Series Preview in Blog: Detroit Tigers

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Hypothetically, let’s say I have a co-worker from Michigan who is a Tiger’s fan. And let’s say that in March of 2006 he offered a small wager that the Tigers would finish with a better record than the Twins. If he had offered that, I would have accepted without batting an eye (easiest $5 I could have made, right?). Imagine that, and then imagine the cocky overconfidence that surely would have taken over this co-worker in June, followed by the disbelief when the Tigers were swept by the KC Royals on the last weekend of the season. If this wager had happened, I would still keep the note that accompanied my theoretical $5 (“Here’s your money, go to hell”) on my desk at work. For the next Tigers series, remind me and I’ll tell you how this same co-worker accidentally sent a profane email to our whole office because of the Tigers/Twins rivalry…

Minnesota Twins (12-10) @ Detroit Tigers (12-9)

More AL Central madness on tap this weekend with the Twins first series this season against the Detroit Tigers. Minnesota snapped their four game losing streak by scratching out a 1-0 win in 11 innings over Kansas City yesterday. Detroit returns home after a road trip consisting of a two game split with Anaheim and a win over Chicago before being rained out yesterday afternoon. The Tigers are 4-4 at home thus far this season, while the Twins are 5-3 on the road.

Since this series takes place in Detroit, all the Tigers’ hitters will come to the plate with their own entrance music playing. A full recap and rating of the starting nine’s musical stylings is provided by Mickey Tettleton Memorial Overpass.

I don’t think he meant to, but this guy is clearly mocking the Twins offensive struggles.

There are a couple of Tigers with their own blogs. Curtis Granderson has a blog at ESPN, and he’s done an excellent job thus far, discussing life on the road as well as his own perspective on the Jackie Robinson anniversary. I enjoyed almost all of his entries, and recommend you give them a read. Nate Robertson blogs for and he’s dicussed several topics, including changes in his facial hair.

A turn through the lineup consists of an outfield of Monroe, Granderson, and Ordonez. Gary Sheffield starts most games as the DH, but was given a spot on the all star ballot as a Tigers outfielder. This meant Granderson could not be fit onto the ballot, which seems unfair, given the start he’s off to. Sheffield, on the other hand has struggled early in the season, but you have to think he’ll come around. Brandon Inge starts at third, and he has had an atrocious start to the season. In fact, he may be the only third baseman in the league with a lower batting average than Nick Punto. He’s not the only infielder who’s struggled, Sean Casey is also off to a terrible start, but even then no one deserves this. Carlos Guillen, who may be playing hurt, and Placido Polanco, whose been the most consistent hitter thus far, round out the infield. Ivan Rodriguez remains behind the plate for Detroit.

We won’t see Jeremy Bonderman this series, but he’s had five starts this season without a decision. The first four starts this worked against him, as he pitched extremely well with nothing to show for it. Last time out, however, it took quite the comeback in order to get him off the hook. Even if he felt he deserved the loss, he’s still stuck at 0-0.

The Twins will see Nate Robertson, Justin Verlander, and Mike Maroth as the three starters this weekend. In their last starts these three combined to walk 12 batters in 18 innings. Hopefully the Twins will learn a little patience and exploit that this weekend.

The bullpen has Jason Grilli and Fernando Rodney, with Wilfredo Ledezma and Bobby Seay as lefties, and Todd Jones as the closer. Rodney has had a rough go of it so far this year, collecting 4 losses and allowing a run in five of his nine appearances. Last but not least is fireballer Joel Zumaya, who is the subject of this unconventional scouting report.

Finally, even in the internet world it’s possible to suffer from foot-in-mouth syndrome. Read the entry, then the disclaimer at the end. Whoops.


Series Preview in Blog: Kansas City Royals (abridged)

The Royals and Twins just finished a three game series this weekend with the Royals taking two of three in Kansas City. Since then the Royals have lost two games against the White Sox, while the Twins were swept by the Indians in the Dome. Since they have just played and I just posted a whole mess of Royal’s links, I’ll just give a shortened version with a few of the most recent links from Royals blogs.

Minnesota Twins (11-9) v. Kansas City Royals (6-14)

Not surprisingly, Jorge de la Rosa’s extremely successful outing on Sunday against the Twins earned rave reviews.

The Twins series (specifically the Twins win) continued to raise questions about the bullpen, especially Joel Peralta.

An extensive list of former Royals in both the major and minor leagues and their stats so far this year.

This one is for the SBG crowd, Royals’ Retro is counting down the top 100 Royals of all time, the most recent is #91. I’ve got to be honest, I certainly thought this guy would be higher on the list. I mean he’s the MVP, right?

Turnaround: Jason Bartlett

(NOTE: This article was written before the conclusion of Tuesday night’s game, thus, all stats are current through Monday 4/23)

What follows is an analysis of Jason Bartlett’s first 56 plate appearances of 2007 divided into “bad” and “good” periods. I recognize that the season is young and it’s a small sample size, but the idea is to catalyze some thought and possibly some debate. Enjoy! and thanks for reading.


Jason Bartlett’s first real playing time in the Majors began in 2005 when he came out of spring training as the starting shortstop. He started 23 of the Twins first 34 games, and posted a .242/.310/.374 line in 100 plate appearances with a 16:8 SO:BB ratio. He was sent down for the majority of the summer and recalled on August 1 and finished out the year starting 32 of the final 52 games. Again he posted a similar line of .241/.320/.308 in 152 plate appearances while improving his SO:BB to 21:13.

2006 began with Juan Castro as the Twins starting shortstop and Bartlett in AAA. Finally, on June 14, Castro was traded and the Jason Bartlett era began in earnest. He responded by posting an impressive .309/.367/.393 line while playing every inning save 3 of the final 98 games of the 2006 season. His SO:BB ratio stayed fairly constant at 46:22.


Jason Bartlett: 12-51, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 5 BB, 6 SO, .235/.304/.275

Given Bartlett’s success in ’06, fans looked toward ’07 as the year Jason would not have to worry about any challengers to his everyday shortstop job, and, barring injury would have the whole season to contribute. Unfortunately, Bartlett got off to an extremely slow start, going 1-20 with 5 SO in the first 7 games of the season, before a groin injury caused him to sit out two games. Upon his return, he has reminded fans of the Bartlett of ’06, going 11-31, with hits in 7 of 9 games. If JB doesn’t put up numbers of the same caliber as last year, some may point to his .354 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) last year which placed him in the top 10 in the majors in that category. As most statisticians consider BABIP to be mostly random, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that number come down and his offensive production with it. So far this season his BABIP sits at .267 (.067 for the first 7 gms., .367 for the last 9).

Despite his lackluster start, Bartlett has been very effective in the clutch. He is 4 of 11 with runners in scoring position (3 of 6 since his return) and 3 of his 4 RBI were either go-ahead or game-tying runs. So, when he’s been given a chance, he has come through at an encouraging rate.

The Turnaround

One of the biggest differences betwixt the first 21 plate appearances and the 34 since then is the percentage of ground balls. During the first few games, 27% (4 of 15) of the balls Bartlett put in play were ground balls with only one instance that was described as a line drive by MLB GameCast. Since then, 43% (13 of 30) of balls in play were ground balls and 8 of the 17 non-ground balls were described as line drives. Bartlett has always been a good contact hitter, he has never finished a season with a strikeout percentage higher than the MLB average (~19%). In the early part of the season, Bartlett was striking out 25% of the time, since then he has returned to his contact-hitting self only striking out only once in 31 at bats (3%). All this is just statistics showing that JB is indeed hitting better recently than in the beginning of the season. Not surprisingly, more line drives and less strikeouts correspond to more hits, but the question remains, what has he done differently now as opposed to then?

Swing the Bat!

The thing that jumped out at me, looking at each of Bartlett’s at bats is the difference in his aggressiveness early in the count. In the first seven games Bartlett saw 3.7 pitches per plate appearance, 32% of the strikes he saw were called strikes. In the last 9 games, he has averaged 3.1 pitches per plate appearance and 27% of strikes were called. (That percentage has come up a bit in the KC and Cleveland series, previously it was around 20%). Most telling is the difference when a first pitch strike is delivered. In those cases Bartlett has hit a robust .368 (7-19) in the last 10 games, compared to .333 (4 of 12) when the first pitch is a ball. Looking further into these numbers, Bartlett is hitting .500 (6 for 12) when he swings at the first pitch! When he has a called strike 1 on the first pitch he is only 1 for 7. Notice that nearly two-thirds of the time, he is swinging at the pitch if it’s strike one. In the first few games of the season, he encountered a first pitch strike 12 times. This time the trend was reversed; 8 of 12 times, it was a called first strike (needless to say his average in all cases was miniscule). It seems that when Bartlett is approaching his plate appearances with an aggressive mentality, he has had more success putting the ball in play and reaching base.

On a related note, his walk rate last year (.309 BA) was a much lower 5.9% (as compared to 8.3% previously in his career [.233 BA]), which could lend some more weight (as a larger sample) to the argument for aggressiveness. When Bartlett is aggressive at the plate early in the count, it’s an indication that he’s seeing the ball better, and he’s more likely to put it in play (hopefully for a hit). Since his turnaround his BABIP and GB% have been at about 2006 levels. If he continues to hit more ground balls, with his speed, I think he can keep his BABIP well above the league average for the remainder of the season. Bartlett only has 2 extra base hits so far this season (both doubles). Last year about 1 in 5 of his hits went for extra bases, so far this year, 1 in 6. Power isn’t a large part of Bartlett’s game, but if he can pick up those numbers slightly, it looks like a repeat of last year’s breakout performance is not out of the realm of possibility.

Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (11-7) v. Cleveland Indians (8-7)

The Twins return home after a 4-2 road trip to Seattle and Kansas City. The Indians are finishing a road trip that began with a sweep by the Yankees in New York as A-Rod had 3 HR and 8 RBI (that guy’s just on fire). This weekend, Cleveland rebounded by winning two out of three from the Devil Rays in Tampa. The Indians are 4-5 on the road thus far this year, the Twins are 6-4 at home.

At the somewhat pessimistically titled blog God Hates Cleveland Sports, A-Rod’s walkoff homerun (which capped a six-run ninth inning) on Thursday inspired a list of the most devastating losses for the Indians since Jacobs Field opened in 1994. Twins fans will be happy to note that #3 is the infamous Corey Koskie “chair game”.

On to the Tribe:

Indians fans provide my absolute favorite Ozzie Guillen image ever

Twins fans often debate what kind of fan reaction former Twins should get on their return to the Metrodome (see: Piersynski, A. J. and Mientkiewicz, Doug). In that same vein, when the Indians hosted the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen took issue with fans booing Jim Thome. Here’s an explanation of why one guy did it, and here’s the back story on how Thome ended up out of Cleveland.

There were also some rumblings about Cleveland’s participation in the Civil Rights Game as their mascot is seen by some to be a racist caricature. On the other side of the race issue, the Indians are looking into honoring Larry Doby in a similar fashion to the tribute to Jackie Robinson earlier this month.

The Twins will face Jeremy Sowers and Fausto Carmona, both have had one rough start this year, Sowers against the Yankees last week, but he has had two other good starts. Carmona struggled against the White Sox in the first week of the season, but handled the Yankees, allowing 2 runs in 6 innings. The rest of the rotation consists of Carsten Charles Sabathia, Paul Byrd, and Jake Westbrook.

Westbrook recently signed a three year extension worth $33 million. Coming into spring training, fans were thinking extensions for Westbrook, Hafner, and Sabathia, but it looks like negotiations have stopped for the latter two for the remainder of this season. The analysis of Westbrook’s contract, however, is just beginning. Some people like the move, while some think that this bodes ill for Sabathia staying in Cleveland. There is also a review of a Wall Street Journal article, which holds up the contract as an example of the Cleveland front office’s business strategy (wins = $$$$). While this contract may or may not be money well spent, the Indians seem to be rolling in dough, since they’re giving money away (literally).

The bullpen was the glaring weakness last year, and it has been made over this year with new faces Joe Borowski (closer), Aaron Fultz (lefty), and Roberto Hernandez. Despite these changes, some remain unconvinced. The remainder of the bullpen consists of Tom Mastny, Jason Davis, Rafael Betancourt, and Fernando Cabrera. The bullpen has allowed 20 runs in 45 innings thus far this year. No word on whether Charlie Sheen has been contacted to reprise this role.

Six of those runs came in one inning against the Yankees, when Borowski entered with a 6-2 lead in the ninth and finished with a walk-off homerun by Alex Rodriguez. Needless to say, this was a hard loss to take. Lest you think that the blame rests solely on Borowski, there was plenty to go around. (By including this link I am trying to further the rumor started within that Mark Shapiro kidnapped a platypus)

On offense, the Indians still have Travis Hafner as their DH, I doubt the Twins will employ the same shift as the Devil Rays against Hafner, but it’s something to consider. Grady Sizemore (the bio here is lots of fun), David Delucci, Trot Nixon, and Jason Michaels make up the outfield. The infield of Casey Blake, Josh Barfield, Jhonny Peralta, and Andy Marte has struggled thus far (BA ranges from .156 to .213), Ryan Garko has been decent at first base, as has Victor Martinez. The offensive struggles of those players have led to Indians fans to express their frustration in haiku.

Finally, it happened a while ago, but the big story of the early part of the season was the Indians being snowed out of Cleveland, having one series cancelled (with the Mariners), and another moved to Milwaukee (against the Angels).

The Indians succumb to an April blizzard

By all accounts, the fans in Milwaukee were very gracious hosts. Here are a couple of entries about the experience, one from some Indians fans, and one from a neutral observer.


Series Preview in Blog: Kansas City Royals

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (10-5) vs. Kansas City Royals (4-11)

After sweeping the Mariners in Seattle, the Twins move on to face the Kansas City Royals who have just finished up a road trip of their own with John Buck’s heroics ending a 6-game losing streak on Wednesday. The Royals had an off day Thursday so they are well rested and ready for the Twins. After this series both teams will have a short two game series then meet again next Wednesday for two more games in Minnesota.

Before we get started, I found this rundown of the all-defensive teams for each team in the AL Central. The Royals are in there so it’s not cheating to link to this here, but I highly recommend The Soul of Baseball in general.

On to the Powder Blue:

This team is familiar with losing, is content with it and will not be comfortable until they have reached the dismal depths of the AL Central. … Year after dismal year the same routine. When the team pitches it does not hit, when it hits it does not pitch.
-Bruce, at KC Royal Fan Zone

The Royals have had a tough go of it so far this year, in a year a lot of experts saw some reasons for optimism. Some of their fans are starting to think that they’ve seen it all before. Fortunately, that’s why baseball teams have mascots. (Pic from Royal Ingenuity)

Predictably, the Royals slow start has started some grumblings that manager Buddy Bell should be fired. For an interesting rundown of the opinions of Royals fans; this post and its comments argue both sides of the debate.

In the past few years, the Royals have acquired some exciting young talent, both in their farm system (here’s Billy Butler’s homepage), and at the major league level. To help you keep track of it all, the organizational depth chart. Here’s one blogger’s interview with the Royals beat writer about the new faces. They have also increased their payroll this year by 30%, with the most publicized transaction of course being the signing of Gil Meche (who won’t pitch in either of the two series coming up) for 5 years at $55 million. Now, I’m not arguing that he’s underpaid, but if he wins the World Series MVP as a member of the KC Royals I think he deserves more than a $100,000 bonus.

The Royals have made some good draft picks recently, but in the past they have let a few draft picks slip away. There are actually quite a few current and former Twins on that list (in addition to Dan Marino and John Elway). While we’re on the subject of former Royals draft picks, John Sickels recently posted a look back at Bret Saberhagen as a prospect (drafted in the 19th round, finished with 167 Major League wins).

Offense has been a problem for Kansas City so far this year, as they have averaged 3.4 runs per game. The younger players have especially struggled (Tony Pena, Jr .189; Alex Gordon .125; Ryan Shealy .089). Everyone realizes that they are all still early in their career, but that hasn’t stopped them from getting in a few shots (at Pena and at Gordon). Fortunately, noted Twin-killer Mike Sweeney has apparently become a kinder, gentler ballplayer.

The pitching rotation is anchored by Meche, but also contains charity worker Odalis Perez, Zack Greinke, Jorge De La Rosa, and Brandon Duckworth. We’ll see Perez (9.26 ERA, 3.2 IP/start) and Greinke twice in the next week, and De La Rosa on Sunday. Greinke has done his best Felix Hernandez impression with two good starts to begin the season, then giving up 4 runs in less than one inning in his last start.

Given some of the short starts, turned in by the starters thus far, the Royals are already looking to reinforce their bullpen.

Currently the bullpen ranges from good:
Ryan Braun (8.0 IP, 1R),
Joakim Soria (8.1 IP, 3R, 11K),
Jimmy Gobble (lefty, 7G, 1ER);

to bad:
Joel Peralta (6.75 ERA, 7G),
Jason Standridge (9.45 ERA, 3G),
Todd Wellenmeyer (15.43 ERA),
David Riske (1 for 2 in save opportunities).

Finally, plenty of people have beat me to this, but if you haven’t seen it, check out the video of Royals farmhand Joey Gathright jumping over a couple of parked cars.


Series Preview in Blog: Seattle Mariners

Minnesota Twins (7-5) @ Seattle Mariners (5-3)

Both the Twins and Mariners had Monday off, the Twins after a four game split with the Devil Rays at home, while this weekend the Mariners won two of three from Texas at home, giving them two series wins at home so far this season in two tries. Seattle enters this series in first place in the AL West.

On to the M’s:

The Devil Rays anagrams were a hit last time, so I’ll provide a couple for the M’s free of charge. If you feel like playing around on your own, go here.

Seattle Mariners: Tenser Materials; Termite Arsenals; Streamline Tears; Terminal Teasers

* Starters for this series *
Jeff Weaver: No Anagrams
Felix Hernandez: Hazel fern index
Jarrod Washburn: Drab jar who runs

I’m sure you all can do better, but it’s late and I still have the rest of this thing to write. Onward!

We will see Ramon Ortiz against Jeff Weaver on Tuesday, Weaver had a very rough debut (7 runs in 2.0 IP) which led the M’s to consider trying out the new shift proposed here. Felix Hernandez (see below for links) will go against Carlos Silva on Wednesday (check out my analysis of Silva’s first two starts over at MN Sports Guys). It’s kind of funny that in eight games so far this season, Seattle has yet to face a left handed starting pitcher. They will get to face one of the best on Thursday when Johan Santana takes the mound against Jarrod Washburn. Johan has been his usual dominating self against the Mariners in the past. Here’s hoping that continues.

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way. I give you a somewhat dated guide to drinking at Safeco Field on a budget (please use responsibly).

USS Mariner is definitely one of the most widely read blogs, not just for Mariner’s fans, but for baseball fans in general. I’ll let you poke around over there on your own, but they have published some interesting looks at trade value, both the good and the bad. I bet you can guess the two Twins in the top 10 on the “good” list.

Unfortunately for the Mariners, perhaps the biggest story so far this season has been off the field, when their four game series with Cleveland was completely cancelled due to a blizzard. That didn’t stop the guys at Lookout Landing from recapping what might have been. In the first game of the series, the two teams came within one strike of completing the fifth inning when Mike Hargrove delayed long enough with the umpires that the conditions became so bad that the game was called. Here’s a defense of that ploy, in probably one of the only concrete examples of a manager saving his team from a loss.

Of course, the biggest story on the field for Seattle has been the white-hot start of Felix Hernandez. Through two starts, he has not allowed a run in 17.0 IP, only allowed 4 hits and 4 walks while striking out 18. He’s seriously good, he has a lower ERA than Carlos Silva so far this year! (how many of you would have bet on that a month ago… wait, never mind). Mariner fans are understandably excited about the ascension of “King Felix” thus far, and those who expressed doubts are beating a hasty retreat.

It seems like every team we’ve played so far this year has their own Japanese import (Chicago: Iguchi, New York: Matsui, Igawa, Tampa: Iwamura), but the Mariners have one of the earliest, biggest, and best imports in Ichiro (owner of an impressive death glare, seriously, don’t make him mad). Since his debut in 2001, the influx of Japanese players from the NPB to Major League Baseball has had enormous effects on the game both here and there. Robert Whiting, author of several books about Japanese baseball, has written a series of articles in the Japan Times on whether this migration is the beginning of the end of the Japanese baseball league.

The Mariner’s regular outfield consists of Ichiro, Jose Guillen, and Raul Ibanez while the remainder of the lineup is made up of Richie “Funk Blast” Sexson, Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Adrian Beltre, with Jose Vidro as the backup infielder/DH. Of those eight players, only Ichiro is batting higher than .235. So far most of the offense has come from catcher Kenji Johjima (.476/.542/.714 in 21 at bats). Johjima’s backup has a little history with the Twins.

As I mentioned above, the offense thus far has been awful for the Mariners, but may be starting to come around. They had scored 20 runs in the first 6 games before beating up the Rangers for 22 in their last two wins.


One Good Week: Carlos Silva

CARLOS SILVA, Apr.6 – Apr.13
(2GS, 0-1, 0.77 ERA, 11.2IP, 12H, 3BB, 5K)

Coming into the season, there was much hue and cry about Carlos Silva’s presence on the roster. The Twins exercised Silva’s option this offseason for $4.35 million, and then he had a terrible spring training, posting an 8.44 ERA in five starts and one relief appearance. He pitched 21.1 innings and allowed 31 hits to go with 4 walks and 2 hit batsmen. That’s 1.73 baserunners per inning. Nonetheless, he was given a spot in the rotation over Matt Garza and was slated for his 2007 debut in Chicago to open the second series of the season.

That game was cancelled due to inclement weather, but Silva was sent out the next day and pitched 5 solid innings, only allowing 1 run on 5 hits (all singles), a walk, and a hit batsman. Jermaine Dye was the recipient of the hit by pitch, so I’m counting that as a point in Carlos’ favor. Unfortunately, the Twins offense couldn’t solve Javy Vasquez and Silva left trailing 0-1, eventually taking the loss as the Twins fell 3-0 to the South Siders.

It’s fair to say Twins fans were skeptical after the first start. Everyone agreed that Silva deserved a win for his effort, but few were convinced that this would become a regular occurrence. Then Silva took the ball on Thursday and shut out the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for 6 2/3 innings, leaving the game with a 2-0 lead. Silva gave up 7 hits and walked two while striking out 4. Juan Rincon allowed the Rays to tie the game, leaving Silva with a no decision in the eventual 3-2 Twins victory, but that made two excellent starts for Silva which I felt merited a closer look.

Silva is an interesting case to look at, because he has always given up a lot of baserunners; remember the 11-hit shutout of the Angels? His WHIPs for the last three years were 1.43, 1.17, and 1.54, so the real difference betwixt a good start and a bad start for Carlos is whether those baserunners are allowed in the same inning or scattered throughout the game. This trend is continuing so far this year. Silva has only one 1-2-3 inning so far this year, and has allowed a hit in 10 of the 12 innings he has pitched. However, he has been able to keep posting zeros because only twice has he allowed more than one hit in an inning. So, when you see a 1.29 WHIP thus far this season, that’s because Silva really is allowing almost exactly one hit every inning.

The key has always been keeping the ball down and using his sinker to induce large quantities of ground balls, as well as limiting the number of walks, since there are already enough runners on without giving up free passes. So to assess how Silva was controlling the count and working ahead of hitters I looked at what count the ball was put in play and what the results were.

COUNT 0-0 0-1 0-2 1-0 1-1 1-2 2-0 2-1 2-2 3-0 3-1 3-2
Chicago 1-2 1-2 0-3 0-3
0-1 1-2 1-2 1-3
Tampa Bay 0-2 1-1
0-2 3-6
1-1 0-4 0-1
BB BB 0-1
# of pitches 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12+
Chicago 1-2 1-2 0-3 0-3 1-3 1-3
0-1 1-1
Tampa Bay 0-2 1-3 5-10 1-10
BB 0-2

Silva hasn’t been involved in very many marathon at bats. Again, this tells us that hitters don’t foul off pitches when Silva is pitching, if they’re hit, they’re going to be in play.* Also Tampa apparently loves to swing the bat, with only 3 at bats getting past the fourth pitch, while almost half the White Sox extended their at bats past 4 pitches. The other thing I noticed with this data was that those at bats that ended quickly were less likely to end with ground balls than other at bats. A closer look yielded the following:

Overall – 43% GB
1st or 2nd pitch – 11% (9 balls in play)
3rd through 5th pitch – 64% (25 balls in play)
6+ pitches – 0% (6 balls in play)

It’s a small sample size, but this whole exercise is based on two starts, so bear with me. It seems that Silva tries to get ahead with his fastball early, and if that is put in play it’s almost always in the air. Later in the at bat, the sinker plays a larger role and an impressive 64% of balls in play are on the ground. I also looked at some of the splits to see if the GB% increased with runners on base, but there was very little difference (47% with runners on base, 42% with the bases empty). Especially in the Tampa game, Silva seemed to bear down with runners on (see chart below) but not necessarily through the ground ball, I guess.

OTHER STATS BF RHB LHB Empty Runners GB% K% 1st strike 1st ball
Chicago 20 2-9 3-9
3-9 2-9
35% 5% 3-8
Tampa Bay 29 3-13
48% 14% 3-17

Other interesting points on the first two starts; left-handers seem to get on base better against Carlos (OBP – .385 LHB, .261 RHB) but that’s also due to the fact that all of his walks were issued to lefties (is that weird?). Predictably, Silva fared much better when starting out with a first pitch strike (OBP – .391 ball, .269 strike). Carlos is not known as a strikeout pitcher, of the 20 batters who reached 2-strike counts, he fanned 5 of them (25%). Overall, Silva was remarkably consistent in the number of pitches per inning (avg. – 15.9), with the one hiccup coming in the very first inning of the year (the only inning he allowed a run).

P/Inn. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Chicago 32 12 20 7 16
Tampa Bay 16 15 12 18 12 16 10

It seems that the Tampa game was the better pitched of the two; observe the higher GB%, the higher K%, and the fantastic 0-10 with runners on base. In fact, it seems Silva was a little lucky to escape with only one run allowed against Chicago. It always seems like more runs should be allowed with all those baserunners, but, nonetheless, Silva has turned in two quality performances this week. I don’t think that anyone would argue that it’s realistic for this to continue all season, but if a few of these types of outings are interspersed with more average outings in the future, Twins fans should be pleasantly surprised.

Keep up the good work Carlos!

* After making this statement, I went and looked it up. In these two games, in 49 plate appearances, 40 balls were put in play and hitters hit 37 fouls (6 from one Darin Erstad at bat). Not as big of a difference as I thought, but technically I was correct.

Series Preview in Blog: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Minnesota Twins (5-3) v. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (3-5)

The Twins salvaged a win last night against the Yankees at home, while Tampa Bay likewise lost their first two to the Rangers in Arlington before hanging on for a win in the series finale. The Rays have one win in each of their three series so far this season.

Last season I actually took in a Tampa Bay/Minnesota game at Tropicana Field, and watched the Twins win behind a very good performance from Boof Bonser (who went to high school in St. Petersburg, FL) and a Rondell White homerun. The field was an interesting experience, I was raised on dome baseball so that part wasn’t too bad, but it seemed more antiseptic than the Metrodome, I was very much more aware that I was indoors for the whole game, probably because there were few fans at the game. Anyway, these four games are in Minnesota, so this is all irrelevant, but it’s my only Devil Rays story.

On to the Rays:

The Devil Rays are celebrating their tenth season this year, and looking for Rays blogs, one can tell that they haven’t had much success this far. The juxtaposition between the number of blogs for this opponent compared to the last series was striking. But there was still a lot of good stuff out there, and several of the blogs are new this year. One of the more publicized new blogs is Devil Rays Universe, whose author, Manny Stiles, auctioned his fandom for this season to the highest bidder on eBay, with the proceeds going to a pediatric AIDS charity. The auction was won by the vice president of the Devil Rays, and so Manny Stiles became a Rays fan. So far, if nothing else, you have to admit that he’s been enthusiastic. Another newer blog is Rays Review whose author, Andy Martino, was drawn in by the enthusiasm of Joe Maddon, the manager.

D-Rays Bay participated in a roundtable discussion in the AL East with a blogger from each team, and got all of their thoughts on certain aspects of the Devil Rays, from their chances to ever compete in the East, to the abundance of talent in the outfield. The consensus is that the Rays will probably have to trade at least one of those young, talented outfielders, RaysTalk thinks it will be Elijah Dukes, who is very well regarded by those who have seen him play, despite his off-field issues.

We were celebrating so excitedly that my teammates fell on top of me. I was the smallest and I was on the bottom of the pile. It was awesome.
-Third Baseman Akinori Iwamura, after a walk-off win against Toronto

Another new face in Tampa is the import from Japan, third baseman Akinori Iwamura, who has gotten some notice for his hot start (12-27, HR, .444/.559/.593), including scoring the winning run in Tampa’s exciting bottom of the ninth comeback win against the Blue Jays. Fans are jumping on the Iwamura bandwagon left and right, and, of course there are the inevitable comparisons to the other, bigger name “rookies” from Japan this year. His MLB diary of his first week in the major leagues is a very interesting read.

The young bats in the lineup have Rays fans feeling optimistic but the pitching is causing an awful lot of distress. The starting rotation features a young, left-handed, power pitching ace and four other guys you could take or leave (sound familiar?). The ace, of course, is Scott Kazmir, while the other four pitchers are Jae Seo, Casey Fossum, Edwin Jackson, and James Shields. Of those four, Jackson has had the best start, while Seo was awful his last time out.

If you look at Jackson’s stats from his season debut you wouldn’t describe the stats as impressive. But he left in the sixth inning with the game tied 2-2 with two on and two out; 4 hits, 2 walks, 6 runs, and 3 relief pitchers later, the inning ended with the Rays behind 8-2. Needless to say, the bullpen has been an issue for the Devil Rays in this young season. This is unsurprising to some, and already the roles will be changing, if not the personnel. However, the most disturbing trait for these young relievers is their glaring deficiencies in other areas.

One player who won’t be with the Devil Rays when they come to Minnesota is Jorge Cantu. He was demoted to AAA Durham earlier this season, and made an awfully big stink about it, not reporting until the last minute. All this drama might make it more likely that the Rays trade him for some bullpen help.

On Sunday, Major League Baseball will celebrate Jackie Robinson by allowing players to wear Robinson’s retired number 42. The Devil Ray’s Carl Crawford will honor Robinson’s legacy (as will Torii Hunter for the Twins), but it can be (and has been) argued that it means more for the Devil Rays.

In the “I don’t know where to put this link” file, is the list of anagrams of Devil Rays players and management, so when I refer to the Pasta Bay Army, you’ll know what I mean.


Twins on TV!

Big news! The Felix household has decided to purchase MLB.TV for this season. Your humble narrator will actually be able to watch most of the Twins games on TV this summer!! This hasn’t happened since 3 years ago when I moved out to Chicago. Needless to say, I’m very excited, this will no doubt give me many more chances to invoke the currently undefeated Jersey of Fortune.

In other news, my Series Preview in Blog is making a regular appearance at Stick and Ball Guy on the first day of every series at 10 AM, so stop by there and see what SBG Nation has to say. I’m thinking of new series to add to this blog, and I promise to follow through on those at some point.

The Wild lost their playoff opener last night 2-1 to the Ducks. They didn’t play very well for two periods but were still tied headed into the third. A strange goal in which Backstrom’s own defenseman ran him over, taking him out of the play was the difference. Hopefully the Wild will play better on Friday and even up the series.

Thanks for reading!

Series Preview in Blog: New York Yankees

Minnesota Twins (4-1) vs. New York Yankees (2-3)

** ESPN would like you to know that there will be A-Rod links coming up in this entry **

The Twins split an abbreviated series with the White Sox, but in more important news, since Saturday’s game was on FOX, and I was at the game on Sunday, there was no Hawk Harrelson in my life this weekend. The Yankees, after splitting two games with the Devil Rays, lost their weekend series with the Orioles and would have been swept if not for last second heroics on Saturday. This series will also (finally) give us our first glimpse of Sidney Ponson as he is scheduled to start Monday’s game. Here’s hoping his debut measures up to those already posted by Ortiz and Silva.

On to the Evil Empire:

The Yankee’s payroll and all the advantages that affords them has been well covered. Given their recent exits from the playoffs, they have renewed their focus on prospects in their farm system. Time will tell whether these players will become the Yankees of tomorrow, or just more trade fodder to land this year’s Bobby Abreu. At least it’s nice to know that all that money has worked to make them at least the mathematical favorite. Here are the full predictions of this method.

Opening Day is a great experience for any fan, even Yankee fans. Especially if you get to experience it with a couple of guys who love to talk baseball.

** ESPN reminds you, A-Rod is coming up! **

The Yankees outfield is in a state of flux so far this season, starting with Abreu, Damon (hasn’t started since opening day – calf), and Matsui (DL – hamstring) but now relying on Melky Cabrera and Miguel Cairo. Notable in his absence from this is Bernie Williams due to his (somewhat forced) retirement. Damon’s injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but with Bernie calling the clubhouse on opening day, speculation has started as to what exactly he called to say.

The infield is relatively familiar with one new face, former Twin Doug Mientkiewicz will be given the first shot at the first base position despite his rough spring.

The rotation took a hit when last year’s ace Chien-Ming Wang went down with a hamstring injury in the spring, he’s expected to be back toward the end of April, but until then the rotation consists of Carl Pavano (whose name has taken many meanings), the opening day starter on 643 days rest (we’ll see how he does on “short” rest), Pettite, Mussina, Kei Igawa (who had a rough debut on Saturday), and Darrell Rasner. After one turn through the rotation, Yankee fans don’t exactly like what they see so far.

** ESPN: A_ROD!!! **

“I didn’t like it, I love it, … When you see the guys in front of you do their job, it’s contagious. You can’t ask for a better job from them than today.”

– Mariano Rivera’s thoughts on the relief corps after opening day.

The bullpen is widely considered to be the strength of the team, with Proctor, Vizcaino, Bruney, Farnsworth, Henn(L), Myers(L) and Proctor leading to Mariano Rivera.


Ok, a few links about the best shortstop on the Yankees, then I’ll leave it alone. A-Rod has recieved an enormous amount of criticism by media both nationally and locally. On one side of the spectrum is the No Boos Movement started by a fan who wants to see more support of A-Rod, while there are those trying to give a neutral analysis of the situation, while still others may be falling prone to a little over-analysis. Given A-Rod’s recent success, it’s fair to say that the drastic measures taken this spring are paying off.

** ESPN says, “More A-Rod coming up in a few short minutes” **

Staying on the left side of the infield, the Gold Glove winner at shortstop last year got off to a rough start with errors in the first couple games, leading to some hand wringing. No doubt he’ll be rounding into Gold Glove form any time now.

(image ripped off from NoMaas)

One last note on non-baseball stuff, the heir apparent to Steinbrenner has recently been sued for divorce. This casts some doubt on who’s next in line as owner of the Yankees.


Twins 3, Sox 1

The family was in town, so we spent our Easter down at US Cellular Field watching Johan Santana deal to the Sox.

First of all, the weather wasn’t half bad. I spent all week fretting that we’d be freezing our tails off, but then it turned out to be cold, but not unbearable. We sat in the left field bleachers in the sun and it was actually pretty nice.

The fans ran the gamut, some of those who sat around us were great, willing to chat about the Twins’ bullpen, Jim Thome, or whatever. Unfortunately, directly to our right in the bleachers was an extremely vocal group of Sox fans. I have no problem with enthusiastic cheering, I’ve even partaken in my fair share. But, that refers to support of your team or a little bit of jeering of the opposing players. One guy in particular in this group regaled us with chants that ranged from the standard “Twins suck” nearly every inning, to instructing Twins’ fans to “drown in Lake Huron” (I don’t know why that particular non-Minnesota/non-Chicago lake). I don’t want to devolve into a rant here, but this, unfortunately, became a significant part of the experience today. We even had the aforementioned “good” fans turn around and apologize for some of the ruder comments. Making all this considerably more tolerable was the fact that the Twins were winning the baseball game.

Ah yes, the game. In the middle of the game 24 batters, from Bartlett’s second K in the fourth to Punto’s flyout in the eighth were all retired in order. Twins or White Sox batter, it didn’t matter, they all went down. Which was nice for a cold day, once we had the lead, clearly the goal was to just get out of there.

A couple of thoughts:

– Santana with the win, Nathan with the save, 2 for 2 so far. Santana settled down after walking 3 in the first 1.1 IP, retiring the last 17 batters he faced. Nathan also settled down after giving up two hits, retiring the last batter he faced for the save.

– Cuddyer went 3 for 6 in the abbreviated series, which was good, but the baserunning blunder Saturday still kills me.

– Mauer + Cuddyer + Morneau (5 for 11, HR, BB, 3 R, 3 RBI). Everyone else (1 for 22, BB, 6 K). Thanks Justin!

– Morneau has hit both of his homeruns off of lefties this season. Also he’s hit both while I was wearing the Jersey of Fortune.

Speaking of which:

Twins record with jersey of fortune: 2-0
Torii Hunter with the Jersey of Fortune: 2 for 8, .250/.250/.750, 1 HR 2 RBI

Series Preview in Blog: Chicago White Sox

Minnesota Twins (3-0) @ Chicago White Sox (1-2)

Starting off the AL Central season with three games against the White Sox. I’ve got tickets for Sunday’s game, so I’ll provide anyone who stops by with a review of that game early next week. For now I’ve got to try to control my natural reflex to bash the Sox.

The White Sox started off the season with a series loss at home against Cleveland. Meanwhile the Twins began with a sweep of the Orioles at home. This series will give us our first real glimpse of Sidney Ponson and hopefully we’ll be all the better for it. Unfortunately, as I live in Chicago, I’ll have to listen to Hawk Harrelson announce his start, so Sir Sidney is going to have to start with that ignominious distinction hanging over him.

On to the South Siders:

I have to start this off with the AL Central Trail from Sox Machine. I thought this was hilarious, these are the kinds of posts I was hoping to find by doing these previews.

If [chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf or Kenny Williams believes that I didn’t do what I was supposed to do at the end of this year, they should fire me … We have high expectations this season. If we fall short, I deserve to be fired. And I’m not just saying it because it’s Ozzie talking again.
-Ozzie Guillen, maybe getting a little ahead of himself after an 0-2 start

Ozzie may be a little sensitive since Sox fans are somewhat notorious for being pessimistic, but here are some examples of positive thoughts from this spring.

You may have heard that the White Sox signed Darin Erstad and are giving him the starting centerfield job. Apparently everybody loves his grit. Well, maybe not everybody. In fact some people seem to think playing him every day would be a mistake. All right, who am I kidding? Nearly everybody is beginning to hate this guy.

Besides Erstad the outfield is rounded out by Podsednik and Dye, with Brian Anderson, Mackowiak, and Ozuna in reserve. The infield is pretty much unchanged with Crede, Uribe, Iguchi, Konerko, and A.J. Unfortunately Jim Thome has returned for another year as the Sox DH.

Not many free agent signings this offseason, but the ones that were made have been drama-filled. Case in point, Toby Hall was brought in as a backup catcher for A.J. Then he tore his labrum playing first base in the spring and the Sox had to scramble to find someone to fill in. They settled on Gustavo Molina (and his .084 spring training batting average) over Wiki Gonzalez. Hall has opted against surgery, so instead of missing the season, they are hoping that, with rehab, he’ll be ready to go in a couple months, which sounds awfully optimistic.

You kind of get the feeling that the Sox didn’t make any good moves this offseason.

The rotation features quite a few familiar faces, J. Contreras (got roughed up opening day by Cleveland. But there is still a silver lining to that cloud.) J. Garland, M. Buerhle, and J. Vazquez.

Last, and probably most interesting is John Danks, acquired in a trade with Texas for Brandon McCarthy, Danks (and his 5.91 spring ERA) won the starting spot in a spring competition with Gavin Floyd (9.00) and Charlie Haeger (8.10). There were other options considered, but the Sox went with the guy would give sportswriters the easiest time with headlines. Some say Danks gives up too many homers and walks too many batters, which, if true, may indicate rough times ahead. Keep in mind that with Contreras’ disaster on Monday and Buerhle getting drilled with a line drive on Thursday, the Sox have only got 7.2 IP from their starters in the first three games. So the bullpen has already been stretched a little thin.

The bullpen starts with Bobby Jenks as a solid closer but also includes lefties Matt Thornton and Andrew Sisco. Mike MacDougal, along with David Aardsma and Nick Masset (who played savior with 4.2 IP, 1 R in relief of Buerhle) round out the pen.

Remember the rookie pitcher who failed to bean Hank Blalock when Ozzie directed him to? The incident lead to an Ozzie tirade and the pitcher, Sean Tracey, fighting back tears. Anyway, Tracey got cut this spring. Somehow I’m not surprised. He was picked up by Baltimore and is starting the season with their AAA club.

One of the common themes that kept coming up was the Sox struggles last season against left handed pitching, and how they haven’t done anything to address the issue. (Note: The Sox faced lefty C. C. Sabathia on opening day and managed three runs in six innings on two homeruns. Ironically, Erstad hit one of them)

Finally, there’s some funny stuff over at Palehose 7. There are a couple links from this site interspersed above, but another mention is deserved. Everything is worth a look, but I especially recommend “Out of the Picture


Twins 7, O’s 4

It’s all my fault. It was the top of the fourth, when I realized that it was time to medicate my cat. No, that’s not a euphemism for anything; my cat, Bruno, has a scratched cornea and he requires eye drops once or twice a day. I don’t know if anyone else has ever tried to administer eye drops to a squirming cat, but I recommend it if you ever have a dull evening. Anyway, my attention was distracted from the baseball at hand whilst I chased Bruno around the apartment and by the time I looked up, the lead had evaporated. So, again, mea culpa.

However, the rest of the game was very nicely played by Minnesota. The clean up guys cleaned up (Morneau, Hunter – 2 HR 4 RBI), Mauer got on base (1-3, BB), The small guys at the top and bottom ran all over the place (Tyner, Castillo, Punto (4 H, 3 R).

A couple of notes:

— Win for Santana, Save for Nathan, the first of many times I will write that this season

— Morneau gets 3 hits against an above average left-handed starter. I like it a lot.

— The bullpen looked great tonight (+points to Reyes, Crain, Rincon, and Nathan)

— Cuddyer fouled off a lot of pitches, battling? or just not quite clicking?

— I’m not even slightly concerned about Santana (9.0 K/9, he’s fooling people)

Most importantly, Monday represented the debut of the Jersey of Fortune which shall be worn by me whenever I feel it’s appropriate:

Twins record with the Jersey of Fortune: 1-0
Torii Hunter with the Jersey of Fortune: .500/.500/1.500, 1 HR 2 RBI

What a Day!

Today is a big day for several reasons here at Daneeka’s Ghost:

1. The Twins begin their defense of the AL Central crown (and once again I have 5 dollars on the line that they finish ahead of the Tigers, although it could never compare to my dramatic last second victory last year.)

2. The Series Preview in Blog makes its debut at The World’s Greatest Online Magazine (Stick and Ball Guy’s blog). So if you don’t want to read it here, go read it there, it’ll be fun. I’ll be checking in both places, so feel free to comment, or if you want, email me (see sidebar for address).

3. I’m starting to formulate some other ideas for posts, so keep checking back, we’re just getting off the ground here so stick with me until I hit my stride.

Thanks for reading!

Series Preview in Blog: Baltimore Orioles

This is the first of what will hopefully be many series preview posts. There are so many great Twins blogs out there (and someday when I finish my blogroll on the left they’ll be listed there), that I probably won’t be offering much in the way of analysis after the fact due to my lack of access to televised broadcasts of the games. Instead I hope these previews will offer a little glimpse into the other team’s psyche (or at least that of their fans).

Also, hopefully this will provide a starting point for some yet unnamed features of this little corner of the internet.

Minnesota Twins (0-0) vs. Baltimore Orioles (0-0)

The return of Nick Markakis

Ah, that new season smell. It’s about time we kicked this thing off, and what better way to start than three against the Orioles? The O’s have struggled early in this season, and have yet to record a victory, meanwhile it’s been months since the Twins lost a meaningful game. I’m doubly excited, as the opener is on ESPN2, so I’ll get to see Johan Santana pitch, which is something that you always appreciate no matter how many times you see it.

On to the Orioles:

“If you’re in that clubhouse and you don’t think this team is vastly different and vastly improved, you’re crazy.”
Orioles VP Jim Duquette

I started off with that quote becaus it illustrates the optimism surrounding the Orioles this season. A couple of season previews by Orioles’ sportswriters and bloggers follow this optimistic tone (after all it is spring!). And you have to like where they are coming from, they have some legitimate bats and some promising young arms (more on those later).

Their infield is familiar with Tejada, Mora, Roberts, and Chris Gomez/Kevin Millar. Jay Payton and Aubrey Huff were brought in for the outfield but Payton was starting to battle some hamstring issues toward the end of spring. So that leaves Markakis, Patterson, and Huff (or assorted others… by the way, Freddie Bynum? still a major league baseball player? weird). Ramon Hernandez will be their catcher, and they don’t have any real backup plan after that (Orioles fans were unanimous in their hope that Paul Bako would not see much playing time this year).

My favorite quote that I found from all this was one of the contributors to Camden Chat claiming that “I want to be more like Flavor Flav.” in his preview written for Ray’s Index, a Devil Ray’s blog. I like the preview, but I have to wonder about his choice of role model…

“I’m pretty confident in the job I’ve done this year, quite honestly. All of a sudden somebody wants to question a couple of things that happened recently and forgotten the other 100-whatever games we’ve played.”

– Manager Sam Perlozzo, defending himself from some criticism by holding up the Orioles’ .438 winning percentage in “the other 100-whatever games” they’ve played. (9/14/06)

Well it looks like that defense worked for Sam, he’s back again and he’s got a different challenge ahead of him this year.

All this optimism from Baltimore may seem a little out of place, given the team’s struggles in the last few years. One blogger remembers when it all started to go downhill. This article brings up an interesting fact which I have not attempted to verify in any way: The Orioles are the only team to outspend the Yankees for any season in the last 10 years. The O’s would not have been my first guess.

While we’re paging through history, here’s the top 40 Orioles of all time. Can’t ask for a much better top 5 than that.

As is the case with most teams at this point, a large amount of space is devoted to discussing the pitching staff. The rotation coming out of camp is as follows:

1. E. Bedard – Good year last year, (3.76 ERA, 196 IP 171/69 K/BB), the general consensus is that he’s the rock of this rotation.
2. D. Cabrera – Depends on who you ask, control is always an issue with him. He’s had a couple encouraging spring training starts, but you just never know.
3. J. Wright – No one seems quite sure why he’s here or what to expect, possibly one of Leo Mazzone’s guys from ATL? He’s consistently thrown a lot of pitches to get through not very many innings this spring.
4. A. Loewen – Good stuff that hasn’t quite come together. Will he be in the rotation all year?
5. S. Trachsel – Picked up to replace Kris Benson when his shoulder acted up. He has looked awful in Spring Training, but it doesn’t seem like there is anyone ready to step in from the farm system. Hayden Penn would be the odds on favorite to replace him, but he has run afoul of the brass for various reasons. There is also Jeremy Guthrie, who’s 28 and hasn’t sniffed the majors yet, one blog described him as “not even quite a flameout since he never had any flame.”

A couple of interviews at Camden Chat with Clay Davenport and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus shed a little bit of light on pitchers, prospects, and especially commenter’s feelings on Cabrera and Loewen. For a piece that’s decidedly on the sunny side of the Cabrera spectrum, this article predicts he’ll have 17 wins by the end of the season.

In addition to the focus on their current pitchers, several people also have a message for a certain former Oriole who isn’t currently slated to pitch in this series against his old team. I like that the guys at Roar from 34 make a point of letting us know that they don’t discuss Anna Benson. And I’m willing to count that as a point in their favor.

UPDATE: An article in the Baltimore Sun about Nick Markakis’ background.


This is all a work in progress, so please leave any comments you may have about it (too long, too short, too boring, surely you have a better picture of Markakis, whatever), or email me ( Any and all correspondence is appreciated.