For the first time in a long time (my memory could be bad), the Twins are actually starting their season at HOME in 2013!! Part of me wonders though since they kick everything off against the Tigers on April Fools’ Day. This could be.. interesting.
That first month is actually very division heavy which I’m a little unused to – we see the Tigers twice, the Royals and the White Sox all in April. We even have our first inter-league play in April against the Marlins. I don’t hate the idea, I just don’t recall that from the past and I’m just unused to it. I’m sure we can all manage.
However, as Reusse pointed out this afternoon, it’s a ridiculously heavy spring and fall home schedule. More than half of our home games take place in either April or September. Really?? When JUNE, JULY, & AUGUST are the most predictably safe weather in Minnesota? I think there are going to be a LOT of season ticket fans pretty unhappy with this schedule especially since it means that a lot of school kids are less likely to be able to attend games… It really seems very odd.
They haven’t established the printable or downloadable schedules for 2013 yet so you have to go visit the website and look one month at a time but if you want to get started on your baseball season planning for next year, here you go!
First of all, I want to acknowledge the day and just take a minute to remember what happened 11 years ago today, the people who died and what we’ve been through since. And while the whole country must move on, I hope we never forget those who were lost to us on September 11th.
In completely separate news, Hardball Talk shared some truly fantastic news today. A’s pitcher, Brandon McCarthy was released from the hospital today after that terrifying hit to the head. Whatever else he may be going through for rehab, it appears he hasn’t lost his sense of humor as the first thing he did was send out a tweet:
Brandon McCarthy @BMcCarthy32
WELL IF BEING DISCHARGED FROM THE HOSPITAL ISNT THE BEST TIME TO ASK ABOUT A THREESOME THEN IM FRESH OUT OF IDEAS
And his wife also seems to have the necessary fortitude to face this scary time with him – as well as his sense of humor because she immediately replied:
She is MY kind of chick!! I pretty much giggled my pants off with that one! But I’m very happy to see such a scary event resolving into a much more manageable situation. Good for both of them!
And now, about tonight’s game!
ah.. the battle for last place in the division – I’m ok with losing THAT battle. It’s kind of hard to contemplate the position KC is in though – about 6 weeks ago, they actually LED the division and this is where they are today. Honestly, Twins fans have known all season that this was not going to be a great year and have had time to adjust to it. I think the Royals are struggling with what the Twins went through last year.
We’re also in the middle of what has been a very successful homestand for the Twins so far. Tonight is going to be HOT and WINDY. You have to wonder what that will mean for Scott Diamond and the offense. I have a feeling there will be a lot of balls flying long paths – I just hope they’re all coming off Twins bats.
I was having some connection issues much of the evening so I didn’t hear every inning of the game on the laptop, but I heard enough to know there were very few good things happening for the Twins. Glancing at the boxscore, it appears the Twins did rack up 11 hits… all singles… and that Ben Revere accounted for three of the 11. So I guess there’s that. But 1 of 9 with RISP is how you end up scoring one run on 11 hits.
Then again, with the poor pitching performances tonight, it really might not have mattered if the bats had come through a bit more frequently.
I’m kind of tired of reading and hearing about Stephen Strasburg and the decision by the Washington Nationals to shut him down for the season. That being the case, I’m not sure why I’m choosing now to actually write about him. But I am.
I suppose the reason is that I’ve been trying to put myself in the shoes of those directly and indirectly involved with the decision to put an end to the hard-throwing phenom’s season because he’s reached what seems to some to be an arbitrarily reached innings limit in his first full season following “Tommy John” surgery. I find the exercise of shoe-filling to be helpful when it comes to second-guessing the decisions of others. Sometimes, it’s pretty easy to know how I would feel and what I would do. Sometimes, not so much.
If I’m Stephen Strasburg, 24 year old pitcher, living my life-long dream of playing Major League Baseball, with a record breaking (for a draftee) $15.1 million 4-year contract in my pocket assuring me of being able to live comfortably for the rest of my life, and the competitive juices flowing through my veins that have driven me to reach this level, then I want to friggin pitch! Are you kidding me? My team is about to make the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history and the first time in my adopted home city since most likely before my grandfather was born and now I’m not going to be there for the end of the ride? You gotta be kidding me!
If I’m Scott Boras, Strasburg’s super-agent, I’ve got an investment to think about. Yes, I made a couple nickels off that $15+ million contract, but this is a pitcher who, if he hit the free agent market today, would easily bring in ten times that figure. Who knows how much he’ll be worth by the time he actally has enough service time in to hit the open market? It’s understandable that my client is focused on what he’s missing out on now, rather than on his future career and the earnings that come with it. It’s my job to focus on that for him. Of course I want to avoid risking career threatening injury that could come from throwing too many innings too soon and I’ll use every bit of influence and leverage I have to protect this investment.
If I’m Mike Rizzo, Nationals General Manager, I’ve got an investment to think about, too. But it’s not quite as cut and dried for me as it is for Mr. Boras. Somehow, I’ve got to balance protecting the $15+ million asset I’ve already put in to Strasburg (and, if you believe the comments made by Boras in this Washington Post article, I also need to balance my relationship with Boras), with the need to not totally alienate my team’s fan base. This is a fan base that is starved for success they’ve never… ever… felt. If I screw this up and the fans stay away from the ballpark next year, I won’t have to worry about this team’s future, because someone else will have my job. On top of that, I’m risking my relationship with a clubhouse full of players that are seeing me take away a key component of their team just three weeks before the postseason begins. (Then again, a big chunk of that clubhouse seems to be represented by Boras.)
If I’m a Washington Nationals fan, how do I feel? My chosen team is thissssssss close to the brass ring and Strasburg is a big reason “we” are in this position (make no mistake, as a fan of a team with the best record in baseball, I’m identifying myself with that team, so it’s all about what Rizzo is doing to “us”). Maybe if I were a Yankees fan (God forbid) and felt that sense of entitlement that comes from buying enough talent every year to almost assure my team of making the playoffs, I would have a longer term view of things. But in a town that hasn’t seen postseason baseball since 1933, this is a tough pill to swallow. On the other hand, it’s not like Strasburg is the only pitcher the Nats have. In fact, he’s arguably been among the least effective members of the rotation in recent weeks. But still…
The fact is, as Twins fans, we may get the opportunity to find out exactly how we would feel if we filled the shoes of Nationals fans. Of course, we’d have to get pretty lucky.
You see, the Twins have a young pitcher named Kyle Gibson that they think a lot of and he had TJ surgery right about one year after Strasburg did. He’s thrown a few innings late this year in the minors and he’ll pitch some more in a fall league. But before Opening Day, 2013, the Twins will need to come up with a plan for Gibson.
I’m not sure how the Twins will approach Gibson’s season, but I’m hoping they’re a bit smarter about it than Rizzo, Boras and, yes, even Strasburg himself, were about their situation this year.
See, I don’t really have a problem with limiting Strasburg to 160-ish innings, in accordance with his doctors’ recommendations not to overwork the recently repaired elbow. In fact, I find it refreshing. I would think that any fan, especially one who cringes whenever an old schooler clearly thinks a WHIP is something Indiana Jones carries and a K/9 is a police dog, would applaud the Nationals’ willingness to apply modern medical philosophy to Strasburg. I do, however, have a problem with them being stupid about how they applied that innings limit.
No matter who’s shoes I put myself in, I keep coming back to one thing.
If you’re dealing with a guy who’s going to pitch in the minors or if you absolutely know you’re MLB team is going to suck, sure, just send your guy out there for 160 innings and shut him down. But if you are talking about, thinking about, or even just giving lip-service about being competitive, why the hell do you even think about putting your guy in the rotation before May 1 (and probably a couple weeks later, to be safe)?
No matter which one of the roles in this little melodrama you step in to, wouldn’t it occur to you that it would be far more important to have your ace available for a stretch drive and the postseason, than to have him throwing in April’s potentially chilly evenings? Yes, games in April count as much as games in September, but games in October count a hell of a lot more than games in either of those months!
The Nats have provided a service to the rest of Major League Baseball, I suppose. They’ve made a mistake smarter GMs can learn from. In the future, any GM who doesn’t hold back his tender-elbowed pitcher at the beginning of the season and thus is forced to shut him down just when things get interesting will be known to have “Strasburged” his pitcher… and there’s really no excuse for another pitcher to ever be Strasburged again.
So watch closely this spring, folks. Follow along to see if Kyle Gibson starts the season in the Twins rotation or spends a month or so back in Fort Myers just keeping his arm warm until May rolls around. At the very least, he should spend a month or more in the bullpen, allowing him to stretch his innings through the full season without overworking that repaired elbow.
We can expect the Twins front office to tell fans they believe the Twins will be competitive in 2013. But if Kyle Gibson is in the rotation to open the season, we’ll know the truth… that the front office does not expect their team to contend in 2013, so they’re willing to Strasburg Gibson.
Either that or they’re just being as stupid as the Nationals.
You know, that was kind of the Twins performance we used to be much more accustomed to seeing. Good starting pitching, followed by a couple innings of shut down work by the bullpen. Some timely hitting, speed on the basepaths and excellent defense. Almost makes you a little misty-eyed to see it again, doesn’t it?
There was support for Alexi Casilla and his flashy leatherwork for Boyfriend of the Day honors. I’m a big Lexi fan and I acknowledge that time may be running out for him to get one more BOD award in his Twins career, but there were a couple of other performances that have to rate just a bit higher.
Sam Deduno went seven innings and gave up just three hits. Somehow, though, he gave up almost as many runs. His six strikeouts were pretty nice, but then there were those three walks. That’s pretty impressive.
But BOD honors tonight go to Pedro Florimon. He showed some pretty fancy glovework, himself, but he also added a double, a triple, a couple of runs scored and an RBI. I don’t know if this is the kind of performance we can expect from Pedro consistently, but wouldn’t it be nice if it was?
It was with much fanfare that Major League Baseball announced a new, slightly expanded, postseason format as a part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It was reportedly solely due to the will of Commissioner Bud Selig that a way was found to implement the new format for the current season, rather than waiting one more year, when the leagues would be balanced and the spacing of postseason games could more easily be adapted to the format.
So what was the big deal? Is it really that important to the fans? I suppose that depends on the fan base you talk to. Most Twins fans probably don’t give a damn, since nothing short of a high school basketball tournament format where everybody automatically gets to play at least one game would help the Twins make the postseason this season.
But what effect is the new format having elsewhere in baseball? The argument that supporters of the new format (including myself) made was that adding one more Wild Card spot in each league and making the two WC teams play a single win-or-die play-in game would keep more teams in contention later and therefore keep more fans in more cities engaged during September, when MLB tends to start hemorrhaging fans who turn their attention to football if the local MLB team has fallen out of contention. The single play-in game would also motivate teams to win their own division, rather than just settle for the Wild Card and coast through the final couple weeks of the season once that much was assured.
I thought this might be a good time to take a look at whether those arguments are holding up as we enter the final three weeks of the regular season.
Frankly, in the American League, I’m not sure the new format is having much, if any, effect. That’s primarily due to the AL having three highly contested division races, which certainly doesn’t happen every year. The top five non-division-leaders are also relatively closely packed together, so whether they were clawing for one WC or two, the fans in all five cities would probably be remaining engaged. Even Detroit, which would sit six games back in the WC standings and trailing four teams in the old format, remains in the thick of things since they’re only two games out of the Central Division lead anyway.
In other words, whether under the new format or the old, the same eight AL teams are in contention and nobody would have the kind of lock on a playoff spot that would have allowed them to coast toward the finish in the old format.
But in the National League, things are more than a bit different.
All three current division leaders have healthy gaps between themselves and their nearest competitor. Washington and San Francisco have 5.5 game leads and Cincinnati has an 8.5 game lead. On top of that, Atlanta has a similar 5.5 game lead over the next non-division-leader, St. Louis. In other words, under last year’s format, we’d be coming pretty close to declaring the NL playoff bracket to be set.
The Dodgers would not only trail the Giants by 5.5 in their division, but they’d be seven games out of the Wild Card race. The Pirates would be 8 games back and no other team would be within 10 games of a WC spot.
If the Braves could maintain that kind of lead over the others, they’d have limited incentive to try to close the gap on the Nationals, knowing they’d enter the playoffs on equal footing with the three division winners.
But these teams are not playing under the old format.
In the new format, the Cardinals, rather than having their postseason hopes being on life support, are currently claiming the second WC spot in the NL. Not only that, but the Dodgers are just 1.5 games behind St. Louis and the perennial also-ran Pirates are just a game behind the Dodgers (and just 2.5 out of the final WC spot).
Even the Brewers, Phillies and D’Backs, who would all be around a dozen games out of the WC race in the old format, are still hanging on to hopes with deficits half that size this year.
But that’s not all.
If the Braves want to avoid having to endure a single play-in game, they need to pull out all the stops and try to catch up to Washington… and the Nationals can’t just sit back and figure it really doesn’t matter if the Braves catch them or not. It matters! And while the Reds may be coming close to having their division title locked up, the Giants can’t afford to take their foot off the gas pedal and risk letting the Dodgers steal the NL West from them, either.
If you look at the NL schedule of games on any given day, you would have to try very hard to find a single game with any kind of playoff ramifications under the old format. This year, there are probably at least 4-5 games every night that have potential postseason impact.
I know there are plenty of people who still don’t see it as “fair” to play a 162 game schedule and have that come down to a single play-in game to qualify for the postseason. Most of those people seem to be managers and players on potential Wild Card teams.
To them, I can only say, if you don’t like it, win more of those 162 games. Win your division and earn the advantage of knowing you’ll have a playoff series, rather than a single game. Earn the right to perhaps set your rotation for the postseason. And if you can’t earn it, if you just aren’t good enough through 162 games to win your division, then maybe… possibly… you might still be allowed a “second chance” play-in game. That’s what a Wild Card spot should be… a second chance for teams that haven’t won anything.
I’m sure the compacted postseason schedule will be kind of messed up this season, but for my money, the new Wild Card format is working just the way I hoped it would. As much as I hate to admit it, this time Bud Selig got something right.
Episode 3 of Talk To Contact podcast is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
Talk To Contact: Twins Podcast
In Episode 3 Paul and I discuss the Twins wealth of out fielders, both in MLB and the minors, possible roster constructions for 2013, the starting pitching both now and going forward, the bathrooms in Clinton, Iowa and Byron Buxton, among other things. Take a listen, and send us some feedback.
So Minneapolis is a busy place this afternoon! Vikings are kicking off the NFL season at home hosting the Jaguars while the Twins finish off the series with Cleveland. And of course, I have 15 things going on so all of the above are going to be hit & miss for me to catch.
Given that the this is a rubber match for the Indians, I’m really hoping that Esmerling Vasquez has a fantastic Target Field debut – not that I don’t always hope our starting pitcher is fantastic. It might be a day game but our boys aren’t leaving town since the home stand still has another week to go. I’m hoping that means that the offense remembers that it can hit the ball!
And the weather is absolutely perfect to be outdoors watching baseball while the rest of the Minnesota is indoors watching the Vikings in the Dome. I’ll take the baseball… at least while I’m not going out to pick up my new dryer….
Seems pretty much everyone had other things to do today that were more important than hanging out online during the Twins game, but I made it home just in time to hear Justin Morneau’s walk-off solo shot down the right field line.
Vasquez wasn’t exactly impressive and a couple members of the bullpen weren’t entirely helpful, either, but Casey Fien and Brian Duensing both managed to put out a fire or two and keep the Twins in the game.
But today was a bit of a “throwback” day for the Twins… if you can call going back about 4 years “throwback.” In any event, today it was an M&M day. Joe Mauer had three hits, finishing just a home run short of hitting for the cycle. No problem, though, because Morneau hit a couple of them, including the game winner in the bottom of the ninth inning.
For that bit of heroism, Justin is our Boyfriend of the Day! – JC
Pretty sure the Twins HAD to win tonight or TK would have kicked their ass. But then again, Cole really pitched a beautiful game. Anytime the home team can work with a shutout of the visiting team, they really don’t have to do too much. For that, Cole DeVries is voted today’s BOD!
The Twins were off yesterday and, despite yet another Colorado Rockies loss, they are still in position to have the third overall draft selection in the 2013 MLB Draft. Minnesota’s hold on that 3rd draft selection is pretty tenuous, as they’re just half a game worse than the Rockies, and two games behind the Cleveland Indians. Something to watch for down the stretch after the Twins are officially eliminated from the playoffs (any combination of 8 Twins losses or White Sox victories).
Here are the final 5 prospect profiles in this early top 11 draft preview:
Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina
Like Levi Michael, the Twins 2011 1st round draft selection, Moran plays his college ball at the University of North Carolina. Moran lacks any elite tools, and he’s slow, but he makes up for that by being a well above average hitter. He hits for average, makes good contact, has pretty good power numbers, and gets on base a ton (68 walks compared to just 57 strikeouts). In his two years at UNC he’s hit 12 home runs, and has a hitting line of .347/.439/.522. To move all the way to the top of the draft an be a serious candidate for the Twins Moran will have to hit for more power than he did as a sophomore (just 3 of his 12 home runs came in his 2nd year on the team) and he’ll likely need to demonstrate above average defense at 3B (at 6′ 3″ and only 180 he’s lanky and needs to stay down on balls hit his way). He was a 1st team College All-American in 2011, so all eyes will be on him for the 2013 season.
Bobby Wahl, RHP, Mississippi Wahl was originally drafted late in the 2010 draft by the Cleveland Indians (39th round), but chose instead to enroll at Ole Miss. This past summer Wahl was named to the USA Collegiate squad and primarily serves as a late inning reliever. In his first four appearances he struck out nine batters, walked three, gave up no runs and recorded two saves. According to Pinestripesplus.com, Wahl possesses “a great pitcher’s build and a fastball in the low 90s.” Despite being used as a reliever for the Collegiate National Team, Wahl started 17 games for the Rebels in 2012 and went 7-4 with a 2.55 ERA. He had 104 strike outs in 99 innings to go along with just 34 walks. If it wasn’t for the dramatic shift in the way the Twins draft pitchers evidenced by the 2012 draft, Wahl would be exactly the kind of low 90s control pitcher the Twins might normally target. Will need to be really impressive in 2013 to become a top-5 draft pick.
Clinton Hollon, RHP, Woodford County HS (KY) The Twins typically shy away from high school pitching, but Hollon is a guy that they might not be able to pass up. He has a fast ball that generally works between 90-94 but has been clocked as high as 97 mph at times, according to PerfectGame.org. A lot of things have to go right for a high school pitcher to make it to the Major Leagues, but at 6′ 1″, 195 lbs Hollon has room to grow into his body and could add a couple of extra MPH to his fastball before everything is all said and done. I do not think the Twins will go this route, but if they think Hollon is the best talent available, and willing to sign at or near his slot value, the Twins could potentially take a gamble.
Karsten Whitson, RHP, Florida Karsten Whitson is not only one of the leading draft prospects for the 2013 draft, but he has a phenomenal baseball name, which should be good for an extra $50 or something on his signing bonus. He was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2010 draft, (9th overall) but ended up at the University of Florida instead of playing pro-ball. In two years at Florida, and 10 starts as a sophomore, Whitson is 12-1 with 112 strikeouts and just 46 walks in 131 innings. Whitson is a big guy at 6′ 4″, 225 lbs, and throws in the mid to upper 90s. Despite some minor injury troubles that kept him out of some early season games a year ago, he should be ready to dominate as a Junior in the SEC. Whitson has a real opportunity to be the number one overall selection in the upcoming draft, and the Twins would be more than happy if he fell to them at number three.
Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (California) Gonsalves is the 2nd best pitcher, and 5th best overall high school prospect, as rated by ESPN. In his Junior year was 10-0 with 79 strike outs in 66 innings. Gonsalves has been clocked as high as 92 mph, but at 6′ 5″, 205 lbs, he will definitely put on more weight before he’s done growing and could be throwing in the upper 90s before too long per MLB Draft Countdown. Gonsalves also throws a change up and a curveball, with the latter being his go-to out pitch. He’s also a talented player off the mound where his size, athleticism, and arm strength make him a quality centerfield prospect as well should he not realize his future as a starting pitcher.
And there you have it, 11 men/boys that could potentially be the next Minnesota Twins 1st round draft pick. If you think I’ve missed anyone, or have any additional insights to share please leave me a message in the comments.
I didn’t watch or listen to any of the game so everything I know about it comes from Twitter. That would be (a) Liam Hendriks has failed to get a W for the 16th time, (b) the plate umpire sucked, (c) so did some of the Twins bullpen, (d) Josh Willingham is still good at baseball, and (e) the Twins lost again. That about cover it? – JC