August 2010

Re-Capping Matt

x610.jpgThe Minnesota Twins have had new closer Matt Capps for about a month now, and so I think it’s time to evaluate his performance so far. Here are the raw stats:

13 G, 13 IP, 6 SV, 2.08 ERA

What I like about Capps is that he seems to have the raw “stuff” to get people out.  He has a live fastball, and a decent assortment of breaking pitches to keep opposing batters off-balance.

However, there is a troubling sign that makes the new closer a bit too much like the old one for my tastes…

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For all his velocity, Capps is a “pitch to contact” type of closer.  Those kind of guys make me nervous, especially in the playoffs when “contact” usually is the equivalent of “base hit”.  Now don’t get me wrong…I think that Capps is better suited for the role than Rauch, who didn’t have the live fastball or control of the nasty curve to ever dominate the final inning.  However, on a scale of “Guardado-Aguilera-Nathan”, I think Capps falls somewhere between Eddie & Aggie.

Thus, it is very interesting that the Twins just traded for Angels closer Brian Fuentes:

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The “official word” is that Fuentes will be used primarily as a setup man to Capps, but Gardy also made the interesting comment that Fuentes could be used in “certain save situations”.  I like that reasoning, as it shows me that Gardy understands that Capps isn’t Rivera or Papelbon and thus wants to consider all his options.

Perhaps the best thing that could come out of all of this is that it gives the Twins some bullpen depth, something that always seems to be lacking (on any club, really).  Guys like Crain and Guerrier can’t always shoulder the load, the biggest case in point being Matty G., as we may have already burned him out from years of overuse. 

Hey Mikey…He Likes It!


Angels_Twins_Baseball_sff_189655_team.jpgTwo pitches decided the outcome of the game tonight:

#1…the one to Danny Valencia that Danny Boy sent 426 feet into the second deck in leftfield;

#2…the one that Jered Weaver grooved to Michael Cuddyer after Cuddy had fouled off all sorts of pitches high and low, outside and in, but eventually turning it into a three-run double.

Preview (72-52, 1st, 5.0 GA CWS): Nick Blackburn (7-7, 6.66) vs. Rich Harden (4-4, 5.45).  With Slowey on the DL, Blackie is back and (hopefully) here to stay now.

What To Do, What To Do

Tonight’s dilemma:

The last time Brett Favre suited up in a Vikings uniform against the San Francisco 49ers, he did this:

He will start tonight’s preseason game.

At the same time, the Twins will be looking to bounce back from a dysmal performance yesterday against the Angels:

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The solution: watch the first two series of football, then once Tarvaris Jackson steps under center, immediately switch back to baseball!

Preview (71-52, 1st, 4.0 GA CWS): Jered Weaver (11-8, 3.11) vs. Scott Baker (10-9, 4.85).

Go Ahead…Make (His) Day


Angels_Twins_Baseball_sff_189132_game.jpgTisk, tisk.  Once again, a team (this time the Angels) intentionally walks Joe Mauer to get to Jason Kubel.  Bad idea (for the other team, that is).  Twins route Haren and Duensing coasts to victory.

Preview (71-51, 1st, 4.5 GA CWS): Trevor Bell (1-3, 5.40) vs. Kevin Slowey (11-5, 4.22)

Remembering Bobby Thompson

bobby_thompson01.jpgAs a fan of baseball in general, and especially the history of the game, I would be remiss not to mention the recent passing of Bobby Thompson, best remembered as an outfielder for the National League’s New York Giants.

Thompson is, of course, best known for this moment, widely regarded as one of the most exciting in baseball history:

 As Twins fans well know, there aren’t too many more exciting moments than those that happen during a post-162 (or, at that time, a post-154) game.  Although perhaps Ralph Branca would disagree with me…

Thompson wasn’t a spectacular player, but over the course of 15 seasons he compiled 1,705 hits, 264 home runs, a .270 batting average, and was an All-Star three times.  However, all that was overshadowed by one dramatic swing of the bat.

Piranhas No More

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OzzieGuillenLead_crop_200x136.jpgIn 2006, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen gave the Minnesota Twins the nickname “piranhas” for there ability to “peck away” at you until they finally succeed.  Basically, Ozzie was just frustrated that a team featuring the likes of Jason Bartlett, Lew Ford, Luis Castillo, Nick Punto, Juan Castro, and Jason Tyner could beat his band of sluggers.  The Twins were that pesky team you should beat, but don’t more often than not.

 Just recently, though, Guillen announced that the Twins were no longer piranhas.  You know what I say to that?  Great!

It was fine to watch that small-ball, attacking style of offense over the course of the regular reason, but once the playoffs were at hand it always failed us.  It’s common sense, really: give too many important at-bats to Punto, Brian Buscher, Tyner, or the like, and eventually (once you face good pitching) you will start to falter.  That is exactly what happened in the 2006 ALDS against the A’s.

Really, it comes down to this.  Take a look at these two players, and tell me who you would rather have up in a key spot against, say, Mariano Rivera in the playoffs:

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mp_main_wide_GardenhireThome452.jpgYep.

Preview (70-51, 1st, 4.0 GA CWS): Dan Haren (1-3, 3.44) vs. Brian Duensing (6-1, 2.00).

More Bailouts Than Obama (aka Don’t Mess Around With Jim)

Tonight’s Twins-White Sox game featured more bailouts of Twins’ pitchers than the Obama Administration:

First, Scott Baker stunk it up once again, giving up a bevy of hard-hit balls, including a moonshot from Paul Konerko in the early innings:

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However, the Twins also got dingers of their own from Delmon Young and Orlando Hudson, as well as a big triple from Jason Kubel, to stay in the game.

With the Twins leading 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, Matt Capps was brought in for the save situation.  The first batter, Alexei Ramirez, homered to tie the game, but Capps was bailed out by a huge, bases-loaded double play to end the inning.

In the tenth, Jon Rauch took the mound and, with one out, gave up three straight singles to once again allow the White Sox to score a run, giving them a 6-5 lead.  Rauch, for the second time in as many games, couldn’t even finish off his inning and had to be replaced:

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At this point, though, is when Big Jim took matters onto his own, rather broad shoulders:

 


White_Sox_Twins_Baseball_sff_188630_gameBigJim.jpgIn the bottom of the tenth, Delmon Young sent a rocket right through the crotch (almost literally) of Matt Thorton.  Up stepped Jim Thome, and three things happened in rather short fashion:

1. The ball rocketed towards the right field pavilion;

2. The ball landed, giving Thome career homer #581, and the first walk-off jack at Target Field;

3. A shaving cream-filled towel quickly homed in on Thome’s face, courtesy of one Nick Punto.

 

Every win against the Sox is a good win at this point, but it’s so much sweeter when Thome does it to his former mates!  Next to Delmon Young choosing to punch AJ Pierzynski in the face instead of sliding into home plate, Thome’s blast is easily the highlight of the season-series with these two clubs so far.  Can we drop them even further back tomorrow?!

Preview (69-50, 1st, 4.0 GA CWS): Gavin Floyd (8-9, 3.70) vs. Francisco Liriano (11-7, 3.26).

Their Own Medicine

Athletics_Twins_Baseball_sff_188151_game.jpgThis weekend series against the Oakland A’s was billed with the young, very talented Oakland starting staff potentially shutting down the Twins’ bats.  Instead, we beat them at their own game:

-On Friday, Pavano got hit around quite a bit, but still managed to pitch into the seventh inning and get the win.

-Saturday saw Brian Duensing completely mow down the A’s to the tune of nine innings and three hits.

-Kevin Slowey then pitched seven no-hit innings against Oakland on Sunday, only to be removed from the game due to pitch count issues.

Now, the Pale Hose come to our house.  We can really put a dent in Guillen’s crew by just doing what we do best…winning the series.

Notes:

-I completely understand Gardy taking out Slowey after that seventh inning, as he has been struggling with elbow tendonitis of late.  However, it took even more (insert term loosely related to “guts” here) from Gardy to put in Rauch with a no-hitter on the line.  Didn’t you just know he would blow it…and he did?!  For the first time in my life, I was actually hoping to see Crain jog in from the ‘pen.

Preview (68-50, 1st, 3.0 GA CWS): John Danks (12-8, 3.19) vs. Scott Baker (10-9, 4.76)

Jammed

Twins_White_Sox_Baseball_sff_187721_game.jpgTonight, Francisco Liriano went 5.2 innings and only gave up one run. Without observing the game and just going by that stat line, you’d think that maybe he walked a few too many guys or just ran out of gas.  This was not the case whatsoever.  In fact, Frankie (if not spectacular) was remarkable in his ability to get out of jams.

In the fifth inning, with the bases loaded with Sox and no one out, Cisco got Rios to hit into a force play at the plate, then struck out both Konerko and Quentin on nasty sliders to end the inning.

In the sixth, the Sox again loaded the bases, this time with one out, only to see Liriano get Pierre to line out and then cede to Guerrier, who popped out Ramirez.

All told, it was a miraculous performance from Liriano in terms of pitching out of jams.

Then the seventh inning dawned, the Tighty-Whities put a man on base (Mauer) to pitch to Kubel, and that pretty much ended things:

Twins_White_Sox_Baseball_sff_187726_game.jpg Notes:

-With Valencia playing so well at third, there seems to be no rush to hurry along Nick Punto back from injury.  When Little Nicky does return, I would hope that Gardy would use him as a sub, not wrenching the starting job from a still-hitting Danny Boy.

-Will anyone really miss Mijares?  He’s basically what I call a 50-50 guy.  He might get the lefty out, but he also has just a great a chance at walking him or uncorking a wild pitch.  Is he worth it as a LOGEY?

Preview (65-50, 1st, 1.0 GA CWS): Gio Gonzalez (10-7, 3.51) vs. Carl Pavano (14-7, 3.28). As Bert Blyleven said on the telecast tonight, Oakland is playing some decent ball right now, and can throw some quality arms at us this weekend.  But is it any match for the stache?  I think not.

And…We’re Back!

Twins_White_Sox_Baseball_sff_187313_game.jpgFor the first time since July 2, the Twins are alone atop the AL Central division!

It helps when you hit 5 home runs off the Pale Hose, including #579 in the career of Jim Thome.

Scott Baker kept the ball in the park just enough to be awarded the victory on the mound.

Hey, I remember what this feels like…does it have to end?!

Preview (64-49, 1st, 1.0 GA CWS): Glen Perkins (0-0, 0.00) vs. John Danks (11-8, 3.30).  Welcome back, Perk.  Now go win a game in a pennant race.

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