Results tagged ‘ Scott Baker ’

What Went Wrong

After the season ended, I had planned on doing a position-by-position look at the Twins to examine what exactly went wrong that sent a 94-win team (2010) to a 99-loss squad (2011).  However, with the recent front office move of swapping Bill Smith for Terry Ryan (again), it seems as if three key categories came into play during the ’11 season that really just doomed the Twins from the start.

First, from a tactical perspective, the injuries were horrific…

When half (or more) of your starting team is injured for half (or more) of the season, the plan you put in place all of last offseason was pretty much shot in the foot before it ever had a chance to walk.  Whether bad luck, bad conditioning, or bad “mental toughness” (to quote Mike Tice), the team was limping off the field all season long.

Also, the depletion of the bullpen was another crippling tactical shortcoming…

I realize that the money got too much to retain our key bullpen horses, but in the end the lack of any steady relief help came back to bite the team perhaps more than anyone thought possible.

Second, beyond the tactical stuff, was the inability of our “core group” (outside of Cuddyer, of course) to produce.

Mauer & Morneau needed to get back to this…

But instead they barely played two weeks of the season in the same lineup.

Then, the “solid five” (Baker, Blackburn, Liriano, Perkins, Slowey) starters that we envisioned a few years ago have never (and probably never will) produced to their expectations…

Liriano is an enigma, Slowey is in the doghouse, Baker is failed potential personified, Blackburn is a rollercoaster, and Perkins is now a reliever (and one who has injury troubles at that).

Finally, the final area that really killed the Twins last year was a step away from their tried-and-true organizational philosophy of hoarding draft picks, developing talent, throwing strikes, and playing solid, fundamental baseball (especially defense).

When Nick Punto left in the offseason and ended up winning a ring with the Cardinals…

It signaled a shift from playing “Twins baseball” towards “going all-in to win now”.

Perhaps this was a difference in philosophy between two GMS…

But clearly, the team got away from the “fundamentals”.  The defense was rot, the pitchers walked more batters than ever, and the whole foundation collapsed.

Notes:

-Amazingly enough, Terry Ryan’s first move on his second go-’round as GM impressed the heck out of me, signing Jamey Carroll to play shortstop in ’12…

From what I hear/read, Carroll can play solid defense, handle the bat, stay in the lineup, and get on base a little bit…nothing our middle infielders did in ’11.  Carroll is not a long-term solution by any means, but he adds stability to a team desperate for it right now.

Never Doubt

You know, as a prognosticator, I’m having “one of those years”…

Earlier this year, I got on Scott Baker’s case, only to see him rattle off a string of spectacular starts.

Before the All-Star Break, I proclaimed Danny Valencia as my new favorite Twin, only to see my previous favorite…

…get back to, well,…

Earlier this afternoon, I was really on Jim Thome’s case about being injured and stringing together some horrible at-bats as of late.  Then, 490 feet later…

In mid-May, I let myself think (for the briefest of moments) that this might be a long season in Twins Territory.  We’re now just five games out of first place and playing great baseball.

Boy, am I ever glad to be wrong…!

Preview (44-49, 4th, 1.0 GB CWS): David Huff (0-0, 0.00) vs. Anthony Swarzak (2-2, 3.38) AND Fausto Carmona (4-10, 5.78) vs. TBD

Five Aces? Not So Much

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In light of the Twins’ recent struggles, I wanted to comment on one of the reasons WHY I feel we are sitting in the basement of the AL Central right now:

Just think back about 3-4 years, after we traded Johan Santana.  Likely one of the reasons we let Johan walk was because we thought we had a five-pitcher nucleus that would last for many years at a relatively low cost.

Well, you know what they say about “best laid plans”…

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Nick Blackburn: Maddeningly inconsistent, including various nagging injuries.  Typical sinkerballer…either boom or bust on any given day.

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Kevin Slowey: Almost chronically injured at this point.

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Francisco Liriano: Was supposed to be the ace of the staff, but post-TJ (except for parts of 2010) has been a mess.  No consistent delivery, no control, seemingly lax attitude.

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Scott Baker: The biggest disappointment of the bunch.  Has not improved one iota since the day he arrived in a Twins uniform.

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Glen Perkins: Bad-mouthed the Twins organization, served his minor league “sentence”; has been decent of late as a reliever.

At one point, all five of those guys showed tremendous promise.  Sadly, they have each fizzled for different reasons, leaving the Twins somewhat pitching-poor when they thought they would be solid in the next decade.

Who Will Be “The One”?

Alright, Twins starting pitchers, who’s going to be “the one” to step up and give us a really quality outing.  I don’t care if it IS against the Yanks.  It’s got to start happening.  Baker?  Duensing?  Will you be the first?

Preview (1-2, T-3, 1.5 GB KCR): Scott Baker (0-0, 0.00) vs. Ivan Nova (0-0, 0.00).

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).

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.

Two Model Franchises (And Managers)

Twins_Rays_Baseball_sff_186220_game.jpgTonight’s marathon Twins-Rays game featured two of the most solid franchises in the American League duking it out deep into extra innings.

For “starters”, David Price (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 7 K) and Scott Baker (8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 7 K) matched each other hurl for hurl, with only an early Jason Repko double (driving in Danny Valencia) lighting up the scoreboard whatsoever.

Unsettlingly, though, Matt Capps came in for the save situation and promptly blew it, allowing the tying run to score on a Dan Johnson single.

From that point on, it was a battle of the bullpens, with the Twins holding the slight edge and thus the 2-1 victory:

Tampa: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER (all from Lance Cormier)

Minnesota: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 ER (Crain, Mijares, Guerrier)

In a game featuring such quality managers as Joe Maddon and Ron Gardenhire, what can you expect?!

Notes:

-It was nice to see Guerrier redeem himself after last night.  This is a guy who doesn’t have the most talent in the world, but relies instead on location and pitch movement.  Really strong performance tonight.

-Capps had better buy Baker a nice dinner sometime this week.

-Delmon Young finally got the big hit against his former club!  Hopefully that will break him out of his little mini-funk.

Preview (60-48, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (10-5, 4.44) vs. Wade Davis (9-9, 4.21).

Right Move…But Right Guy?

Just heard today that the Twins got closer Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals…

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From a purely personnel standpoint, GM Bill Smith got it right. I’m glad he realized that Jon Rauch is not a playoff-caliber closer, and that adding a reliever to allow Duensing a spot in the starting rotation might be just as good as a high-caliber, high-risk, rental-player trade.

The only thing I’m concerned about is that, from what I’ve heard, Capps isn’t all that steadier than Mr. Rauch.  I don’t know too much about him, though, so I would appreciate some comments from more informed minds on the matter.

For now, though, I’ll say I like this trade going forward.  Pavano, Liriano, Duensing isn’t too shabby at the front end of the rotation, Blackburn will likely be pitching in big games (and probably suceeding, knowing him) in September again, and anything from Baker/Slowey is a plus at this point.

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.

Geesh, Blackie

20081001_blackburn_33.jpgWell, I wanted to get in a blog posting before heading up north for the weekend, but I wish it were under better circumstances.

Let’s just say this: If anyone thought that Jesse Crain would be headed to the batters box in the second inning, please raise your hand.  Didn’t think so.

As I type this right now, Nick Blackburn was absolutely terrible against the Phillies, allowing 8 runs in one and two thirds innings of “work”.  Chase Utley and Ryan Howard provided most of the damage with moon-shot home runs.

I know it’s way too early to panic, but I wish the starters on this team would be a little more consistant.  I have to give them credit for staying healthy, but you just can’t count on Blackie, Slowey, or even Baker, for that matter, to give you a good outing every five days.  It’s just that the Tigers are breathing down our necks.

Saturday: Kevin Slowey (7-4, 3.84) vs. Cole Hamels (6-5, 3.74)

Sunday: Carl Pavano (7-6, 3.92) vs. Roy Halladay (8-5, 2.36). Gulp

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