Results tagged ‘ CC Sabathia ’

Long Live The King…

felix-hernandez1.jpgComing into this past baseball season, the two most coveted pitchers I wanted for my fantasy baseball team were Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez. I got King Felix, though it looks like it wouldn’t have really even mattered one way or the other!

Congrats to Hernandez for winning the 2010 AL Cy Young Award.  This year will likely go down as the turning point in the battle of the “stat heads” (Felix had only 13 wins on a horrible team) vs. the traditionalists (who likely voted for David Price or CC Sabathia).  Here’s the way I look at it, though:

Day in and day out, who was the most dominant pitcher in the AL?  Though Price comes close, I’ll take King Felix right now.

Twins vs. Yankees X-Factors

Well, here it is, the night before the playoff ALDS opener against the New York Yankees at Target Field.  Here are my “x-factors” for this series:

Yankees:

The first two starters…

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andy-pettite.jpgBoth these two starters are renowned Twins-killers, capable of shutting down even our most potent bats for inning after inning.  To me, just splitting (even at home) with these guys on the mound would be the best we could hope for, as I’m confident that Duensing will beat Hughes in the Bronx for Game 3.  However, two straight losses would pretty much doom us.

For the Twins:

The big righthanded bat…

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In previous years, the Twins have never had that powerful righthanded bat in the lineup to counter-act a tough lefty on the mound. Delmon Young changes the equation.

Also, though I won’t necessarily say this is a prediction, but I think Ron Gardenhire gives the Twins a big edge…

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Not saying that Joe Girardi isn’t a quality manager as well, but you know that Gardy will have our boys ready to go for every game. Plus, this year he has some “bullets in the chamber” instead of blanks to match up with the Yanks’ firepower.

I’m too superstitious to make a prediction on this series due to the fact that my home team is in it, so about all that’s left to say is this:

 

Preview: C.C. Sabathia (0-0, 0.00) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00).  The slate is wiped clean in the postseason!

No Lee…No Problem?

world-series-new-york-yankees-philadelphia-phillies-cc-sabathia-cliff-lee.jpgWell, if the current trade buzz is accurate (and it probably is, as when the Yankees want a guy they usually get him), those two guys could be teammates in pinstripes in a few short weeks or days.

Most hard-core Twins fans should be about drowned in their soup over that news, as a Lee-Sabathia-Pettite rotation would be nearly unstoppable, but perhaps all is not yet lost.

A few weeks ago, Houston Astro Roy Oswalt announced his desire to be traded from the pathetic ‘Stros:

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Just a few years ago, this guy was considered one of the top three pitchers in the National League, until injuries and pathetic team play dropped him down a notch.  He’s healthy now, though, and putting together a solid season on the mound.

I actually like his case better than Cliff Lee’s, because likely we wouldn’t have to give up BOTH Ramos and Hicks to obtain him, and we might even have a chance to sign him next year (he might not just be a rent-a-player).

So, if the Yanks do jump off the Cliff, perhaps we can still land a solid starter in his abscence.

It Could Be Worse…At Least We Aren’t Cleveland

Last night, the Twins got pounded by the Blue Jays…plain and simple:

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They homered us right out of their stadium, beating up on Scott Baker in the process.  Besides a solo shot from Michael Cuddyer, we couldn’t do squat against their pitchers and ended up in third place in the standings because of it.

However, as I lamented that fact, I happened to flip over to Lebron James TV (oh, sorry, aka ESPN) to hear “The Big Decision”.  After hearing the outcome (James to the Heat), I’m just glad I’m not a sports fan in Cleveland.  Consider:

lebron-james3.jpg The Cavaliers just lost (arguably) the best player in the NBA and, despite what their owner says, will likely not win a championship before he does.  I don’t follow professional basketball closely enough to say that with impunity, but without King James they will be a worse team…plain and simple.

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The Browns are just as exciting as their pure orange logo, having one decent season (which only proved to be a few lucky passes from Derek Anderson to Braylon Edwards) since their franchise resurrection in the 1990s.

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The saddest case, though, is probably that of the Cleveland Indians.  Three seasons ago, they were on the verge of a World Series berth, what with CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee in the rotation and Travis Hafner looking like the natural version of Mark McGwire.  Now, they are battling the KC Royals for the AL Central cellar.

So, perhaps I should just be thankful for a competitive ballclub…although I still want an SP and a closer!

Preview (45-40, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (6-6, 3.32) vs. Justin Verlander (10-5, 3.85). Ace vs. Ace.  Never has a team needed the All-Star break more than the Twins do right now, but they need to keep the fire burning for three more crucial division games.

Contemplating The Yanks

This weekend, the Twins will head to Yankee Stadium in New York for three games with their own particular version of kryptonite: the Yankees.

There is a particular amount of buzz about this series in the Twins Cities area right now (whether suffocating or stimulating is up for interpretation), primarily due to the Twins’ hot start and the potential to erase a few past demons.  Basically, we haven’t been able to do squat against the Yankees since, ironically enough, we started winning on a consitent basis back in 2002.  However, here is the reason why I finally see the Twins turning things around…starting tomorrow night:

 

baseball_back_1024.jpgTo me, the difference between the Twins and the Yankees has always been a deep bench.  Whether Joe Torre or Joe Girardi, in late-inning situations there’s also a big bat coming off the bench that can wreak havoc.  The best example of this was in the ’04 ALDS, when Ruben Sierra came off their bench as opposed to Michael Ryan off ours.  Ouch.

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The picture above more accurately represents our bench (in past years) in a time of need.  Gardy scans the length of the dugout and finds such guys as Brian Buscher, Ryan, Nick Punto, or Matt Tolbert to try and create runs off of Joba Chamberlain or Mariano Rivera.  Not likely.

However, this year we have both the lineup depth AND the pitching to keep pace with the mighty Yankees.  They may still outpace us in top-tier (Sabathia, Burnett, A-Rod, Jeter, etc.) talent, but we now have the bats to hang with them even into the late innings.

Plus, remember this…

In 2003, we took the first game at Yankee stadium before collapsing.  In ’04, we took the first and almost had the second if not for a Nathan blown save.  Last year, we played them toughed in nearly every regular season game (a lot of walk-off wins for them), and had a chance to win all three of those playoffs games if we could have gotten some clutch hits.

Could this be the start of a new era for the Twins (competing with the big boys)?  This weekend provides the first test.

The Missing Piece

the_missing_piece_book.jpgIn today’s baseball economy, simple numbers (if not a relatively shallow talent pool because of expansion) dictate that teams build a pitching staff one of two wins: Either rely on one or two horses and patchwork, or collect five “average joes” that give you a chance to win every night and pray that one develops into an ace.

For playoff-bound teams, the former solution seems to be the way to go, as evidenced by the Yankees being able to essentially rely on the shoulders of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett all the way through to the World Series championship.  The Twins, however, may have just gotten lucky…

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Earlier tonight, Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander hooked up in a duel that could have easily been the first game of a postseason series, with Frankie matching Verlander pitch for pitch and eventually out-dueling him with eight scoreless innings of 4-hit ball and 10 strikeouts.

There was one sequence in the bottom of the fifth inning that I especially enjoyed: With young Scott Sizemore at the plate, Liriano broke off two nasty sliders down and in for swinging strikes.  After one high heater to change Sizemore’s eye level, Cisco came back with the slider and made the young man look silly.  Just complete domination the likes of which we haven’t seen since, well, Liriano (at least in ’06-form)!

Right now, there is just a certain electricity whenever Liriano takes the hill, and that’s what being an ace is all about…just knowing that you have that advantage right from the get-go.  Of course, it’s too early to give Frankie the Cy-Young plaque already, but the signs sure are encouraging.  I can’t wait for Sunday to see him again!

Notes:

-A funny thought: In last year’s game 163 against Detroit, Michael Cuddyer was at first base because of Morneau’s back injury, Alexi Casilla was in the infield, and Ryan Raburn was misplaying balls out in left.  Huh (!).  In all seriousness, though, I hope Justin is okay and just tweaked a muscle trying to catch up with Verlander’s heat.

Preview (14-6, 1st, 3.5 GA DET): Scott Baker (2-2, 4.81) vs. Max Scherzer (1-1, 2.63).

Take You Back

francisco_liriano.jpgOooh boy…as if the Twins needed anything more to be positive about after two road series wins and the opening of Target Field, earlier today Francisco Liriano pitched up to his 2006 form, styming the Red Sox for seven innings (with eight whiffs) while the Twins’ bats exploded (or perhaps this is just their normal capacity?).

One of the weaknesses that I perceived in the Twins this year was the lack of a true ace that could kill them come playoff time as it has in past seasons. Baker, Blackburn, Pavano, and Slowey all give you a chance to win day in and day out, but none are a real stopper in the Johan Santana mold.  If Frankie keeps locating his fastball and curving that filthy slider, he’s the guy that can match up against the Sabathia’s, Beckett’s, or Hernandez’s in the first game of a playoff series.

Preview (7-3, 1st, 0.5 GA DET): Zack Grienke (0-1, 3.55) vs. Scott Baker (1-1, 3.86). I smell a pitcher’s duel…

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