GameChat – Astros @ Twins #2, 6:10pm

UPDATE: Pedro Florimon is a late scratch with wrist soreness, Bernier will start in his place.

I don’t know if you count it as an exciting game or a really boring games when two bad teams play extra innings, maybe both, but I was not around to see it all as I fell asleep some time around the 4th inning.

Failing to make a roster move to replace Scott Diamond, even if they just brought up an extra bat for a few days, cost the Twins last night as they were working with a thin bench and they ended up losing the DH.

Things should be a little more normal today, but the Twins will need a strong performance out of their starter to save the bullpen.  But hey, Andrew Albers arrives today, so there’s that!

Go Twins!

Astros

@

Twins
Villar, SS Dozier, 2B
Altuve, 2B Mauer, C
Castro, Ja, C Morneau, DH
Carter, DH Doumit, RF
Wallace, 1B Plouffe, 3B
Dominguez, 3B Arcia, LF
Grossman, LF Colabello, 1B
Barnes, B, CF Thomas, C, CF
Hoes, RF Bernier, SS
  Bedard, P   Gibson, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Houston 1 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 10 1
Minnesota 1 2 0 0 0 0 3 0 x 6 9 0

Kyle Gibson had a great opportunity to rebound from a poor start in Seattle and he couldn’t keep it together, failing to pitch into the fourth inning.  Luckily the Twins’ bullpen was back in full force again tonight after a marvelous performance a night ago.  Six scoreless innings from the pen, topped by a great performance from Anthony Swarzak.  For coming into the game and calming things down (3IP, 5K, 0H, 1BB), tonight’s BOD is Anthony Swarzak, with ice cream for the rest of the bullpen.

052811-MLB-Minnesota-Twins-Anthony-Swarzak-PI_20110528221233867_660_320

Twins’ Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

With one bad first inning on Tuesday night, the Twins fell from a first place tie atop the AL Central Division in to sole possession of next-to-last place.

Such is life in the second week of a six-month-long Major League Baseball season.

The Twins sit at .500 with a 4-4 record after winning their first two series of the season from Detroit and Baltimore, both of which were postseason participants a year ago. The latter series was also on the road. That ain’t bad.

The losses the past two games in Kansas City have been a bit hard to stomach, of course. Blowing a one-run lead and wasting a pretty fair performance by pitcher Kevin Correia (at least through his first seven innings) was galling on Monday and the five-run bottom of the first that the Twins coughed up to the Royals Tuesday night was way too reminiscent of the kind of starts the Twins endured last year from their rotation.

But, on balance, things could be a lot worse, right?

After all, the Twins have put together this .500 start while most of their best hitters have gotten off to what you’d have to be generous to call mediocre starts.

The Twins have three hitters with batting averages above .300 at this point and you’d have to add all of those three players’ plate appearances together to match the number of times the team’s regular position players have come to the plate. When Eduardo Escobar, Pedro Florimon and Wilkin Ramirez are leading your team’s offense, you know you aren’t hitting (in this case, literally) on all cylinders yet.

Josh Willingham

Josh Willingham

Josh Willingham is off to a productive start, however. He’s hitting .280 with a couple of doubles and a couple of dingers. We’ll take that from the Hammer all year long. Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe haven’t been great, but haven’t been awful either. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have not gotten off to great starts, so you have to figure the offense will improve as those two begin to warm up.

So things could be worse, offensively. Don’t believe me? Just imagine if Manager Ron Gardenhire had decided to plug Brian Dozier and his .174 On-base percentage in to the #2 spot of the order.

Then there’s the pitching. We’ve known all along that this team is going to live or die based on what kind of pitching they get.

Glen Perkins

Glen Perkins

Most of the good news is in the bullpen. Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Ryan Pressly and Josh Roenicke, as a group, have not yet surrendered a run, earned or otherwise. They have 14 strikeouts (and seven walks) in 15 innings of combined work. Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing have also contributed positively out of the pen.

The results from the rotation members have been mixed. But, as with most things in life, it’s all relative. Compared to what we grew accustomed to seeing a year ago, maybe it hasn’t been all that bad.

Kevin Correia isn’t striking anyone out, but nobody really thought he would. What he has done is induce 23 ground outs and taken his team through the first seven innings of each of his starts. I think we’d take that all year long if we could get it.

There have been some encouraging innings out of some of the other rotation members, as well, but we need to see improvement there. That improvement could potentially start when Scott Diamond comes off the Disabled List in a couple of days.

Still, considering that the Twins pitchers are sixth in the American League in team ERA and their hitters are 12th in both batting average and OPS, you’d almost have to say it’s the team’s pitching that has them even as high as .500 at this point. Who would have expected that?

– JC

Roster Deconstruction

The 25-man roster is not yet set in stone, but if we take a look at the 40-man roster we can get some kind of idea about where the Twins players closest to the Major Leagues come from.

Drafted out of High School (12, 5 pitchers, 7 position players)

Alex Burnett, 12th round 2005 (375 overall); B.J. Hermsen, 6th round 2008 (186); Tyler Robertson, 3rd round 2006 (96); Anthony Swarzak, 2nd round 2004 (61); Michael Tonkin, 30th round 2008 (906); Joe Mauer, 1st round 2001 (1); Brian Dozier, 8th round 2009 (252); Justin Morneau, 3rd round 1999 (89); Chris Parmelee, 1st round 2006 (20); Trevor Plouffe, 1st round 2004 (20); Joe Benson, 2nd round 2006 (64); Aaron Hicks, 1st round 2008 (14)

Unsurprisingly the Twins largest group of players on the 40-man roster come as high school draftees.  There is a fairly good mix of position players and pitchers, though of the pitchers on the list none of them were drafted in the first round, compared to 4 first round position players*.  This makes sense as the arms on this list are all bullpen guys, not a single player there with really dominant stuff.

*Byron Buxton, the Twins most recent 1st round draft pick was just 5 years old when the Twins drafted Justin Morneau in 1999.  Morny has been with the team a long time, it will be interesting to see if the Twins look to move him later this year.

 

Free Agent (10, 7 pitchers, 3 position players)

Jared Burton, 2011; Kevin Correia, 2012; Cole De Vries, 2006 (undrafted out of University of Minnesota); Casey Fien, 2012; Mike Pelfrey, 2012; Caleb Thielbar, 2011; Tim Wood, 2012; Ryan Doumit, 2011; Jamey Carroll, 2011; Josh Willingham, 2011

Likely because the Twins spent so many high draft picks on position players, the Twins have struggled to develop their own pitching and have turned to the free agent market to balance their roster.  As with the high school draftees, none of the arms on this list are particularly dominant, though Burton was a pleasant surprise in 2012.

Trade (6, 4 pitchers, 2 position players)

Scott Diamond, 2011 (Billy Bullock); Pedro Hernandez, 2012 (Francisco Liriano); Eduardo Escobar, 2012 (Liriano); Trevor May, 2012 (Ben Revere); Vance Worley, 2012 (Revere); Drew Butera, 2007 (Luis Castillo)

I listed Scott Diamond as a player acquired via trade, but he originally joined the Twins through the 2010 Rule 5 draft, but when he failed to make the roster out of Spring Training the Twins completed a trade with the Atlanta Braves in order to keep him with the organization.  Of the other names here, only Butera sticks out, only because with his ties to the organization (his father Sal Butera was with the Twins for parts of 6 Minor League and 4 Major League seasons) I often forget that he was not originally drafted by the Twins.

Drafted out of College (4, 3 pitchers, 1 position player)

Brian Duensing, 3rd round 2005 (84); Kyle Gibson, 1st round 2009 (22); Glen Perkins, 1st round 2004 (22); Chris Herrmann, 6th round 2009 (192)

Again, because the Twins were not drafting and developing high school pitching they have used several early round picks on college pitchers in an effort to balance the system.  Of the two 1st rounders here, only Gibson was the Twins 1st overall pick of the draft, Perkins was selected after Trevor Plouffe, with a compensation pick from the Mariners when they signed Eddie Guardado.  In fact, in the 2004 draft the Twins had 3 first round picks and 2 more supplemental round picks, giving them 5 of the first 39 draft picks and 7 of the first 100.  Of those seven picks, Plouffe, Perkins and Anthony Swarzak are all still with the Twins, 9 years later.

International Free Agent (4, 1 pitcher, 3 position players)

Liam Hendriks, 2007; Josmil Pinto, 2006; Daniel Santana, 2008; Oswaldo Arcia, 2008

Pretty young group of players here, but lots of upside with Santana and Arcia cracking MLB’s list of Top 20 Twins prospects.

Waiver (3, 1 pitcher, 2 position players)

Josh Roenicke, 2012 (Rockies); Pedro Florimon, 2011 (Orioles); Darin Mastroianni, 2012 (Blue Jays)

As you’d expect, no superstars in this trio, but two of these guys could be in the starting lineup on Opening Day.

Rule 5 Draft (1, 1 pitcher, 0 position players)

Ryan Pressly, 2012 (Red Sox)

It remains to be seen if Pressly will make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, though the cards are certainly stacked against him.  If the Twins are going to keep him long term, they’ll need to work out a trade with the Boston Red Sox to keep him in the organization if he is not on the big league roster.

So there you have it, 40 players and their origins within the Twins organization.  With high school draft picks making up the lion’s share of the roster, the Twins amateur scouts seem to know what they’re doing.   That bodes well for the future and  Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Travis Harrison and Hudson Boyd, the Twins’ highest drafted high school players in the past two drafts.

-ERolfPleiss

All player information obtained from Baseball-Reference.  If I’ve listed any player origins incorrectly, please let me know.

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 24

Episode 24 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week Eric and Paul are joined by long time Twins blogger Cody Christie (@NoDakTwinsFan,www.NoDakTwinsFan.com) to talk about the Twins off-season moves and a look at 2013. Also joining us is MLB Fan Cave applicant, Michael McGivern (@McGive_It_To_me,www.McGiveItToMe.blogspot.com), to discuss his attempt to gain entry to the MLB Fan Cave, why he’s worthy, and his life as a Minnesota Twins fan (you can vote for him here). In addition to the above, the Twins twins also discuss the Anthony Swarzak injury, Jim Perry‘s place in the Twins HOF, prospect Deibinson Romero and a look forward to spring training. Join us for almost 2 hours of half-drunken #MNTwins talk on the Talk To Contact Podcast.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us bake fluffier cakes.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss

Kevin Correia and the 2013 Minnesota Twins

According to Jerry Crasnick, the Twins have signed Kevin Correia to a two-year, $10 million dollar contract.  The savvy Twins fan might liken this deal to the Jason Marquis signing from a year ago, but with an extra year tacked on, just for fun!  Correia has been a below average starter in the National League over the past two years for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In 2012 the Pirates (not known for the pitching depth) decided that they had better starting options and demoted Correia to the bullpen.  On a one-year deal, signing Correia would not seem half as bad, as the Twins are likely in the midst of a serious rebuilding effort after trading Denard Span and Ben Revere over the past couple of weeks.  The second year of the deal could be tricky as Correia is not likely to improve coming to the American League for the first time in his career where he’ll have to face the designated hitters instead of pitchers.

Twins #3 Starter, Kevin Corriea, Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

 

Correia joins the Twins and is instantly their third best starting pitching option in 2013 behind Scott Diamond and Vance Worley.  That’s how bad the Twins pitching is right now, they are turning to the Pirates’ bullpen for starting pitching help.  While the Correia signing gives the Twins a much needed are in 2013, his role in 2014 is less clear.  With Kyle Gibson another year removed from Tommy John surgery, and Liam Hendriks with some additional Major League experience (and perhaps some confidence boosting time at Triple-A), Correia’s best option for 2013 is as the Twins fifth starter.  But five million dollars for a fifth starter, when guys like Cole De Vries, B.J. Hermsen, Sam Deduno and Esmerling Vasquez are all equally qualified to fill that spot, is harder to stomach.

If you’re a glass half-full type of person, it is possible that the Twins could flip Correia in 2014, maybe even eating some of his salary, in hopes of bringing back a low-level prospect.  But it seems more likely to me that he ends up in the bullpen filling the long relief role that Anthony Swarzak currently fills, or becomes the swing-man that Brian Duensing has occupied the past couple of years.  All in all, Correia is a Major League veteran that fills a roster spot for 2013, just keep your fingers crossed that he does not turn into another Nick Blackburn.

-ERolfPleiss

A Full Forty – Dissecting the 40-Man Roster (Pitchers)

Last week the Minnesota Twins added eight players to their 40-man roster, maxing out their roster with 40 players.  The Twins will likely remove at least one player prior to the upcoming Rule 5 draft, but for now, the Twins do not have room for any additions.  If Spring Training started tomorrow, here are the 40 players that would be competing for a coveted 25-man roster spot and a place on the 2013 Opening Day roster.  We’ll start with the Pitchers today, and look at the position players later this week.

B.J. Hermsen, recently added to the Twins 40-man roster. PhotoCredit: Knuckleballs

Right Handed Pitchers (Age, Position, Highest 2012 Level)

Alex Burnett - 25, Reliever, MLB – Burnett appeared in 67 games for the Twins in 2012 and posted the best ERA of his career (3.52).  Unfortunately, Burnett struck out batters at the lowest rate in his career (4.5/9), while still walking more than three batters per nine innings and his 2012 success is unlikely to continue in 2013, if he makes the 25-man roster, it will be as a middle-inning, low-leverage, reliever.

Jared Burton – 31, Reliever, MLB – Like Alex Burnett, Burton also posted the best ERA of his career (2.18).  Unlike Burnett, Burton’s success came from an increase in stike out rates and a decrease in walk rates.  Burton is almost a lock for the 25-man roster, and will likely be the eighth inning set up man.

Cole De Vries – 27, Starter, MLB – De Vries was a long shot to make the 25-man roster in 2012, but because of a string of injuries and generally poor play from other Twins starters, De Vries started 16 games en route to a 4.11 ERA.  De Vries is a typical Twins-type pitcher, low walks, low strike outs, and is a long shot to make the 25-man roster again in 2013, but unless the Twins acquire multiple starting pitchers through trades or free agency, the Twins do not have a lot of other competent options.

Casey Fien – Casey Fien, Reliever, MLB – Fien returned to Major League action after spending 2011 in the Minors.  Fien had several surprisingly good appearances toward the end of the year, earning a 2.06 ERA to go along with 32Ks in just 35.0 IP.  Fien’s previous MLB performance and Minor League track record does not indicate that he’s likely to continue to perform at a high level, but he’s gained the trust of Ron Gardenhire and has a farily good chance to make the 25-man roster with a strong performance this spring.

Kyle Gibson – Kyle Gibson, Starter, AAA – Gibson spent all of 2012 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and pitched in four different leagues during his rehab, including the Arizona Fall League where the big right-hander was said to be consistently throwing 93-94 MPH with good control.  If fully healthy, Gibson is in line to be one of the Twins five starters in 2013.

Deolis Guerra – 23, Reliever, AAA – Guerra split time in 2012 between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester and posted a 4.11 ERA in his first full season as a reliever, with high strike out numbers (9.1K/9) and low walk totals (3.3/9).  At 23 Guerra is still fairly young for AAA and I expect him to start the season in Rochester, though he will have a chance to play in Minnesota before the season ends. Edit: Per John Bonnes, Deolis Guerra is out of options, so he’ll need to make the 25-man roster or risk being claimed off of waivers.

Liam Hendriks – 23, Starter, MLB – Hendriks struggled to turn his Minor League success into Major League succes and spent the better part of 2012 searching for his first big league victory.  Hendriks finished the year 1-8 with a 5.59 ERA and only 50 strike outs over 85.1 innings.  Ideally Hendriks would start 2013 in Rochester, working to fine tune his command against lesser hitters before being asked to join the Twins.  If Hendriks makes the Opening Day roster it will likely be because the Twins lack other viable options rather than their belief in Hendriks ability to succeed at a high level.

B.J. Hermsen – 22, Starter, AA – Hermsen is another Twins-type pitcher with low strike out numbers and in Hermsen’s case, extremely low walk rates (1.6/9).  Hermsen is unlikely to merit serious consideration for the starting rotation in 2013 because he has no experience above AA.  Hermsen has continually put up ERAs around 3, and if he can continue to put up good numbers in AAA he should earn himself a September call-up and, if the Twins do not add a couple of free agents on multi-year deals, could be a candidate to start for the Twins in 2014.

Lester Oliveros – 24, Reliever, MLB – Oliveros had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and will spend most, if not all, of 2013 rehabbing his elbow.  He will be moved to the 60-day DL once Spring Training begins, opening up a roster spot.

Josh Roenicke – 30, Reliever, MLB – Claimed off of waivers from the Colorado Rockies, Roenicke is unlikely to start the season in the Twins bullpen and instead the Twins will probably attempt to pass Roenicke through waivers later this spring and use him as roster depth in Rochester.  However, Roenicke did post an impressive 3.25 ERA last season with the Rockies, so the Twins might be willing to give him a longer look in Spring Training before ultimately relegating him to the Minor Leagues.

Anthony Swarzak – 27, Long Man/Spot Starter, MLB – The Twins have seen enough of Swarzak over the past couple of years (198.2 IP) to know what they have out of the 27-year old.  Swarzak has struggled when he’s been asked to start, but as a long man in the bullpen he’s performed moderately well (5.79 ERA as Starter, 4.03 as reliever).  I believe that the Twins will bring Swarzak back in a similar role in 2013, but if they are intent on finding a spot for B.J. Hermsen, this could be somewhere they’d be willing to make a switch.

Michael Tonkin – 23, Reliever/Closer, High-A – While Tonkin has never pitched above High-A Fort Myers, he posted a 12.6 K/9 in 2012 and followed that up with a spectacular Arizona Fall League performance posting a 2.45 ERA over 14.2 innings with a 0.75 WHIP.  Tonkin will likely start 2012 at Double-A New Britain, but he could certainly be in Rochester by the All-Star break.

Tim Wood – 30, Closer, Reliever, MLB – Wood was claimed off of waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates after spending all of 2012 in Triple-A.  As a likely closer, Wood does not have the kind of strike out numbers you would typically expect, but he’s posted a 3.49 and 2.19 ERA each of the last two seasons in Triple-A so he’s doing something right.  You have to wonder why a guy with a 2.19 ERA did not get a September call-up with the Pirates as they were once again spiraling their way to another losing record.  Before his successful 2011 and 2012 seasons, Wood struggled mightily in the PCL, splitting time between the Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers systems.  Do not expect to see Wood on the 25-man roster this spring, as he’s likely to spend most of the season in Rochester.

Left Handed Pitchers
Scott Diamond – 26, Starter, MLB – Diamond is the lone Twins starter to be guaranteed a spot in the 2013 rotation, so as long as he makes it through Spring Training without injury he has a secure spot on the 25-man roster.  Diamond is now 2 years removed from being drafted by the Twins in the Rule 5 draft and while his strike out numbers are dreadfully low (12.6% strike out rate), he manages to keep the base paths clear by limiting walks and inducing ground balls.  If Diamond can repeat his 2012 numbers the Twins will be ecstatic.

Brian Duensing – 29, Reliever/LOOGY/Starter, MLB – With the Twins again searching for answers from their starting rotation Duensing given another chance to win a spot as a starter.  He didn’t fare well.  Overall, Duensing has a 4.57 ERA as a starter compared to just a 3.38 ERA out of the pen.  As a starter Duensing is subject to facing a lot more right handed batters (.302/.358/.473, AGV/OBP/SLG), whereas in the bullpen he can be used selectively against left handed batters (.217/.261/.298).  Hopefully the Twins understand who Duensing is at this point in his career and keep him in the pen.  He’s a lock to be on the 25-man roster and should begin the year as the teams primary LOOGY (Left-handed One Out guY).

Pedro Hernandez – 23, Starter, MLB – Hernandez is one of the players the Twins acquired in the Francisco Liriano deal with the White Sox.  Hernandez has just one disastrous Major League start, and has only 52.1 innings at Triple-A.  The Twins should send Hernandez back to Rochester to start 2013, and unless things go poorly for the Twins rotation again this year, he’s unlikely to put on a big league uniform anytime before September.

Glen Perkins – 29, Reliever/Closer, MLB – After signing a 4 year $11.85 million dollar deal this past winter, Glen Perkins went out and had one of the best years of his career, posting a 2.56 ERA to go along with 78 strike outs and just 16 walks in 70.1 innings.  Perkins will start 2013 as the Twins primary closer, a role he shared at times in 2012 with Matt Capps and Jared Burton.

Tyler Robertson – 24, Reliever/LOOGY, MLB – Making his Major League debut in 2012, Robertson performed poorly, but his Minor League performance in 2012,  prior to his stint with the Twins, show the signs of life you like to see from a big left-hander.  He gets plenty of strike outs (10.4/9 innings), and he doesn’t give up a lot of a home runs.  For Robertson the biggest issue is going to be control, as he walked 14 batters in his 25 innings for the Twins a year ago.  Robertson is great against left-handed batters (.190/.268/.317), but if he cannot learn to get out right-handed hitters (.290/.436/.484) he is not going to stick around for long.  Robertson should start the year as the Twins #2 LOOGY and a middle reliever.

Caleb Thielbar – 25, Reliever, AAA – Thielbar made it as far as AAA in 2012, but at the end of 2011 he had never pitched above High-A.  Thielbar likely needs some additional Minor League seasoning before the Twins are ready to put him on the 25-man roster, especially after a terrible Arizona Fall League permanence in which he posted an 11.05 ERA with 8 walks in just 13.0 innings.

The Twins definitely have plenty of arms on the 40-man roster, but they don’t have a lot of talent in the bunch.  If the Twins start the season with this same group of arms they’ll have Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson, and Liam Hendriks as their one-two-three starters, and will be well on their way to another 90 loss season.  It is more likely that the Twins sign at least two free agent pitchers, and bring in another arm via trade, but until anything happens, there is not a lot of hope readily available in Minnesota.

-ERolfPleiss

 

Why We Watch – Losing and the Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins are 59-84, they’ve been officially eliminated from the Wild Card race and they will be out of postseason contention with three White Sox wins, three Twins losses, or some combination thereof.  There are 19 games left in the 2012 season, Minnesota has almost nothing to play for, and yet I continue to watch.

What Do You Watch For?

Last night’s 10-5 loss was actually a fairly exciting game for 7 innings.  While P.J. Walters only went 4 innings (he pitched to the first six batters in the 5th inning without recording an out), he was going along pretty well before running into some serious trouble in the 5th inning and giving up 6 earned runs.  While the bullpen eventually coughed up 4 more runs in the 8th to run the lead to 10-5, the Twins battled back in the bottom of the 5th and were within a single run until the 8th inning.  But why did I continue to watch a 10-5 game through the final out of the 9th inning?  Because I want to see which current players the Twins think will have a chance to be a part of the 2013 club.  Today I’ll talk about pitching, and Saturday I’ll come back and talk about what kinds of things I’m looking for from the position players.

Pitching:

Walters, given his performance last night, coupled with what he’s already done (or failed to do) earlier this year both with the Twins and in AAA, it is unlikely that he comes back as anything other than AAA roster filler.

Anthony Swarzak came in for Walters, pitched 2.2 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits, no walks and recording a strike out.  Swarzak’s ERA (4.93) is pretty high given the current depressed run environment in Major League Baseball, but his line looks drastically better if you only look at his performance as a reliever.  His ERA is under 4, his WHIP is just 1.218 and he’s striking out more than 6 batters per nine innings, all as a reliever.  Now, he’s certainly not great, but as a cheap, dependable long-reliever, Swarzak is exactly what you’d hope he would be.  I certainly hope he’s back in 2013.

Brian Duensing, Casey Fien and Tyler Robertson all gave up a run without pitching an entire inning (Fien and Robertson failed to even record an out).  Duensing probably still has a role in the bullpen, and Fien has pitched pretty well in 2012 in his 27.1 innings, so he likely sticks around and competes for a spot as well.  Robertson, however, has really struggled this year, posting a 6.00 ERA.  As a left handed pitcher he’s been really good against left-handed batters (.193 BA against), but he’s struggled to do much of anything against right-handed batters (.313 BA against).  He is still young (just 24 despite being drafted in 2006), and is likely being slightly misused by Gardenhire as he’d probably be a pretty valuable LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY) if the Twins limited his exposure to right handed batters, but more than a third of the time he’s facing opposite sided hitters, allowing the batter to reap the platoon advantage.  I’m note sure what the Twins will do with him going forward, he might just need some more time at AAA (only 28.1 innings at AAA, all coming in 2012).

Kyle Waldrop came into the 8th, gave up a couple of hits before retiring the side and the Twins went to the bottom of the 8th down 10-5.  Waldrop was not charged with any earned runs, but he gave up two singles that scored runs, then hit a batter before getting Lorenzo Cain to hit into an inning ending double play.  Certainly not the kind of performance the Twins were hoping for when they bring in a guy to try and keep an inning from getting out of hand.  Drafted out of high school in 2004, Waldrop is now 26 and has spent the better part of the last three seasons at AAA Rochester posting pretty solid numbers.  His career AAA ERA is 3.21 over 201.2 innings, so he likely has nothing left to prove in Rochester.  Waldrop’s real issue, like so many other Twins pitchers, is his inability to strike batters out.  After arriving in AAA with a 6.2 SO/9, he saw that rate fall in 2011 to  5.0 and all the way down to 4.1 in 2012.  With the Twins his strike out rate has been virtually non-existent, a minuscule 2.5, and he has more walks than strikeouts.  Waldrop has dealt with some injury in 2012, and the Twins will likely run him out a few more times this year to see if Waldrop has anything else, but I do not expect him to have a place with the Twins in 2013.

To close out the game the Twins turned to Luis Perdomo.  Perdomo pitched a perfect 9th inning, sending the Royals down 1-2-3 and recording 2 strikeouts along the way.  Of his 8 performances this year for the Twins, last night was his best, and his only appearance without allow a walk or a hit.  Perdomo is 28 and with his 5th organization, so he is pretty much a known commodity at this point.  The Twins obviously want to get a closer look at Perdomo, he was one of their two September call ups.  Whether or not he has a place with the Twins in 2013 will come down to Perdomo putting up more numbers like he did last night.

So those are my thoughts on the players from last night, and those are the sort of things I’m watching down the stretch.  19 games left, GO TWINS!

-ERolfPleiss

Just Winging It: The 2012 Minnesota Twins Starting Rotation

There can be no doubts that a 63-99 team has plenty of areas for improvement.  In 2011 the Twins were 28th in team OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), ahead of only the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres.  Sure, they were playing half of their games in the pitcher friendly Target Field, but even when adjusting for park factors, the Twins posted an OPS+ of just 84 (100 is average), 29th in the MLB, this time behind the Padres.  Clearly there were issues with the Twins’ bats a year ago.  Part of that was attributable to injuries to Joe Mauer (replaced by Drew Butera and Rene Rivera) and Denard Span (replaced by Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni, and Jason Repko).  Another part of the hitting problem was related to dreadful offensive production from the middle infield, as Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Luke Hughes, Danny Valencia, and Matt Tolbert, and the the old Trevor Plouffe all posted below leave average offensive numbers.

As bad as the Twins’ bats were in 2011, it did not really matter what their pitchers were doing.  And maybe that is what the front office was thinking heading into Spring Training.  If the Twins could just upgrade their offense, even with a mediocre pitching staff, they were likely to see a big improvement.  Unfortunately, the Twins did not have a mediocre pitching staff in 2011, their 4.58 team ERA was 29th, and were one of just two teams (along with the Baltimore Orioles) to allow more than 800 runs.  So to go along with their 29th place OPS+, the Twins also had the 29th worst pitching staff, and yet somehow they still only lost 99 games.

After a winter of free agent signings and departures the Twins arrived in Spring Training as optimistic as any team in baseball.  After all, they were only a year removed from a 94-win AL Central Championship team, and they were truly healthy for the first time in more than a year.  Their franchise catcher, Joe Mauer, had finally recovered from whatever it was that was ailing him in 2011 and caused him to miss almost half a season, and Justin Morneau was finally overcoming his concussion symptoms that cost him the better parts of 2010 and 2011.  Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham were on board to replace Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer, and the Twins signed veteran on-base sepcialist Jamey Carroll to compensate for the failures of Nishioka.  Alexi Casilla was coming off one of the best offensive seasons of his underwhelming career and looked poised to finally become the everyday player the Twins had been hoping he would be since 2007.  Despite all their failures in 2011, the Twins looked like their bats were ready to hit in 2012.*

*And to some extent, they are.  The Twins’ 2012 OPS+ is 6th in the American League, and they are scoring runs at an almost league average rate (4.30/4.47).  

The Twins, however, did little to improve a pitching staff that was one of the worst in 2011.    They inexplicably resigned 9th inning reliever Matt Capps to a $4.75 million dollar deal to step in for the departed Joe Nathan.  They also sent starting pitcher Brian Duensing back to the bullpen where he had previously been successful and replaced him in the rotation with free agent acquisition Jason Marquis, hoping that he would rebound from a broken leg that cost him the end of the 2011 season, and become the renaissance man that Carl Pavano had been for the Twins since he arrived in 2009.  But with just five real candidates for starting pitching Minnesota was walking a pretty thin line.  The Twins also brought in just about every free agent relief pitcher they could find hoping that a couple of them would pitch well enough in Spring Training to head north with the big league team.  They even went against their traditionally risk-averse strategy and signed Joel Zumaya to a minor league deal hoping to add a power arm to their bullpen without paying the power arm price.  And with that, the Twins were seemingly ready to start the season.

Just five starting pitchers and not a lot of MLB ready pitchers in AAA ready to step in if things went poorly.  Among the starting pitchers not in that group of five, only Liam Hendriks and Scott Diamond seemed like realistic replacements to join the Twins if things did not go well in Minnesota.

As you are well aware, things have not gone well for the Twins’ starting pitchers in 2012.  Even before leaving Spring Training the Twins were forced to move Liam Hendriks into starting rotation as Jason Marquis was pulled away from the team to be with his daughter while she was recovering from a serious bicycle accident.  To make matters worse, Scott Baker did not leave Ft. Myers with the Twins either, dealing with supposedly minor arm issues which ended up as a worst-case scenario as Baker would eventually require Tommy John surgery to repair the UCL in his pitching arm.  That meant that Anthony Swarzak would start the season in the starting rotation, leaving with Twins without their regular long-reliever until Marquis would be back with the team.  Before long the Liam Hendriks experiment was over and he was back in AAA looking garner some additional seasoning.  Now the Twins had to start getting creative.  They had already burned through the only two replacement options they’d planned for and with the Twins already well below .500, it was unlikely that they would be playing any meaningful baseball in October.  Since that time the Twins have used five additional starting pitchers, none of whom the Twins were counting on in April.  P.J. Walters was first, then Scott Diamond, Cole De Vries, Brian Duensing, and finally Sam Deduno.

The Twins still have 63 games remaining in 201. With Francisco Liriano now pitching for the Chicago White Sox the Twins will have to find another arm to step in.  While the next pitcher they call upon to start will likely not be a fresh face, they will still be tip-toeing around a problem unlikely to be resolved without the infusion of some fresh arms this winter.

Twins fans should have known that when Minnesota signed Jason Marquis and hoped for the best that the team was just winging it in 2012.

-ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Twins @ Tigers, 6:05pm

It’s 92 degrees in Detroit right now… If the Twins thought they were getting away from the tropical heat, it appears they were wrong (although that’s still cooler than my house by 5 degrees). Let’s hope that everyone slept in well air-conditioned hotel rooms.

As far as our pitching match-ups tonight, I would love to see Liam do as well or better than his last appearance. I would also love to see Fister not do anywhere near as well…  It would certainly make life easier for our offense.

But that being said, I haven’t ever really been one of those who wanted to play a bad team just to win… I just want my team to be better than the other guys.

I ESPECIALLY want to see my team beat the Tigers. *GRIN*

Minnesota

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Detroit
Span, CF Jackson, A, CF
Revere, RF Berry, LF
Mauer, DH Cabrera, Mi, 3B
Willingham, LF Fielder, 1B
Morneau, 1B Young, D, DH
Plouffe, 3B Raburn, RF
Doumit, C Peralta, Jh, SS
Dozier, SS Avila, C
Carroll, 2B Santiago, 2B
  Hendriks, P   Fister, P

 

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2

3

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9

R

H

E

Minnesota

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4

2

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6

13

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Detroit

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1

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3

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4

9

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Congratulations to Ron Gardenhire for win #900 and to the team for getting 4 wins in a row for only the second time this season. And congratulations to Twins fans for actually having some fun baseball to watch lately. Of course, Perkins is doing his part to lobby for a closing role by trying to give all Twins Territory a heart attack in the process.

It was fun to see the guys actually figure out Fister and get to him to get a sizable lead in the 4th.. unfortunately, they got closer than is actually comfortable in the 5th. So our thanks to Anthony Swarzak for coming in and shutting down a potent offense for almost 3 innings. As his reward, he was voted today’s BOD!

GameChat – Tigers @ Twins #2 1:10pm

The Twins scored plenty of runs to earn a win last night but the Twins’ pitching let them down for the second straight game and the Twins ended up on the wrong side of a 10-6 final.  Anthony Swarzak managed just3.2 innings, giving up 6 runs before he was chased from the mound.   Francisco Liriano pitched in relief again last night, looking fairly competent until his second time through the Detroit order when they lit him up for 3 runs in the 7th inning.  Not encouraging for Liriano’s efforts to return to the starting rotation.

Carl Pavano had an extra day of rest thanks to Swarzak and the off-day this past Monday.  Hopefully that extra day helped out his shoulder inflamation and he’s able to pitch 6+ innings so that the bullpen gets some much needed rest of their own.

Still no Ryan Doumit, so he’s likely still nursing the calf injury that had him initially scheduled for the DL, then not on the DL, then resting, then playing a couple games, then resting again.  The saga continues.

I’m a little under the weather this afternoon so I’ll just be popping in and out.  A Twins win ought to make me feel a little better…

 

Detroit Tigers

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Minnesota Twins
Berry, CF Span, CF
Dirks, LF Revere, RF
Cabrera, Mi, 3B Mauer, DH
Fielder, 1B Willingham, LF
Young, D, DH Morneau, 1B
Boesch, RF Dozier, SS
Peralta, Jh, SS Casilla, A, 2B
Avila, C Butera, C
Santiago, 2B Carroll, 3B
_Scherzer, P _Pavano, P

 

 Detroit Tigers

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12

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 Minnesota Twins

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Another game where the Twins starter, this time Carl Pavano, fails to get out of the 5th inning.  Pavano’s afternoon was done after 4.1 innings, giving up 6 runs, all earned, off of 10 hits.  The bullpen held the Tigers scoreless on just 2 hits the rest of the way but the Twins were not able to climb back into the game with their bats.  It seemed like the Twins had a rally going in the bottom of the 6th inning but a 30 minute rain delay drowned their momentum and the Twins threat was over.Denard Span and Justin Morneau each added solo home runs in the losing effort, but overall the Twins managed just 8 hits.

The Twins will attempt to finish the series and salvage a win tomorrow afternoon.

-ERolfPleiss