Matt Capps has been officially placed on the Disabled List and Tyler Robertson has been called up from AAA Rochester to join the Twins. Wether or not he makes his MLB debut tonight will depend on Francisco Liriano‘s ability to work effectively and efficiently (the latter something he rarely accomplishes). In addition to beating Jake Peavy and his 2.74 ERA the Twins will have to battle Chicago’s newest addition, Kevin Youkilis, batting in the 2 hole for the south-siders.
Ruined the big first game of Kevin Youkilis as a White Sox… check. Put an end to the “Jake Peavy has a perfect 0.00 ERA at Target Field” nonsense… check. Beat the Bitch Sox… CHECK!
The top 3 guys in the order combined for nine hits tonight but the obvious Boyfriend of the Day award winner was Francisco Liriano. It wasn’t a no-hitter like the last time he started a game against the Sox, but he arguably actually pitched better tonight. Seven innings, 4 hits, 5 Ks, only one walk and just one run. Can’t beat that! – JC
Six weeks ago, I put up a post here arguing that it was much too soon to “pull the plug” on the Twins’ 2012 season. I argued that, despite an admittedly dismal start, the Twins were performing fairly well on most fronts, with the glaring exception of their starting pitching, and that they were just about to begin playing their own Division rivals on a regular basis. Feel free to go back and read the whole article, but here was my conclusion:
If the Twins only win 10 of their next 34 games, then I’m on board with everyone else… put up the Yard Sale sign and sell off any asset you can get a fair return for.
But the more I look at the schedule… and what other teams in the AL Central Division have done… the less I feel like there’s any real rush to make drastic and irreversible decisions. The starting pitching needs to be better than it has been… pure and simple. But if that can be accomplished, I see no reason this Twins team shouldn’t still be able to live up to our limited expectations of them before the season started.
We could still have a little fun this summer.
A few days ago, in the comment section of one of our GameChat posts, regular reader/commenter “frightwig” pointed out that, since I authored that post, the Twins had gone 17-17 and had not cut down the number of games they trailed the Division leaders. (Following the series win over the Reds, that record is now 19-18 since May 14.) He asked if my opinion of the Twins’ outlook and what General Manager Terry Ryan should do had changed at this point.
That’s a fair question. The answer is, “no, not really,” and the reason is that the situation really hasn’t changed all that much. In fact, just as was the case on May 14, the Twins are once again about to embark on several intra-divisional series that could be fun to watch and very few games against contenders in other divisions. Between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Twins have 8 games with the White Sox, 7 with the Royals, 4 with the Tigers, 4 with the Orioles, 3 with the Indians, 3 with the Rangers and 3 with the A’s.
On top of that, the Division-leading White Sox have started their annual “trade for big name washed up former All-Stars” exercise, so you know that’s a sign they’re about to tank.
Bear in mind, even six weeks ago, I never argued that Terry Ryan should sit on his hands all year and make no moves, nor did I suggest the Twins were likely to become “good” any time soon. I merely pointed out that the Twins had some things going for them that could make them entertaining to watch and potentially even more than just entertaining if they could do something about the starting rotation. I don’t think that’s changed.
Still, I’ve written a lot about what I DON’T think Terry Ryan should be doing as we enter the “trading season,” but what do I think Ryan SHOULD do?
As I wrote on May 14, Ryan should be listening to any offer. Nobody on this roster is untouchable, though one or two players are likely untradeable.
Any player that does not figure in the team’s plans for 2013 should be traded as soon as decent value of any kind is offered. This would include Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano, certainly, as well as Alexi Casilla and Ryan Doumit (unless the rumored extension talks prove fruitful).
Ryan should not be in a hurry to trade any productive player that is under contract for 2013 and beyond. Players like Denard Span, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham (particularly Willingham) and even Jamie Carroll should only be traded this summer for solid starting pitching that are good bets to be no worse than #3 starters as soon as next season. (Of course, in this rotation, it doesn’t take a lot to be considered a #3 starter.)
I still question whether the Twins will find anyone willing to part with a potential top-of-the-rotation pitcher in July, but I could be wrong. For example, with the Twins playing a series against the Pirates last week, I couldn’t help but notice that, for a team sitting at or near the top of their Division as June comes to a close, their offense really isn’t very good after you get past CF Andrew McCutchen. They are where they’re at because of their pitching.
Of course, they aren’t likely to give up anyone in the top half of their rotation at this point and any Twins fans who think they’d consider trading uber-prospect Gerrit Cole are kidding themselves. But guess what… their AAA affiliate, Indianapolis, is also leading THEIR division and they’re likewise doing so because of strong starting pitching. The Pirates appear to have some remarkable depth in the starting pitching department. I’m certainly no expert on the Pirates’ minor league system, but I can’t help but think either Rudy Owens or Jeff Locke, both lefties, would make the Twins’ rotation better as soon as next year and for several years to come (heck, probably THIS year, for that matter).
But why would they trade any of their young pitching now? Do you have any idea how long it has been since the Pirates sniffed the playoffs? No? Me either, but I think it was when Barry Bonds was skinny.
With Cole rising fast up through their organization, there’s going to be a logjam in Pittsburgh’s rotation before long. That’s why they may be more likely to give up some of that pitching for offensive help from one of the few teams without realistic playoff hopes in the coming weeks, rather than wait until the offseason when there will be more potential trade partners and they arguably could get a better return. In other words, they have the potential to be a little stupid with their trades over the next few weeks.
The question is whether the Twins would match up well with the Pirates in a trade discussion. With McCutchen in CF, their need for Denard Span might not be as great as a team that has a need at that position, but Span could certainly play one of the corner OF spots and he would certainly improve their lineup. Then again, just about any position player on the Twins roster, down to and including Drew Butera, could improve the Pirates lineup at this point.
I still don’t think trading players like Willingham or Morneau would be smart, because you’re going to need to replace them in a few months if you let them go. But there’s a case to be made that replacing them would be easier than acquiring starting pitching this winter. I’m not sure I’m convinced, but I’m willing to consider the possibility.
I’m sure the Pirates aren’t the only potential trade partner, but I mention them only by way of acknowledging there may be a stronger market out there than I think there is. The extra Wild Card spots this season and the relative balance of competitiveness in both leagues has the potential to mean a lot more buyers in July and fewer sellers. In any industry, that means a “sellers market,” and if the Twins can capitalize on that market to improve their team as soon as 2013, they’d be foolish not to do so.
Just don’t come at me with salary dump trades for any wannabe prospects. There’s no financial reason for the Twins to pull that kind of crap on their fans when they’re continuing to look at just below 3 million in attendance this season.
I’m curious to see how Francisco Liriano fares tonight against a line up he hasn’t faced, at least since spring training. Sure would be nice to see “good” Frankie, tonight.
Speaking of Spring Training, did you see that the Twins and Lee County agreed on a contract that will keep the Twins at their current Spring Training site for the next 30 years? Cool. Hat tip to TwinsTrivia.com for the news!
There was lots to like about the game tonight, not the least of which, of course, is that the Twins WON the game!
Josh Willingham scored both Twins runs, with a double and a home run. Denard Span had what turned out to probably be a game-saving diving catch in the outfield and Brian Dozier also had a web gem of his own. Jared Burton put out a fire when he entered the game and Glen Perkins notched his first save of the season.
But the Boyfriend of the Day award goes to Francisco Liriano, who gave up just one run on four hits over 6 and 2/3 innings. He walked just two (and one was intentional) while striking out six Pirates. Well done, Frankie!
That, ladies and gents, is what they call a sweep!
I know it’s not something Twins fans are too familiar with (at least from the sweeper, point of view) and granted that the A’s are not exactly the ’27 Yankees, but it still feels pretty damn good.
I was good to see Josh Willingham send yet another ball deep to left field and he could make an argument for a second consecutive Boyfriend of the Day award. Alex Burnett and Jeff Gray combined for three innings of no-hit (and more importantly, no-run) relief, so they earn themselves some fancy desserts, as well.
But “the Franchise” version of Francisco Liriano made his first appearance of the season in this game, throwing six shutout innings, giving up just three hits, while walking only two hitters and striking out nine Athletics! That’s the Frankie we’ve been waiting to see and we hope to see a lot more of him in comings weeks. It’s certainly the BOD version!
The Twins need a win this afternoon to avoid being swept at home by the Detroit Tigers. Minnesota will send P.J. Walters (2.95 ERA) to the hill to face off against Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and the rest of the suddenly smashing Detroit lineup. The Tigers counter with Rick Porcello (5.29 ERA) who has managed to completely baffle both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau throughout their careers. Mauer and Morneau COMBINED are hitting just 7/37. The good news is that 5 of those 7 hits are for extra bases, so if they can get wood on the ball, they should be in good shape.
Tough to know for sure which version of the Twins we will see today. They were playing solid fundamental baseball for about 10 days, and then the wheels fell off in Chicago and they have not been the same since. Baseball is fun to watch when it is plated the right way, and it is agonizing when done poorly.
Ron Gardenhire mentioned on 1500ESPN this morning that the Twins would be bringing up another pitcher after this series. They’re looking for another relief arm to replace Francisco Liriano‘s spot in the bullpen. Shortly thereafter the Twins tweeted that they’ll be calling up Jeff Manship to replace Erik Komatsu who has been DFA’d for release or assignment. This is an interesting move for the Twins as Komatsu (claimed off waivers from St. Louis) was the Cardinal’s Rule 5 Draft Selection from the Nationals so if no other team puts in a claim on him he’ll either need to be returned to Washington or the Twins will need to work out a trade to keep him in their system.
The Twins took a lead into the top of the 9th inning and then Miguel Cabrera took a hanging Matt Capps breaking ball to deep center field to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead. The top of the Twins order couldn’t scrape a run together in the bottom of the 9th and that was the ballgame.
Despite the loss the Twins again received a quality start from P.J. Walters, giving the Twins 6 innings and giving up just 2 runs (both in the first inning). Alexi Casilla had a nice game for the Twins as well, going 3 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base and an RBI.
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…
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.
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 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.
This is what happens when you’re sick and you sleep during the game and then wake up to take more drugs so you can go back to sleep. You decide to check Twitter and… wow…
Danny Valencia has been struggling badly at the plate, with his batting average falling below the Mendoza line, and now he’s been optioned to Rochester.
Matt Maloney, along with his 9.00 ERA has been designated for assignment.
[Edit] Also in the ‘making a change’ category is Francisco Liriano who has been moved to the bullpen. As far as changes go, it was either this or the minors so I hope this works for him.
On their way up to the Twins from Rochester are outfielder Darin Mastroianni and pitcher P. J. Walters.
Mastoianni started the season in New Britain before moving up to Rochester after 9 games. In 20 games with the Red Wings, Mastroianni accumulated a .346/.393/.423 slash line with 2 doubles, 2 triples and 10 stolen bases.
Walters has a 3-1 record after six starts for Rochester, with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He has struck out 25 hitters and walked only 6. Walters’ arrival means Francisco Liriano will be moving to the Twins bullpen, as the team announced Walters will be starting Saturday’s game with the Blue Jays.
With an infielder going to Rochester and being replaced on the roster by an outfielder, it does make one wonder what roles other existing roster members are going to be playing. Dan Gladden mentioned during the Wednesday night game broadcast that Alexi Casilla was taking ground balls at 3B, so we might assume he’ll be manning the hot corner, though Ron Gardenhire told reporters that Casilla, Plouffe and Carroll would all split time at 3B.
I hope Valencia finds his stroke in Rochester and can make his way back up before the season is over and I certainly hope Liriano finds whatever it is that he’s been missing.
Ron Gardenhire has announced that Brian Dozier will be the team’s starting shortstop when he arrives in the clubhouse on Monday. Jamey Carroll will be shifted to a utility role for the time being, giving Gardenhire an opportunity to give occasional rest to Danny Valencia and Alexi Casilla (or replace them if they continue to struggle).
The Twins’ 9 hits in their last 4 games is the worst streak in the modern era (since 1900). Ouch. Let’s hope for something better this afternoon.
Erik Komatsu is in right field again, Mauer is back behind the plate for the first time in almost a week, and Carroll will get a swan-song at shortstop. Here is the rest: