Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day and Night

What kind of lineup will Gardy trot out there for a night game against a lefty I've never heard of after a day game against a reliever turned starter who would have pitched a heckuva game for them if Delmon Young had done things the Twins way and tried to hit it the opposite way on a day that's usually a day game after a night game? As an added bonus, it's a night game before traveling to the west coast to play a night game on a holiday.

Clearly, Orlando Hudson and Delmon Young have not been fully initiated into the Twins way of doing things. When CJ Wilson is tossing a shut-out having at some point retired 12 consecutive hitters, when the batter ahead of you hits a 2-out single in the 6th inning, you draw a walk or hit a single to set up the heart of the order (to unceremoniously ground out to second base). You most definitely do not hit a 2-run home run to tie the game. Likewise, in the next inning, if the starter begins with a walk, double, and walk, and you are facing the new relief pitcher with the bases loaded and nobody out, you certainly do not try to pull the ball on the first pitch and hit a double to score two runs and break the game open. That's just not how we do things on this club. We take it the opposite way and GIDP. Popping up to second while trying to hit a sacrifice fly is also acceptable. Just make sure the next batter doesn't hit a double. And once you've hit that double, you certainly shouldn't run through a stop sign at third to score from second on a lazy fly-ball behind a drawn-in infield. The appropriate time to take the extra base would be when you are on second, and the batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Twins Baseball

Does anything say Twins baseball better than winning 2-1 with Nick Punto scoring on a Joe Mauer bases-loaded, no-out GIDP?

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Blowing a 6-2 lead is nothing new. Some point the finger at Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on that one. They claim he should have called closer Jon Rauch. I just ask why use Ron Mahay in any situation that could possibly matter? All things considered, though, I would like to think a manager could play eeny-meeny-miny-moe and pick a pitcher who could get three outs before surrendering four runs.

In the bottom of the inning, however, Gardy completely mismanaged the situation. One out. Runners on second and third. Nick Punto is on-deck. A rookie infielder playing in his second MLB game is due up. Nick Punto is on deck. To me, there are two perfectly legitimate ways to handle this. (I was not following the game at this point, but from past situations with Gardy, I usually do think of these before he works his madness).

1. Let Plouffe hit. Best-case scenario, he's a hero in his second game and drives in the winning run. Worst-case scenario, he gets out. In that case, there are two outs, runners on second and third, a light-hitting middle infielder at bat, a respectable- albeit not terrifying hitter (Span) on-deck, and Jim Thome and Brendan Harris on the bench. Brewers manager Ken Macha has no choice but to play the Plouffe at bat for this situation. If Plouffe gets out, he's pitching to Jim Thome with the winning run on third. If Plouffe walks, he's pitching to Jim Thome with one out and the bases loaded. Surely, the Brewers don't want that, so Plouffe could probably expect to see mostly strikes in his at-bat. Thome actually could have helped the rookie more by not pinch-hitting for him.

2. Pinch hit Harris for Plouffe. The only difference with this and option 1 is that you have a veteran hitting instead of a rookie.

Instead, Gardy pinch-hit Thome for Plouffe and let Punto strikeout. What troubles me most about this is what it says about Gardy's image of Punto. One possibility is that Gardy fails to see how little Punto intimidates opposing managers. The thought that they might walk Thome to face Punto never crossed his mind. Meanwhile, the Brewers coaches were struggling to keep a straight face. But this is what I expect was going through Gardy's mind:

If I pinch hit Thome-y, then they'll walk him to get to Nicky. But little do they know that Nicky is my secret weapon. I'll have him batting with the bases load, the winning run on third, and one out. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Instead, Nicky struck out the game lasted a few more innings and the bullpen is depleted for today. Of course, one irony here is that if they had more bench players, they might have won in nine innings and saved a few relievers for today.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


This week's Jeopardy Tournament of Champions featured a "Yankee Stadium Moments" category. The first though which popped into my head was, "Who is Mike Trombley?" Alas, neither that nor "Who is David Wells?" were correct responses.

The Twins seem to have begun one of their favorite trends. Play generally mediocre baseball with sporadic wins that they try to count as more than one game. They lost two in New York before "conquering their demons" with Kubel's grand slam. That was one of two victories on the road trip. Then they returned to Target Field and scored more runs in one evening- maybe even an inning- than the entire road trip. (Note, I did not fact-check this claim. That I decided not to bother reflects my opinion of the offense on the trip).

It's tempting to use this trip to measure the Twins against the Yankees and the Red Sox. But what about the Blue Jays? The Twins began the road trip with a 9-22 mark against the Blue Jays since 2006. That's half a game worse than their record against the Yankees over the same span (9-21). The Twins struggles with the Blue Jays are perhaps more troubling. At first, it's frustrating because it's easy to group the Blue Jays with such franchises as Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. In reality, they certainly belong on a higher tier than those franchises- but certainly not the same tier as the Twins. After all, the Twins have won all those American League Central division titles, right?

In reality, the Toronto Blue Jays are probably the most similar team to the Twins in all of Major League Baseball. Both won a World Series or two in the early 90's. Both struggled in the middle of that decade. Both played in an out-of-date domed stadium during the construction era. Over the last 10 years, both typically had win totals in the 80's. What's the difference between these two teams? Why are the Blue Jays overlooked while the Twins are at least mentioned among baseball's elite? These questions answer themselves. The Blue Jays compete with Tampa, New York, Baltimore, and Boston. The Twins compete with Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, and Detroit. Cleveland and Tampa should be a reasonable fair comparison, though Tampa has certainly had the edge recently. Likewise, Kansas City and Baltimore are quite similar. What about the other teams? Sure, Detroit and Chicago have played in the World Series. But the worst years from Boston and New York are normal seasons for the Tigers and White Sox.

That leaves the Twins and the Blue Jays. Over the past two seasons, the Blue Jays have a 47-28 record against the American League Central. Meanwhile, the Twins have nearly the opposite record against the American League East: 23-44. If the Twins swapped places with the Blue Jays, Toronto would routinely need at most 162 games to win a division title. Whereas, Minnesota would barely edge Baltimore for fourth place. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Manager Trey Hillman

This Royals dismissed manager Trey Hillman earlier this week. By my count, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has won four games against Hillman and the Royals in 2010. Meanwhile, during his entire tenure as manager, Gardenhire has 9 regular season wins against the Yankees. I've seen the hype about how this weekend is a "statement" series and how this year the Twins have the talent to beat the Yankees. First of all, the 2010 version is just the 2010 team with marginal improvements in the middle infield. Secondly, the Twins have always had the talent to beat the Yankees. While Gardy has managed the Twins, the Yankees have lost over 400 games. Evidently, somebody out there is beating the Yankees. The Yankees are just another team, and this is just another series. Paradoxically, that's exactly what makes it so different.

Let's hope Kubel can climb out of his slump before Gardy permanently benches Young in order to give Kubel enough at bats to get going. Remember how much Gardy used to hate Kubel? I wonder if he still does. I tip my cap to Billy Smith. When Gardy fills out the lineup card, Gardy has to use at least one player he hates. To bench Young and Kubel, he would have to play somebody out of position and use Harris or Casilla. Maybe Nick Punto is a just a pacifier. I guess one perk of having Punto as an everyday player is there is no looming threat of who Gardy will bench for making Nicky look bad.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day One

Nick Punto: 0-4, 1K
Luke Hughes: 2-7, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1R, 3K

Saturday, May 1, 2010

He's Back

The Twins activated Nick Punto from the disabled list and sent Luke Hughes back to AAA Rochester. In two games, Hughes went 2-7 with a HR, an RBI, and 3 K's. We will be monitoring Nick Punto closely over the next two months to see exactly when he matches that output. Okay, so the strike outs should be done by about the 8th inning tonight. But it could take until June for him to get a hit and a home run. (Actually, if I know Nicky, he'll really get after it tonight with a couple of hits for us and then go O-fer the rest of May).

Apparently, the Twins just finished one of (if not the) best ever month of April. At this point, I'm worried that Wednesday's loss to the Tigers will be the story of the season. Last night, the won against Cleveland in what appeared to be a decisive game. Remember, though, that the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning. Harris struck out. Next Denard Span grounded into an inning ending double play. Then the first baseman dropped the ball and the Twins scored 3 runs. How much of the Twins success to this point has been given to them? It's certainly positive that they can translate gifts into wins but they need to start winning their own games. (One could argue that to this point that has not been possible because the opposition has played that poorly, though).

Veteran catcher Mike Redmond anchoring a lineup of Mendozas brings back painful memories.