Magic Numbers (AL)

TEAM RECORD
Tampa Bay (96-66) #1 SEED – Hosts TEX
Minnesota (94-68) #2 SEED – Hosts NY
Texas (90-72) #3 SEED – @TB
New York (95-67) WILDCARD – @MIN

Boston ELIMINATED
Oakland ELIMINATED
Los Angeles ELIMINATED
Chicago ELIMINATED
Toronto ELIMINATED
Detroit ELIMINATED
Seattle ELIMINATED
Kansas City ELIMINATED
Cleveland ELIMINATED
Baltimore ELIMINATED

Game 16 – Minnesota Wild v. Dallas Stars

MINNESOTA v. DALLAS

Had to wear the classic North Stars jersey today.  (Never forget)

Here’s a look at the Wild leaders in advanced +/- (which essentially compares a player’s +/- to those of the team without them on the ice).  These haven’t been adjusted for quality of competition.

PLAYER EV
Clutterbuck +2.80
Scott +2.11
Hnidy +1.95
Zidlicky +1.72
Brodziak +1.47
——- ——-
Burns -1.10
Havlat -1.94
Schultz -2.35
Boogaard -7.68

Bold Prediction – Derek Boogaard, +1 tonight.

Game 8 – Minnesota Wild v. Colorado Avalanche

MINNESOTA v. COLORADO 

Since the Wild last saw action, there have been some changes:

  • They’re at home (only for one game, but hopefully home cooking makes a difference)
  • Mikko Koivu has been named the permanent captain (finally)
  • The Wild traded for Chuck Kobasew (Another forward couldn’t hurt)
  • I have started going with the horizontal header for the game previews instead of vertical

Hopefully one or two of those things are enough to end the five game losing streak we’ve all been enjoying for the past week or two.

Bold Prediction – Wild win 5-0.  They’re due to string together a couple good periods, and I think they probably want a win more than I do.

The First Six (or so) Pack

I’ve been doing mostly game previews up to this point of the season, so let’s take a moment and (as much as we’d hate to do it) look back at the first seven games of the season.

COLUMBUS 2 – MINNESOTA 1

MINNESOTA 4 – ANAHEIM 3 (OT)

LOS ANGELES 6 – MINNESOTA 3

SAN JOSE 4 – MINNESOTA 2

ANAHEIM 3 – MINNESOTA 2

EDMONTON 5 – MINNESOTA 2

VANCOUVER 2 – MINNESOTA 1

Okay, first off, 1-6 is terrible.  Terrible.  A winless five-game road trip makes it really hard to pick anything positive out of the mess.  But I’ll put on my optimist hat and see what I can do.

Nicklas Backstrom

2.82 GAA / .913 SV% (on 161 Shots)

Only four goalies in the NHL have a better SV% facing more shots (Anderson, Lundqvist, Ward, Fleury) and only two goalies have a higher SV% with higher Shots Faced per 60 minutes (Hiller – 33.8, Ward – 32.6, Backstrom – 32.5).

So he’s been very good.  Which makes it seem like the mild concerns about Backstrom being a ‘system goalie’ were unfounded.  Unfortunately, he’s getting shelled.  But we’re being positive here, so let’s move on.

Eric Belanger

Somehow Belanger is +1.  This is really impressive considering the Wild have scored only 7 even strength goals this season and only allowed 3 power play goals.  So, only seven goals could account for a ‘plus’ and 22 opponent’s goals could account for a ‘minus’.  Belanger has the only positive +/- on the roster (not surprising), and he’s been on the ice for four of those seven goals (and 4 power play goals).  He’s tied for the team lead with 8 points (2 G, 6 A) and he’s winning faceoffs (51.4%).  All in all a pretty solid stretch.

——–

That’s really all I got for positivity.  I’m sure there are plenty of other places where you can find what’s wrong with the Wild or who needs to step up their game, so I’ll leave that portion in others’ capable hands.

Best Game of the Year

MINNESOTA WILD 4 – ANAHEIM DUCKS 3 (OT)

So I thought I was somewhat amusing with my preview for the Wild-Ducks game in which I turned it into a Twins-Tigers preview.  Turns out I was pretty much right on as both teams came out and played their most entertaining, thrilling game of the year.

Observe the following which could apply to either of the victorious teams last night:

Things didn’t look good early as they fell behind 3-0, but this year they have a newfound offense, and they managed to chip away until, at the end of regulation, the game was tied.  In the extra frame(s) they were finally able to put away a victory, with the whole team mobbing the scorer of the final tally in celebration.

For the Twins, it starts right back up again with the Yankees tonight.  My predictions for the postseason –

Dodgers over Red Sox in the World Series (Twins and Phillies lose in the respective LCS).

For the Wild, a long five game road trip.  I’m really not expecting a whole lot out of the first 15-20 games of the season, but if they are all going to be this exciting, I can live with that.  Martin Havlat is pretty awesome (3 assists last night), but I did occaisonally find myself imploring him to pull the trigger.  Pretty great 3rd period tonight.  Let’s see if the Wild can bottle that type of play and steal a few on the road.

Triangles and the Twins

After their victory over the White Sox last night the possible scenarios (all in all 21 games involving the Twins or Tigers = 2,097,152 scenarios) for the Twins look like so:

0.9% of the scenarios have the Twins clinching the division on the road in the Detroit series.

9.6% of the scenarios result in a game 163 (tie atop the division)

15.0% of the scenarios have the Twins winning the division in 162 games.

So 1 in 4 possible scenarios result in the Twins playing more than 162 games this season.  After this summer, I guess I’ll take it.

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Twins-Royals in Pictures

Made it out to the Twins-Royals game last weekend with the family.  We got there early and checked out the ‘outfield experience’ back where there used to be nothing but fountains.  Still, you immediately know what stadium you’re in when you see this view.

Fountain-Small

It was a really nice day, which was a good thing because, due to 8 pitching changes (7 of them of the mid-inning variety) we were there for quite a while (game time was at least 3.5 hours).

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(Almost) Undefeated Weekend

Describing my state of mind regarding the Twins going into this weekend would only have taken one word: Frustrated.  But starting Saturday I vowed to turn it around.  It wasn’t going to be easy, but I had a five game slate set up guaranteed to reignite my Twins fandom.

Game the First – 1991 World Series, Game 6 (MLB Network – Saturday 11 A.M.)

005148125

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Leading Off

Denard Span has without question been the Twins best leadoff hitter and one of the reasons often cited for that is the fact that he sees a lot of pitches early in the game and forces the pitcher to show all of their pitches so the other hitters know what they are up against.  The fact that Span is more patient when leading off the game is pretty indisputable.

Stat Leading Off Other Total
PA 66 243 309
Pitches/PA 4.38 3.86 3.97
0-strike 2 (3%) 54* (22%) 56* (18%)
2-strike 35 (53%) 98 (40%) 133 (43%)
Full 11 (17%) 32 (13%) 43 (14%)
* – includes 4 plate appearances without a strike thrown (3 four-pitch walks and a HBP)

He sees a significantly larger number of pitches in the first inning than his other at-bats (of course a small sample caveat has to be applied to this whole exercise).  He waits for the first strike almost every time when leading off (as opposed to putting the first strike in play more than 1 in 5 times otherwise) and gets to two-strike counts in over half of his first inning plate appearances.

But it seems like he may be taking the patient approach to the point where it is detrimental to his production.

Stat Leading Off Other Total
PA 66 243 309
BA .211 .312 .291
OBP .318 .395 .379
SLG .228 .427 .384
OPS .546 .822 .763

A .546 OPS is nearing Punto (2007 version) territory and it’s clearly not reflective of the hitter that Span is.  It’s nigh impossible to calculate the effect the extra pitches seen have on the rest of the lineup, but it is at least a disturbing pattern for the Twins leadoff man.  More 2-strike counts will depress anyone’s numbers and it seems to me, the Twins would be better served if Span focused less on maximizing the number of pitches he sees, and more on putting the ball in play when he has the best chance for success, which seems to be earlier in the at-bat for him.

Series Preview in Blog: St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis is currently in first place in the NL Central, one game up on the Brewers.  They are returning from a 4-3 road trip, where they swept the Royals before losing 3 of 4 to the Mets.  The Cards have a pretty good home record (21-16) while the Twins road record is still looking to climb back to respectability

Cards manager Tony LaRussa has long been famous for his myriad pitching changes, constantly bringing in new relievers to exploit matchups.  Apparently this year, he has found a new toy, the late game defensive replacement.  The switches have become so regular and prevalent that a new statistic, the fielding save, has been invented to keep track of it.  Fortunately for those of us who tend to leave games early if they take too long, LaRussa hasn’t had to worry about the ninth inning at all this year.  His closer, Ryan Franklin has been a most pleasant surprise for the Cardinals (although it’s the kind of surprise that shouldn’t be discussed lest it fall victim to Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty and be altered merely by a fan’s observance of it).

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