Series Preview in Blog: Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers did the Twins no favors, getting swept by the Tigers this weekend.  How are the Twins supposed to catch the Tigers if they keep staying above .500?

You say they could win enough games that they too will be above .500?  You mean more than one game above .500?  That sounds too scary, I’m cool with the Twins strategy this season – we’ll be at .500 and wait for the rest of the division to come to us.

–PROBABLE PITCHERS–

The Brewers starters have been really poor recently, almost across the board.  Luckily for the Twins, they will be missing Yovanni Gallardo (I think), the one hurler who’s actually been pitching well for the Crew.  Couple that with the fact that the Brewers are right near the top of the NL Central as trade speculation season begins and that the guys being called on to step into the lineup, like Casey McGehee and Mat Gamel, are doing remarkably well, and you’ve got a ton of posts about the potential starting pitchers Milwaukee could be interested in.  Not only that, apparently Erik Bedard and Doug Davis have stated their case as to why the Milwaukee front office should target them, the card that Bedard made is awfully persuasive.

Liriano v. J. Suppan

Suppan has been about what you would expect from him at this point – nothing spectacularly good or bad, but serviceable.

Blackburn v. B. Looper

Looper had a very good start to the year, but he has quickly regressed and become part of the rotation-wide struggles for the Brewers.

??? v. ???

It should be Slowey here for Minnesota but MLB.com has Baker.  For the Brewers, it’s Dave Bush’s turn in the rotation, but he’s been so bad lately that the word is he’s suffering from arm fatigue.  So, manager Ken Macha (who may be the best personality on the Brewers.  Really? The manager?) deciding whether or not to skip him this time around, a decision made harder by the struggles of the other starters to pitch effectively.

Series Preview in Blog: Houston Astros

The Astros come to town finishing a nine-game road trip.  Houston lost 2 of 3 to Texas this week, which marked their first series loss in June (10-6 in the month).  That mild hot streak has not moved them up in the standings, as they remain in last place in the NL Central, six games back.

The Astros have one of the lowest run-scoring offenses in the NL (only ahead of Chicago, SF, and SD in runs scored) and a big part of that is that they’re just not hitting home runs.  That has resulted in a run-differential of -37 which makes it hard to believe this team is making a run for the top half of the division.  Normally, you would think that no power = scrappy hustling hitters (at least according to the classic baseball announcer logic).  At least in some cases that’s not true as Carlos Lee is catching some flak for not running out grounders.  Still, I’m not going to rag on the guy because he just extended my season long hit streak in Beat the Streak to 14 games last night (I might actually have to start thinking about my picks at this point).

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Twins and Wild: New Faces

This is a bit of a grab bag of stuff that should probably end up filling out a post.

Wild hire Richards as Head Coach:

So we’re shaking the Penguins tree to see what falls to us in the front office, apparently.  Todd Richards was a minor league coach for the Penguins before moving up to assistant coach of the San Jose Sharks.  He’s had success everywhere he’s coached, so we’ll see how he does with a roster that (at least partially) wasn’t designed with his systems in mind.  This hiring isn’t terribly surprising as new Wild GM Chuck Fletcher comes from the Pens organization and worked with Richards whilst there.  As far as organizations to pilfer from, it doesn’t get much better than the current holders of the Stanley Cup.

A note from Russo at the Strib points out that Fletcher will have his name on the Cup as part of the Penguins.  That’s pretty efficient work, he’s hired as the Wild GM, and within a month he’s got his name on the Stanley Cup.  A sign of things to come?

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Series Preview in Blog: Pittsburgh Pirates

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first mediocre Pirates team since 1997.”

– Burgher Jon @ The Pittsburgh Men’s Blogging Society

The Pirates come to Minnesota winners of four of their last five, and unbridled optimism is the mood of Pirates fans.  They are a mere four games out of first place (although also tied for last in the NL Central), are nearly at .500 (30-33), and BP has their playoff odds at 10%.  Maybe ‘cautious’ is the better modifier for optimism.  If ever there was a year for optimism in Pittsburgh sports, this is it, with the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run fresh in mind, maybe the Pirates are destined for greatness.  Sidney Crosby and the Pens were at the game Sunday (which was also turn back the clock day – love the old-time unis and scoreboard) showing off their new hardware.

The Pirates biggest move this year was the trade of Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves in early June.  Immediate reaction from what I can tell on the blogs, was a bit of “here we go again” and some “I see what they’re doing, I’m just not quite convinced“.  I’m sure the GM was excited when one of the returns of that trade, Charlie Morton, pitched all of one inning in his Pirates debut before injuring himself (it’s minor – he won’t miss his next start).  With all the trades of talent (Bay, Nady, McLouth) for prospects, the Pirates are collecting quite a few prospects. Along those lines, in the recent draft the Pirates had the fourth overall pick, but in a move widely viewed as budget-motivated, they reached and selected catcher Tony Sanchez.  Even though I don’t really follow the draft, I feel comfortable saying that this was a reach due to posts “defending” the pick.

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Portraits of Frustration: Milton Bradley Edition

This is my photo of Joe Mauer’s sac fly on Friday that ended up in the stands thanks to the Cubs right fielder forgetting how many outs there were.  If I had the time and/or inclination I would superimpose a thought bubble over the entire crowd, reading “What the hell is Milton Bradley doing?”

Poor Ryan Theriot.  Waiting for that throw that will never come.

Earl Battey, Where Have You Gone?

Fantastic game Friday afternoon, tons of fun to take in a Twins victory at Wrigley.

We were amazed at the number of Twins fans. I heard the TV announcers mentioned the great turnout of Minnesota fans, but it was really something to behold. Mrs. Mak and I kept track of the Twins jerseys that we saw, and we were able to collect most of the regulars.

We ended up with 15 of the 25 on the current active roster – Span, Cuddyer, Mauer, Punto, Delmon, Gomez, Crede, Crain, Baker, Buscher, Morneau (#27 and #33), Nathan, Liriano, Guerrier, and Slowey (we also saw a blank #20 – not sure if it was a Tolbert fan or not).

I was surprised not to see any Kubel jerseys but the others missing are more understandable (Ayala, Blackburn, Dickey, Henn, Mijares, Swarzak, Redmond, Harris)

We also saw a whole bunch of former Twins names on jerseys, enough to almost fill out an entire lineup.

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Series Preview in Blog: Chicago Cubs

The Twins travel to Wrigley to finish off their road trip (3-4 so far).  Meanwhile the Cubs come back home to where they haven’t lost a series since April.  Both teams are hovering right around .500 (Cubs are currently on the good side, 29-28) so I’m fully expecting the teams to somehow find a way to split this three game series.  I’ll be at the first game, so expect pictures sometime soon.

–PROBABLE PITCHERS–

The Cubs thus far this season are pretty simple.  The starting pitching has been very good.  The offense and bullpen have struggled to keep up.

Slowey v. R. Wells

The first six starts of Randy Wells career couldn’t have gone much better while he was in the game.  He has allowed eight runs in his six starts, which the Cubs offense and bullpen has turned into an 0-2 record thus far in 2009.  There’s not much one can say about that other than “Welcome to the Cubs, rookie“.

Swarzak v. R. Harden

This is the first start of Harden’s since coming off the DL, and he’ll be on a pitch count for Saturday’s start.  Harden has looked pretty good in his rehab starts, but the Twins lineup is a bit different from a AAA lineup (for example, we have Tolbert, Gomez, Casilla, Buscher, Punto, … you know what, never mind).

Baker v. T. Lily

TLAmerica

Ted Lily has been very good this year so far.  He’s only given up two runs in his last three starts and he’s starting to draw comparisons to great men, like Chuck Norris.  If you’re looking to jump on the Ted Lily bandwagon, here’s your instruction manual, and here’s an introduction to the necessary vocabulary.

Series Preview in Blog: Seattle Mariners

It seems like the Twins and Mariners have played each other a ton already this season. But we’ll give it another go this weekend, this time in Seattle. Let’s see what USS Mariner and Lookout Landing have to say one more time.

Yesterday was an off day for Seattle, and as it came almost exactly one third of the way through the season, it seemed like an ideal time to take stock of the team and the season. The Mariners are 26-28, in third place in the AL West (5.5 GB).  Like any team, there are overachievers and underachievers.  Minnesota will face two of the starting pitchers on the “likely to get worse” side of things, so hopefully regression is swift and severe for them.  The next step after taking stock of the team is to survey the options for improving it.  One of the biggest weaknesses has been the middle infield positions, and unfortunately for the Mariners, that deficiency runs pretty deep in their organization.

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After One Third of the Season: RISP

Here are the numbers for runners in scoring position (and how often they drive them in).  See the post below for the 2-out numbers.

Player Chances Driven In %
Mauer 37 19 51
Morneau 77 27 35
Young 42 13 31
Kubel 67 18 27
Cuddyer 81 21 26
Punto 55 14 26
TEAM AVERAGE 25
Span 72 17 24
Buscher 24 5 21
Harris 38 7 18
Crede 55 10 18
Tolbert 28 5 18
Morales 17 3 18
Redmond 19 3 16
Casilla 45 7 16
Gomez 33 4 12

After One Third of the Season: 2-out Hitters

Here are the numbers for the Twins with runners in scoring position and two out through the first 54 games of the 2009 season.

Player Chances Driven In %
Mauer 14 6 43
Crede 17 6 35
Young 18 5 28
Morneau 26 7 27
Punto 16 4 25
Morales 9 2 22
Span 32 7 22
TEAM AVERAGE 20
Kubel 36 7 19
Cuddyer 37 7 19
Casilla 11 2 11
Harris 19 2 11
Gomez 14 1 7
Tolbert 14 1 7
Buscher 14 1 7
Redmond 10 0 0

After One Third of the Season: Advancing Runners

Looking at players’ ability to move runners up in situations with none out.

The last column is the number of bases the runners advanced per 100 plate appearances.

Player Chances Advanced BA/100
Punto 28 24 86
Cuddyer 32 27 84
Redmond 13 10 77
Mauer 11 8 73
Casilla 23 15 65
TEAM AVERAGE 60
Tolbert 12 7 58
Buscher 14 8 57
Harris 20 11 55
Morneau 31 16 52
Kubel 22 11 50
Crede 24 11 46
Span 17 7 41
Young 15 6 40
Morales 6 2 33
Gomez 10 3 30

Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians

My word is this team bad on the road. Just think if the Twins had an experience like the Yankees in Cleveland and got kicked out of their hotel.  Half the team probably wouldn’t even make it to the ballpark.  Gardy would have to send Justin, Jason, and the three Joes to rescue all the lost utility infielders.  At least we don’t have to worry about that for this series as the Indians come to Minnesota for three games. The Indians are at 22-31, 8 games behind Detroit, in last place in the AL Central. They are 10-17 on the road, only winning one road series all season (v. the Royals two weeks ago). The Twins are a different team at home, going 10-3 in their last four home series.

First off, blog entries concerning the Indians were few and far between recently. Apparently the city’s focus was on some basketball tournament. I’m not sure if the Cavaliers exit from the NBA playoffs is responsible for the general malaise evident on some sites, or I guess it could just be the default setting for Cleveland sports fans, watching teams go down in flames, just to see them burn, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is too excited by the team on the field (but Rick Vaughn bobblehead night will always bring a crowd).  That’s partly due to the fact that the guys who are supposed to be carrying this team aren’t on the field (the Indians disabled list is starting to read like Robot Santa’s naughty list).

–PROBABLE PITCHERS–

Slowey v. D. Huff

Swarzak v. C. Lee

Baker v. F. Carmona

The starting rotation has been the cause of a lot of the problems for Cleveland.  Of the three starters the Twins will face, only Cliff Lee has pitched consistently well.  Injuries have been an issue for the starting staff as well, which is part of the reason that Huff and Carmona are still in the rotation despite a series of rough outings.  Cleveland has usually had a pretty good staff in recent years, but it seems like the plan to have young arms come in and pick up for the veterans that inevitably leave, hasn’t quite panned out the way it was supposed to.

Series Preview in Blog: Tampa Bay Rays

The Twins start a road trip with a weekend series against Tampa Bay.  Minnesota’s road woes are well documented (5-14) so hopefully this series against a team struggling with higher expectations this year will get them on track.  Tampa Bay currently sits at 23-27, fourth in the AL East, only percentage points above Baltimore in the cellar.  They are coming home (11-10 record at Tropicana Field) from a entirely disheartening sweep by the Cleveland Indians that involved a seven-run ninth inning and rain delays in every game.  The rain delay is an apt metaphor for the Rays season so far, everyone is just waiting for the 2008 Rays to show up and start winning.  On the other hand, I’m having trouble generating any sympathy for a fan base that includes a Jose Canseco jersey-wearing contingent (after jinxing the Cleveland series I hope that guy shows up this weekend).

As is to be expected, there is some restlessness to be found, and some dissatisfaction with the Rays start to the 2009 season.  Some are looking at the offseason as a bit of a disaster (but in a clever and amusing way, so points to them for that), while others are just calling a spade a spade.  If this team looks like the Devil Rays and plays like the Devil Rays, then they are going to be called the Devil Rays.  Probably the most upsetting indicator that people are unhappy with the Rays first 50 games is the attendance numbers.  The Rays has some promising numbers at the end of last season, and early on people were coming out in numbers that easily surpassed the crowds of the year before, but now it seems that trend is starting to taper off.

Another reason for the Rays slow start is injuries.  The middle of the infield has been particularly ravaged.  Jason Bartlett is on the DL with a sprained ankle, Pat Burrell is close to coming back from a stiff neck, and Akinori Iwamura is done for the year with a torn ACL.  The Rays are actually somewhat deep at second and short (see the Iwamura post for the options available to them), and these injuries have paved the way for some of the exciting prospects in their system to get a look (Matt Joyce may be called up for this weekend, color Rays fans excited about that news).  Fernando Perez is another casualty, he broke his wrist in spring training.  You may think this isn’t that important of an injury as Perez probably wasn’t going to be much more than a pinch-runner or 5th outfielder, but it’s important because he’s using his down time to write fantastic blog entries for the NY Times baseball blog.  He has three up right now.  The one concerning walk-up music is awesomely bizzare, but read the other two (here and here), watch this video of Perez’s unorthodox sliding tactics, and tell me you’re not at least a little bit glad that we got to hear about this guy.

–PROBABLE PITCHERS–

Baker v. J. Shields

Liriano v. D. Price

Blackburn v. M. Garza

Stupid Stats, Vol. 2

roubik2

As we all know, the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series at the end of last season.  They held the title of “best team in Major League Baseball” all winter long.  Then the 2009 season started and they lost two of three to the Braves right out of the box.  Let’s see how the mantel of “best team in baseball” has been passed around thus far this season.

Braves over Phillies (2-1)
Braves over Nationals (3-0)
Marlins over Braves (3-0)
Marlins over Nationals (3-0)
Pirates over Marlins (3-0)
Pirates over Padres (2-1)
Brewers over Pirates (3-0)
Brewers split DBacks (2-2)
Brewers over Pirates (2-0)
Brewers split Reds (1-1)
Brewers over Cubs (2-1)
Brewers over Marlins (3-0)
Brewers over Cardinals (3-0)
Brewers over Astros (2-1)
Twins over Brewers (3-0)

Well, look at that. Hopefully now that they are the “best team in baseball” the Twins can maybe get back to .500?