Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Headfirst Slides

Apparently Nick Punto still likes to slide headfirst into first base. Unlike many of Punto's harshest critics, I like this trait. Think about it. He might hurt himself. That's the most valuable thing he can do. Even if he slides in head-first, he's still out when he pops up to the second baseman. Moreover, when he slides into first, he can't overrun the bag, turn the wrong way, and get tagged out while he tries to innocently wander back to the base.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Infield

The StarTribune story regarding the Crede acquisition claims the Twins head into 2009 with their best infield in a while.

But the addition of a proven player such as Crede to play with former MVP Justin Morneau at first base, table-setter Alexi Casilla at second and reliable shortstop Nick Punto appears to give the Twins their best all-around infield in a long time.

I love the word table-setter to describe Casilla. He and Punto have more business as busboys at Denny's than they do heading to spring training as the favorites to start up the middle. In his tenure as Twin, Punto has been anything but reliable. Throughout 2008 he was streaky and injury prone. He flirted with the Mendoza line during the 2007 season following a few hot months in '06. Last season, when he wasn't striking out, popping up, and spiking his helmet in disgust, he was committing baserunning blunders worse than Willie Mays Hayes.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Crede Signing

Only time will tell if Crede helps the Twins win ballgames in 2009. That's exactly why I'm excited about it. I've already complained that we hoped Buscher would be adequate at third. I think many Twins fans would also agree that we know that Harris would be serviceable at third. Where's the fun in that? With Crede, it's anybody's guess.

Usually, I'm not one to put too much credence into baseball statistics, but the Crede signing made me curious. How much of his career production is a product of lighting up the Twins? I did a simple analysis comparing his career numbers, his career numbers against the Twins, and his career numbers excluding the Twins. I multiplied the respective rates of HR/AB by 500 AB to see how a typical season might look. Remarkably, there was little difference.

Career: 23 HR
Against the Twins: 25 HR
Career Excluding Twins: 22 HR

Now, remember that as a Twin, he'll face all the same teams except he faces Chicago instead of Minnesota. I don't think White Sox fans would be as cynical and angry if players like Joe Crede weren't hitting way too many home runs against them. So, I think it's safe to say we don't have to worry about Crede's career production being a product of Twins pitching.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Francisco Liriano

My grandmother put it best. She hated Livan Hernandez. She gets most of her baseball updates from the newspaper, and since the story broke during the day, I called her to inform her that the Twins had released the veteran right-hander. Without hesitation, she retorted, "Who'd they call up, Liriano? He's not any better!" Strictly by the numbers, he pitched pretty well in August and into September. Despite this, he looked like he could revert to the ineffective no-control pitcher we'd seen demoted in the spring. Following the Twins sweep of the White Sox, I wish I could have felt more confidence in the southpaw when he took the hill to open the series with the Royals. In the most important start of his career, Liriano proved my grandma right. He allowed 6 runs on 11 hits in less than 5 innings of work. For all his whining when he was in Rochester, I'd think he could handle the Royals with a playoff spot on the line.

He's still plenty young and has a good arm. But don't hold your breath waiting for him to be the next Johan Santana. I'd be content if he could roughly match Eric Milton.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jesse Crain

First, the good news is that I'm running out of players to complain about. My biggest complaint about Jesse Crain is that I perpetually forget he's even there. I spent 2008 so paranoid that Bass, Rincon, Gas Can, or Matches would come out that door to ruin the game, I forgot all about how excited I had been in 2007 when Crain got hurt. (Yes that may be insensitive or mean, but that's how I felt). And yet, compared to the other options, he's not that bad. To continue a theme from the Brian Buscher post, it's hard to get excited about a pitcher who is not that bad.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brian Buscher

Brian Buscher made his Twins debut in 2007 in Cleveland against the Indians. I was at that game. In paging through the Cleveland Plain Dealer, I noticed that the Twins had made a roster move. I remarked that I expected to see him in the game that evening because Gardy likes to "run 'em out there right away to see what they can do." Sure enough, he started the game at third. A few innings into the game, a Buscher throwing error set off a 6 run inning. The damage might not have been nearly so severe if not for everybody's favorite defensive wizard Nick Punto committing another error. Meanwhile, Buscher went 2-4 at the plate. That evening summarizes Brian Buscher. He has potential to be a solid hitter- at least against right-handed pitchers- and with some work he could be serviceable in the field. I don't really have a problem with him, but it's really hard to get excited about a player whose value is having the potential to be adequate.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Offseason Moves

This week the Twins announced their most significant addition of the offseason. They also signed Luis Ayala to "help" the bullpen. When I saw the headline, I thought (hoped) it referred to 49-year-old Bobby Ayala. The one nice part of a fresh face is that I don't have any painful memories like I do with Gas Can and Matches. For now, we'll have to be content with bringing in Larry DiVito as the new head groundskeeper. If he prepares the infield to reduce infield hits, maybe the Twins will find a few more real hitters.

Gas Can and Matches

A commented on one of the STRIB Twins blogs once lamented having to watch Dennys Reyes stroll out of the bullpen with a gas can followed by Matt Guerrier with the matches. I decided to steal these terms to use as nicknames for the relievers. The game on Saturday, September 6th really says it all. Scott Baker entered the 8th having allowed 2 runs on 4 hits. A one-out walk prompted Gardy to summon Dennys Reyes from the bullpen to face the left-handed hitting Curtis Granderson. Three pitches later, a Granderson home run tied the game. Gardy then called upon Matt Guerrier. The second batter he faced hit a 2 run homer to take the lead. At least this meltdown didn't involve the relievers walking anybody.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Blackburn and Breslow

These two pitchers get to share a grievance. Both were pleasant surprises in some sense, but they symbolize the team's struggles in 2008. Blackburn helped to fill a void by stepping into the rotation and pitching effectively for the early months of the season. He also struggled to pitch innings down the stretch and looked over-matched in several outings. All things considered, he put together an encouraging rookie season. But he hardly merited rookie of the year consideration or many of the other praises piled on him.

Meanwhile, Breslow may have been the most effective performer in the Twins bullpen last season. Somebody in the bullpen ought to have pitched well enough that I'd be laughed at for saying that. This isn't Breslow's fault, but I'm mad at him for it anyway.