You have to admit that it’s kind of a new feeling for Twins fans this season to actually look forward to what the scheduled starting pitcher might pull off! AND it’s the second night in a row that I have had that feeling! I’m looking forward to what Scott Diamond might be able to pull off tonight.
I am just going to say this for the record: I don’t care what the Twins final season record is as long as they continue to play baseball the way they are right now – because it’s a heck of a lot more fun to watch! I don’t even require that they win (although that’s great) as long as they are actually making a GAME of it! I like PITCHING and HITTING and BASE RUNNING and FIELDING like you belong in the big leagues!
All that being said, I really do like winning and I especially like beating the White Sox so let’s do it again, shall we?
Well that was just ugly from the onset. Diamond has to be wondering what happened to the supposed Major League team that he’s been playing on. Bad defense and no hitting are no way to support a young pitcher… or any pitcher at all, really.
With the dismissal of Jason Marquis and subsequent promotion of Cole DeVries, the Twins’ rotation is down to one member of the original group projected to come out of Spring Training. Only Carl Pavano remains (and his balky shoulder makes you wonder how much longer he’ll last). And we haven’t reached Memorial Day yet.
So, with the rotation situation as it is, I’m going to put myself in Ron Gardenhire’s and Rick Anderson’s shoes for a moment, today.
The season is off to an absolutely abysmal start, to the point where your team has pretty much been eliminated from any shot at contending with only about 25% of the schedule behind you. The pitching… in particular the starting pitching… has been a disaster. And our grips on our jobs… manager and pitching coach of the Minnesota Twins… is growing just a bit tenuous.
So what do we do?
If ever there was a situation that called for trying unconventional pitching strategies, this is it. After all, what is there to lose? If the weird approaches work, we’re geniuses. If they don’t work, well, at least we get credit for recognizing the status quo had failed and we were willing to try something… anything… to get things turned around.
But what to do? What kind of changes could we make that would be so unheard of among our peers that we’d get credit for trying something totally new AND at least have some remote chance of not blowing up in our faces and costing us whatever little bit of credibility we might otherwise retain at the end of this season?
This week, Poz wrote one of his “Curiously Long Posts” about one of those off-the-cuff sort of truisms that broadcasters and other baseball “experts” tend to spout off without really checking to see if they’re the least bit true. There are a lot of those, of course, but in this instance it was the cliché that, “the last three outs are the toughest outs to get in baseball.”
Of course, for a variety of reasons, that’s not the least bit true. Statistically, in fact, ninth inning outs turn out to be the easiest three outs to get in baseball. The actual toughest three outs are the first three outs. Yes, hitters have the best stat lines in the first inning and pitchers have their worst stat lines in the first inning. More runs are scored in the first inning than any other single inning. Posnanski hypothesizes that this may be because it’s the one inning when the opposing manager can actually set his batting order the way he wants it. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it, but it sounds as good as anything, I guess.
He credits, “a couple of radical thinkers inside the game,” with proposing that teams might be better off to have official game “starters” rather than “closers”… guys who start games every other night or so and go just one or two innings, before turning the game over to another pitcher geared up to pitch several innings. The idea, of course, is to use a hard throwing pitcher with, perhaps, a limited arsenal of pitches to get through that dangerous first inning or so when, statistically, more runs are historically scored than any other single inning.
Think about that in terms of the current Twins for a moment.
What if Francisco Liriano and, say, Jared Burton, were designated the team’s two “starters”? One lefty and one righty, they would start every other game and pitch just the first inning… maybe two if the first inning turned out to be easy enough. How many starts this year did Liriano breeze through the first inning, only to cough up runs in the second?
Wouldn’t it have been great to let him get through that first inning, then immediately turn the game over to Carl Pavano or another “starting pitcher,” who could then face the bottom of the opposing team’s order in his first inning of work? Wouldn’t it have been much more likely that the “starting pitcher” in that situation would be able to get through the 7th inning before hitting the magic 100-pitch mark, allowing Glen Perkins and Matt Capps to close things out?
Why not give it a whirl, guys?
What are you afraid of? Is it that the national baseball media would howl? Would it just be too weird to see the same two guys listed the starting pitcher for the Twins on the schedule every other day?
Or are you afraid that the managers and players on the other teams will laugh at you?
Let’s hope that isn’t what stops you, guys. If it is, I’ve got news for you… they’re already laughing at you, because doing things the way they’ve always been done sure isn’t working.
I’m just not in a wordy mood today I guess – and yes, make all the cracks you want about how rare that is. That aside, tonight was a GOOD win.
We beat the White Sox!
They didn’t use the Assbats! Thank goodness they packed the good ones.
PJ Walters can really pitch!
Wow, it’s great to have a lot of runs and have guys hitting the ball hard & deep but I’m always a pitchers girl at heart and to see a guy go a complete game and get a W just warms my heart in ways I can’t describe. Even with all the offense, unanimous BOD vote goes to our boy, PJ. (and I would like to point out that it’s his second consecutive BOD during starts.. dude is on FIRE!)
I spent the past weekend visiting friends in Chicago. The drive to and from Chicago gave me an opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite guilty pleasures: Chicago Sports Talk Radio. Neither the Cubs or the White Sox are performing well in 2012, an the hot heads calling into their favorite local radio station had plenty of extra fodder as the White Sox were on the north side for the first three game set of the Crosstown Classic. One caller after the next called in to complain, what Alfonso Soriano is doing wrong, how Robin Ventura is mismanaging Chris Sale, and on and on, about one wrong after another heaped down upon the ever faithful fans of Chicago baseball. That lasted for two hours before the game, and after a brief interruption for a baseball game and a hat tip to Kerry Wood, the fans were back at it for another hour, blasting the Cubs in a loss, and the White Sox even in a win. I suppose it could have went on longer, but the show had to end eventually. If you know anything about sports talk radio in Chicago, you know that the next show picked up right where the last one left off, fans battling for a spot on the air to let listeners know what they would do if they were running the team.
The Twins are off today, but are already in Chicago, enjoying a day away from baseball before a three game series begins Tuesday night. The Twins are scheduled to pitch P.J. Walters, Scott Diamond, and whoever is called up to replace Jason Marquis (assuming his shoulder inflammation is now behind him). Never mind that when the Twins head back home to face Detroit on Thursdy that they’ll have to figure out how to deal with Jason Marquis‘ lack of performance (UPDATE: Designated for Assignment) and a hole in the rotation left from Nick Blackburn‘s current DL stint. Leave the starting pitching alone, it has been terrible, and without Diamond and Walters, it has been even worse than that. Let’s look instead at the bullpen. Below are 8 Chicago-Style thoughts on the current Minnesota Twins bullpen staff:
Alex Burnett – At age 24 Alex Burnett still has plenty of upside, and thought his first 18 appearances of 2012 seems to be finally finding his stride, posting a 2.66 ERA, and a WHIP of just 1.3, both career marks. But the reality is that while Burnett has cut down his walk rate to a career low, his strike out rate is almost HALF of what it was in 2010 (7.0 SO/9) at 3.8, and more than two strike outs per nine innings down from what it was even a year ago at 5.9. Fangraphs FIP is a decent predictor of the pitcher Burnett actually is at 4.36, which is slightly lower than his career average. Burnett is due for a regression, and despite his early success the Twins have remained hesitant to put him into high leverage situations (should the Twins actually have any).
Jared Burton – Jared Burton seems like a guy who should be successful. His BB/9 rate is 1.1 and his SO/9 rate is 9.2, his WHIP is a minuscule .702, and yet he’s sporting a 4.60 ERA, thanks in large part to 3 HRs in just 15.2 IP. Burton is due for some regression to his career numbers as well, and he might even be a better pitcher than he is now, but if he continues to serve up the long ball he will not have a roster spot for long.
Matt Capps – On Saturday I was listening to the Milwaukee Brewers radio broadcast and they announced that Capps had yet to blow a save. I didn’t believe them at the time, but after the game was over, and Capps had picked up another save, I had the chance to look up his stats, and sure enough, despite having an 0-2 W/L record, Capps is a perfect 9/9 in save opportunities. It turns out Capps has not really been that bad, sure giving up 1 run in the top of the 9th in tie games to the Red Sox and the Indians stick out in the minds of fans, but since starting the season with a couple poor performances, Capps has been pretty solid for the Twins, cutting his ERA down from 6.00 to 3.38 while quietly racking up saves in 9 of the Twins’ 14 victories. But here’s the rub, Capps biggest strength in 2012 has been his ability to limit walks, giving up just 1 free pass so far this season. That number is sure to go up, and when it does, Capps will be the same heart-attack inducing 9th inning guy that my brother so astutely refers to as “Cardiac Capps”. Not exactly ideal for a closer, but the Twins do not have a ton of options.
Brian Duensing – Duensing, along with Capps and Burnett is one of the few Twins relievers enjoying a successful start to the 2012 campaign. Duesnsing owns an 0-2 record as a reliever this season, but he’s given up just 4 runs in 21 IP. Duensing could be next in line for an opportunity in the starting rotation, depending on the team’s plans for Marquis and Swarzak, but Duensing has been most successful out of the bullpen over the course of his career, and the Twins need more than their share of bullpen arms capable of pitching 2+ innings to help bail out the starting rotation. Duensing is really excelling at limiting base hits, giving up just 5.6 hits per 9 innings, the lowest rate of his career. Fangraphs’ FIP back’s up Duensing’s performance at 2.59, so he should remain effective going forward, it will just be up to the Twins and Ron Gardenhire to figure out how to get one of their best relievers into games when it matters.
Jeff Gray – Jeff Grey has 3 victories in 2012, two of them coming from just 3 pitches, and he has yet to be charged with a loss, but he certainly has not been a solid performer for the Twins. His 4.50 ERA is the highest of the Twins’ most use relievers (Capps, Perkins, Gray, Duensing, Burnett) and his WHIP, Hits/9, and BB/9 are all the worst on the team among ANY relief pitcher. Gray has 18 appearances already in 2012, and Gardenhire continues to send him out to the mound almost every other day! Part of that has been the failure of the starting pitching staff which routinely forces the bullpen into extended action, but to give Gray the 3rd most appearances on the team is just plain ridiculous! Jeff Gray should not have a spot on this team for much longer.
Francisco Liriano in just 3.2 innings as a reliever Liriano has yet to give up a run, but he has as many strike outs as walks (4), and has been used just three times since being demoted, about every 3rd day. He’s going to have to pitch a lot better, and limit his walks if he is going to become a valuable member of the Twins’ bullpen, and he’ll have to learn to adjust to hitters and his own nerves is he is going to end up back in the starting rotation. At this point the Twins need to find a way to boost his value and flip him for anything they can get before the trade deadline. Liriano is a lost cause in Minnesota and the sooner he realizes that and starts showing value to other teams, the better.
Glen Perkins – Perkins signed a contact extension in Spring Training that makes him a Twin through at least the 2015 season, with a 4.5 million dollar team option for 2016. While Perkins has continued to strike more than one hitter out per inning, his walk rate is crept up to its highest level since 2007, and his ERA is almost 2 runs higher than it was a year ago when Perkins was the most dominant reliever on the team. This year Duensing, Capps, and Burnett all have lower ERAs than Perkins. Despite his elevated ERA, Perkins should regress towards his career numbers, and with a FIP almost a full point lower than his current ERA Perkins can be the dominant reliever the Twins saw in the first half of 2011.
Anthony Swarzak – Swarzak has started 3 games and made 9 relief appearances already this season. His ERA currently sits at 4.73, and could be much worse if it wasn’t for an uncharacteristically low BABIP of just .253 (almost 40 points below his career average, and 30 points below the MLB average for 2012). Swarzak does a great job handling mop-up duty when the Twins starters are blown out of a game, and that’s a fine roll for him as long as they don’t start trying to plug him in for more than the occasional spot start, because Swarzak has shown, in 2009 and 2011 (and most of his Minor League career), that he just is not cut out to be much more than the mop up guy he is now.
And those are the guys the Twins have AFTER the starting staff has made a mess of the game.
Yesterday’s game was no picnic and there are just so many things you can do on a Sunday afternoon other than watch your favorite team get their butts handed to them on a silver platter. Don’t worry, nobody blames you for not being able to stomach that kind of slaughter. But those who are seriously disturbed and stayed tuned in, got a rare bit of entertainment that I thought I would share with you now that we have an off-day to recover our equilibrium.
Drew Butera was called upon to pitch… and did it well! Actually, he now leads the team in both ERA and BA… I can GUARANTEE that not even the best baseball prognosticator saw that one coming for ANY part of this season.
It was a lot of fun to watch things unfold:
the best part was striking out GoGo..
second best part was his grin after the strike out..
third best was the bullpen watching..
Rhett Bollinger did a great write-up of the event which you should check out. But if you don’t have time and just want to see it for yourself, here’s your shot:
yeah, that’s about the only pitching outing from this game that is worth talking about since the point is to provide entertainment.
Can the Twins not only win five games in a row, but complete two consecutive series sweeps? As difficult as that may be for us to get our heads around this season, that’s exactly what the Twins are playing for today in Milwaukee.
As happy as I am to see this recent string of success, my enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by the realization that the Twins won’t be able to continue playing every game against teams with defenses as bad as the Brewers and Tigers have. That said, it’s a lot more fun watching other teams play the “Bad News Bears” role, allowing the Twins to pick up some Ws.
I didn’t see or even listen to any of this game and from the looks of things, it’s probably just as well. Let’s face it, any game in which the Twins use six pitchers and the second best pitching performance of the group was by Drew Butera, probably was not a game I really wanted to see. It looks like Joe Mauer showed up with his bat, but otherwise I don’t see much evidence of any offense in the Twins boxscore. – JC
This post has almost nothing whatsover to do with the Twins. Since this is pretty much a Twins blog, I thought I should say that up front. So if you want to just go read something else about the Twins, I understand.
I spent Saturday night watching my hometown Cedar Rapids Kernels (an Angels Class A affiliate in the Midwest League) take on the Peoria Chiefs (the Cubs’ Class A affiliate).
After dinner with my wife and some friends at a local downtown restaurant in Cedar Rapids (Saturday was our 33rd wedding anniversary), the four of us made our way to Memorial Stadium to catch the Kernels/Chiefs game. I thought about stopping at the box office on the way to dinner to get tickets, but decided that probably wasn’t necessary. Mistake.
By the time we got to the parking lot, still several minutes before the first pitch, the place was packed. Maybe it was because the Cubs affiliate was taking on the Kernels and the Cubs are popular around here. Maybe it was because it was “Star Wars” night. Maybe it was because there were postgame fireworks planned for after the game. Maybe it was the perfect weather. Maybe it was a combination of all of the above, but the stadium was full.
I absolutely love to see a full ballpark for a Kernels game. It makes me feel good when the community so clearly appreciates this kind of entertainment.
The Chiefs scored four runs in the top of the 3rd inning. The Kernels scored five runs in the bottom of the same inning. And so the game went. In the end, the Kernels emerged on the winning end of a 7-6 score.
If you don’t regularly attend minor league games, you probably don’t understand the whole “Star Wars” night thing. Minor league teams generally schedule several special events during the season to (a) generate some publicity and (b) raise some money for a local charity. The players wear special jerseys, which are sold via silent auction during the game, with the proceeds going to a charity. Tonight’s Star Wars Night benefited the Make-a-Wish Foundation, for example.
I shelled out a few bucks for Cam Bedrosian’s #30 jersey. The 20-year old right-handed pitcher was the Angels’ first round draft choice in 2010. If his name sounds familiar to you, it may be because his dad, Steve Bedrosian, had a pretty nice Major League career and was a member of the 1991 Twins World Series Champions (see… I managed to find at least a LITTLE connection to the Twins). Oh… and by the way… one of his teammates here in Cedar Rapids is infielder Matt Scioscia, son of the Angels current (somewhat beleaguered) manager, Mike Scioscia.
The jersey itself is one of those so-corny-its-cool things… a Chewbacca brown jersey with neon green lettering. I love it! And Cam was good enough to autograph it for us.
The Twins won their fourth game in a row Saturday and I’m happy about that. But as much as I enjoy following the Twins, it’s really tough to beat a beautiful night watching the Kernels at a ballpark full of families with kids and adults of all ages. If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about because you’ve never had the pleasure of attending minor league games… well… I feel sorry for ya. You have no idea what you’re missing!
My guess is that everyone wearing a Twins uniform is feeling pretty good right about now. And they should be. I really hope they get to the point where they realize that they really like this feeling of working together, playing good ball and getting wins. Even more importantly, I look forward to the time when they can win ball games that don’t involve the opposing teams hiring circus clowns for the field.
As for today’s pitching, all reports are that Pavano is feeling good enough that he supposedly even declined the cortisone shot they had proposed. I don’t know if that is good news or bad news for today but I like the sound of recovery…
My guess about today’s game is that the boys all felt like they started early enough on a Saturday, they might as well play a little longer into the evening so they just kept letting things get tied up… Pavano was on a pitch count but still managed to pitch a full 6 innings which we needed. His velocity isn’t all that much higher than it was but he definitely was pretty solid.
And BOD for today? Finally an easy one. Across the board we had great outings and yes, Drew Butera STILL leads the team in Batting Average since he’s up to .375 if my count is accurate. And Matt Capps put another Save notch on his headboard. But when a game keeps getting tied up, the guy who BREAKS the tie? He gets to be BOD. That is you, Trevor Plouffe!
And we have arrived at that point of the season we call INTERLEAGUE PLAY! Ok, there’s a lot of controversy about in-season interleague play but I’m going on the record as loving it. I LIKE that there are two leagues. I LIKE that there are different rules and strategies and that we get to see them during the season.
You are entitled to have your own opinion and I’m ok if it’s different than mine – but it won’t mean that I enjoy the Milwaukee matchups every year any less and admit it, you like it too.
Now we just have to find out if Diamond can bunt… LOL
Are we allowed to just keep saying “wow”?? It’s really hard to believe that boxscore belongs to the same team we’ve been watching all season. Not to mention that tonight officially makes a win STREAK! It’s the first time we’ve hit 3 consecutive wins this season I think. hard to believe that little details like that are so hard to come by sometimes. There was just a ridiculous amount of hitting tonight – from up and down the lineup.
The M&M boys showed up in a big way getting hits & RBI the way we’d expect. Mauer broke up the tie in the 5th inning which basically broke game open. And Scott Diamond not only booked his 3rd Win as a Twins starter, he showed he knows which end of the bat does what too! He got his first big league hit AND a run which is rare enough from our bench much less our pitchers so I say all three of these boys deserve a tall frosty one courtesy of the city of Milwaukee.
But of course the real prize of the day was tough to come up with due to the team effort across the board. But Denard Span came in after dealing with some calf tightness and he came back in a BIG way. 4 hits, 3 RBI, 3 Runs and in general doing everything you want your leadoff runner to be doing! For all that, he has earned today’s BOD!