Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bisy Backson

See you again next week.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Table of Contenders

The table below shows the records of the AL division leaders and wild card contenders since the start of June.

White Sox
Red Sox
Blue Jays

Besides the 3 current division leaders (Angels, White Sox, Red Sox), there are 8 teams within 5 games of the top of the wild card chase this morning. You can check the standings by scrolling down through the sidebar to the right.

Good News for the Twins:

While the Yankees have made a move on the inside this month, picking up 3 games on the Twins while posting a 13-7 record in July, the Red Sox have squandered their hot June (17-9) by stumbling to a 9-13 record this month, and the Orioles are falling apart at the seams. This morning, the Red Sox lead the Yankees in the East by just one game. So even if Stay-Puft continues to lead the Yankees upwards through the standings (as SBG has noted, Giambi is ripping the cover off the ball lately, batting .373/.519/1.017 in July), the Twins can help themselves in the wild card race by taking care of business with the BoSox in the next few weeks, possibly getting rid of the Yankee problem by opening the door for New York to reclaim the top spot in the East.

The Indians also have cooled off since posting a 17-10 record in June, falling to 9-13 while scoring even fewer runs than the Twins this month, believe it or not.

The Rangers look fried. The Jays are muddling along and underperforming badly on their run differential. The Tigers have only picked up a game on the Twins in the last seven weeks, and are still struggling to get above .500 on the season.

That's about it for the good news. Which brings us to the...

Bad News for the Twins:

First of all, of course, the offense isn't scoring runs. In that group of 11 contenders, only the Orioles have scored fewer runs since the start of June; and on the whole season, the Twins have the worst offense amongst the contenders. Even the Devil Rays have outscored our team. Yeah, baby. But lately the pitching hasn't been all that stellar, either. Note that since June began, the Twins rate a middling 6th in the Table of Contenders in runs allowed.

If you're disposed towards dismissing Cleveland and Toronto, it might cheer you to note that those are two of the clubs which have been stingier about allowing runs than the Twins of late. I suppose we can set aside thoughts about Chicago for awhile, too. But that leaves us with Anaheim and Oakland....

After the customary slow start on the season, the A's once again have kicked into their slash n' burn drive through the summer schedule. Since the start of June, they're playing .729 ball; nobody else is scoring more or allowing less runs; and they've made up 11 games on the Twins. Thirteen, if you want to start counting on June 10, and now stand a half-game ahead of our team in the wild card standings. Last night, the A's stomped C.C. Sabathia and the Indians by a 13-4 score. This is a team the Twins will be meeting seven times in the first two weeks of August. If the Minnesotas can't unpack their A-game out of April storage right quick, well, you see the problem.

The Twins don't seem to be in position to catch much relief if the A's go on to make up the five games needed to catch the Angels of Anaheim for the West lead, either. The LAA of A (AFL-CIO) have been playing some hot ball themselves the last seven weeks, featuring the 2nd stingiest pitching and defense in the league since June began. And the Twins have no more chances to square up with the Halos head-to-head. If the A's can charge unimpeded to the top of the West, the Angels still stand a good chance of taking the wild card fairly comfortably.

The Twins have to get it done against New York, Boston, and Oakland in the next few weeks. They can do a lot to help their own cause by tripping up the A's and sending the Red Sox reeling; and if the Twins wilt under the heat, it could be just as critical. This is it.

If there is the heart of a playoff team in Minnesota this year, it better start beating now.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Three Weeks

Having dropped 3 of 5 games in Detroit this weekend, the Twins have fallen back to .500 (11-11) for the month of July, just as they were a .500 club (13-13) in June, after posting a 14-13 record in May. Minnesota owes its position on top of the wild card standings to a 15-8 April in which the club took series in Seattle and Cleveland, swept the Tigers at home, won 5 of 5 against the Royals, and closed the month with a pair of home wins over the Angels.

Meanwhile, Oakland has caught the Twins with a 6-game winning streak, posting a 15-5 record this month. Since the A's were swept by the Nationals in DC on June 9, they have gone on a 30-9 run while the Twins offense has been sputtering in the water and let the A's make up 12.5 games in the standings. Of course, a Twins fan can only sit back and envy a club that has the luxury of stocking the roster with key experienced veterans like Rich Harden, Nick Swisher, Bobby Crosby, Danny Haren, Justin Duchscherer, Huston Street, Joe Blanton, and the pride of Coon Rapids, Dan Johnson. Wasn't this supposed to be a rebuilding year for Oakland?

Tha-a-a-a-a-a-aa Yankees have also slipped within a half-game of the Twins as of today, winning 13 of 20 this month despite stumbling in Anaheim of Los Angeles this past week. We're investigating the rumor that the Yankees bus driver got lost looking for Angels Stadium in downtown LA, leading the team on a harrowing journey through South Central in the wee hours of Thursday morning which ended only when Gary Sheffield negotiated to give up Derek Jeter to the Crips in exchange for directions to the freeway. If you see Jeter wearing a blue do-rag under his cap this week, it's only because the Yankee Captain is that much of a team playa, yo.

The Twins will be seeing the new chapter of the Bronx Crips this Tuesday, which kicks off a stretch of games that includes home/away sets with Boston and Oakland as well as a series out in Seattle. Twins fans have been looking forward to the 13 remaining games with Chicago, starting with the series in Comiskey that begins on August 15. But by the time the Twins leave Oakland on the 14th, we may have a definitive sense of whether the Twins are going to be in the playoff race to the end or have been already knocked out. The next three weeks, the season is on the line.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A visit from Izzy

Sumo Friday

Websurfing pic of the day:

"In sumo it takes brains
as well as brawn
to make a champion."

From a story at the English Aljazeera site about the growing popularity of sumo in Egypt.

I'll see if I can get some cats to pose for new photos later....

Thursday, July 21, 2005


A letter to Patrick Reusse, in response to this column in the Star Tribune.


People aren't pointing fingers at Scott Ullger just because of Morneau's slump.

Name one Twins farm product who has progressed to meet his potential at the plate in the last few years. (Maybe Mauer will do it, but we'll see.)

Torii Hunter isn't close to becoming the player Terry Ryan thought he had when he gave his CF that big backloaded contract. Cristian Guzman regressed from an All-Star to a hole in the lineup, after the new coaching regime took over. Luis Rivas is a flop who showed no improvement since his rookie year. Jacque Jones regressed since his nice 2002 season, still struggles against lefties, and still has the same bad habits he always did.

Michael Cuddyer, a blue chip prospect, has shown flashes of his talent but is still struggling to settle into the lineup. Michael Restovich came up and did well, until he was told by his coaches to start hacking for the fences, and he's never been the same since. Scotty Ullger apparently couldn't work with Jason Bartlett, either; they cast him back down to AAA after giving him all of 6 weeks in the majors.

Why is it that David Ortiz became a feared run producer in Boston, a STAR after working with Ron Jackson, but never got to be more than a one-dimensional, expendable part under the guidance of Twins coaching?

Now, Justin Morneau is legitimately one of the best young prospects in baseball. Terry Ryan must believe it, otherwise he shouldn't have dumped Mientkiewicz halfway through last season to clear the way for his young slugger. Gardy must have thought so when he started the season with Morneau in the cleanup spot, too. So don't try to pass off that line about gullible fans swallowing media hype. The club expected Morneau to anchor the lineup this season.

Morneau has done it all in AAA, and he's shown in stretches of a month or two what he could do in the majors, too. Of course slumps are to be expected, but it is Ullger's job to help him through it. The talent is there, and it's up to Ullger to bring it out. If he can't do it any better than he could help all the others who regressed or hit a plateau under his tutoring, then he should be accountable for the lack of results.

If Scott Ullger can't help Justin Morneau now, the Twins should hire someone who can.

When a club has a farm system that is consistently rated as one of the best in baseball, yet struggles to develop any true elite players in the regular lineup, who is accountable for that failing?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Trade Winds Blowing

From Joe Christensen in the Strib:

When the Twins inquired about third baseman Joe Randa last month, Cincinnati came back asking for one of three young pitchers: Jesse Crain, Francisco Liriano or Scott Baker.

Go ahead and take a moment. We all could use a good laugh.

The Cincinnati Enquirer speculates:

The Twins might be willing to part with a prospect such as right-hander Boof Bonser, who is 8-5 with a 3.62 ERA for Triple-A Rochester.

I guess that's a more reasonable starting point for discussion.

Tom Verducci sees a natural landing spot in Minnesota for another 3rd baseman:

The Blue Jays will get Corey Koskie back soon, they need to keep giving Aaron Hill at-bats and they want to hang on to All-Star Shea Hillenbrand, all of which makes for a crowded infield. Hinske would help upgrade the poor Minnesota offense.

When a reader challenged him on the point, he added today:

His bat has been disappointing. But I regard him the same way I do Bret Boone: worth a shot, and probably better than what they've been running out there (the Glenn Williams cameo excepted).

Sounds like exactly what we need, doesn't it?


Eric Hinske actually did have a good April and May, but has been awful since then, batting .171/.266/.325 since the start of June--lowering his season line to .240/.316/.408. He really hasn't been much good since winning the Rookie of the Year in 2002. He hasn't played any 3rd base this season, either. Better than what the Twins have been running out there? Feh. I'd rather see Cuddyer or the utility platoon playing for us.

Finally, Gleeman dug up this nugget from the Boston Globe:

A major league source also said the Twins would consider Kevin Youkilis, and the deal could be expanded to include a Minnesota starting pitcher.

Youkilis being an alternative to Bill Mueller. This option is the most intriguing to me. First of all, Youkilis is still a young guy at 26, about to enter the typical prime years for a player. As a pre-arbitration serf, he's cheap. As a righty bat, he could compliment Mauer and Morneau for years to come. He's currently batting .286/.384/.429; but perversely, he's struggling in Fenway Park but has been mashing on the road with a line of .342/.468/.500, in an admittedly small sample of 47 plate appearances. Still, that's the kind of "hey, let's see what happens" kind of flyer I could get behind.

Please, TR, let Bill Mueller be a diversion. Think Youkilis.

The Rulebook

Entering the 9th inning of a 2-2 tie game this afternoon, Ron Gardenhire scanned his list of relievers for fresh arms. Romero and Crain had pitched the night before, and Rincon had carried a 2-inning load on Monday, so his core setup men may have felt a tad weary. Matt Guerrier could have been available after throwing just 8 pitches last night, but Gardy tries not to use him unless he needs someone to eat innings when the team is behind. That's how Guerrier's role is defined in the Manager's Rulebook, and rules are rules. He may just need Guerrier to pitch 3 innings tomorrow against the Tigers. You never know. So, being a tie score in the 9th and possibly a long set of extra innings ahead, what could Gardy do but turn to his old friend, the crafty veteran, noted Tao Nutritionist, the Rubber Arm himself, Terry Mull... NO!


He did NOT bring in Terry Mulholland!

Of course, it was a home game! Therefore, once you get to the 9th with a tie score, that eliminates the need to reserve your closer for a Save Situation as dictated by the Sutter-Eckersley bylaw of the trusted Manager's Rulebook. (It's a little known fact, although you may have realized it intuitively by now, that Scott Ullger's only tangible functions in the organization are to 1) make sure the hitting videos get rewound every night, 2) be the lookout while other coaches slip gag items into players' lockers, and 3) see to it that the Manager's Rulebook gets packed for every road trip.)
So, there being no
Save Situation in play, Gardy was free to use his best available reliever to hold the score. Enter Joe Nathan. And, thanks to a little help from the high baggy in keeping Miguel Tejada in the yard, our ace closer put a zero in the book to keep the game tied.

For the bottom of the 9th, Lee Mazzilli, thumbing through his own copy of the Rulebook, noted that he was a long ways away from Camden Yards and therefore was obligated to tap...

Jason Grimsley!

Jason Grimsley, the former KC Royal, fresh off the 60-day DL and rehabbing after Tommy John surgery, rushed back about 2 months before he was expected to return. That Jason Grimsley.

Advantage, Twins.

The first pitch Jacque Jones saw, he buggy-whipped into the Leftfield bleacher seats. Said Grimsley after the game: "Ninety times out of 100, he's going to pull the ball." Left unsaid, but perhaps implied, is the truth that in the 10 times when a pitcher leaves a fat fastball UP and over the outside half of the plate, Jones will smack a deep fly over the Leftfielder's head. Which goes to show, when a manager leaves a tight game in the hands of his marginal relievers, even "90 times out of 100" may not be quite the favorable percentage that it seems.

Thankfully, the Twins were at home this afternoon, so the percentages--and The Rulebook--were working in our favor.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Alternatives at the Corners

Today Twins Geek takes a look at Justin Morneau in comparison of other AL 1st baseman, and winds up giving our Baby Doc a lukewarm endorsement since the only longterm alternative from around the AL whom he likes more is Mark "Tex" Teixeira from Texas--and Tex won't be leaving Texas anytime soon. I'm with him on that, and I don't see any any reasonable alternatives from the NL who appeal to me much, either. What, you want the Twins to pay Sean Casey $8.5 million next year?

Maybe Morneau and Lyle Overbay could co-exist on an AL roster. But... Overbay himself has come down from a torrid start to bat just .252/.327/.400 since the start of June, and the Brewers could command a premium return for Overbay at this stage of his career. How much could he be expected to help this season? How much would you give up to get him? And would you copy the Wisconsinites' Ooooooooooooohhhh! drone when he came to bat for the Twins?

No, I hope that the Twins stick with Morneau and support him through his slump. If it doesn't pay off this season, letting him work through these struggles now should pay longterm dividends. And since Teixeira's name has come up, let us remember that Teixeira as a rookie regular in 2003 hit .259/.331/.480, which translates to a .271 EqA when adjusted on an all-time scale. Morneau's current .254/.317/.453, in what should be his first full season as a regular, translates to a .269 EqA on the all-time scale. Last year, Morneau ended up with a .292 EqA. So although Morneau is a couple years older than Tex was as a rookie in 2003, I think Morneau's career stage is similar to where Tex stood at the end of the 2003 season--and the comparison doesn't put Morneau in a bad light. There is still reason to believe that Morneau could develop into an elite 1B bat, as Teixeira did, within the next year or two.

Meanwhile, the Strib reports the rumor that Boston may be interested in J.C. Romero, while the Twins may like to acquire 3B Bill "Miller" Mueller. Mueller is 34 and in the final year of a contract paying him $2.1 million this season, or up to $3m in incentives. Trading Romero for him straight-up should make the finances work for the Twins, no problem. Would it help the team?

On the upside: Mueller has a high on-base pct. (.386), and his .286 EqA and 16 Runs Above Replacement-Level look like upgrades on what the Twins have been getting from their 3rd basemen in the lineup. He's a veteran with a sparkly World Series ring. His glovework at 3B is generally good, and he can play 2B in a pinch. In trading Romero, the club would be ridding itself of a flakey reliever who has been particularly unreliable with inherited runners on base this year.

On the downside: Mueller's bat has been sapped of its power this season, and outside of Fenway Park he's hitting a puny .261/.369/.366. This month, he's mired in a nasty slump, posting a line of .234/.333/.340. Since 2001, he's also been even more fragile than Corey Koskie.

Does the team need an aged singles hitter who knows how to take a walk, gingerly manning 3rd base the rest of the season? Eh. I'd still prefer Joe Randa if given the choice. And on the chance that Cuddyer might repeat his 2nd half line of last season (.287/.378/.487), I'd rather give Cuddy Bear another shot to secure regular playing time at the hot corner, too.

Terry Ryan: think big, or just start thinking about next year.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Chance the Gardener Likes to Watch

After his first 4-game series with the Twins, facing an AL West club he's well used to seeing, Bret Boone has 2 singles in 16 at-bats, no walks and 5 strikeouts, and 1 RBI. Gardenhire tapped him to bat 3rd in his debut, and slid him up to the 2-spot for the next few games.

Said Gardy after the game on Saturday: "He needs at-bats. He's still missing pitches we've seen him kill before. ... I just want to see him keep swinging." (AP)

Memo to the manager: Bret Boone in 289 at-bats/319 plate appearances this year is hitting .225/.292/.370. In his last 882 at-bats dating to the start of last season, he has a .243 avg and a .406 slg pct. He's been missing those pitches for quite some time now. How many more at-bats do you think he needs, batting 2nd or 3rd in your lineup?

Now, while Boone's performance of late has him immediately inserted in the top half of the lineup because "it couldn't hurt," Michael Cuddyer has already been benched and Jason Bartlett got sent to AAA for posting better OPS numbers than Boone has put up this season. I guess that's a veteran's privilege, isn't it?

Watching the game on Sunday, I heard Dick & Bert talking about Morneau's struggles of late, upon which Gardy has given his young slugger the same advice that worked so well for Michael Restovich: Let It Fly! Do what got you called up from the minors in the first place, and swing for the fences.

It may seem that much of Morneau's problem is that he's feeling too much of the pressure of the team needing him to supply home run sock, and he may be trying too hard to hit balls over the wall. When a kid like him is struggling with the strike zone, swinging hard at pitches he can't handle, is Gardy giving him good advice?

Bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek told Souhan in the Strib: "He's pulling off the ball. He thinks those are pitches to hit. They're not. You can't hit what you can't see, and his head is going from one level to the next." Again, it sounds like a batter who's swinging too hard at pitches he can't handle, and he's pulling his head on the swing. He probably needs a coach who can help him quiet his mind and batting mechanics, and work on stroking some pitches to the opposite field--or take Coach Stelly's advice to "take the static out of the attic, and start hitting the ball up the middle."

Morneau seems to understand that on some level, as he told Souhan: "Usually what gets you going is that blooper or broken-bat single. That takes the weight off your shoulders and makes you realize you don't have to hit it hard every time to get a hit." But at the same time, he has a manager reminding him that he really doesn't care if he does anything but hit some more of those home runs....

Meanwhile, what is the hitting coach doing to help him or the rest of the chronically struggling offense? (Lineup motto: "Falling Short of Expectations Since... Well, Since Twins Fans Started Having Any Expectations Again") The manager admitted he has no clue of what to do when he told Souhan, "(Morneau) is really struggling. I'm not sure what to do right now." Then Gardy has also decided that Bret Boone's bat is still a weapon and Nick Punto deserves to play regular 3rd base more than Michael Cuddyer, while he's been telling reporters that Johan Santana and the rest of the pitching staff really miss Henry Blanco. This, despite evidence to the contrary on Boone, Cuddyer's superior batting production over Punto, and Joe Mauer's 3.85 CERA (the staff ERA while he's catching). The lineup's #11 league ranking in run production may indicate that the hitting coach has no answers to correct what's wrong with the team, either.

Does anyone in authority, besides the pitching coach and the guy in charge of babysitting the bullpen, have a clear idea of what he's doing right now?

I ask you.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Ashes to Ashes

For there are deeds
Which have no form,
sufferings which have no tongue.


Domestic Tranquility

Friday, July 15, 2005

The New Lineup

Last night's lineup box for the Twins:

S Stewart LF 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 .291
J Mauer C 4 1 1 0 0 1 2 .305
B Boone 2B 4 0 0 0 0 1 4 .227
T Hunter CF 4 1 1 0 0 1 1 .270
M LeCroy 1B 2 0 1 0 1 1 0 .282
J Morneau PR-1B 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .266
J Jones RF 4 0 2 1 0 1 0 .265
L Ford DH 3 0 0 1 0 1 4 .269
N Punto 3B 3 0 0 0 1 0 2 .269
J Castro SS 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .236
a-M Ryan PH 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .265
Totals 32 2 6 2 2 8 14

First of all, yeah, Ron Gardenhire did decide it would be a good idea to use a .231/.299/.385 hitter in the 3-slot. Gardy, check your calendar. Are you still hanging Dilbert cartoons or kitten photos from 2003 on your wall? It's nice to show some respect to a veteran, but this is taking it a bit far.

Also, numerous people seemed to support picking up Boone on the condition that Castro would get less playing time; perhaps Rodriguez or Punto would be SS regulars, or else Bartlett might be recalled since the supposed need for a veteran presence in the infield is no longer an issue. Well, it seems Gardy is in no hurry to scrap his Bay of Pigs scheme (a k a Operation Castro) just yet.

And why is Punto batting 8th? Oh, right. Because that's where the manager had Cuddyer batting, so that's where the 3rd baseman is supposed to go.

Welcome back to the Garden, folks.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Fortunately, They Still Play the Games on the Field

Clay Davenport at Baseball Prospectus has his Postseason Odds up:

Average wins needed to win AL Central: 96.5

AL Central Avg W Avg L Champions Wild Card Playoffs
White Sox 95.0 67.0 69.93150 13.71066 83.64217
Twins 85.6 75.4 8.61810 13.33469 21.95279
Indians 89.3 72.7 19.82590 25.61556 45.44146
Tigers 80.7 80.3 1.62450 3.30221 4.92671
Royals 58.7 103.3 .00000 .00000 .00000

The data shows the average wins & losses as well as percentages of how often each team wins the division, claims the wild card, or makes the playoffs either way in a sample of a million simulations of the rest of the season.

The good news: the report indicates that the wild card team will most likely come from the Central for the first time.

The bad news: the report suggests the Indians are more likely to make the playoffs than the Twins. The current wild card leaders went on to claim that fourth spot in the postseason in just 13.3% of a million sims, making the playoffs about 22% of the time. Hmm.

I think this team should be good for more than 85-86 wins. If that's the average total in the sims, how often do the Twins fall splat and wind up with 78-81 victories?

Food for thought. Take it for whatever you think it's worth.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Master Plans

Bob Collins on the Boone acquisition:

It is low risk from an on-field perspective and especially from a front-office perspective.

And if staying about the same, perhaps a slight (fingers crossed) improvement was all the Twins needed, it'd be even a better deal.

Too bad it's not.

That's about the size of it.

There are three pick-ups the Twins really could use if the front office is serious about making a pennant drive, now or next year:

  • An infielder who really can mash the ball, rather than one who use-ta-could a couple years back.
  • A corner outfielder who can hit better than Jacque Jones or Shannon Stewart.
  • A #2 pitcher better than Brad Radke.
A real commitment to a pennant drive this year requires Terry Ryan to go get at least one of those pieces in the next few weeks. Anything less is just shuffling feet, wishin' and a-hopin'.

But maybe this isn't the year Terry Ryan really wants to make a push, anyway. Should he just mark time and set his sights on 2006, instead?

Next year, the club has Santana and Radke signed for a combined $16.75m. Another $6.95m is dedicated to Nathan and Silva. Hunter will enter the last guaranteed year of his contract, at $10.75m. That brings the committed payroll to $34.45 million.

Jacque Jones' $5m can come off the books; $7.25m of this year's budget is gone if the club exercises its $500k buyout of Joe Mays; and $2.4m of the current budget (plus whatever raise he might get in arbitration next winter) can be cleared by trading Lohse. Shannon Stewart will enter the final year of his deal at $6.5m; Romero is set to make $2.2m; Castro is guaranteed $1 million. Let's set those last three aside as possibly expendible players who could be dealt to clear $9.7m of payroll.

Everybody else still under contract is due to make a relatively small amount. For less than $40 million, the Twins have their front 3 starting pitchers and at least one spot open for someone like Scott Baker, the core of a strong bullpen, Hunter in CF, Morneau at 1B, Mauer at Catcher, Ford at a corner OF spot or DH, probably Bartlett at SS, and maybe Cuddyer will be around to play 3B or 2B. Plus the cheap utility guys and Redmond will be back. And LeCroy could be back for around $1.5 million.

That's most of the essential parts of the current roster, returning for duty next year. Mauer and Morneau will have a full season of experience under their belts. Hunter should be motivated to play in what is essentially his contract year. The core of the pitching staff is intact. The GM just needs to find a corner outfielder (assuming Kubel is not ready to start every day), possibly a 3rd baseman and/or a 2nd baseman, and one starting pitcher. And he could have somewhere between $15-20 million to fill those spots.

Ponder the thought: on top of an already solid roster core, Terry Ryan really could have the budget to go get at least one premium batter or pitcher next winter. A real impact player.

And maybe that's the team, Your 2006 Minnesota Twins, which really stands the best chance of going back to the World Series in the near future. Maybe TR should be saving his trading chips for the winter and next July, rather than spending them now.

What do you think?

Monday, July 11, 2005


News at the Twins site: Minnesota has acquired Bret Boone for a player to be named later.

Assuming the player traded will not be anyone significant, the move has some potential to spark both the lineup and Boone's flagging career, without much cost. I'd certainly prefer a faded Boone at 2B to Luis Rivas. However, if Boone does not find new life with a change of scenery, how does he compare to the other in-house options at 2nd base?

Here are some 2005 performance figures to date:

NAMEBatting LineRC/27EqAIsoPZR

*Batting line= avg/obp/slg, RC/27= Runs Created per 27 Outs, EqA= Equivalent Average, IsoP= Isolated Power, ZR= Zone Rating (defense).

All stats remaining constant, replacing anybody but Rivas in the lineup with Bret Boone appears to be an offensive downgrade. Boone might add a little punch to the Twins lineup, even at his present levels, but at the cost of playing an out-machine where the team has been getting solid on-base rates from most of its 2nd base candidates.

His .743 Zone Rating on defense represents a downgrade on every in-house alternative, as well. Yes, even Rivas, whose coverage of his position lately has been so like a sieve, I screamed at the set more than a couple times after watching a ball go by his waving glove last week. It may surprise some to read it, but Cuddyer's defense at 2nd base (.846 ZR this season; .800 career) rates better than Boone's play this year by Zone Rating, too.

Maybe, just maybe, getting Boone out of Safeco and away from a last place club will rejuvenate him. Who knows, maybe he'll "inspire" his teammates to go on a hot tear like Stewart was credited with doing in 2003, too. I'm glad to hear that he really wanted to come to Minnesota. But I'm pessimistic. Chances seem more likely that he'll push a better option to the bench, and perhaps send another good alternative back down to AAA. This smells an awful lot like Chicago picking up Roberto Alomar last year--and didn't we snicker at Kenny Williams and those miserable bastards then?


Saturday, July 09, 2005

Exploring the Stairway to the Cellar

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Old Man Daley Would Be Proud

So Scott Podsednik won the "last chance" vote to make the All-Star team, huh?

Sure, the White Sox only rate 19th in home attendance, drawing roughly the same average gate as the Twins despite playing in the 3rd largest city in the country. More than half of Chicagoland despises or feels indifferent to the White Sox, and their fans across the country are not exactly legion, either. As a road attraction, the ChiSox rate 24th in the majors. So of course a mediocre Leftfielder with a knack for stealing bases, representing the seedy stomping grounds of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, would be the popular choice of fans across the country, rather than Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, or Torii Hunter--each of the three being fan selections to play in the All-Star Game in years past. Not only that, but Podsednik should receive about 1.3 million votes more than the ballot winner in the NL, Roy Oswalt. Of course.

Who tabulated the votes? Diebold?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ex-Twins Stats

As we round the halfway pole, let's check in on some old friends...

E. Milton (Cin): 4-9, 7.20 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, .311 opp avg
M. Redman (Pit): 4-7, 3.72 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .255 opp avg
K. Rogers (Tex): 9-4, 2.45 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .249 opp avg
L. Hawkins (SF): 1-5, 5.79 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, .283 opp avg, 4/8 Sv
Guardado (Sea): 1-1, 1.55 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, .173 opp avg, 20/21 Sv
T. Jones (Fla): 1-3, 1.29 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .202 opp avg, 13/15 Sv
A. Fultz (Phi): 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .205 opp avg
H. Carrasco (Was): 3-1, 2.43 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, .202 opp avg
J. Baldwin (Balt): 0-0, 1.61 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, .218 opp avg

D. Ortiz (Bos): .312/.393/.585, 20 HR, 70 RBI
D. Mientkiewicz (NYM): .219/.309/.388, 9 HR, 24 RBI (DL)
A. Pierzynski (CWS): .256/.309/.436, 11 HR, 31 RBI
C. Koskie (Tor): .248/.313/.430, 7 HR, 16 RBI (DL)
C. Guzman (Was): .201/.239/.291, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 20 R
T. Walker (Cubs): .288/.388/.432, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 15 R
C. Blake (Cle): .227/.300/.400, 10 HR, 28 RBI
M. Lawton (Pitt): .271/.376/.448, 10 HR, 37 RBI, 47 R
D. Miller (Mil): .281/.349/.417, 4 HR, 20 RBI
M. Restovich (Pitt): .260/.316/.438, 3 HR, 7 RBI
D. Mohr (Col): .189/.235/.425, 7 HR, 15 RBI
B. Kielty (Oak): .279/.377/.419, 5 HR, 38 RBI
C. Allen (Tex): .283/.309/.340 (sent to AAA)
J. Offerman (NYM): .227/.320/.432, 2 HR, 6 RBI
C. Gomez (Balt): .285/.354/.362, 1 HR, 19 RBI
Q. McCracken (Ari): .215/.293/.267, 1 HR, 7 RBI
H. Blanco (Cubs): .162/.182/.257, 2 HR, 6 RBI
J. Valentin (Cin): .245/.342/.426, 4 HR, 15 RBI
C. Moeller (Mil): .205/.246/.330, 4 HR, 10 RBI
D. Ardoin (Col): .241/.323/.362, 1 HR, 4 RBI

D. Hocking (KC, AAA): .253/.327/.316
B. Buchanan (Col, AAA): .306/.385/.514
B. Buchanan (Col, AAA): 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 IP
M. Kinney (SF, AAA): 3-3, 6.28 ERA, 1.63 WHIP
J. Roa (Pitt, AAA): 1-1, 6.05 ERA (DL?)
Rowland-Smith (Sea, AA): 3-5, 4.64 ERA, 1.44 WHIP
T. Fiore (Bal, AAA): 4-2, 3.92 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
A. Johnson (Puebla, Mex): 1-1, 9.00 ERA, 21 IP
* Johnson apparently was released by Puebla

Monday, July 04, 2005


Congratulations to Johan Santana and Joe Nathan, our Twins representatives in the All-Star Game.

Santana has been less the invincible force that grabbed hold of the Cy Young last year, but still has been strong with a 7-4 record, 3.74 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and a league-leading 140 strikeouts. Good enough to win the support of his peers, and deservedly so. Joe Nathan had a couple shakey outings in late June to inflate his ERA above 4 for a couple days, but his 23 Saves lead the league, and his .211 opp avg and 10.70 K/9 rate show that he remains one of the most formidable closers in the game..

Carlos Silva got shut out, but the roster is plugged with pitchers of greater reputation, having seasons as good or better than his own. Jon Garland of Chicago is the only starting pitcher to get tapped despite beginning the year as an unheralded nobody, but a 13-3, 3.29 mark set even by a nobody is too gaudy to overlook. Really, there are a number of AL pitchers who missed the cut despite boasting numbers even better than Silva's: Freddy Garcia and Jarrod Washburn, to name two.

Jesse Crain is also out of luck, as the final two spots in the bullpen had to be filled by the lone representatives from Oakland and Tampa Bay.

Torii Hunter misses the cut for the time being, as the fans rightly chose Johnny Damon to start the game, and the vote of players and coaches chose Garret Anderson, Gary Sheffield, and Ichiro Suzuki to fill out the reserve spots.

If you want to vote for Torii to fill the "last chance" spot, go HERE.

Here is Torii and his competition, by the numbers:


If I were being completely honest and open-hearted, I'd have to give the nod to Derek Jeter. He deserves a spot, based only on his play so far this season, just as much as Michael Young, the reserve SS already named to the team. I mean, I should cast my vote for Derek Jeter. Except you'll never catch me piling onto the Derek Jeter bacchanalian love fest. I just can't relate to all the barely concealed fanboy lust that simmers just beneath all the huzzahs hailed down at his feet wherever he walks. It creeps me out, and I want no part of it. I'm sure he'll enjoy plenty of support without my vote, anyway.

Matsui deserves the spot more than Torii, too; but I'm tempted to say, again, that the support of Yankee fans--and Japan--minus my vote will have to suffice for him. Hunter's bat production on the season rates him slightly behind Grady Sizemore in the Top 3 Centerfielders in the AL. And since Sizemore isn't on this ballot, and the roster doesn't have a reserve who has played CF this season, I could say it would be nice to see Torii out there representin' for the position.

On the other hand, aside from a monster June, Torii hasn't really played like an All-Star most of the time this season. If I vote for Torii, it has to be just because I like him better than the Yankees and would rather see him represent the Twins in the All-Star Game. I'll have to be one of
those fans.

What do you think? Are you voting for Torii? Or will the numbers just not let you do it?

Have a happy and safe Independence Day, everybody.

A Breakthrough!

Friday at the Dome...

Minnesota - Bottom of 7th Score
Casey Fossum pitching for Tampa Bay TAM MIN
J Jones grounded out to shortstop. 43
M LeCroy singled to left. 43
B Abernathy ran for M LeCroy. 43
J Morneau singled to center, B Abernathy to third. 43
D Brazelton relieved C Fossum. 43
M Ryan hit for L Rivas. 43
M Ryan grounded into double play, second to shortstop to first, J Morneau out at second. 43
0 Runs, 2 Hits, 0 Errors
Tampa Bay - Top of 8th Score
Jesse Crain pitching for Minnesota TAM MIN
B Abernathy at second base. 43
J Gomes fouled out to first. 43
T Lee grounded out to shortstop. 43
T Hall reached on infield single to shortstop, T Hall to second on throwing error by shortstop J Castro. 43
D Hollins grounded out to second. 43
0 Runs, 1 Hits, 1 Errors
Minnesota - Bottom of 8th Score
Dewon Brazelton pitching for Tampa Bay TAM MIN
C Crawford in left field. 43
L Rodriguez walked. 43
S Stewart singled to left, L Rodriguez to second. 43
J Castro sacrificed to pitcher, L Rodriguez to third, S Stewart to second. 43
J Mauer intentionally walked. 43
T Hunter walked, L Rodriguez scored, S Stewart to third, J Mauer to second. 44
J Jones tripled to right, S Stewart, J Mauer and T Hunter scored. 47
B Abernathy struck out swinging. 47
J Morneau intentionally walked. 47
L Ford hit for M Ryan (J Crain). 47
L Ford walked, J Morneau to second. 47
L Carter relieved D Brazelton. 47
L Rodriguez flied out to center. 47
4 Runs, 2 Hits, 0 Errors

See what happened there?

Ever since Joe Mauer hurt his knee at the beginning of last season, Ron Gardenhire has fretted in the media about whether he could stand the risk of managing games in which his primary backup catcher is also his regular DH in the lineup. If the starting catcher were to get hurt during the game and LeCroy is already playing as the DH, then moving Matty behind the plate would mean the Twins lose the DH the rest of the day. The pitcher becomes active in the batting order and might have to bat for himself.

Gardy's fear of this scenario is the reason the club called up Rob Bowen from AA and carried him for a couple months last year; it's why Terry Ryan made a trade to pluck the wizened and ancient Pat Borders out of AAA in late August; and it was the rationale for starting this season with Corky Miller as a spare backup catcher, just to ease the manager's fears of what would happen if Mike Redmond got hurt on the same day that Mauer already had the day off to rest his knee. Corky would be there to see to it that his manager wouldn't have to worry about managing a few innings with the pitcher activated in the batting order.

Friday, apparently after studying how NL managers work around the pitcher's spot in the late innings, Gardy showed he's figgered out the problem. After all the sleepless nights of worry, and the pain of watching Borders scramble to block pitches and Corky's bat flailing at them, our manager has put his fears to rest. Folks, I think our little man is growing up!

Abernathy ran for the DH LeCroy. Keeping Abernathy in the game at 2nd base allowed "the pitcher's spot" to shift down to the #8 turn in the order, which had been occupied by Rivas (and Michael Ryan after he had pinch-hit for Luooo-ie in the 7th inning). When the pitcher's spot came up again, the manager sent out Lew Ford to pinch-hit, then changed pitchers in the 9th.

Now, why was it so hard to get to this breakthrough?

Let's just hope it puts the whole issue to bed, once and for all.

Friday, July 01, 2005