Monday, June 13, 2005

Tooling in the Garden (Again)

"If we didn't let Hee Seop Choi hit the ball, we would have won a few games," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said. "Hee Seop Choi. You know what? I think I'm a fan of his now. I've never seen that with my eyes. Six home runs in three games. That's very impressive. I've never seen that, even in Little League."

Jim Souhan delivers the goods in his column this morning, commenting on Sunday's game in LA.

After what Hee Seop Choi had already done on Friday and Saturday, what was going through Brad Radke's mind while facing him on Sunday? Once Choi had turned on an inside fastball in his first at-bat of the day, launching his fourth home run of the series, how can Radke explain his decision to start off the next encounter with a belt-high strike? And after that pitch had been driven into the bleachers, is there any excuse for a veteran leader of the rotation to offer Choi yet another first pitch fastball over the plate in his third at-bat of the game? What was he thinking?

Of course, the first time we saw Radke show any emotion all game was when Gardenhire came to pull him in the 7th, before Choi's fourth at-bat. You could see Radke seethe, as Dick/Bert observed that 'he wants the challenge' of facing Choi again. But it was quite a bit late in the day to be just starting to get the adrenaline flowing. I would've appreciated seeing him get fired up and recognize that a new approach to Choi was needed at least a few innings before. So much gets made of Radke's remarkable control, and the fact that he's now walked only 4 batters in 93.2 innings, but the flipside of that coin is how predictable he can be. The Twins like to preach the importance of Strike One, but Radke can be dogmatic about the principle to a fault. When he sees batters sitting on his pitches, does he refuse to adapt out of stubborn pride, or just a lack of imagination?

Props to Souhan, too, for daring to point out that Gardy wasted a key opportunity to bring home 2 runs in the 6th inning, when he allowed Radke to bat with runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs, despite already seeing Radke show the worst batting form of all Twins pitchers in the past week. Radke feebly popped out, stranding two runners in scoring position just as he did when striking out to end the 4th inning. Juan Castro deserves his share of the blame for failing to put the ball in play with 1 out and runners on 2nd and 3rd, in both the 4th and 6th innings, when the Dodgers were willing to concede a run. (Note to manager: maybe you don't want to bat a guy with a .285 obp right before the pitcher the next time you're playing by NL rules.) That's a failure to execute; a SS with a 683 OPS coming into the game found himself overmatched. Go figure, eh? But the manager in the 6th just failed to engage his brain to enact a simple strategy that would give his team a better chance of winning the game, which is harder for me to forgive.

Gardy has often been criticized by fans online for trying too hard to preserve a starting pitcher's chance of hanging in there for a 'W,' even at the expense of the team's chances for winning the game. He seems particularly sensitive to the pitcher's selfish interest when Radke is on the mound. Sunday, it appears he let that concern get the best of his better judgment again. With a 3-3 score in the top of the 6th, he's thinking he can get a couple more good innings out of Radke and give him a chance to hang around for the 'W,' when instead he should have been thinking about how to take advantage of that golden opportunity to score 2 runs and take the lead in the game.

All Gardy had to say about it: "It's not on Radke to get [the runs] in. He's hitting with two outs every time." So apparently nothing was learned by the man in charge. When your pitcher is up with 2 men in scoring position and 2 outs in the 6th, what can you do but curse the #8 hitter who's left you stuck in that predicament without any options, right?

Between that move on Sunday, the decision to tap Terry Mulholland to pitch the 9th inning of a tie game on Friday, and his efforts to malign and undermine his young stars when the team was in Arizona, it's not been a banner week for the Twins skipper.

I'm glad to see Jim Souhan casting a critical eye on some of these latest turns of events, though. He even referred to Dodger Stadium as a "sun-dappled joint," which comes as a ray of sunshine through my window today--even if the choice of words has absolutely nothing to do with my little blog.

A wink and a nod to you too, if you're reading, Mr. Souhan. Keep up the good work.


At 6/14/2005 4:15 AM, Blogger Leslie Monteiro said...

Jim Souhan rocks. His articles have been great all week.

I gotta say something though, fright. I read the papers and today. Sounds like Gardy and the guys were lamenting about the lack of opportunities offensively. They should do that too, but I think it's funny that there was no talk about the lousy job Brad did out there. Brad did not pitched a great game at all yesterday, but Gardy, the players, and the writers never mentioned much of Brad's bad performance. The offense is not going to hit every night. They have been pretty good in the last few weeks so I am going to be lenient on them. It's hard to score runs in baseball as it is. 4 runs should be more than enough for a pitcher to work with. Brad just hasn't gotten it done and I am dissapointed Lavelle E. Neal, Souhan, Mark Sheldon, and Jason Williams never wrote about Brad's performance. Brad may be a nice guy and he has done a lot of great things for the Twins in his time there, but he is not immune for criticism either. I swear he gets lot of free ride in the press. I am still amazed that he never got any criticism for his horrible performance in Game 2 of the ALDS last year. Not one writer mentioned how he stunk in that game while Joe Nathan got lot of flak in Game 2 as he blew that win in the ALDS.

Oh and for Brad to be upset about being taken out is pretty silly. Brad should be upset about his performance yesterday. Lot of Twins fans I know are not very happy with the way he has been pitching this entire season. Right now, the Twins, writers, and fans should be more concerned about Brad's pitching at this point.

You question TM for being used in the ninth? You trust J.C. in that spot? I sure as heck don't. Maybe he should have went with Guerrier. Who knows? Mullholland has done a very good job for the Twins all year. I am not going to question Gardy on that one.

Gardy calling out Morneau and Mauer? I don't mind him calling them out, but not publicly to the media. He should have done it privately.

At 6/14/2005 12:44 PM, Blogger TwinsJunkie said...

Or how about a certain lefty that got a nice write-up in the paper today about his increased movement? Why Mullhollhand? I, for one, would rather see J.C. in there instead, even though it's doubtful that Gardy would've brought him in against the lefty Choi.

At 6/14/2005 3:00 PM, Blogger frightwig said...

Radke is Bulletproof Brad in this town, Leslie. He's the Annointed Ace for Life. He always gets the benefit of the doubt.

I think Gardy didn't want to use J.C. in the 9th on Friday because he'd thrown 25 pitches the day before, but I think he might have been available to face Choi and Drew if he really wanted the lefty/lefty matchups. Otherwise, I would have preferred going to the ace closer. Nathan hadn't pitched since Tuesday, so he was fresh and could've been good to go for 2 innings. You match him against Gagne, and if the game is still going past the 10th, OK, you can take your chances with Romero/Guerrier/Mulholland against whoever is left over in the Dodgers pen. But in the meantime, use your best pitchers to keep you in the game.

Rolling the dice with a lesser pitcher like Mulholland and keeping Nathan on the shelf, while the Dodgers had Eric Gagne out there, just put the Twins at a disadvantage. Gardy was crossing his fingers and hoping to save Nathan to protect a lead that would never come, because he had his mop-up man out there trying to hold a tie game in the 9th. Foolish move.

At 6/15/2005 2:08 AM, Blogger Leslie Monteiro said...

The only writer that has the galls to rip the Twins and Brad Radke is Dan Barriero and that's basically it and he got fired from the paper.

Mike Mussina gets crucified in the NY media and he is just like Brad. If Brad was in NY or Boston or Chicago, he would be savaged and justifly so. Patrick Reusse normally tells it like it is, but he also never rips Brad. Unbelivable.

Speaking of Guerrier, I haven't seen him pitch in recent weeks. Is he in the doghouse? Guerrier has been darn good all year. He should have been there in the 10th. As for using Joe Nathan, I was okay with not using him. I don't want him out there in the first game of the series in a tie game. I rather use him in a tie game only if they have to win the series or try to win Game 2


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