Series Preview in Blog: Chicago White Sox (4/29-4/30)

Short post for a short series, the Twins play two against the White Sox to begin the week. The White Sox come into this game on a … well … it’s hard to explain, but they’re not on a winning streak, or a losing streak. We won’t be able to figure that one out until June 12, when the Sox and the Orioles resume the game that was postponed in the 12th inning yesterday due to weather. The Sox had won two out of three from the O’s thus far in the series, and they remain on top of the AL Central early in the season with a 14-10 record. An early AL Central lead is enough for some to try to sell this team as a contender this season (I can’t have a Sox series preview without a Palehose 8 link. It wouldn’t be right).

The Sox have been scoring a lot of runs, they lead the AL with 5.29 R/G, but they haven’t been doing it with the benefit of a great batting average. The Twins have the advantage in that category (.261 to .243 – lowest in the AL), but the rest of the line tips pretty heavily in the Sox favor (MIN – .261/.303/.361, CHI – .243/.336/.418). Chicago has got a lot of their offense from the long ball (AL-best 32 HR), but they’ve also found an unconventional way to score runs, the bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, perfectly executed several times by Carlos Quentin. The HBP is probably gritty enough to count as Ozzie’s much ballyhooed “small ball”, but almost all other vestiges of that strategy seem to have disappeared. Quentin has been off to a fantastic start this season, solidifying his place on the roster.

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Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians (4/18-4/20)

I love the dingy lucky hat. (from Left of Center Photo)

The Indians come to town for a weekend series after trading blowouts with the Tigers over the last two days (an 11-1 win yesterday, and a 13-2 loss on Wednesday). The Tribe currently sit at 6-10, with a 2-4 record on the road. One might be tempted to blame Cleveland’s slow start on the fact that they were resting on their success of last year, when they nearly made the World Series, and maybe just didn’t want these early games as much as their opponent. Thankfully, Mistake by the Lake has run the numbers on “wanting it more” and found that baseball is the sport that actually shows the least correlation betwixt the team that wants it more, and the team that wins.

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Series Preview in Blog: Detroit Tigers (4/14-4/15)

A short series with the Tigers starts off the week, two games in Detroit. After facing division leaders in their first four series of the season, the Twins now get the team with the worst record in baseball at 2-10. The Tigers are coming home after a road trip in which they dropped series to both colors of Sox. The 6-6 Twins wrap up a 7-game road trip, on which they are currently 3-2.

Knowing that the Twins and the Tigers would be meeting each other for a couple games this week, I decided to take advantage of the Tigers road trip to Chicago this weekend by attending Sunday’s game betwixt two of our central division foes. ((I didn’t bring the camera this time, so no photos, sorry.)) In that one game I think I have discovered the blueprint for defeating Detroit. ((Someone will probably point out that these conclusions, being drawn from only one game, probably should be taken with a grain of salt. I think it’s a pretty foolproof plan.))

Step 1: Hit the ball to Miguel Cabrera if at all possible. He failed to field a pop fly that landed about 5 feet from the third base bag (in fair territory) because he ran into the umpire (in foul territory). It looked like Cabrera broke in the absolute wrong direction and the umpire just didn’t expect him to be there.
Step 2: Throw strikes, but not all the time. Javier Vasquez made the Tigers’ offense look terrible, they swung and missed at strikes and non-strikes alike all day.
Step 3: Hit as many grand slams as possible. The Tigers seemed to be especially hurt by the two grand slams the Sox hit. (Note: this strategy may be similarly successful with other types of homeruns)

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Series Preview in Blog: Kansas City Royals (4/11-4/13)

Since the Twins and Royals met last weekend, the Royals won their first home series of the season against the Yankees and remain in first place in the AL Central, a half game up on the White Sox. This is pretty unfamiliar territory for followers of the Royals, and they are starting to wonder, “Now what?”

The Royals have had an awful lot go right for them so far, but one of few complaints fans have is that patience seems to be lacking in the KC lineup. Sound familar? Through Wednesday night, the highest number of plate appearances per base on balls in the American league looks like this.

Most PA/BB in AL

  1. LA – 16.91
  2. KC – 15.89
  3. NY – 14.95
  4. MN – 13.91

Now combine that with the pitching staffs of the two teams:

Fewest BB/IP in AL

  1. MN – 0.14
  2. KC – 0.29
  3. TB – 0.33
  4. NY – 0.34

Now, a lot of that is because the low walk teams have played each other, but they’re at it again in this one, so expect some free swinging in the next three days.

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Big Mak in Beloit

In addition to it being opening week for the Twins and Major League Baseball, the minor league season also got underway last weekend. Given the beautiful weather here in Illinois (and southern Wisconsin), Mrs. Mak and I decided to cash in the first couple of tickets of our season ticket package with the Beloit Snappers, the Twins Class A affiliate, on Sunday. Since this will be a semi-regular occurrence, I figured I would follow the Snappers more closely this summer. With your indulgence I’d like to occasionally post some updates on their season. To sweeten the deal, I’ll try to make it a multimedia experience whenever possible.

Things I learned at my first Beloit Snappers game:

– Beloit is not pronounced Bell-wah, but rather Belloyt. Some 18th century French trapper is rolling over in his grave.

– Greg Yersich (the Beloit catcher on Sunday) can take a foul ball off a very sensitive area and not scream obscenities (which is a good thing with the number of kids in the stands). Not only that, he stayed in the game, and later belted a triple on a line drive off the center field wall.

Greg Yersich
Greg Yersich connects for a triple

– My scorebook-keeping expertise does not extend to the proper notation for a batter being called out because his own bunt hit him while he was outside of the batter’s box. This happened to Chris Cates (the Beloit 2B) and I sat with my pen poised over the scorecard well into the next at-bat with no idea how to denote it. Any help would be appreciated.

– I am easily amused by pronounced height differences. Chris Cates (5′ 3″) stood next to Loek Van Mil (7′ 1″) during the national anthem, and I definitely chuckled to myself throughout.

– In the case of the “Miller Lite Beer Batter” striking out, Miller Lite will be buy one, get one free for the remainder of the inning. If you make any move toward the concession stand immediately after the strikeout, expect some good-natured heckling from the bleachers. (no Pyramid Imperial Hefeweizen on tap, sorry, brianS)

– Chris Parmelee can hit a ball really hard. There was absolutely no doubt about his fourth inning homer.

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Series Preview in Blog: Chicago White Sox (4/07-4/10)

They’ll be playing this series in my backyard, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it to any of the games. Definitely not on Monday, but Wednesday or Thursday is a possibility. If I do go, of course I’ll file a full report.

The White Sox come into this series hot off a sweep of the Detroit Tigers, much like the Royals did before them. I have to say it’s awfully nice of Detroit to do their part to make these teams satisfied and complacent coming into their games against the Twins. This is the first series away from home for the Twins, who sit at 3-4 compared to the White Sox 4-2 mark which puts them atop the AL Central. That’s three series against division leading teams out of three so far this season, for anyone who’s keeping track.

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Series Preview in Blog: Kansas City Royals (4/04-4/06)

I asked the question in the gamelog on Tuesday about the Twins particularly struggling against groundball pitchers, which was very ably answered by ubelmann, saying that it seemed there were enough batters in the lineup who had better numbers against groundball pitchers that there shouldn’t be too much of an effect. That was the data I was looking for at the time, but after the first series it seems undeniable that the Twins offense has shown an amazing ability to create outs on the ground. In games 2 and 3 the Twins generated 35 outs on the ground compared to 12 in the air, while scoring 1 run. In the other games the Twins scored 7 runs with an even 20:20 ratio of groundouts to aerial outs. It’s only four games, and I didn’t look hard enough to include hits in these counts, so it may not mean anything, but it’s something I’ll definitely keep an eye on.

While the Twins were winning one of four against LA, the Royals were sweeping the Detroit Tigers, projected powerhouse of the AL Central, in three games. So now the Twins must regroup and prepare themselves for a showdown with the AL Central leading Royals (I’m not going to lie, it feels weird to even write it). Understandably, feelings are generally positive right now for Royals fans.

[EDIT] Trivia Question: Can you name the last team to start 3-0 and win the World Series? (Note: the last team to win the World Series after starting 1-3 was the 2003 Florida Marlins)

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