The biggest baseball news in Minnesota today had nothing to do with the Twins. The Saint Paul Saints are going to be building a brand new stadium. Look out, Target Field!
Last night the Twins were let down by the starting pitchers, the bullpen and Ryan Doumit‘s defense. Tonight they have a chance to salvage a win in a 3 game home series with the Royals. In the first two games Minnesota has been outscored 19-6, so even keeping the game close would be an improvement. The Royals are sending Luis Mendoza to the hill and the Twins are countering with the winless wonder, Liam Hendriks. Mendoza is not very good, and Hendriks has not proven he is any good yet, so this could be a fun game for fans that like offense.
Joe Mauer and Chris Parmelee are still out of the lineup, but at this point I would assume that Ron Gardenhire and the Twins are erring on the side of caution and making sure these guys are 100% before putting them back in the line up.
Well that sounded like a fun game (at least the last few innings) anyway. Liam continued to struggle, giving up a couple of runs in the first inning, but the Twins offense managed to stay within striking distance and ultimately took the game in to extra innings, winning 4-3 in the 10th.
The Twins bullpen did a real job tonight. Hendriks survived five innings, but that left five innings of work from the pen. Robertson, Fien and Burton not only worked one shutout inning each, but none of them gave up so much as a hit. Glen Perkins followed with two shutout innings, giving up just one hit. That’s some pretty impressive work and it would be quite easy to just give the Boyfriend of the Day award to that group.
You could also make a case for Denard Span. While he had only one hit, it was a walkoff double in the 10th inning and that’s pretty BOD-worthy. For that matter, Alexi Casilla, who entered the game as a pinch runner, led off the 10th with a double of his own and ended up scoring on Span’s double and that was pretty sweet work on Lexi’s part.
But tonight’s BOD award is going to Trevor Plouffe. Not only was Plouffe the only Twins hitter with more than one hit, one of his two hits was a home run in the 9th inning that sent the game in to extra innings. Beyond that, Plouffe made a diving defensive play in the 5th that saved a run. Without that play and the homer, this game was another loss. For that, Trevor is our BOD! – JC
It is way to early to start thinking about the MLB draft, especially with real, meaningful baseball being played. But it probably does not hurt to start familiarizing ourselves with some of the names that might be floating around the top of the pre-draft rankings. If the draft was to start today, the Twins would find themselves with the third overall selection. Here are the first 6 of 11 potential first round draft picks the Twins could take in 2013.
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford Appel is back in the draft for the third time after being selected in the 15th round by the Detroit Tigers in the 2009 draft, and again by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round (8th overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has a fastball that sits in the mid 90s and a nice looping slider that devastates right handed batters. Appel will be 22 next July and with the current state of Minnesota’s pitching staff, he would instantly become one of the best pitchers in the organization.
Ryne Stanek, RHP,Arkansas
Stanek was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft by the Seattle Marinersbut chose instead to attend college at the University of Arkansas.From his Arkansas Razorbacks profile, he has a low 90s fastaball and a “tremendous” breaking ball. He was 8-4 in 2012 as a weekend starter for the Razorbacks and was an All-SEC performer. Matt Garrioch at MinorLeagueBall.com says of Stanek, “One of the best college pitches I have seen over the last 3 years.” He’ll need another strong season in the SEC to move onto the Twins’ radar at the top of the 1st round, but with a big time need for starting pitchers, you can’t count him out.
Jeremy Martinez, C, Mater Dei HS (California) Jeremy Martinez is ESPN’s number 1 rated HS prospect on the ESPN 60 list. He’s committed to playing for the USC Trojans in 2013, but if the Twins are looking down the road for a guy to replace Joe Mauer, Martinez could be their man. Power showcase.com lists his pop-time from home to 2nd base at 1.86 seconds, which is pretty quick no matter who you are (MLB average is usually right around 1.8-1.9). In 2011 he was one of just two juniors on the USA 18 and Under squad so he’s been a front runner for the 2013 draft for some time now. The Twins seem to like current Minor League catcher Chris Herrmann, but Martinez would have a much higher ceiling than any catcher in the Twins organization.
Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford Austin Wilson was drafted in the 12th round of the 2010 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals but found his way to onto Stanford Cardinal squad instead of going pro. As a sophomore in 2012 Wilson hit .285 and lead the team with 56 runs scored and 10 home runs. He also walked 24 times and was hit 15 more, raising his OBP to .389. Wilson will need to cut down on his strike outs (44) without sacrificing any of his power to move up the draft boards prior to the 2013 draft.
Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson HS (GA) Meadows is a big kid at 6′ 3″ and 200 lbs as a HS Junior and the number two ranked player on ESPN 60, and like the Twins 2012 first round draft selection, is also a toolsy outfielder from Georgia. He had a big junior season hitting .390 with 4 HR, 28 RBI and 19 steals, brining his team all the way to the Georgia 5A state semifinals. Meadows is also a great football player, but has decided his future lies in baseball and will forego his senior season on the gridiron to focus on baseball. He is, however, committed to Clemson, so any team that drafts him will likely need to offer him a significant signing bonus. With all of the outfield talent spread throughout the Twins’ farm system, I do not see them going after Austin Meadows, but Minnesota is a team that is not afraid to draft the best available player, regardless of position, so Meadows could end up being their guy with a strong senior season.
Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego Bryant has been destroying West Coast Conference pitching for two yeasr hitting .366/.483/.671 over 110 games.Bryant was previously drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2010 draft. Bryant does not play great defense, but he has pretty decent speed, hits for a lot of power (9 home runs as a freshman and 14 as a sophomore, to go along with 17 doubles each year), and walked more than he struck out in his sophomore season. The Twins may have found a long-term slugging solution at 3B in Trevor Plouffe, but Kris Bryant would fit into the Twins MiLB system with as much power as anyone other than Miguel Sano.
Like I said, it is still REALLY early to start thinking about the 2013 draft, but the the Twins season spirally quickly down the drain, it cannot hurt to look toward the future. Part 2 coming on Saturday.
Well that was pretty disappointing. The Twins had just six hits, one of them a two-run bomb from Josh Willingham (his 33rd of the season), but a disastrous 6th inning from Brian Duensing and Casey Fien led to four runs and that was enough for the Mariners to secure the win.
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 oldTrevor 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.
Apparently, when Twins catcher Joe Mauer’s name was announced as the team’s representative to the All Star game, the Twinsville Twitterverse lit up with tweets condemning his selection. I didn’t notice this so much, myself, which is perhaps a testament to the intelligence of both those who follow me on Twitter and those I personally follow.
From what others were writing, however, it seems that a significant segment of Twinsville does not believe Joe Mauer is All Star worthy and/or they believe Josh Willingham was more worthy. Whichever the reason, those fans are wrong, of course. Not only is Mauer worthy of being named to the team to represent the Twins, he should have been voted by fans to start the game over the Rangers’ Mike Napoli.
Napoli’s split line is .235/.335/.438 for an OPS of .773. Mauer’s is .324/.414/.445 which gets him an .859 OPS. Napoli does have 12 home runs, of course, but nobody with a lick of baseball sense would consider that stat alone to be enough to overcome 86 OPS points, especially given the difference in stadiums the two call home. No, there’s absolutely no rational reason for Napoli being the starting AL catcher over Mauer. The fans blew that one. Of course, you won’t hear the talking heads mentioning that because Napoli is playing for the two-time defending AL champion (and World Series loser) Texas Rangers.
I did see someone raise the “but he’s not a real catcher” argument yesterday, in regard to Mauer. Yes, he DHs and plays some first base. But guess what, so does Napoli, who’s played more than 20 games at 1B himself this season. Smart managers (and even not-so-smart ones like Gardy and Ron Washington) find a way to give their catchers… especially those that hit like Mauer and Napoli… some time off from duty behind the plate in order to keep them healthy.
I would have liked to see Josh Willingham get his first All Star selection. Maybe if one of the AL All Star outfielders can’t participate, he could still get selected, but it’s not likely. Willingham’s year is All Star worthy, but every year there are All Star worthy players who don’t get selected and they’re usually from teams that have lost more games than they’ve won. Just as every year there are players named to the All Star team who are less worthy than others and they’re usually from the team managed by the guy managing the All Star team. This year is no exception. Ron Washington had seven “managers choice” slots to fill. Four of those selections had to come from teams that had no representative voted in. The other three selections were all members of his Rangers team. To the victor goes the spoils, I guess.
Willingham isn’t on the All Star team for three reasons: (1) He plays a position that requires him to compete with a lot of All Star worthy players; (2) He plays on a bad baseball team in a mid-level market; and (3) He is not the best player on his team.
I’d actually boil that down to one big reason he isn’t on the All Star team: The Twins starting pitching has flat out sucked for most of the season. If the Twins had better pitching, their offense is good enough to have them in contention and they wouldn’t be relegated to the “must have a representative” class of teams. He would be getting the recognition he deserves as one of the top Free Agent pick-ups off the past offseason and his name would be getting mentioned as one of the best hitting outfielders in the league.
So, those of you who want to complain about Josh Willingham not being selected to the All Star team, lay off of Joe Mauer. It isn’t his fault. Blame Ron Washington, if you like, but he’s just doing what managers do every year… reward the guys in his own clubhouse. If MLB didn’t want managers to do that, they can stop it easily by simply taking the manager’s choices away. The real blame for Willingham’s “snub”, if you feel he was snubbed, gets laid at the feet of Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Francisco Liriano, Liam Hendriks, et al.
Speaking of All Star snubs, I can’t help but wonder why nobody is up in arms over Trevor Plouffe not being selected. He arrived on the scene in Minnesota about the same time phenom Mike Trout arrived in Disneyland and their stats since arriving are similar (though Trout is admittedly the far superior defender). If Ron Washington is really serious about setting his Rangers team up with home field advantage in the World Series this time, you would think giving some consideration to arguably the hottest player in the league for the month of June might have been in order.
It’s hard to argue that Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera, the two third basemen on the AL roster, don’t belong. They certainly do. But if I were the AL manager, having a late inning option as a pinch hitter and a guy who could play pretty much any position on the field other than pitcher and catcher (though, admittedly, none of them particularly well) would be an option I might consider valuable.
I’m certainly not arguing that Plouffe SHOULD have been selected over anyone who was so honored, but just pointing out that Willingham isn’t the only Twins player that the team’s crappy overall performance may have cost an All Star spot.
Speaking of Plouffe, I know we’re all waiting for his bubble to pop because there’s no way he keeps up the level of offensive productivity he’s shown in June (and the first day of July), but he’s riding just about the hottest offensive streak I’ve seen in a long time. There’s understandably a lot of attention paid to uber-prospect Miguel Sano down in Class A Beloit, but isn’t Plouffe pretty much putting up the kind of numbers that most of us dare to even hope Sano will put up some day? Over the last four weeks, his split line is .311/.376/.744 for a 1.121 OPS. Yes, small sample size warning is applicable, since that covers only 24 games, but still… that’s one heck of a four weeks!
Plouffe was the Twins’ first round draft pick in 2004 and it seems like we’ve been waiting around forever for his productivity to reach his potential. His stats over the course of parts of eight seasons spent in the Twins’ minor league system were unremarkable, if not downright disappointing, for a first round pick (.258/.320/.406 .726OPS). That said, he put up a 1.019 OPS in 51 games at Rochester last season, so his current hot streak is not completely out of nowhere, either.
Sure, his defense still needs work, but trust me when I tell you that, by comparison, Miguel Sano makes Plouffe look like Brooks Robinson at third base. Most people still believe Sano will eventually need to be moved to a less challenging position, though the organization is still holding out hope that he can learn to play a passable third base. Plouffe, on the other hand, didn’t really even start to learn the position until he was thrown in there at the Major League level earlier this season.
And here’s the best part… Trevor Plouffe JUST turned 26 years old a couple of weeks ago. Pitchers around the league won’t allow Plouffe to put up numbers at his recent levels forever, but while he’s hot, he’s certainly got the potential to be one of the few interesting stories to follow through the remainder of this disappointing Twins season. And if he keeps improving year-to-year, by the time Miguel Sano arrives in Minnesota, it won’t matter whether Sano can play 3B, because that position will be claimed for the foreseeable future by Trevor Plouffe.
Big Jim Thome returns to Target Field tonight, but now he’s wearing a Phillies uniform and we’re all hoping he doesn’t take aim at that flag pole on Target Plaza again.
The Twins’ first draft pick, Byron Buxton took some batting practice swings this afternoon and reportedly managed to launch a ball in to the bullpens. It sounds like he’s all but signed, pending a physical, so he’ll be getting some playing time on one or both of the Twins’ short season teams yet this summer.
Nick Blackburn takes the mound tonight against the Phils, who are coming off a couple of extra-inning losses to the Orioles in a row. Let’s hope they just keep right on losing!
Well that was an interesting game. From the moment Denard Span opened things up with a leadoff home run in the first inning to the point where Matt Capps completed the first 1-2-3 inning by a Twins pitcher, you never really had the feeling the game was in hand.
We won’t mention most of the rest of the pitchers, but there was certainly enough offense spread up and down the line up. Span walked three times to go with his HR and scored three runs. Ben Revere had three hits and 2 RBI, Jamie Carroll added three hits and a pair of RBI, as well, and added a couple of runs scored. Ryan Doumit had three hits and scored a pair of runs. Joe Mauer had a pair of hits and two RBI. And Josh Willingham added his 12th home run of the season.
But even with all of that competition, Trevor Plouffe is adding yet another Boyfriend of the Day award to his collection. Plouffe had three hits, including a double and a home run, scored three runs and drove in three more!
It turns out all of the Knuckelballs were AWOL last night, so we didn’t get a GameChat post up. Our apologies to anyone who came around looking to hang out during the game.
Maybe the most unfortunate part of not having a GameChat is that we missed an opportunity to award Josh Willingham a well-deserved BOD designation for his 10th inning walk-off heroics! So, we’ll make up for that right now by passing on that honor to Willy. A day late is better than never, right?
Now, on to today’s game.
The good news is that we see the return of Joe Mauer and Denard Span to the line up. Mauer has been out of action for almost a week with a sprained thumb, while Span has missed a couple of games with the flu (although he did make a cameo appearance as a pinch runner in the 9th inning Friday night).
We all know the Twins have been winning more regularly the past couple of weeks and that certainly makes their games more fun to watch. But here’s something you may not realize… the Twins are now 23-34 for a winning percentage of .404. This is the first time that Twins players are waking up to a day where they’ve won at least 40% of their games since the morning of September 14, 2011.
I realize that the reason for this stretch of wins has a lot to do with playing some pretty bad teams. But I’m also a baseball romantic so forgive me if I indulge myself, just for a little while, with the fantasy that it really does have something to do with the ‘M’ caps they’ve been sporting.
And they just beat the Cubs last night. For those of us who have to live amidst way too many Cub fans, that makes today a pretty good day.
I gotta say, Nuke LaLoosh was right when he said, “I love winning. It’s like… better than losing!”
The Twins put another W on the board, this one in far less dramatic fashion than the game Friday night. The built up an 11-0 lead before the Cubs put up some meaningless runs late in the game off of Jeff Gray. Six different Twins had more than one hit, led by Joe Mauer who had three hits, and seven different hitters drove runs in. That’s a pretty balanced offensive attack. Jeff Manship (with his name spelled correctly on his jersey today) pitched a final shutout inning in the 9th.
But Boyfriend of the Day consideration really came down to two players. Scott Diamond threw six scoreless innings, spreading out 7 hits, while striking out five Cubs without issuing a single walk. Trevor Plouffe continued his hot hitting, with a double and a home run, totaling four RBI and scoring a couple of runs himself, and racking up five assists from his 3B position, just for good measure. For those performances, Scott and Trevor, you are our BODs.
Let’s see of PJ Walters can keep up the good work he’s been doing since arriving in Minnesota. The Twins are going to need all the pitching help they can get, as it appears that Carl Pavano could be headed to a stay on the Disabled List.
Whew. The Twins finally get a win this season over the Tribe. Scoring four runs in the first inning was a great start, but PJ Walters couldn’t hold that lead and it was all tied up after five innings. Fortunately, the Twins weren’t done scoring, while their bullpen successfully shut out Cleveland over the final four innings.
The BOD award came down to a split vote, so tonight we have three winners sharing the award. Brian Duensing relieved Walters with two out in the fifth and kept the inherited baserunners from crossing the plate and went on to pitch 2 perfect innings. On the offensive side, Trevor Plouffe and Joe Mauer not only both homered, but also each drove in three of the Twins’ 7 runs. For their efforts, Brian, Trevor and Joe are our Boyfriends of the Day.
Interesting lineup for Ron Gardenhire tonight. With Josh Willingham serving as the Twins’ DH tonight, Gardenhire had an opportunity to move Ben Revere into left field and move Trevor Plouffe into right field. Instead Gardy leaves Revere out in RF where his weak arm is most exposed, and sends Plouffe out to LF where his limited range could come into play. Perhaps Gardenhire is keeping Revere in RF to chase down liners and fly balls from the 5 left handed hitters in Detroit’s line-up, but a more likely scenario is Gardenhire keeping his guys where he likes them, not where it always makes the most sense to play them.
Either way, should be an interesting game. Here are the rest of the line ups:
The Twins scored more than their fair share of runs tonight, but the pitching let them down for the second night in a row.Not a lot of positives in a game like this, but at least the Twins were not charged with an error, so that’s an improvement.
My guess is that everyone wearing a Twins uniform is feeling pretty good right about now. And they should be. I really hope they get to the point where they realize that they really like this feeling of working together, playing good ball and getting wins. Even more importantly, I look forward to the time when they can win ball games that don’t involve the opposing teams hiring circus clowns for the field.
As for today’s pitching, all reports are that Pavano is feeling good enough that he supposedly even declined the cortisone shot they had proposed. I don’t know if that is good news or bad news for today but I like the sound of recovery…
My guess about today’s game is that the boys all felt like they started early enough on a Saturday, they might as well play a little longer into the evening so they just kept letting things get tied up… Pavano was on a pitch count but still managed to pitch a full 6 innings which we needed. His velocity isn’t all that much higher than it was but he definitely was pretty solid.
And BOD for today? Finally an easy one. Across the board we had great outings and yes, Drew Butera STILL leads the team in Batting Average since he’s up to .375 if my count is accurate. And Matt Capps put another Save notch on his headboard. But when a game keeps getting tied up, the guy who BREAKS the tie? He gets to be BOD. That is you, Trevor Plouffe!