Results tagged ‘ Nick Blackburn ’

2001: A Twins Oddity

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Why the retro pics? Well, the last time the Twins defeated Andy Pettitte, the date was April 30, the year was 2001, Brad Radke pitched a complete game to run his record to 5-0, and Doug Mientkiewicz went 2-3 with a homer to up his average to .380 on the season.  Radke is now long since retired and Minty is a 35 year old glove/walk machine.  That should tell you all you need to know about today’s lopsided affair.

Basically, Pettitte shut us down once again, and while Liriano pitched well enough to keep us in the game, the bullpen finally imploded under the pressure in the late innings.  If old Andy can do this to us, I can only imagine what would have happened had we drew Sabathia in this series (would we even need to play the game?).

When will this miserable streak end?

Notes:

-Any thoughts as to why Jesse Crain still has a major league job?

Preview (22-14, 1.5 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (3-1, 4.76) vs. Sergio Mitre (0-1, 3.86).  Don’t so much care about the Yankee Curse in this one as just scraping out a win before the Tigers catch us again.

Back In Business

twins-harris.jpgWell, after a few games against Baltimore (two losses and one win) in which the lineup didn’t exactly produce a bevy of runs, the bats came through today, albeit in the most unlikely of places.  Though Joe Mauer had a key hit towards the end of the game, it was the 8-2 slots in the order that did most (all!) of the damage…

Brendan Harris: 3-4, 2 R

Alexi Casilla: 2-4, 2 R, 1 RBI

Denard Span: 3-4, 2 R, 3 RBI

Nick Punto: 2-3, 2 RBI

This is nice to see from this club, as the 2006 season proved what magic can happen when both the big boppers and scrappy “piranhas” alternate in picking each other up.

Of course, it helped today that Nick Blackburn stymied the O’s bats for seven innings (what should happen when one faces that dead-end squad).  After missing his previous scheduled start due to a family emergency, it was nice to see Blackie turn in a great effort after struggling so in the month of April.

In other news, the reason for the week-long break from this blog was due to the fact that our family just completely the vast majority of a move from Fergus Falls, Minnesota (the town I had grown up in since Kindergarten) to Forest Lake, MN, a town about 30 miles or so north of the Metro area.  The negative: Uprooting an entire family (I’m currently living with my parents and multiple siblings).  The positive: Closer to Target Field!!

Preview (21-11, 1st, 3.5 GA DET): Freddy Garcia (1-2, 5.28) vs. Kevin Slowey (4-2, 4.93).  Off day Monday (I bet Mauer is relaxing at his cabin already!) before the rival ChiSox make their first trip to our new home turf.  Let’s home it is just as “accommodating” to them as the old place.

O(ld)-Dawg

Hudson18_593541gm-a.jpgUntil the seventh inning of Saturday’s Twins-Royals matchup, both teams had seen their starters struggle but gotten enough big hits to overcome it.  Blackburn gave up a few bombs to Rick Ankiel, while the Twins did all their damage in the second inning, including a monster straight-away-center jack from Jim Thome.

Just after Stretch time, though, Orlando Hudson (batting righty) launched a mammoth home run that hit the facing of the second deck out in left field.  I didn’t realize that the 32-year old Hudson had that in him!  From that point, it was Matty Guerrier for a perfect eighth and Jon Rauch for the Guardado-type (aka tenuous) save.

Another series win already in the books, with a sweep now firmly in the sights.

Notes:

-I know that it’s still just April, but I’m already ready for the Yankees to come to town in late May.  Mark my words: If a sweep happens in that series, it won’t be by the visiting team.

Preview (9-3, 1st, 2.5 GA DET): Luke Hochevar (1-0, 2.84) vs. Carl Pavano (2-0, 1.38). 

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…

Three-Deep

 

22e4851097a6cff91b862509d48fa665-getty-97630656jd002_minnesota_twi.jpgIf your favorite team loses on Opening Day, like the Twins did last night, it is easy (in the excitement of the moment) to make snap judgements based on the rest of the season. Basically, no one wants to start out 0-1. However, that is the great thing about the sport of baseball. You’re going to lose 60, win 60, and really it’s what you do with the other 42 that make the difference.

Tonight, the Twins had a nice bounce-back from that first-game loss on Monday night.

On the pitching side, Nick Blackburn successfully navigated (despite a Torii Hunter bomb) a very solid Angels lineup and, while not pitching deep into the game, kept the Twins in it and gave them a chance to win.

The offense came from homers by Mauer, Morneau, and newcomer J.J. Hardy on a blustery night in LA.  It was nice to see the lefty M&Ms tag a lefty pitcher for dingers.

This Angels club is still the class of the AL West (at least until they are seriously challenged), so getting out with a split would be a pretty successful series to open the year.  That would require a win tomorrow night…

Preview (1-1, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS & DET): Carl Pavano (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (0-0, 0.00 ERA).

Notes:

-Don’t really like the new road uniforms.  Makes the boys look too much like the Washington Nationals, if you ask me.

Early March Twins Ramblings

The Good…

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We locked up Blackie for four more years.  While I don’t ever think that the sinker-balling righty will be the ace of our staff (pretty much because of that darn unpredictable pitch!), he is durable, an innings-eater, and usually always gives you a chance to win.  You don’t want to lose a guy like that.

The Bad…

alg_joe_nathan.jpg After leaving his first spring training game action with “arm tightness”, Nathan will now undergo some more tests and an MRI to find out why.  No need to tell Twins fans how big of a loss Nathan would be if removed for a prolonged length of time from our ‘pen.

The Ugly…

Each day that goes by without Joe Mauer doing this…

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…makes me nervous.  Until his John Hancock is dryed on the page, I won’t completely exhale.

And now, the Weird…

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100308&content_id=8712418&vkey=news_min&fext=.jsp&c_id=min

I’m sorry, but NOTHING can ever replace this…

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Minnesota Twins Spring Training Preview 2010

sect-101-450.jpgNow that the Twins are cranking things up down in Fort Myers, here is a little preview of what to expect in terms of the build-up to Opening Day 2010:

Last Year: 87-76, 1st in American League Central Division (1 GA of Detroit Tigers), lost to New York Yankees in ALDS (3-0).

 

Manager: Once again, the Twins will have Ron Gardenhire at the helm.  Since taking the reins from Tom Kelly back in 2002, Gardy has posted a 709-588 (.547) record with the Twins.  Besides the lone 1969 Billy Martin tenure, that winning percentage constitutes the highest mark in franchise history, and trails only TK (1140-1244) in overall wins.

 

Venue: After nearly three decades of playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Twins will now christen open-air Target Field as their new home.  Dimensions: LF-339, LCF-377, CF-404, RCF-367, RF-328.

 

Projected Starting Lineup & Positions:

 

  1. Denard Span (R), CF (2009 stats: .311 BA, 97 R, 180 H, 23 SB, .807 OPS): Though primarily just a singles hitter who runs the bases well, Span is very adept at working counts, getting on base, and coming up big in the clutch.  The best lead-off hitter wearing “TC” since Chuck Knoblauch jumped ship.  Plays Torii Hunter-like defense in the outfield.
  2. Orlando Hudson (S), 2B (for LA Dodgers: .283 BA, 74 R, 35 2B, .774 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove): One of the newcomers this year.  Can’t say I’ve watched him play much, but the stats don’t seem to lie.  He’s very comparable to the departed Orlando Cabrera, who did wonders for the top of the order down the stretch in ’09.
  3. Joe Mauer (L), C (.365 BA, 94 R, 96 RBI, 28 HR, 1.031 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove, MVP, Silver Slugger): Perhaps the most talented player in baseball this side of Albert Pujols.  The kind of guy who could hit .320 and call it a “down year”.
  4. Justin Morneau (L), 1B (.274 BA, 100 RBI, 30 HR, .878 OPS, All-Star): Take a look at those stats, and then consider he missed the final month of ’09 due to injury.  His ability to hit for average and maintain a selective eye separates him from the hackers.
  5. Michael Cuddyer (R), RF (.276 BA, 93 R, 94 RBI, 32 HR, .862 OPS): The biggest hurdle for Cuddy is making it through an entire season.  When hurt, he struggles with things like consistency and strike outs.  When healthy, he puts up numbers like last season.  Possesses a rifle arm.
  6. Jason Kubel (L), DH (.300 BA, 28 HR, 103 RBI, .907 OPS): Could be the cleanup hitter in many other teams’ lineups.  Is just coming into his own (a bit late) after struggling through a serious knee injury as a rookie.  Can also more than hold his own in the outfield, where he may find himself on more than a few occasions if Jim Thome heats up.
  7. Delmon Young (R), LF (.284 BA, 60 RBI, 12 HR, .733 OPS): Will be the first to sit if Kubel and Thome play their way into the lineup, but also has tremendous upside.  Is clumsy in the field (but just good enough to make up for it) and prone to hitting nothing but singles for long stretches, but when locked in can be a deadly force.
  8. J.J. Hardy (R), SS (for Milwaukee Brewers: .229 BA, 53 R, 47 RBI, 11 HR, .659 OPS): The Twins are hoping for the ’07-’08 Hardy to re-emerge…the one who hit 25+ homers and posted a respectable average.  The verdict is still out on his D, which is decent but not Punto-like.
  9. Nick Punto (S) (.228 BA, 56 R, 82 H, 16 SB, .621 OPS) or Brendan Harris (R), 3B (.261 BA, 44 R, 108 H, .672 OPS): A classic “offense vs. defense” choice here.  Gardy loves Punto for the defense he brings to the infield, but Little Nicky is often an albatross at the bottom of the order.  Harris is an average fielder, but can rattle one off the wall every so often.

 

Bench:

 

  1. Jim Thome (DH/1B, L) (for White Sox & Dodgers: .249 BA, 23 HR, 77 RBI, .847 OPS): Hopefully the big bat the Twins have desperately needed off the pine.  Could easily play his way into everyday lineup if balls start clearing the walls.
  2. Jose Morales (C, S) (.311 BA, 119 AB, .742 OPS): Showed enough poise as a youngster for the Twins to let veteran Mike Redmond leave.
  3. Alexi Casilla (2B, S) (.202, 228 AB, .538 OPS): At times provides a spark to the top of the order and plays flashy D, but is still far too prone to mental errors/goofs that Gardy can’t stand.
  4. Matt Tolbert (IF, S) (.232, 198 AB, .611 OPS): Plays the kind of scrappy ball and defense that the manager loves and his adept at handling the bat (if not racking up hits).

-Others battling for roster spots include Drew Butera (C), Wilson Ramos (C), Jacque Jones (OF), Luke Hughes (IF), Trevor Plouffe (IF), and Danny Valencia (IF).

 

Starting Rotation:

 

  1. Scott Baker (RHP, 15-9, 4.36 ERA, 200 IP): Baker has shown spurts of ace-like outings, but needs to consistently pitch further into games to really match up against the league’s best.
  2. Nick Blackburn (RHP, 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 205.2 IP): Has a knack for coming up big in the clutch starts, but also needs to work on consistency.  A typical sinkerball pitcher in that if the ball isn’t diving, it’s jumping (off bats, that is).
  3. Kevin Slowey (RHP, 10-3, 4.86 ERA, 90.2 IP): At times looks like the second coming of Brad Radke, but needs to stay healthy for an entire season to prove it.  Has absolutely pin-point accuracy with an assortment of pitches to keep the hitters guessing.
  4. Carl Pavano (RHP, 5-4, 4.64 ERA, 73.2 IP): The only veteran in the starting rotation, but his overall effectiveness is questionable.  Showed he could compete against the AL Central after being acquired during the latter months of the season, but needs to prove his worth against the “big boys” of the league.
  5. Francisco Liriano (LHP, 5-13, 5.80 ERA, 136.2 IP), Glen Perkins (LHP, 6-7, 5.89 ERA, 96.1 IP), Brian Duensing (LHP, 5-2, 3.64 ERA, 84 IP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP, 3-7, 6.25 ERA, 59 IP), or Jeff Manship (RHP, 1-1, 5.68 ERA, 31.2 IP): Liriano is obviously the wild card of this group, as he could become unquestioned ace of the staff or play himself right out of the majors.  Perkins is not on the organization’s good side after squabbles over service time and just plain poor performance, while Duensing is the conservative pick after impressing in the heat of the pennant race last year.  Swarzak and/or Manship would have to pitch their tails off to even warrant consideration.

 

Bullpen:

 

  1. Joe Nathan (RHP, 2.10 ERA, 68.2 IP, 47 SV): Still a top-tier closer in all of baseball, but somehow needs to shake late- (and post-) season demons.  Too many batters (7) tagged him with the long ball last year, so that is a good place to start.
  2. Matt Guerrier (RHP, 2.36 ERA, 76.1 IP): The primary setup man to Nathan.  Is very solid, but fatigue always an issue due to over-use.
  3. Jose Mijares (LHP, 2.34 ERA, 61.2 IP): The lefty-lefty matchup guy who his almost unhittable when in decent shape and possessing a clear head.  Has tendency to put balls in the dirt and sometimes inexplicably loses his control for short periods of time.
  4. Pat Neshek (RHP, DNP-Injured): After missing almost two whole seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the side-winding Minnesota native is back to confuse opponents once again.  Could be a god-send to take some of the strain off Matty G.
  5. Jon Rauch (RHP, 1.72 ERA, 15.2 IP): One of the big (literally!) reasons the Twins made the playoffs last season.  Is very flexible in terms of duration (1-3 innings).
  6. Jesse Crain (RHP, 4.70 ERA, 51.2 IP): An enigma: some fans love his electric stuff, while others cringe at his predictability, wobbly control, and inability to pitch out of jams after creating them.
  7. Clay Condrey (RHP, for Philadelphia: 3.00 ERA, 42 IP): A newcomer who is coming off two solid seasons in the National League.  Adds valuable depth to a unit that would often carry a green rookie or past-his-prime vet in this spot.

 

Prediction: If the starting pitching holds up for the entire season and the bats produce even a trifling of what they should, this could be a very scary team.  Must prove first and foremost that, as well as beating up on the Kansas City’s and Cleveland’s of the world, they now have the firepower to take on the likes of New York and Anaheim (teams that destroyed them in ’09).  A division championship is a very achievable goal, with the sights set on further venturing into the playoff tournament.

 

Why We Lost, Theory #2: We Were Overmatched From The Start

yankeesboard06.jpgIn the previous post, I made the point that the Twins have nobody to blame but themselves for the ALDS sweep at the hands of the Yankees. But is this really true?

This is kind of a touchy issue, at least for me, as it implies that the Twins (or any small-market “David” vs. a big-market “Goliath”) really never have much of a chance to compete against the “big boys” of the league.

Any competant baseball fan knows that the economic system of the game is messed up due to the fact that no salary cap is in place.  Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels (in the American League) have such a huge advantage over the Twins and Royals of the world that its a wonder any other team ever represents the league in the World Series (I guess that is the crapshoot of a playoff structure that features a 3-of-5 first round).  Sure, Bud Selig’s supposedly brilliant luxury tax system (where, much like Robin Hood, the league robs from the rich to give to the poor) helps a little bit, but in reality all it ends up doing is narrowing the free agent pool each year (as the middle-market teams are able to lock up a few key players to long-term deals).  It most definetly, however, does not prevent teams like the Yankees from nabbing the best free agents year after year (case in point: C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett brought in before the start of this season).  The Twins could never have dreamed of signing guys like that.

Of course, baseball will likely never changed (at least not with Selig at the helm), as the success of the Yanks, Sawx, and Halos fuels the revenue machine, especially in the World Series.  Though it might provide some sanctity back into the game, nobody wants to see the Twins and Athletics, to use two examples, duking it out in the ALCS.  If the MLB execs had it their way, it would be New York and Boston every single year.

The whole situation kind of reminds me of the infamous “You can’t handle the truth” speech from the movie A Few Good Men:

“My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.”

While more parity would be great for baseball, it will never happen because admittedly it would weaken the short-term (until new rivalries are formed, at least) revenue stream of the league.

Thus, can the Twins even be expected to compete with the Yankees in any series?  They have Sabathia and Burnett, we have Baker and Blackburn.  They have the best middle of an order (Teixera, A-Rod, Matsui) since Ruth, Gehrig, and Lazzeri batted consecutively, while we have one stud (Mauer) and two others (Kubel, Cuddyer) that are by and large overmatched by quality pitching.  They have guys like Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano at the BOTTOM of the order, while we have Carlos Gomez, Nick Punto, and Jose Morales because they are all we can afford.  They can throw arms like Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes at us, while he have Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares.  No comparison.

So, those are the two theories as to why our beloved Twins were brutalized by the hated Yanks.  Which one is more valid?  I think it is a mixture of both.  The Twins would need to play a perfect series to even give themselves a chance to beat the Yankees, and instead we choked in every big opportunity.

We’ve Come Too Far (To Go Out Like This)…

After watching the Twins get beat 7-2 last night in Game One of the ALDS against the New York Yankees, it brought back up all the old memories from 2003 and 2004, both years in which the same city’s franchise laid the Smackdown on us.  Whereas they have All-Stars, we have young kids and unproven commodities.

Yet, I think all Twins fans would admit that, for the past month, this team has been a special ballclub.  I would hate to see all that washed away in a quick series against the Evil Empire.  I want to see some of that fight that this team exhibited for the past four weeks, and that starts tomorrow night.

Preview (ALDS; NYY 1, MN 0): Nick Blackburn vs. A.J. Burnett

And Here…We…Go!

Well folks, it all comes down to this.  Four games that will likely determine the course of the 2009 American League Central division.  The Tigers are playing like they have all season (up and down, just waiting for someone to pass them), while the Twins are on fire when not facing Mr. Grienke and his practically unhittable stuff (just ask Jason Kubel).  Of course, the great equalizer is Comerica Park, where the Tigers have played even better than the Twins have at the Dome this season.

This is what September baseball is all about!

Preview (81-74, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18) vs. Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14).

On another note, Ozzie The Nut is at it again.

http://sports-ak.espn.go.com/mlb/clubhouse?team=chw (Click on Ozzie Rips White Sox)

These kind of rants… are exactly why I hate this guy so much. If I were a player (even one that might very well be in the doldrums), I would be personally offended by that type of language and the kinds of names he calls people. I wonder how the truly professional Sox like Konerko, Dye, and the now-departed Thome feel about that kind of bull crap?

 

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