Results tagged ‘ Tigers ’

Tiger Cub Prince

After hearing the news yesterday that Prince Fielder signed a monumental deal with the Detroit Tigers, I was conflicted as to my response.

On one hand, I have always been a huge fan of Fielder, who I rank as probably my favorite non-Twins baseball player.

I have always enjoyed his violent and powerful (yet just somehow controlled) swing that produces such massive power…

As well as his youthful exuberance for playing the game…

At the same time, though, I dread the thought of him facing Twins pitching more than six games per year (now MUCH more).  He’ll have no trouble jacking them out of Target Field on multiple occasions, I’m afraid.

Rolling The Dice

Yesterday, the Twins announced the one-year signing of former Detroit Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya.  I’ve always like this guy, what with his blazing fastball and overall intimidating presence.  This guy can be a game-changer out of the pen.

Why is this not bigger news, then?  Because the last time Zumaya threw a major league pitch (at Target Field, oddly enough), this was the result…

Yeah, he pretty much completely blew out his arm (fractured elbow) and writhed in agony out on the Target Field mound in 2010.

Supposedly his rehab is going quite well, but it remains to be seen if he can ever regain the health and confidence to be dominant again.  Considering the short duration and monetary involvement of the Twins in this deal, though, it sure seems like a risk worth taking (considering how desperate we are for strong bullpen arms).

Notes:

-The Twins and Glen Perkins reached a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.

Never Quite Fit

After a team-wide collapse during the final months of 2007, the Twins were a ballclub in desperate need of hitters.  The thought was, at least at the time, that the Twins had a solid stable of starters and a deep bullpen, so Matt Garza (and Jason Bartlett) were deemed expendable and sent to Tampa Bay for Delmon Young (and Brendan Harris).  Unfortunately, Young never quite fit in with the Twins organization and is now a Tiger.

In 2008, with the promise of power based on a solid TB rookie campaign, Delmon hit .290 with little power.  In 2009, he hit about .290 with…little power.  In 2010, he hit about .300 with 21 homers and 110+ RBI.  So far this season, he’s missed much time on the DL and never really found his stroke.

Basically, there are two Delmon Young’s:

The first Delmon can put a team on his shoulders from the middle of the order.  When he’s locked in, he’s almost Vlad Guerrero-like with his free-swinging ways.  He (more than probably any other Twin) took the “sage” advice of Tony Oliva in this now-infamous TV spot…

The other Delmon, however…

…was an out machine when swinging at those early pitches, completely unable to draw walks or move runners along.  In the field, he was a complete klutz.  Though sometimes he’ll dive and catch a ball, it is usually because he misplayed it so thoroughly to begin with.  He just doesn’t have any natural coordination in the field.

Sadly, that “second” Delmon Young was much more apparent as a Twin than the first.  Looking back, I can’t blame the Twins for giving Young a try.  At the time, we though we were getting two above average hitters for a pitcher (in Garza) that needed a change of scenery and a hitter (in Bartlett) who didn’t blossom until his Tampa stay.

However, it just didn’t work out.

One Last Stand

After getting roughed up at home by Chicago and Boston, the Twins now hit the road to face Cleveland and Detroit.

I’d like to say the season hangs in the balance, but I think that would be far too optimistic.  Instead, the Twins are now playing for pride.  Right now, we are the old, once-powerful gunslinger who is now struggling to get the job done.  The dusty town may be overrun by the “bad guys” with no hope for the season at hand, but the gunslinger stands in the middle of the street anyway to defend the honor of himself, his people, and his future.

The question then remains: Will the gunslinger get gunned down in cold blood, or will he maintain that honor?

Preview (52-65, 4th, 5.5 GB CWS): Carl Pavano (6-9, 4.71) vs. Justin Masterson (9-7, 2.71)

Ready…Break

Last year at the All-Star break, the Twins were in third place in the AL Central, 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.  They went on to win 94 games and claim the division crown by mid-September.

This year, after taking 3 of 4 in ChiTown, the Twins enter the break in 4th place, 6.5 games behind Detroit.  Are we contenders?  Are we pretenders?  Well, the first homestand (KC, DET, CLE) after the break will go a long way towards answering that question.  If we come out flat, we’ll likely never be able to make up the necessary ground.  However, a good homestand would beg the question of whether or not the Twins should make a deal at the deadline.

Our biggest need right now is a solid arm out of the pen.  The starters are what the are, and the offense can only get better (heck, if we can win with Tosoni, Hughes, Rivera, etc. we can win with anyone!), but the ‘pen is where the help is sorely needed.  Barring further setbacks, Joe Nathan should quickly supplant Matt Capps as closer, with Capps sharing setup duties with Perkins.  Beyond that, however, the pen is barren.  Phil Dumatrait has been good for a rookie, but who knows, really.  Alex Burnett and Jose Mijares cannot be consistently counted on to get the job done.

Thus, here is how I see the trading deadline scenario playing out in my head: The Twins package Delmon Young (the most expendable outfielder) and perhaps a Kevin Slowey for a decent bullpen arm.  Then, as we always seem to do, we either call up another ready rook, or pick a guy (remember how we got Pavano in ’09?!) from the scrap heap in September.

If I didn’t think the Twins had at least a decent chance of winning the division this year, I would say “trade a few more guys and replenish the minors”.  However, considering that Detroit ALWAYS chokes in the second half, the Indians are fading, and we OWN the White Sox, a division crown (though not easy by any means) is no doubt within reach.

Preview (41-48, 4th, 1.5 GB CWS): Bruce Chen (5-2, 3.26) vs. Francisco Liriano (5-7, 5.06).

Hail No

hail.jpgOh…so it’s going to be one of those years…

The Obligitory Reference

335%20Johnny%20Vander%20Meer%20Reds%201938.jpgAny time a major leaguer hurls a no-hitter, like Frankie Liriano did last week, an obligitory reference must be made sometime before his next start to Johnny Vander Meer.  Thus, I’m just doing my duty (!)

In 1938, on June 11th and 15th, Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds pitched no-hitters in consecutive starts, the only major league pitcher to ever do so.  Vander Meer’s major league career was suspect (119-121, 3.44 ERA, 1,132 BB, 1,294 K), but he’ll always have those two days in June ’38.

Can Liriano do it?!  Let’s just say, it would take a seismic event of the Twins falling to last place in the divis…oh, okay.  So maybe anything IS possible at this point.

Preview (12-21, 5th, 0.5 GB CWS): Rick Porcello (2-2, 3.93) vs. Francisco Liriano (2-4, 6.61).

Opening Day Take One: So Complicated (Or Not)

For previous seasons, I have written very detailed summaries about the Twins’ chances in the upcoming season.  This year, however, I think that all the storylines have been covered ad nauseum.  We are all nervous about Nathan, Morneau, everyday Casilla, Mauer’s health, and the bullpen.

Thus, instead of an in-depth analysis, here is a quick look at the other teams in the division and how I think we stack up against them:

Cleveland Indians: This team is a mess.  From what I see, it will be years before they compete for anything.

Kansas City Royals: Are probably still a year or two away from a serious run at winning baseball, but could seriously begin that process at any time.  Still make too many dumb mistakes to consistently win ballgames.  Both pitching and hitting is improving, however, to the point where expecting to sweep them (even on their turf, like in previous years!) is unrealistic.

Detroit Tigers: Good luck figuring this team out year-to-year.  They have enough general talent to compete, but their streakiness is incredible.  Remember who was leading the division at the AS break last year?  I believe it was the Tigers (I know it wasn’t us).  Then…complete collapse.  I don’t see them putting up enough of a fight to win the division unless they put on a huge streak in the waning months.

Chicago White Sox: The team that can challenge us because of their pitching (especially bullpen) and power hitting.  That being said, they better have a pretty big lead heading into that final month, because we OWN them (especially on our turf) come September.

 

I won’t say that the Twins will waltz away with the division in 2011, but I think it is clear that another division title is easily within our grasp.  If key guys stay healthy and get their innings/at-bats, I think we’re still the favorites to repeat.

A Different Feeling

Last year ended (at least the regular season) about as exciting as a Twins season has ever come to a close (see above).

This year obviously felt a little different.  For most of today’s regular season finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, the 3-4-5 batters were: Drew Butera, Ben Revere, and Trevor Plouffe.

This occured due to the Twins trying to rest guys for the playoffs, but it was still a bit disconcerting to see the team lose so many games after clinching.  I’m not too worried, though, for this reason:

Last year in the ALDS against the Yankees, the Twins Brendan Harris, Nick Punto, and Matt Tolbert in the starting lineup.  No such thing will happen this year, as those guys are replaced (respectively) by Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, and Danny Valencia.

We know that our first-round opponent this year will again be the Yankees, but I’ll have more on that matchup in a later post.

Final AL Central Standings:

y-Minnesota 94 -68 . -
Chi White Sox 88 -74 6.0
Detroit 81 -81 13.0
Cleveland 69 -93 25.0
Kansas City 67 -95 27.0

Thanks Again, ‘Lexi!

Blue_Jays_Twins_Baseball_sff_197164_game.jpgIf the Twins were to start Alexi Casilla at second base (or SS for that matter) on a regular basis, he would hit .250 with no power, strike out often, and make enough bonehead plays (both in the field and on the basepaths) to send Gardy to an early grave.

However, put him in a late-season pressure-cooker situation, and the results speak for themselves:

 

For a team looking for a spark going forward into the playoffs, this could be it!

Notes:

-Still don’t know our first-round opponent.  Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker over New York, so (with both teams tied heading into the regular season’s final day) a TB win would automatically give us the Yanks.

Preview (94-67, 1st, 7 GA CWS): Marc Rzepczynski (3-4, 5.56) vs. Nick Blackburn (10-11, 5.55)

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