Wednesday, April 13, 2005

That's a Big 10-4, Roger

Twins 5, Tigers 4

Cuz we got Joe Mays on the mound

Ain't that a beautiful sight?
We got Joe Mays on the mound
He's gonna pitch... all night!

Remember the days? The Twins marketing department started airing that radio jingle in the Spring of 2002, sung to the tune of the theme from Convoy, which is not only a fun, kitschy tune but it also tells the story of one of the great, kick-ass movies of the '70s. And I say that as a man who has his own DVD copy of Sense and Sensibility and recorded Carrington off the cable last week. A guy who doesn't appreciate Emma Thompson is only half a man, I say. Likewise, Convoy. I hear that tune and I'm feeling stoked and ready to outrun the smokies, good buddy, and back in the early days of Oh Two I felt particularly kopacetic to be reminded that "we got Joe Mays on the mound." Damn right, that was a beautiful sight.

See, Joe Mays in Oh One was one of the best pitchers in the American League, maybe even the best. He just nipped Mike Mussina for the top Adjusted ERA in the league. He was third in Innings Pitched, fifth in WHIP, and Bill James' Win Shares rates him as the most valuable AL pitcher that year. He was a workhorse who kept the ball in the infield for 7+ innings, game after game, and if the Twins offense in 2001 had given him just decent run support he very well could have won 25 games. If he'd been a marquee name or pitched for a respected team that year, he might have won the Cy Young award--instead of the undeserving, walking hormonal imbalance from the Yankees who probably had never even seen an Emma Thompson movie until the last Harry Potter came out. It felt good to hear about Joe Mays and the Rubber Duck in the Spring of 2002. The Twins were gonna rule the Central with that rotation of Mays-Radke-Milton-Reed-Lohse, and the kid Santana looked pretty hot in spring training as well. Nothing but blue skies and open road ahead.

Then, of course, almost immediately Mays hurt his elbow, and the radio jingle had all the current relevancy of a CB radio in the age of the worldwide web. Mays pitched through his injuries until midway through the next season, when he finally made way for Johan Santana in the rotation in June 2003 and admitted he needed surgery shortly thereafter. (Btw, Aaron mentioned this in his blog, but I had the same thought when I heard Bert praising Mays for pitching through his injuries in 2002-3. Why is that "to his credit," Bert? Seems willfully reckless and stupid to me. See, this is one reason I don't really trust the club to do the right thing with Carlos Silva now, until they prove otherwise.) After a long rehab, he's back; with Carlos Silva on the shelf with his knee injury, Joe Mays is as relevant to the Twins' hopes for success as ever.

He seemed mostly on his game last night against the Tigers. A bit wild, walking four batters, but maybe some wildness and unpredictability can work to Mays' advantage. If he's not going to strike out batters with dominating stuff, some wildness might give him the edge he needs to keep batters off balance and guessing. Mostly he kept balls on the ground and didn't get hit hard. Even the run in the first inning was driven in with a "seven-hopper" (in the words of Dick Bremer) through the 2nd baseman's area which Luis Rivas should have fielded if he hadn't been shaded so far towards 1st base and/or so slow to react to it. In fact, the hit was so weak that Jason Bartlett was able to get over from the SS position to knock it down, on the RF side of the dirt cutout. Still, Rivas could only get close enough to wave at the ball.

So I'm giving Mays a break on that run in the first inning. He only screwed up on an 0-2 pitch to Craig Monroe, a lousy hitter who seems to hit a home run in every series against the Twins. Clearly there are cosmic forces at work in that case, beyond our understanding or Joe Mays' power to control them.

It was an encouraging start, and the rest of the season should be an interesting test case of the Law of the 4.5 K/9 Line: that being that it's prohibitively difficult, if not downright impossible, for a pitcher to sustain a consistent level of success, without relying on a wicked knuckler, when his strikeout rate is below 4.5 per 9 innings. Mays' strikeout rate has dropped every year since he was a rookie in 1999, flirting with the 4.5 line with a 4.74 K/9 in his great 2001 season, and sinking well beneath it in the subsequent two years while he was hurt. Can he reverse that trend this year? Will it be good enough if he can just get back to that 2001 rate again? How successful can he be if he can't get many eager hackers swinging and missing?

Just some thoughts to keep in mind as we track him through the season. Last night was an encouraging beginning--and 3 K's in 5 IP represents a 5.14 K/9... swell! I'm rooting for you, Jo Jo. Keep on truckin'. OVER!


At 4/13/2005 7:17 PM, Blogger SBG said...

Last night's start was encouraging.

At 4/13/2005 8:33 PM, Blogger Leslie Monteiro said...

Great game and a great win for the good guys last night. Twins won in a thrilling fashion tonight in the ninth inning thanks to Shannon's GW big hit in centerfield as Lew scored for the Twins 5-4 win tonight. This was a very good win. You want to get something going in the division and it was a good statement tonight. To win back-to-back is very good.

This situation in the ninth would not have happened without the eighth inning. Twins were able to get some hits and walks thanks to Tigers setup guy Ugueth Urbina. Urbina was wild. He was throwing all over the place and he was throwing all balls out there. He just did not have it and the Twins were able to get some big hits. They did a good job making Urbina work and throw lot of pitches. It was a great approach that they did.

I know everyone will second-guess Joe Mauer running third to home on a wild pitch as he was out to end the threat in the eighth, but I am glad he did. He had a shot to be safe and it looked like he had a chance, but he was out. Give credit to Pudge Rodriguez for finding a way to retreive the ball and get to the home plate. You gotta take risk and I am glad Joe did. It's too bad that it did not work out. If he had to do it again, I would want him to do it again.

As frustrating as the offense was against Maroth, they never gave up and they found a way to get the big hits late in the game especially against the Tigers setup guy and the Tigers closer who has owned the Twins when he was the Angels closer in Troy Percival. Obviously, Trammell was going with Percival in the ninth in a tie game based on his track record against the Twins. That plan backfired. I am just glad they got a hit off Troy.

I thought Jason Bartlett and Michael Cuddyer had a very good game. Yeah they struggled in the beginning of this game, but they both came through with big HRs. They also were great defensively tonight. I think those two will get better defensively as the season progresses.

Speaking of Jason, he has done a very good job. He has been the Twins consistent hitter so far. He has done more than what Cristian has done offensively combined in the last two years.

Torii was solid tonight. I think that hit on Saturday will springboard to a very good season for him.

Joe Mauer has a lot of value to this team. One of his big values to the team is his on-base percentage. I swear he is always on base a lot. He finds a way to get there. That makes the Twins a better team for it.

I was very satisfied with our offense overall.

Joe Mays did a good job tonight. Yes, he gave up couple of homeruns, but overall he kept the team in the game and he gave the Twins a chance to tie it. He threw strikes. He got out of jams when he was in a jam. He found a way to get out of it. Joe is not going to be the guy he used to be in 2001 ever again. If he can be servicable and productive, that's good enough. A sign of a good pitcher is to get out of jams and that's what Joe is exactly done. I did not think he was that bad. A bad performance would be giving up hits like a drum or caving in when the going got tough. Joe never did that. He did a good job. Gardenhire and Rick Anderson was pleased with what Joe did out there. Joe can feel good about himself.

The pen did a great job. I thought Terry Mullholland was very good out there. He is going to be a huge part of our pen and I am glad Gardenhire put him in a tie game than a mopup game tonight. This is something Terry needed and I am glad he did a good job. Jesse did okay. I like what J.C. has done so far. He is on a groove. He was huge with his 4 Ks tonight. He give the Twins a chance for them to tie the game at 4. He could have put the game away, but tonight he was huge. Juan was huge.

A very good win last night. Twins showed some character out there tonight in coming through with a big base hit after struggling in the first few innings. Joe Mays showed me something. The pen was huge.

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