Friday, August 26, 2005
IP H R ER BB SO HRHe struck out nine, walked none, and gave up two runs in seven innings, yet his ERA actually went up. Liriano is now 9-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 102-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 starts at Rochester.
According to FoxSports.com (via College Football News), the fourth-best player in the entire country is none other than the University of Minnesota's own Laurence Maroney. Maroney is an amazing player about to have an incredible junior year now that he's the Gophers' featured running back, but it seems strange that he's suddenly being talked about as one of the top players in the country. He's deserving, of course, but he was just as deserving last year.
YEAR CAR YARDS AVG TDThe Maroney bandwagon went from zero to sixty awfully fast recently, when it should have been cruising along at a pretty nice speed for the last two years. Incidentally, Marion Barber III, who left school early rather than spend his senior season splitting time with Maroney, is going to make the Cowboys as a special teams player and third-string running back after Dallas took him in the fourth round of the draft.
The guy on the left at least looks the part, whereas the guy on the right just looks creepy. Also, I'm fairly certain the world could have gone on without a replacement for Siegfried and Roy, especially considering the original version was forced into retirement when a tiger nearly ate one of them.
[Timberwolves general manager Jim] Stack said they are planning a few events away from the court, including a team dinner and possibly a bowling trip, to try and bring the team closer together.Yes, because nothing beats bowling in Las Vegas.
LOS ANGELES - Former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips, who was wanted by police for domestic violence, was arrested Sunday after allegedly running his car into three teenagers who argued with him during a pickup football game, police said.That is such a wonderful paragraph on so many different levels. Can you imagine playing a little football with a few of your buddies and having a former NFL running back show up to play? Beyond that, trying to run people over in your car is never a good idea, but if you're wanted for "domestic violence" already wouldn't you think about keeping a low profile?
But wait, here's the kicker:
The car was reported stolen in San Diego last week.You'd be hard-pressed to make up a story that is more ridiculous than a former NFL running back wanted on domestic violence trying to run over three teenagers after a pickup football game in a stolen car. It's like Law & Order: Mad Libs. (Which I'm copyrighting just in case NBC tries to steal it for their fall schedule.)
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Curious Case of Emil Brown (by Dan Fox)
Today's Picks (92-79, +$1,170):
Cleveland (Sabathia) -145 over Toronto (McGowan)
Kansas City (Wood) +300 over New York (Johnson)
Cleveland (Millwood) -150 over Toronto (Downs)
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Just like pulling off a Band-Aid (and other Twins notes)
That's testing the limits of how bad a major-league pitcher can be for a contending team while still holding down a job. Or so you'd think, particularly with the following two pitchers currently putting up these numbers at Triple-A:
GS IP ERA SO BB OAVGMays is now 6-9 with a 5.16 ERA and 54-to-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 141.1 innings this year, and has allowed opponents to tee off on him to the tune of a .313 batting average and .497 slugging percentage. He missed the 2004 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. His ERA in 2003 was 6.30. His ERA in 2002 was 5.38. His career ERA is now 4.76.
Yanking Mays from the rotation shouldn't be a particularly hard decision for Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire, and it is made even easier by the fact that there is almost zero chance of Mays returning for next season. So you help the team now and begin preparing for the future. Yet according to Gardenhire in Patrick Reusse's column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today:
That's not the way we do things here. We have too much respect for Joe. If we did that, the guys in that clubhouse ... let's just say they would be very upset, knowing what Joe's gone through to get back here.At this point in the season, I can't imagine anything making a group of players more upset than watching someone on their team perform like Mays has every fifth day. And if that's not "the way we do things here" then perhaps someone should take a long, hard look at "the way we do things here."
Freddy Garcia allowed only one hit Tuesday, but Jacque Jones' home run was enough for the Twins to post a 1-0 victory over the White Sox.To which I say, who the hell is Paul Menhart?!
The reason the Minnesota Twins played good in the second half is because of Santana. It's not because they play great baseball. They have a great pitching staff.I must have missed the memo where the pitching staff isn't part of a baseball team. Johan Santana, incidentally, is now 6-1 with a 1.57 ERA in the second half, making him 27-2 with a 1.96 ERA after the All-Star break during the past three seasons. And yes, you read that right.
The first conclusion to draw is that things don't look good for the Twins. They're on a nice run right now, but they have a tough schedule left, no offense and some serious injury problems. They also have to climb past three other teams, which is difficult to do even when it's only 2.5 games.All of which is more or less the same conclusion I came to while breaking down the remaining schedules here earlier this week.
The A's signed Adam Johnson, 26, who was pitching for the independent San Diego Surf Dawgs.
For instance, his "It's just following tradition for the White Sox to choke" column last week was fairly silly considering the current standings in the AL Central, but I did like his line about Joe Mauer being "the best 22-year-old hitter since Cassius Clay." Souhan's column also contained this amusing bit:
As the Twins' hitters slumped, Johan Santana and Carlos Silva started acting silly. Now that the Twins have won seven of eight, Gardenhire doesn't even attempt to shower at the Dome.Good to know the Gardenhires continue to have a thriving sex life at their age. I'd make some sort of a joke about not dropping the soap, but this is a family site after all.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Ten Things I Didn't Know Last Week (by Dave Studeman)
- The Fall and Rise of Jason Giambi, Part Three (by Larry Mahnken)
Today's Picks (92-78, +$1,290):
Los Angeles (Lackey) -120 over Baltimore (Lopez)
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Open Chat: Helluva Game
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Wacky Wild Card: AL (by Ben Jacobs)
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)
Today's Picks (91-78, +$1,190):
Chicago (Buehrle) -125 over Minnesota (Mays)
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
The CavalryOne constant during the Twins' recent run of success has been the abundance of quality position-player prospects in the organization. Through shrewd drafting, good trades, and outstanding player development, the Twins have had a long list of hitters come up through the minor leagues before making an impact in the majors.
Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Bartlett, Matthew LeCroy, Lew Ford, and Luis Rodriguez on the current team, with Jason Kubel's knee injury keeping him from making the same list. A.J. Pierzynski, Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman, Bobby Kielty, Dustan Mohr, and David Ortiz in the past. The list goes on and on, and is a huge part of why the Twins are on their way to a fifth straight winning season after eight years of losing.
While the Twins have certainly developed their fair share of pitching too, the influx of pitching prospects hasn't been nearly as strong. For instance, trades and free agent signings brought in established major leaguers like Joe Nathan, Rick Reed, Kenny Rogers, Carlos Silva, and Terry Mulholland. And many of the homegrown pitchers -- Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Joe Mays, Eddie Guardado, Latroy Hawkins -- were around long before the winning started.
Things like this tend to run in cycles though, and the next group of major-league ready prospects are pitchers. Most importantly, with Mays and Kyle Lohse likely headed for free agency this offseason, help is on the way in the form of starting pitchers. In fact, the Twins are as stacked with major-league ready starter prospects as any team in baseball and Triple-A Rochester's rotation would be an upgrade over the group at least a few big-league teams are trotting out.
The staff is ace is lefty Francisco Liriano, who came over from San Francisco in the Pierzynski-for-Nathan deal and has established himself as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball this season. Liriano began the year at Double-A, posting a 3.64 ERA and 92-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 76.2 innings, and then moved up to Triple-A. Since arriving at Rochester, he has been the most dominant pitcher in the high minors:
GS IP W L ERA SO BB HR OAVGI see those extraordinary numbers from a 21-year-old southpaw at Triple-A and can't help but start dreaming about Johan Santana and Liriano back-to-back in the Twins' rotation. With 25 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this year and seven starts at Double-A during the second half of last season, Liriano now has a full-season's worth of starts in the high minors:
GS IP ERA SO BB H HRExpecting Liriano to keep up his current pace at Triple-A is obviously silly, but he has now been a dominant starting pitcher in the high minors for 195.1 innings spread over 32 starts, all before his 22nd birthday. Liriano is no Felix Hernandez, but there isn't another pitching prospect in baseball who is better and closer to the majors.
Of course, the guy at Rochester who has actually held his own in the majors already is Scott Baker, who stepped into the rotation for two spot starts earlier this year and went 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA and 10-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 innings. Baker is two years older than Liriano and doesn't have the same top-shelf stuff, but it's tough to argue with what he's done between Double-A and Triple-A over the past two seasons:
GS IP ERA SO BB H HRI'd like to see a few more strikeouts, but the 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is nice and 224 hits allowed in 252.2 innings (with just 20 of them being homers) is good to see. From his numbers and the way he's handled himself in the two spot starts, I have no doubt that Baker is ready to begin his career as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Behind Liriano and Baker, the Red Wings have one former top prospect who had dropped off the radar before a comeback 2005 season and another former top prospect who has dropped off the radar because of a disappointing 2005 season. This time last year J.D. Durbin was as highly thought of as Baker, and perhaps even more so. He had breezed through the low minors and more than held his own at Double-A and Triple-A, all before his 23rd birthday.
Then he got knocked around in a brief stint with the Twins at the end of last season, struggled to throw strikes at spring training this year, and put together a horrible first half at Rochester. He's pitched much better of late and his overall numbers have climbed back to respectability, but Durbin's season has still been very underwhelming
Durbin has been limited to just 87 innings because of injuries and ineffectiveness, posting a 4.55 ERA and 74-to-48 strikeout-to-walk ratio while allowing 83 hits. The hit total is solid and the strikeout rate is decent, but his control problems over the last year and a half are very concerning and he has definitely slipped behind Baker in the Twins' long-term plans. In fact, if the Twins are going to trade a pitching prospect for lineup help, either now or this offseason, I would bet on Durbin leaving.
Back in 2002, I ranked Boof Bonser as the 44th-best prospect in baseball. That was when he was with the Giants, and in addition to being part of the incredible package the Twins got for Pierzynski, Bonser has since seen his prospect stock drop quite a bit. Despite a solid year at Double-A in 2004, he came into this season as an afterthought with almost zero expectations. He has put his name back on the prospect map with a very nice year at Rochester:
GS IP ERA SO BB H HRInterestingly, Bonser's 2005 season at Triple-A looks very similar to his 2004 season at Double-A:
GS IP ERA SO BB H HRHe's cut his hits and upped his strikeouts, but the biggest difference is doing it two seasons in a row while moving up to the highest level of the minors. The concerns with Bonser are his relatively high ERAs and the fact that he's served up 21 and 22 homers in just 149.1 and 154.1 innings (whereas Baker has given up just 20 homers in his last 252.2 innings). Beyond that, however, there is an awful lot to like about Bonser as a potential fourth or fifth starter.
With Mays and Lohse likely (hopefully?) gone after this season and Radke's contract up after 2006, I could definitely envision the Twins' 2007 starting rotation consisting of Santana, Silva, Liriano, Baker, and Durbin/Bonser. Hopefully by that point the next wave of hitting prospects -- Kubel, Matt Moses, Denard Span, Alex Romero -- are ready to step into the lineup, and the cycle can start all over again.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Come On, Baby! Let's Do the Splits! (by Steve Treder)
Today's Picks (90-78, +$1,090):
Cleveland (Westbrook) -150 over Tampa Bay (Hendrickson)
Monday, August 22, 2005
What I meant was ...I have been accused on being a pessimist in the past, both in regard to the Twins and life in general, and I have come to grips with the fact that it is more or less true (less, if you're a fellow pessimist). The beauty of being a pessimist, of course, is that you're "right" when things go badly and pleasantly surprised when things go well.
So when I said here both last week and over the last month that the Twins' postseason chances were done and they went on to win nine of their last 11 games to climb back into the American League Wild Card race, I was wrong. And, at the same time, I couldn't be happier.
Of course, I still think I'll end up being "right." After all, the Twins have won nine of their last 11 games, which is impressive and about as well as they could have been expected to play over the last two weeks or so, and yet they are still 2.5 games back (and in fourth place) in the Wild Card standings. Which was, for the most part, my point.
Despite perhaps their best stretch of baseball this season, which includes taking two-of-three from Oakland, sweeping Chicago, and taking 3-of-4 from Seattle, the Twins still face an uphill climb to the postseason. They have to outplay either the A's or the Angels, the Yankees, and the Indians, not to mention hold off the teams behind them in the standings.
I am perhaps guilty of letting my opinion of the team get too low when they went a pathetic 11-22 during their slide to the middle of the AL from July 5 to August 9, but one thing you can be certain of is that I won't let my opinion of the Twins get too high now that they've had some success again. With that said, regardless of what I've written lately and regardless of the up-and-down nature of their season, it is now August 22 and the Twins are 66-58.
That alone doesn't tell us much, and the fact that they are 2.5 games back in the Wild Card race is more important than their mediocre record. Through 124 games last season, the Twins were eight games ahead of Chicago for a playoff spot. Through 124 games in 2002, the Twins were 13.5 games ahead of Chicago for a playoff spot. However, through 124 games in 2003, the Twins were tied with the White Sox in second place, trailing the Royals by three games in the AL Central.
So while they've coasted home down the stretch to win two of their three division titles, the 2003 team was in the same exact spot as the current version. Actually, that's not quite true. While both teams were a few games out of the postseason picture with 38 games to play, the 2003 version had to overcome the Royals and White Sox (which they did, winning the division by four games), while this year's version has to overcome the A's, Yankees, Indians, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Orioles.
Playing well down the stretch was enough in 2003, as the Twins went 27-11 in their final 38 games to jump past the White Sox (23-15) and the Royals (18-22). But simply playing well this time around won't necessarily do the job. Instead, the Twins need to play the best baseball of all the teams in that group, because going 27-11 from here on out won't mean anything if the A's go 26-13 to hold their lead.
Here's what the Twins' remaining schedule looks like:
G WHERE OPPONENT W LThe Twins have an even home/road split remaining, with 19 games at the Metrodome and 19 games everywhere else. Their home advantage hasn't been particularly big this year (35-31 at home, 31-31 on the road), so this isn't very significant. In addition to that, they are also evenly split between games against above-.500 teams (19) and games below-.500 teams (19).
The combined winning percentage of the Twins' remaining opponents (weighted to the number of games they have left against each) is .504, which means they have a tough schedule left. When compared to the teams they are competing with for the Wild Card, there is a substantial gap in schedule strength:
TEAM SOS NOTABLE GAMES REMAININGWith a 2.5-game lead over Oakland in the AL West and a hypothetical three-game lead over Cleveland and New York for the Wild Card, the Angels are clearly the most likely team from that group to make the postseason. Ignoring the Angels (or assuming they win their division), here's what the Wild Card race looks like as of this morning:
W L GBConsidering their weak remaining schedule and the fact that they are 20-9 since being swept by the White Sox in the first series of the second half, I like Cleveland's chances. They have 14 games left against the two worst teams in the league and also control their own destiny a bit with six games against the Twins and three games against the A's. And as always, it's tough to count out the Yankees.
What is abundantly clear is that the Twins are not "done," regardless of what I said here last month or last week. They're 2.5 games back with five weeks to play, and while that's not the greatest situation to be in it sure beats where they were a couple weeks ago. The other thing I was wrong about is the 10 remaining games with the White Sox being meaningless. While they don't mean much to Chicago -- even with their losing streak the playoffs are still a near-lock -- they mean a hell of a lot to the Twins.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Winning Machine (by Aaron Gleeman)
- A Day in the Life of a Stringer (by Dan Fox)
Today's Picks (89-78, +$990):
Cleveland (Millwood) -150 over Tampa Bay (Waechter)