with two strikes before wasting a ball. Strangely, on the 1-2 pitch, Joe Mauer set up a high, standing target, just where the club feels Baker is most vulnerable, and Wilkerson smacked a groundball through the hole on the rightside, scoring another run. 3-0, Rangers. Bases loaded still, 1 out.

Up comes Gary Matthews, Jr. Baker fell behind with a couple balls, but came back to get a full count with a couple pitches fouled off by Matthews. The 6th pitch was supposed to be low, on the inside corner. Baker hit the corner but left it up in Matthews' wheelhouse. Free breakfast at Denny's. 7-0, Rangers. Acting manager Scott Ullger, showing all the touch that was his hallmark as the hitting coach for too many years, left Baker in to face Michael Young, and the process virtually repeated. Baker fell behind, rallied to get a full count, then coughed up a homer over the Baggie.

To give Ullger some benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was slow with the hook because the inning seemed to fall apart so quickly, without much warning. Even after the Punto error, Baker was getting batters to 2 strikes. Pitching coach Rick Anderson made a note of it after the game:

"I thought Baker was down in the zone better, but the tale of the whole night was there in the big inning. Obviously, we didn't make a play or two, but you look at the hitters in the fourth inning there, we had seven of them with two strikes and all of them got on base. That was probably the biggest thing, getting ahead and putting them away, and we didn't do that very well tonight."
Could it be that Baker is just too well-trained in the Brad Radke School of Pitching to Contact? And maybe he was just a bit unlucky on a couple of those balls hit into play, again. There is a difference of 1.70 runs between his ERA and FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) this season, and his 'normalized' Expected FIP approaches an encouraging level of decency at 4.80. As we've observed before, Baker also has shown a tendency to struggle when he has too much time between starts. Last night was the third time this season when Baker was rocked after Gardy skipped his turn in the rotation.

Fielding-independent indications show that Baker is a talented pitcher who belongs in the Twins rotation, and should become a reliable asset if he's given regular work, patient instruction, and the experience to help him learn. I don't think he's going to learn how to put away hitters with 2 strikes any better by shipping him back to Rochester.

We can hope that it is just a temporary move to accomodate Liriano, while we beg Merciful Jobu to let Liriano's arm problem be nothing but a little muscle soreness. After all, it was not the Cisco Kid who accepted the invitation to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.

I must admit, though, that Rick Anderson's assurances ("It's not the elbow, it's just in the forearm.") do nothing to quell my sense of dread. I've seen too many pitchers go on the shelf for Tommy John surgery, or worse, after an initial diagnosis of "sore forearm." I've got my chicken bones at the ready. Jobu, please.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Mr. Lee, Mr. Lee

The Rangers won the Carlos Lee sweepstakes this afternoon, trading Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero, outfielder Laynce Nix, and minor league pitcher Julian Cordero in exchange for Lee and minor league outfielder Nelson Cruz.

Lee was the best regular player on a 48-54 Brewers team that trails Cincinnati by 6 games in the NL Wild Card race, batting .286/.347/.549--or a .296 EqA, worth 27.4 VORP to the team. But, GM Doug Melvin says Lee recently rejected a contract extension of $48 million over 4 years, so he had to be traded to help build towards the future, if not also bolster this year's team for the stretch run at the same time.

So what kind of haul did he bring in?

  • Kevin Mench is a 28 year-old corner OF hitting .284/.338/.459, a .270 EqA (.274/.335/.480, .274 EqA career), worth 8.3 VORP so far this season.
  • Francisco Cordero is 31, and has a 4.81 ERA, 1.32 WHIP in 48.2 IP (3.44, 1.39 career), worth 7.0 VORP so far this season.
  • Laynce Nix is 25, hitting .269/.323/.430 in AAA this season, with a career line of .241/.278/.414 in 869 PA's in the majors.

As for the minor leaguers, the Brewers sent Nelson Cruz, turned 26 this month, hitting .302/.378/.528 with 20 HR and 17 steals in AAA Nashville, who will start in Rightfield for the Rangers after joining the team this weekend. In return comes 21 year-old lefty Julian Cordero, 2-5, 2.91 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 6.49 K/9, 1.89:1 K/BB ratio in Low A Clinton.

Doug Melvin may claim to have immediately multiplied his assets with three players who may make immediate contributions to the Brewers, but it's really a poor return for one of the best trading chips on the market this month. Mench will be with Milwaukee for at least two more years while in his arbitration period, but at 28 he's only an ordinary corner outfielder. Francisco Cordero always puts up a nice K/9 ratio, but otherwise he's a mediocre righty reliever in mid-career who stands to make $5 million next season if the Brewers pick up his option. Nix at this point seems to have marginal offensive skills. And to top it off, it looks like the Rangers got the best of the prospect exchange, too.

Maybe this is just the benefit of dealing with a man who used to run your organization: he still sees Mench, Cordero, and Nix as the bright young things, full of potential, that he used to know when he first acquired them. But it also goes to show how even the best players on the trading block may change teams without exchanging core players or top prospects. In terms of general value measured by VORP, this deal is something like the Twins giving up Luis Castillo, Jesse Crain, Jason Tyner, and a Class A pitcher of no concern, in exchange for a player who would be the best OF bat on the Twins, plus a promising minor league hitter to bolster the bench.

Denizens of Twins Territory, if you feel so inclined, today thank Jobu for not making us Brewers fans.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Displaced Anger

White Sox reliever Neal Cotts expresses his feelings after giving up a 3-run HR to Joe Mauer in the 7th inning Monday night, Mauer's first home run against a lefty this season, to put the Twins up, 6-2.

G'ah! So angry! But what to do about it... A-ha!

After punching the bucket with the back of his hand, sunflower seed packets go flying.

Iguchi (Guchi-gu) and Pods pretend not to notice.

Oh, no, bucket. He's not done with you, yet.

Cotts SMASH!



Friday, July 07, 2006

All-Star Arcana

In a game thread at the SBG site during the Houston series, the question came up, "Is Ron Coomer the worst Twins All-Star?

So I did some research to find all the Twins All-Stars who finished the season with an OPS+ below the league average. You can find my complete list and comments here.

These were the Twins to finish their All-Star seasons with a VORP under 10.0:

Line at Break
Final Line
Win Sh.
R. Coomer, '99
D. Engle, '84
E. Battey, '66
J. Roseboro, '69
B. Wynegar, '77
G. Gaetti, '89
J. Perry, '71
12-8, 4.10 ERA
17-17, 4.23 ERA
*signifies ERA+

Since then, of course Francisco Liriano in the midst of a phenomenal season has been robbed of his rightful place on the 2006 All-Star team, which makes me wonder: what were the best seasons posted by a Twins player who did not make the All-Star team in that year?

First we'll look at the hitters, then the pitchers.

Line at Break
Final Line
Win Sh.
C. Knoblauch, '95
L. Bostock, '77
K. Hrbek, '84
S. Mack, '92
K. Hrbek, '88
T. Walker, '98
R. Smalley, '78
P. Molitor, '96
C. Davis, '91
C. Koskie, '01
K. Hrbek, '87
C. Tovar, '70
J. Jones, '02
Minimum 25 Win Shares or 40 VORP

Justin Morneau is hitting .301/.355/.596 with a 27.0 VORP as of today, and 11 Win Shares through 7/2.

Chuck Knoblauch made 4 All-Star teams in his Twins career, but missed the '95 Game because Indians fans stuffed the ballot boxes for Carlos Baerga, and Roberto Alomar was chosen as the 2B reserve. Knobby responded by hitting .345/.442/.547 in the last 3 months of the season.

The '77 Twins apparently filled their quota of All-Stars with Rod Carew, Larry Hisle, and Butch Wynegar, leaving great performances by Lyman Bostock and Dave Goltz unrewarded.

Kent Hrbek in '84 had the strange distinction of finishing 2nd in the MVP vote, but was passed over as the Twins' token rep at the All-Star Game in favor of Dave Engle, one of the least deserving Twins ever to get the honor. Hrbek lost out again in the World Series year of '87 when Kirby Puckett was the Twins' lone rep. Incredibly, when Tom Kelly had the authority to pick All-Star reserves the next summer, he didn't pick his man Hrbek, although Hrbek was enjoying one of his very best seasons. TK later did the same thing to Shane Mack in '92. Of course, you see Todd Walker up there, another part of TK's player relations legacy.

Cesar Tovar established himself through his first four years with the Twins as a Super-Utility regular in the lineup. In a late-September game in 1968, he even played all 9 positions on the field, striking out Reggie Jackson in his scoreless inning on the mound. But, by 1970, he had moved to the outfield nearly full-time, usually in Centerfield. He must have been an extraordinary fielder in the Twins outfield that year, because he rates 28 Win Shares despite a 118 OPS+ and a VORP that ranks 51st in the majors that season, and yet he didn't win a Gold Glove and isn't listed by Win Shares amongst the top three defensive outfielders in the AL for 1970. So I'm a bit skeptical of those 28 Win Shares, but that's what the book says.

Jacque Jones was one of the AL's best defensive Leftfielders in 2002 with an .899 ZR and league-leading 2.60 RF, earning 4.57 Win Shares for his fielding, just 0.75 Win Shares less than Torii Hunter's defensive value in Centerfield that season. Jacque also led the Twins with 97 Runs Created and 19.89 Offensive Win Shares, but his VORP takes a hit because of all the Leftfielders who could mash, particularly in the NL, that season. Had he been the one groomed to take over Centerfield instead of moving over for Hunter in 1999-2000, he well might have been the one to sign the big multi-year contract and become the "Face of the Franchise" in 2002, instead of his good buddy.

Line at Break
Final Line
Win Sh.
J. Santana, '04
7-4, 3.89 ERA
20-6, 2.61 ERA
F. Viola, '87
8-6, 2.96 ERA
17-10, 2.90 ERA
K. Tapani, '91
5-7, 3.14 ERA
16-9, 2.99 ERA
J. Koosman, '79
11-6, 3.52 ERA
20-13, 3.38 ERA
C. Pascual, '63
9-5, 2.57 ERA
21-9, 2.46 ERA
B. Blyleven, '74
8-10, 3.06 ERA
17-17, 2.66 ERA
D. Goltz, '77
10-6, 3.67 ERA
20-11, 3.66 ERA
B. Blyleven, '75
7-4, 3.42 ERA
15-10, 3.00 ERA
J. Perry, '69
11-4, 3.07 ERA
20-6, 2.82 ERA
F. Viola, '84
9-7, 3.02 ERA
18-12, 3.21 ERA
D. Corbett, '80
2.15 ERA, 8 Sv
8-6, 1.98, 23 Sv
B. Blyleven, '71
7-11, 3.13 ERA
16-15, 2.81 ERA
Minimum 20 Win Shares and 50 VORP

First, it's interesting to note that Santana in '04 and Viola in '87 posted the two best seasons of pitching, by VORP, in Twins history, and yet both also were excluded from the All-Star Game in those years.

Francisco Liriano has a 10-1 record and 1.83 ERA through tonight's game, and 13 Win Shares and a 37.4 VORP prior to his latest start. So he's on a pace to hit at least #3 on the list, and clearly he is the most dominant Twins pitcher through this point of the season not to get an invitation to the All-Star Game.

Santana's 2004 season tops the list, and most of us remember how he was slow to get going that season: at the end of May, he was 2-3 with a 5.61 ERA. When he beat Milwaukee on June 25, his ERA was still just a so-so 4.38 to go with a 6-3 record, and then he took the Loss in a 2-1 defeat to Chicago on July 1, albeit dropping his ERA to 4.22. He wouldn't generate a national buzz about him until August, when he beat Mike Mussina and the Yankees on the 18th to put his record at 13-6, 3.23, and people started talking about him as a short-list candidate for the Cy Young Award.

The usual trouble for the pitchers above seems to be a mediocre W-L record at the break, or a low Saves total in Doug Corbett's case (Joe Nathan, give him a call). Last night during the Twins TV broadcast, Dick once joked, "You know what they say down on the field, 'It all evens out in the end,'" but Bert wouldn't play that. As he muttered that he didn't believe in that aphorism, he sounded all of the man who was cheated out of 300 Wins, his fair share of All-Star Games, and possibly a plaque in the Hall of Fame because of bad breaks that decidedly did not even out in the end.

Jim Perry's chances of making the All-Star team in '69 might have been hurt because there were already 4 Twins getting the nod, but he also might have rallied just too late to get serious consideration. After pitching on July 1, Perry had a 6-4 record and 3.68 ERA, only about league-average that season. But in his next 6 starts before the break in late July, he racked up 5 Wins and lowered his ERA to 3.07. He ended up 3rd in the Cy Young voting, and would go the All-Star Game and win the Cy Young Award the next year.

Camilo Pascual in '63 was already a veteran of 4 straight All-Star Games, and would play in the Mid-Summer Classic again in 1964, but in 1963 he was out of action for the better part of June and early July, spoiling his All-Star streak. He would finish the season 2nd in the league with 21 Wins, 3rd with a 2.46 ERA, and best in the league with 202 strikeouts.

Jerry Koosman in '79 was a 36 year-old veteran taken off the Mets' scrap heap before the season in exchange for Greg Fields and prospect Jesse Orosco. He had posted a 3-15, 3.75 mark (94 ERA+) the previous year in New York, but the waters of Minnesota revived him. The 3rd place Twins (48-41 at the break) were only represented at the All-Star Game by Roy Smalley; but, on the last day of the season, Koosman had his moment of glory when he not only earned his 20th Win but also blanked the Brewers, spoiling Milwaukee's bid to be the first team since the '32 Yankees to play an entire season without being shut out.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Travesmockery

So A.J. Pierzynski, who may be the 5th or 6th best Catcher in the American League this season, won the "last chance" fan vote to make the All-Star team today. This means, barring any righteous changes over the weekend, that Travis Hafner, the league's most valuable hitter, and Francisco Liriano, the league ERA leader, will not be AL All-Stars.

Can you imagine David Stern standing for this?

There are always deserving players who miss the cut for the All-Star teams, but Hafner and Liriano are more than just deserving, they're a couple of the most valuable players in the league to this point in the season. If the Indians hadn't tanked this spring, Hafner would be a leading MVP candidate; and, despite his late entry into the Twins rotation, Liriano looks to be on his way to win the Rookie of the Year and possibly even the Cy Young Award. Yet neither player is on the AL All-Star team, because a player from Chicago actively campaigned for votes on Fox Sports Net this week, but also because the commissioner will not exert some of his authority to override Ozzie Guillen's shenanigans and make things right.

Bud Selig could have said no when Guillen picked Mark Buehrle, on the grounds that not only Francisco Liriano but several starting pitchers in the league have been better than him this season. Selig could have stepped in to name Hafner when Alex Rios or Robinson Cano withdrew because of injury. Selig could have said, there are enough White Sox players on the team, so, no, we're not putting another White Sox player on the "last chance" ballot.

Manny Ramirez has announced that he will skip the All-Star Game to rest a sore knee. I've heard that Guillen has promised to add his 3rd baseman Joe Crede to the All-Star team. Last night, Dick Bremer reported a rumor that former White Sock, and Guillen's fellow countryman, Magglio Ordonez would get the nod. Either way, more cronyism.

Selig could put his foot down. He is the Supreme High Commander, after all. But, as usual, it looks like he'll act as if it's all out of his hands. Maybe he'll commission a Blue Ribbon Panel to study the issue, and announce the findings as soon as George Mitchell is done asking players if they know anyone who ever used steroids, or sometime next decade, whichever comes first.