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.
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.
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).
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.)
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.
* – 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.
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.
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).
Due to our impending move to Kansas, catching Snappers games is about to become a lot more difficult just due to sheer distance. Thus, we took advantage last weekend and took in the last game of the first half of the season for Beloit against the Quad Cities River Bandits (Cardinals A affiliate).
This was doubly exciting because earlier in the week Aaron Hicks had been called up to take a spot on the roster. I was hoping to get a chance to see him play this year before I left, and he made it just in time.
Some pics from our day at Wrigley Field.
Our seats –
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.
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.
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).
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?
“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.
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.