Results tagged ‘ Tsuyoshi Nishioka ’
Although the 2011 season did not end well for the Minnesota Twins (the understatement of the year, to be sure), it is still another baseball season in the books, full of ups and downs and memorable moments along the way. This post list those moments that I remember…
-On my couch, hot dogs and brats in hand, to watch Opening Day…and then seeing the Twins out of it in Toronto before it even began, really. Should have known something from Day One, I guess.
-Getting all excited about Nishioka, then seeing the Yankees take him out early and him become a basket case late.
-Liriano’s May no-no against the White Sox. Probably the most unimpressive no hitter I’ve ever seen, but still a special night.
-The mid-June surge that saw Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla ignite the team.
-Watching at Target Field as Matt Capps blew ANOTHER save against the Brew Crew.
-Walking on the hallowed “Field of Dreams” in Iowa as part of a baseball-themed vacation.
-Seeing the Twins play the White Sox at The Cell as part of said vacation.
-Attending (at one point in early July) four games in the span of five days.
-The terrible months of August & September which, towards the end, even tested my patience in sitting through an entire error-ridden, pitching-splintered game.
And then, of course, there was perhaps the most meaningless season finale in Twins history. Except, of course, that it wasn’t. With John Gordon behind the microphone for the final time, the Twins rallied in the ninth for a walk-off win thanks to the bat of Trevor Plouffe and the legs of Denard Span.
Though, for sure, those last few months were trying and many times I just wished the season would mercifully come to a close, that final game really put things in perspective. With each passing day without baseball (and especially when football comes to an end), all I’ll want is simply this, with my Minnesota Twins…
A vexing question, indeed.
On one hand, you just want to throw your hands up in the air. He looks completely lost in the field, doesn’t seem to communicate well with his teammates, and is also befuddled with a bat in his hand. There has also been little to in improvement from Day One to today. In the day-to-day sense, he sure seems to be hurting our chances to win.
In the long run, though, how quickly do we throw away our investment in the Japanese shortstop? Could he possibly be as bad as he is playing right now?
I think a lot will ride on the 2012 SS options. If Trevor Plouffe can improve his defense, I think he will have as good a shot as any to compete with Nishi.
Amazing to think, through all we’ve seen this year, that Tsuyoshi was a batting champion just a scant year ago in Japan.
With the Twins all but mathematically eliminated from 2011 playoff contention, the team is now taking some long looks at guys who may play key roles in the future.
Danny Valencia may be playing for his starting job, Nishioka will likely get the rest of the year to get his game straight, and youngsters like Rene Tosoni & Trevor Plouffe may be given opportunities to prove themselves.
Last night, a bright glimpse of the future occurred via some spectacular center-field D from Ben Revere:
Preview (54-68, 4th, 7.5 GB CWS): CC Sabathia (16-7, 2.93) vs. Brian Duensing (8-11, 4.53)
During the four years I attended the University of Minnesota-Morris, I played in the Concert Band each semester. During one of those years, the director said something I will never forget: he told the group that if each musician makes one glaring error in each song, the entire performance will probably be a wreck. He didn’t tell us this to put us under added pressure, but just to emphasize the pure fact of the matter.
The same concept applies in baseball. If each player makes one error each game, that team will never win a game.
Preview (52-66, 4th, 6.0 GB CWS): Brian Duensing (8-10, 4.56) vs. Josh Tomlin (11-5, 4.08)
Here in Twins Territory, it used to be that solid defense and strike-throwing pitchers were the name of the game. We’d do those two things right and be able to get by with players that didn’t necessarily matchup well with our opponents.
This year, I can understand why the defense has gone downhill a bit. The organization made a conscience choice to go offense-over-defense the least few years with guys like Delmon Young and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, with primarily negative results.
What perplexes me, though, is why the pitchers aren’t throwing strikes anymore. I mean, in the span of just a couple of years, we’ve gone from strike-throwing machines to probably being below-average in that category. AS a team with no ace pitchers, we just can’t put guys on base and expect to win ballgames.
After this humiliating sweep at the hands of the White Sox, I think that same hard decisions about the constitution of this team will need to be made over the rest of the season.
Preview (51-63, 4th, 4.5 GB CWS): Tim Wakefield (6-4, 4.99) vs. Scott Baker (8-6, 3.01)
As the youngest of youngsters, my Twins hero (predictably) was Kirby Puckett:
However, with Nathan just now perhaps getting back on the horse after Tommy John, I needed a new “favorite player”…that one guy who either comes in from the pen or strides to the plate and make you inch forward in your seat with anticipation.
Right now, for me, that player is Danny Valencia…
Sure, he’s batting in the low .200s this year after an amazing rookie 2010 stretch run surge. But I just see so much potential in him; maybe our first bona-fide hot corner man since Corey Koskie. He hits for power, drives the ball to the gaps, has a flair for the dramatic, and plays a solid (if sometimes spectacular) 3b. Plus, he has just enough ego to know he’s good, yet has a solid manager and good teammates to keep that Florida ego in check.
So, as of right now, Danny Valencia is my favorite Twin. Time will tell if V will be around for the long haul (like Cuddyer), but considering his youth and considerable talents already, I’d say he’s well on his way.
-A good start to the series with the Rays in beating David Price. Duesing was dominating today and Valencia (heh heh), Cuddy, and Nishioka provided the offensive firepower.
Preview (37-46, 4th, 4.0 GB CWS): James Shields (8-5, 2.45) vs. Scott Baker (6-5, 3.15)
In my previous post, I made the point that part of the reason why the Twins are struggling is because their young pitchers haven’t panned out as planned. That is without a doubt part of the reason, but the main thing right now is injuries…plain and simple.
We’ve never been a team with a lot (or even a little) depth, so more than one long-term injury and all of a sudden guys like Hughes, Tolbert, Tosoni, and Butera are expected to hit at a major-league level and win games. Nope.
With Mauer, Young, Thome, Nathan, and Nishioka all struggling through various stages of convalescence, the talent level just isn’t what it needs to be. As much as Gardy can opine about “finding a way to win”, the reality is that with the kind of lineups we have been putting up the last few weeks, we shouldn’t expect to win.
The good news: Injuries heal.
The bad news: It takes time…do we have enough of it?
What we learned from the opening road trip of the 2011 season:
1. At least early on, the Twins a bit overmatched on the road. We are still very competitive (especially if our starting pitching cooperates), but lag in one key area: our “high flies” settle just before the warning track, while the home team jacks them out. Until our power threats (Morneau, Young, Kubel) starting swinging the lumber, we are at a big disadvantage. Thome is fine, though.
2. Our pitchers are going to give up home runs. Period. Not a one of them (besides maybe Liriano) is all that great at keeping the ball in the ballpark. Thus, we better not walk ANYBODY to put extra bodies on the basepaths. Target Field helps, but we still play 81 on enemy turf.
Oh yeah, and now Matty Tolbert will likely be the everyday 2B-man for awhile because of Nishioka’s broken fibula:
Preview (2-4, 5th, 2.0 GB CWS/CLE/KCR): Brett Anderson (0-0, 1.50) vs. Carl Pavano (0-1, 15.75). Home Opener!!
What I want to see Friday night in Toronto…
-Denard Span having a 9-pitch at-bat and drawing a walk.
-Alexi Casilla getting through a whole game without a bonehead mistake of some kind (not holding my breath on this one)
-Nishioka lining a single to left/center/right and being halfway to first base before the ball leaves the infield.
-The M&M boys together in the lineup.
-Cuddyer gunning a ball in from RF.
-Danny Valencia just being himself…or cool.
-Pavano laboring through 7-8 innings and keeping us in the game.
-Jim Thome just swinging. Seriously…even a whiff is epic with that guy.
And finally, what I’ve been waiting to here for over a year now…
If that song is playing, I’ll know a win is within reach!!
With the Twins now in Fort Myers, FL, for Spring Training, they’ve been getting more media attention than usual due to issues like Morneau’s concussion comeback, Nathan’s Tommy John rehab, and the new Japanese SS whose name I’m too lazy to look up for spelling (probably should get on that).
However, there are three other areas I would like to comment on that perhaps slip our minds in the midst of the “bit stories”:
1. Alexi Casilla has never been an everyday player for a full season. Whenever he’s been given the opportunity to start, he’s droppped the ball (sometimes even in the literal sense). Considering Gardy’s love of guys like Matt “The Next Punto?” Tobert or the newcomer Luke Hughes, Casilla still has a lot to prove and will not be handed the job by any means.
2. Can “Valencia Mania” continue? A favorite example of mine of this case comes from 2000, when the Mets had an outfielder named Timo Perez (heck, he might be bouncing around somewhere yet) who, in August-September that year, looked like the next coming of Junior Griffey. He then made a few World Series blunders, pitchers figured him out, and he’s been a fringe player since. Pitchers now have a similar “book” on young Danny-Boy, so those fat pitches will be fewer and farther between.
3. Besides a summer (June-July) that was out of control, Delmon Young was very average at the beginning and end of 2010. What if that “Beast Mode” doesn’t occur again in ’11, or for nearly as long? He’s always been a streaky hitter.
Keep an eye on these issues, as they could be every bit as important as “the big boys”.