Howard Sinker of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has set up a blog-sponsored get-together for Twins fans tomorrow. I'll be there, as will Sinker, John Bonnes, Will Young, Stick and Ball Guy, Trevor Born, Nick Nelson, and Nick Mosvick. It should be a fun time, whether you're interested in meeting some of us bloggers or simply want to watch the Twins play the White Sox with a bunch of other Twins fans (don't let the fact that Sidney Ponson is pitching dissuade you from attending). Here are the details:
Who: Sinker, Gleeman, Bonnes, Young, SBG, Born, Nelson, Mosvick, and various other Twins fans and blog readers.
What: Eat, drink, be merry, watch Twins beat White Sox (that last part sounded a lot more convincing when Johan Santana was scheduled to start).
Ozzie Guillenhas a new plan of attack for when the White Sox face Santana Sunday, saying that he'll likely avoid the typical strategy of stacking the lineup with right-handed hitters:
The last couple of years we tried an all right-handed lineup against Santana and it didn't work. This year I'll try something different. I might put a couple of lefties in the middle against him to make him not as comfortable. I have to pick my spots.
It sounds counter-intuitive to put left-handed hitters into the lineup against the game's best left-handed pitcher, but Guillen is definitely on to something. As I've discussed here in the past, Santana's career splits are not what you'd expect:
AVG OBP SLG OPS vs RH .218 .277 .355 .632 vs LH .230 .286 .374 .660
The above numbers are a little misleading, because Santana tends to face only top-notch left-handed hitters, but it's clear that his changeup allows him to have a unique advantage over right-handers. The gap is even wider over the past three seasons:
AVG OBP SLG OPS vs RH .199 .246 .327 .573 vs LH .233 .273 .393 .666
Santana dominates everyone, but teams that have some good left-handed bats likely want them in the lineup against him. Baltimore tried that on Opening Day and the Orioles' five lefties combined to go 4-for-12 with four doubles and two walks against Santana.
It's early yet, but it sure looks like Elisha Cuthbert is making a strong run at Comeback Fantasy Girl of the Year.
If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallorymake an absolute fool of himself while throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day:
When I saw the intriguing headline "Silva and Santana are much more than teammates," I expected something a lot different than an article about bike riding.
After previously saying that he might walk away from the job once his current contract expired this year, Bill Simmons decided this week to re-sign with ESPN.com for another four years. I had visions of Simmons joining me at NBCSports.com, but as long as he's writing somewhere for the foreseeable future I'm happy. Here's an interesting note about the deal from Sports Business Journal:
Simmons said he never seriously entertained leaving. "I didn't want to leave," he said. "I didn't shop myself around."
There were some rumors that SI.com would make a run at Simmons, but Simmons said he would never consider working for that site following the publication of a March 2006 Sports Illustrated article that Simmons felt treated him unfairly.
"I would never work for them," Simmons said.
I find that fascinating, because the Sports Illustrated article referred to there is the same one I was featured in. In fact, the section on me was a sidebar to a much larger article that focused on Simmons. While I was proudly showing the article to everyone I knew--largely because it was so great to be featured alongside Simmons, who's one of my favorite writers--Simmons was getting so upset over it that he ruled out ever working for SI.
The Twins catcher, who was 6-4 last season, has pushed past 6-5 and is approaching 6-6. The team lists him at 6-5 in the media guide, but Mauer acknowledged that he is actually 6-6 "wearing shoes."
"I've been growing ever since last year," he said Wednesday. "I don't want to get too big, or I might have to move [positions]." Mauer, who turns 24 on April 19, wishes this unexpected spurt would stop. "Hopefully I'll grow the other way," he said. "I'd like to get a little stronger, but I don't know about taller."
There's a relatively large segment of people who're itching to bring up a position change with Mauer and take everything involving him that's not 100 percent positive as an opportunity to do so. If his batting average dips or he needs a day off like all catchers do, some people start talking about a move to third base. If his legs are sore or he grows a couple inches, some people start talking about a move even further down the defensive spectrum.
The whole thing is frustrating, because I see a guy who's clearly one of the best all-around players in baseball, in large part because of the important defensive position he's able to thrive at. Unless you think moving out from behind the plate is going to significantly improve Mauer's hitting--which seems pretty unlikely given the numbers he's put up over the past year-plus--catcher is where he's most valuable. The long-term impact is a different story, but I don't think you can cross that bridge yet.
Will Mauer still be catching as a 30-year-old in 2012? Perhaps not, but plenty of players at premium defensive positions are forced to move down the defensive spectrum as they age. As of right now he's been healthy while playing at an extremely high level both offensively and defensively for going on three straight seasons. The growth spurt is interesting, but let's not pretend that it signals some sort of guaranteed disaster down the line should Mauer remain behind the plate.
With talk about the absence of 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 catchers, what's ignored is the similar lack of 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 hitters, period. Among the 370 hitters with at least 1,000 Runs Created, just seven of them--Frank Thomas, Dave Winfield, Mark McGwire, John Olerud, Dave Parker, Frank Howard, and Darryl Strawberry--have stood at least 6-foot-5. So if you're going strictly by height-related precedents, the odds are not only against Mauer remaining at catcher, they're against him being a great hitter.
I've already seen more than enough to convince me that he's a great hitter, so I'm willing to believe he can buck the catching odds too.
When Ron Gardenhiretells someone in the local media that a 33-year-old with over 3,500 at-bats and a career hitting line of .285/.334/.398 in the minor leagues has "got a good swing," do you think he's kidding around or just talking about golf?
ESPN.com's Marc Stein sat down for an interview with Kevin Garnett this week, with Garnett being relatively open and honest about what remains a horrible situation with the Timberwolves. Garnett continues to be one of my all-time favorite, most-likable athletes and I continue to think that he gets an incredibly raw deal on just about every level. I admire his ability to speak candidly while remaining restrained and level-headed, but at some point his frustration is going to overwhelm him.
If the Twins want J.D. Durbin back now, they can probably have him. Durbin was placed on waivers at the end of spring training because he was out of minor-league options and the Twins didn't want to carry him on the Opening Day roster. The Diamondbacks claimed him and gave him a spot on the 25-man roster, with the self-proclaimed "Real Deal" posting the following pitching line in his debut Wednesday against the Rockies:
IP H R ER BB SO HR PIT 0.2 7 7 7 1 1 0 39
That works out to a ghastly 94.50 ERA, which is pretty amazing considering he didn't serve up a homer. Durbin entered the game in the seventh inning, with the Diamondbacks down 4-2. He got leadoff man Steve Finley to ground out, but the Rockies then went single, walk, double, single, double, strikeout, single, double, single to knock him out of the game with one out still left to get in the inning and the score 11-2.
Arizona designated Durbin for assignment immediately after the game, no doubt banking on the fact that no other team would possibly claim him on waivers following such a disastrous outing. It'll never happen, but the Twins could claim Durbin while briefly dropping Chris Heintz from the roster, and then attempt to pass him through waivers again. That may sound crazy, but whichever team can ultimately get Durbin cleared through waivers while he's their property will then be able to send him to Triple-A.
He plays hard. I have no reason to question his integrity or anything like that. He tried to jar the ball loose, which I probably would have tried to do in the same situation. The only bad part was that he winded up hitting my chin. I wouldn't say it was dirty. It was a good, strong, tough baseball play.
Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun also reported that "several Orioles ... did not feel like it was a dirty play," yet my e-mailbox and comments section is filled with people who think differently. I tend to think baseball allowing runners to crash into the catcher is somewhat ridiculous, but as long as it's allowed Morneau did nothing wrong and nothing many other players wouldn't have done in the same situation.
DirecTV subscribers were unable to see the first two innings of Wednesday's game on FSN North. A note saying the game was not available in this area appeared on the screen, but there shouldn't have been a blackout. The accidental blackout was lifted in the third inning.
The good news is that the incident led to my first ever tantrum in my new house, because it's always good to get that first one out of the way early.
After taking six weeks to draw his first non-intentional walk last season, Rondell White has two free passes in two games. He'll still probably go several weeks without walking at some point, but showing some semblance of plate discipline is a lot different than what took place early last year, when he flailed away at everything within a couple feet of the plate. On the other hand, he may have caught the sliding-into-first-base bug from Nick Punto, although White added the extra wrinkle of going in feet first.
Along the same lines as White's sudden walk-a-thon, Joe Nathan has two saves in two games after saving just three of the Twins' first 30 games last season.
Continuing with the same basic theme, after needing all 162 games (and then some) to get alone atop the AL Central for the first time last season, the Twins needed just two games to take over sole possession of first place this year.
I don't think much of the Twins' depth, but at least they're not pinch-hitting Freddie Bynum for Alberto Castillo down a run in the ninth inning.
I'm generally of the opinion that the Twins take too many chances trying to steal bases, but they clearly saw something in Daniel Cabrera's delivery that they felt was exploitable and took advantage. Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven made it sound like Cabrera was simply easy to run on in general, but that's not actually the case. He gave up just 11 steals last season and has allowed a very solid 68-percent success rate on steals during his career.
The Twins went 4-for-4 taking second base off Cabrera and Castillo--who's gunned down over 40 percent of steal attempts during his career--and for good measure Joe Mauer took second base against Jamie Walker without drawing a throw. The most eventful steal came when Jason Tyner took off after pinch-running for White following his seventh-inning walk. For some reason Castillo decided to make the throw from his knees, and the ball predictably sailed to the shortstop side of the bag.
Tyner could have eased in safely, but tripped about five feet away and had to scramble by crawling there on his hands and knees to narrowly avoid the tag. The steal attempt and Tyner's post-trip hustle paid off when Jason Bartlett blooped a single into short left field, scoring Tyner with the go-ahead (and eventual game-winning) run. After going 101-for-143 (70.6 percent) on steal attempts last season, the Twins are 6-for-6 and have five players with a steal.
Luis Castillo is one of the guys with a steal and I'm now convinced that he's the slowest fast runner in the history of baseball (if that makes any sense). Castillo used Cabrera's 6-foot-9 frame for target practice, slapping one ball off his leg and another off his glove to produce a pair of infield singles. Castillo hobbles around the field and looked borderline drunk trying to haul in a pair of routine pop ups (a problem at times last year too), but he's 5-for-9 with a steal through two games.
Boof Bonser struggled with his command early and was on the verge of a quick hook, but fought through it to retire 10 of the final 11 hitters he faced on the way to allowing just two runs over six innings. He didn't pick up the victory, but it was a Quality Start and Bonser now has a 3.57 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 70.2 innings since returning from Triple-A last August.
Michael Cuddyer has struck out five times already, but that doesn't concern me because he's a power hitter who batted .284/.362/.504 while striking out 130 times last year. On the other hand, Punto whiffing four times already is a concern, because it suggests he could be falling back into bad habits. A big part of Punto's mini-breakout in 2006 came from his decision to stop approaching at-bats like a power hitter.
That meant trying to work favorable counts in order to put the ball in play, rather than trying to work favorable counts in order to draw a walk or unleash a non-existent home-run swing. Coming into last season, Punto had struck out in 20 percent of his career plate appearances. He cut that to 13 percent in 2006, which is how a .238 career hitter batted .290. Normally I wouldn't make an issue over a two-game sample, but Punto's bad habits actually started popping up at the end of last season.
He struck out in just 12 percent of his plate appearances through the end of August, posting an outstanding 50-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio while hitting .307/.383/.405. Then, from September 1 to the end of the regular season he posted an 18-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, bringing back bad memories with a .244/.258/.295 line. Perhaps I'm overreacting to six weeks' worth of performance or remain biased by Punto's sub par track record, but a refresher course with Rod Carew might be in order.
Remember all the rationalizing that went on about sending Matt Garza down to start every fifth day at Triple-A because the Twins were planning to skip their fifth starter several times early in the season anyway? Not so much, it turns out. Despite an off day Thursday, Sidney Ponson will start Saturday against the White Sox, with Johan Santana going Sunday on an extra day of rest. Of course, given that Saturday is the blogger get-together, it's probably appropriate that Ponson takes the mound.
Johan Santana appeared to be in midseason form for the first few innings, but eventually ran into some trouble and continued his annual tradition of starting the season slowly by giving up four runs over six innings. Santana's April struggles used to worry me, but at this point Twins fans should know better. Take a look at how poorly Santana has fared in his first start of the season since becoming a full-time member of the rotation:
YEAR IP H R ER BB SO HR 2004 4.0 4 2 2 1 1 0 2005 5.0 5 4 4 1 6 0 2006 5.2 10 4 4 1 3 1 2007 6.0 7 4 4 2 6 1
For those of you without calculators handy, that works out to a 6.10 ERA for Santana's debut starts. Injuries to Ramon Hernandez and Jay Payton forced the Orioles to start five left-handed hitters against Santana, which would normally be a good thing thanks to guys like Corey Patterson and Paul Bako typically being pretty helpless against southpaws. However, Santana is unique in that he consistently fares much better against right-handed hitters because of his world-class changeup.
Sure enough, Baltimore's lefties combined to go 4-for-12 with four doubles and two walks against Santana. Despite that, last night's uneven performance is Santana's best in four debut outings, which I suppose could mean that he's on pace for the best year of his career. In the past, many of Santana's April struggles have come in starts where he simply didn't look very good, but last night's effort against the Orioles was pretty solid.
He didn't really "deserve" the win, but given the poor run support Santana has received over the years I'm always glad to see him balance the scales a bit by picking up a cheap victory. He also matched his April win totals from both 2004 and 2006, which is pretty amazing given that those were his Cy Young-winning seasons (and saw him win a total of 37 games after April). Prior to last night, Santana was 6-5 with a 4.42 ERA in 132.1 career April innings.
Santana hasn't lost at the Metrodome since August 1, 2005, a span of 24 home starts during which he's gone 17-0.
Justin Morneau looked outstanding at the plate, smacking a solo homer to left-center in the second inning and going the other way again in the fourth inning, lining a single past third baseman Melvin Mora. He later lined a ball over Nick Markakis' head and up against the right-field baggie, but was thrown out (or at least called out) trying to stretch it into a double. Morneau was also thrown out at the plate following his fourth-inning single, but the blame for that goes to third-base coach Scott Ullger.
Ullger made a habit of getting runners thrown out by laughable margins last year, most of the time in situations where holding them at third base was the overwhelmingly smart play. He's apparently decided to pick up right where he left off. Sending Morneau seemed like such an obviously horrible decision that Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven immediately assumed that Morneau had mistakenly run through Ullger's stop sign, mentioning it several times.
When a replay later showed that Ullger did nothing to deter Morneau from trying to score, and certainly never put up a clear stop sign, the issue was promptly ignored. In the world of Bremer and Blyleven, where good play is hyped as great play and poor play is ignored at all costs unless it involves a young player, ending the discussion of what transpired is about as close as you'll get to legitimate criticism of Ullger.
Had Ullger held Morneau at third base, the Twins would have had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth inning of a tie game, which is exactly the type of situation that screams for conservative baserunning. Despite that, the guy who should be most upset at Ullger is actually Bako, because Morneau crashed right into him once it became clear that the play at the plate wasn't going to be particularly close.
Bako held onto the ball, avoiding the same fate as Jamie Burke, but got a bloody chin for his troubles and seemed a little out of it for the rest of the game. He had a costly passed ball that allowed the go-ahead run to score in the fifth inning and nearly threw the ball into right field on Jason Tyner's sixth-inning steal attempt. Normally I'd make a joke here and say that there's a method to Ullger's madness, but I honestly don't want to give anyone ideas.
Morneau looked good going the other way, but seeing Torii Hunter flash power to the opposite field was even more encouraging. Morneau showed last year that a big part of his game is driving outside pitches, but Hunter often tries to pull the same type of offerings with little success. Hunter's hot streaks seem to coincide with driving balls off of and over the right-field baggie, so perhaps he's taken note of that and made some adjustments. Of course, his plate-discipline "adjustments" have never stuck.
Rondell White's sprawling catch in left field no doubt made all kinds of highlight shows last night and he somewhat managed to avoid re-injuring his shoulder in the process, but the more remarkable feat was his fourth-inning walk. Seriously. White went 142 plate appearances without drawing a single non-intentional walk last year, coaxing his first free pass on May 17, and ended up drawing a grand total of nine non-intentional walks in 355 plate appearances.
Bremer and Blyleven referred to Erik Bedard as "young" no fewer than a dozen times, with Bremer talking him up like the second coming of Sandy Koufax (or Santana) early on. That talk quieted pretty quickly once the Twins started knocking him around, but it never should have started in the first place. Bedard was born on March 5, 1979. Not only does that make him 28 years old, it makes him older than Santana. Eight days older, to be exact. Santana was born on March 13, 1979.
I'm not sure how much space I'll be devoting to Win Probability Added this year, but for now I'll pass along that the Twins' WPA MVP for Opening Day was Morneau (.284), followed by Nick Punto (.153), and Hunter (.088). WPA pegs Jason Bartlett (-.096) as the least valuable player, followed closely by Santana (-.089) and Michael Cuddyer (-.072). None of them dragged the Twins down much though, because Bedard's -.448 dwarfs their combined negative contribution (-.257).
The Twins are now 1-0 when I watch the game from the living room of my new house while sitting in a leather chair and eating popcorn. That can't possibly be a coincidence, right?
Little darling, it's been a long, long lonely winter Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here Here comes the sun Here comes the sun, and I say, it's all right
Little darling, the smiles are returning to the faces Little darling, it seems like years since they've been there Here comes the sun Here comes the sun, and I say, it's all right
Little darling, mmmmmm, I see the ice is slowly melting Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear There goes the sun Here comes the sun And I say, it's all right
- Here Comes the Sun
As you might expect, Opening Day is without question my favorite day of the year, which is why I have a somewhat sappy annual tradition of quoting "Here Comes the Sun" to kick off the season (I greatly prefer the Richie Havens version, but it works either way). The full slate on non-stop baseball that I'll be watching today is great, but the real reason why I'm downright giddy on a Monday morning is that today marks the beginning of seven straight months of baseball.
After spending the too-long winter in snow-covered Minnesota and being forced to suffer through the Vikings, Timberwolves, and Gophers (pick a sport), there's no doubt that "it seems like years since it's been here" and "the smiles are returning to the faces." Today is like Christmas morning, except if the first present you opened was "161 more Christmas mornings" and there was a second present under the tree for you to possibly open later that contained "a few more Christmas mornings in October."
I'm only about 50 percent moved into my new house, but the 60-inch television is in place and the MLB Extra Innings package will soon be in full effect, so it's the most important 50 percent (the bed is bare and I've unpacked zero boxes, but that's all secondary). I'll be spending the day sitting in my new leather chair, flipping back and forth between games while getting paid to do so, which is otherwise known as "heaven."
Before things get rolling, here are some predictions for the season ahead ...
WEST CENTRAL EAST Los Angeles Angels Minnesota Twins New York Yankees Oakland Athletics Detroit Tigers Boston Red Sox Texas Rangers Cleveland Indians Toronto Blue Jays Seattle Mariners Chicago White Sox Tampa Bay Devil Rays Kansas City Royals Baltimore Orioles
MVP: Joe Mauer CYA: Johan Santana ROY: Alex Gordon ALDS: NYY over LAA ALDS: BOS over MIN ALCS: BOS over NYY
WEST CENTRAL EAST Arizona Diamondbacks St. Louis Cardinals New York Mets San Diego Padres Milwaukee Brewers Philadelphia Phillies Los Angeles Dodgers Chicago Cubs Atlanta Braves San Francisco Giants Houston Astros Florida Marlins Colorado Rockies Cincinnati Reds Washington Nationals Pittsburgh Pirates
MVP: Albert Pujols CYA: Brandon Webb ROY: Chris Young NLDS: NYM over ARI NLDS: STL over PHI NLCS: NYM over STL
WORLD SERIES: BOS over NYM
I'll no doubt catch a lot of heat from angry White Sox fans by ranking them fourth in the AL Central, but someone has to finish above only the Royals. While the division doesn't have a truly elite team, it very well may contain four of the 10 best teams in all of baseball. The Twins, Tigers, Indians, and White Sox are all perfectly capable of winning 90-plus games and taking the division, but it also wouldn't shock me to see any of them--including the Twins--finish fourth.
As I've written here many times over the past few months, the Twins mishandled their starting rotation during the offseason and entering the season with Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz, and Sidney Ponson in the rotation gives up whatever margin for error they had in an extremely tough division. With that said, the Twins still have the best front-line talent in all of baseball with Johan Santana, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Nathan, and the entire bullpen is second-to-none.
Beyond Santana I don't expect the rotation to be of much value in the first half, but he remains the best pitcher on the planet and the bullpen should be able to shorten games to minimize the other damage. An oft-stated "key" for the Twins is whether they can coax at least one productive, full season out of Silva, Ortiz, or Ponson, but I think a much bigger key will be how quickly they're willing to cut bait on that trio when it becomes clear that the one productive, full season is going to be difficult to come by.
It's been lost in the shuffle with all the rotation talk, but the Twins' lineup has the potential to surprise people if Jason Kubel and Rondell White stay healthy. Most numbers-based projections don't think much of the Twins' offense because they're based largely on what Kubel and White did last season, but Kubel finally appears healthy after two lost seasons following a severe knee injury and White bounced back from a historically awful first half to hit .321/.354/.538 once his shoulder healed up.
Of course, keeping injury risks healthy is tough, and the Twins have a concerning lack of position-player depth beyond Jeff Cirillo and Mike Redmond. Should a rash of injuries strike the lineup, the cavalry consists of Jason Tyner, Luis Rodriguez, Lew Ford, Matthew LeCroy, and Josh Rabe, which is perhaps the league's worst collection of spare bats. The Twins can withstand some pitching injuries--in some cases it may even make them stronger--but if hitters start going down things could get ugly.
Along with that general overview of the Twins, here are 25 very specific predictions (feel free to leave your own in the comments section) ...
Santana will win his third Cy Young Award in four seasons (and what should be his fourth in a row) by leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts for the second straight year and discovering a cure for cancer during an off day in July.
Regression to the mean will bring Mauer's batting average down significantly, but he'll hit for more power than ever before while remaining the best catcher in baseball and the most valuable all-around player in the league.
The actual people who vote for AL MVP will virtually ignore Mauer for the second straight season and give the nod to some slugger with a bunch of RBIs and little defensive value.
However, that slugger won't be Morneau. He'll be almost exactly as effective as he was last season, yet will not a receive a single first-place vote in the AL MVP balloting.
Nathan will blow a save.
Boof Bonser will assume the Brad Radke role by having more homers served up than walks allowed, and will rank second on the team in wins.
Radke will give up a long homer on the ceremonial Opening Day first pitch, but will then settle down and get into a groove for a great retirement.
Kubel's OPS will be within a few points either way of Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer, and by June none of the fans who gave up on him last season will be anywhere to be found.
Silva will have a losing record and an ERA over 5.00.
Ortiz will have a losing record and an ERA over 5.00.
Ponson will be more effective than Silva or Ortiz at a fraction of the cost, but still won't be particularly good.
Matt Garza, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey will combine for a sub-3.00 ERA at Triple-A.
Scott Baker will pitch well enough alongside Garza, Perkins, and Slowey in the Triple-A rotation to deserve another chance in Minnesota, but will instead be traded.
White's numbers will look a whole lot more like his 2006 second half than his 2006 first half.
Cirillo won't hit as well as he did in Milwaukee over the previous two years, but will get more at-bats than he has in any season since 2002.
Nick Punto will not stop needlessly sliding head-first into first base, but will stop hitting as well as he did in 2006. Those two things will annoy me equally throughout the season.
By the end of the season, Ron Gardenhire will come to his senses and flip-flop Punto and Jason Bartlett in the batting order.
During an inevitable rough patch during which he's struggling, Hunter will blame the fact that he's a pending free agent. The local and national media will buy into it completely, and then Hunter will get an incredible amount of praise for succeeding despite his status when he just as inevitably starts hitting well again.
Hunter will not be as nearly good in center field as he was in the past, but will not be nearly as bad in center field as he was down the stretch last season. Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven will fail to make note of either of those things at any point during the 100-plus games they broadcast.
Denard Span will hit poorly at Triple-A, but no one will let that faze them when they continuously refer to him as Hunter's long-term replacement in center field.
Jesse Crain and Pat Neshek will both post a better ERA than Juan Rincon.
Alexi Casilla will end up with more at-bats than Rodriguez.
Dennys Reyes will see his ERA quadruple.
Chris Heintz will have fewer hits during the whole season than Mauer has in one game.
Many of these predictions will look silly by June and most of them will look silly by September.