Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2nd Half Stud: Brian Duensing

Over the last two seasons there has been one member of the Twins that has stood out above them all when it comes to performing in the 2nd half of the season. He has been the team's 2nd half MVP for two seasons in a row. He has stepped up to fill a void in the pitching staff that has come from injuries and inconsistencies from the other pitchers.

As the trade deadline approached there were many big name pitchers on the market. At the end of July Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, and Roy Oswalt all switched uniforms in the heat of the pennant race. The Twins missed out on all three of these big name pitchers. But within their own bullpen rested the arm that they had relied on towards the end of the 2009 season. Could he be the starting pitcher to ail their woes?

As Brian Duensing takes the field tonight against the Detroit Tigers, he has been a savior for the Twins pitching staff. As a starter in 2009 he finished the season with a (5-2) record and the Twins were (6-3) in games that he started. Those numbers have improved for the 2010 campaign. In the six games that he has started in 2010 Duensing has compiled a (4-1) record and he has pitched at least 6 innings in all but one of those starts.

Just look at Duensing's combined 2nd half stats from the last two years:
Games: 16
Record: 10-3
Win %: .769
ERA: 3.06
Opponent BA: .262

Compare that to the 2nd half numbers of the other stud pitchers that were available at the trade deadline:

Cliff Lee
Games: 98
Record: 44-29
Win %: .603
ERA: 4.24
Opponent BA: .265

Dan Haren
Games: 107
Record: 41-37
Win %: .526
ERA: 4.25
Opponent BA: .277

Roy Oswalt
Record: 73-25
Win %: .745
ERA: 3.04
Opponent BA: .250

In most statistical categories, Duensing has out performed these three pitchers and the numbers that they have put up in the 2nd half over their careers. He has quietly been making a difference in the pennant race over the course of two seasons. By biding his time and waiting for the opportunity, he has made a mark on this franchise.

Duensing wasn't a big flashy name at the trade deadline but maybe he was just the pitcher that the Twins needed. He has outperformed many of the other players with the big flashy names. While at the same time the Twins didn't have to dump their entire farm system on a rental player that they would lose to the Yankees in the winter. The Twins have done what they do best, promote from within their own system. It is a formula that has worked and for the last two seasons Duensing has been their 2nd half stud.

AL Hunt for October

Check out the Baseball Tonight crew as they discuss the moves that have been made in the AL Central over the last week.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

End of the season for young pitchers

The news surrounding the baseball world over the weekend was the injury to Nationals' phenom rookie pitcher Stephen Strausburg. Strausburg has an injury in his elbow and will have to undergo Tommy John surgery which has a 12-18 month recovery time. Using Francisco Liriano as an example, it is easy to see that it takes even longer than 12-18 months for the pitcher to get back to the right form. Strausburg was getting close to his inning limit for the season so it is interesting to think about what would have happened if the Nats had decided to shut him down a start or two early. Now it will be at least two years until Strausburg will be back to his dominate form, if at all.

In the Twins organization their number one pitching prospect, Kyle Gibson, is from the same draft class as Stephen Strausburg. Strausburg was the number one pick in 2009 and Gibson was the 22nd pick that year. Luckily for Gibson and the Twins there are no similarities in the injiry department to end their 2010 campaigns.

The Twins have shut Gibson down for the year. His ankle was tweaked but he was also nearing the end of his innings limit for the season. Gibson made quite the progression this season. Moving all the way from A to AAA. He was a combined 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA and 126 Ks in 152 innings pitched. At the AAA level in had 3 starts and finished with a 1.72 ERA by only allowing 3 earned runs.

The problems that teams always encounter at this point in the season is when is it time to shut a young pitcher down. There are a variety of reasons to do this. The main reason being that most of these younger pitchers have not pitched this much in one season before this year. They are coming from college where the season and work loads are much less. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN most clubs increase a young pitchers work load by 20 percent each season. Some teams follow the formula of increasing a pitchers total innings by 25-30 innings.

The Nationals were in a tough spot. Do you keep sending your star out there or is it time to shut him down? The team was getting huge crowds at home to watch Strausburg pitch. He is the face of the franchise and he has only played a portion of one season. He continued to pitch and it is going to cost the Nationals two years of Strausburg's services. Would this have happened anyway? There is that possibility but if Strausburg would have been resting and not pitching this might have been avoided.

The Twins made the right choice in shutting Gibson down. He wasn't going to be making an impact on the club this season. He had pitched 152 innings between all three levels this year. He was ready to give his arm a rest. The Twins don't need another situation like the one that they had with Liriano. Gibson is on pace to be a staple in the Twins rotation for the next decade and I'm glad the Twins franchise is keeping an eye on his arm.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Texas Size Heartache

The Twins came into their series with the Rangers, the AL West Division leaders, and they had something to prove to the rest of baseball. Three games into the series and the Twins still have a lot left to prove. The Twins have come out flat in the majority of the series and there are a number of glaring problems for the Twins.

The first issue has been finding a left handed reliever for the bullpen. Injuries have plagued anyone that pitches with their left hand for the Twins so a move needed to be made. The Twins claimed Randy Flores off of waivers from the Colorado Rockies. His numbers aren't outstanding but he is a left-handed pitcher and the Twins were desperate.

Carl Pavano has lost a little something. His last couple of starts haven't been the Pavano that we have been use to seeing during this season. Pavano might been getting caught up in some of the dog days of summer. He seems to have lost a little something. Hopefully some of his magic comes back as the end of the season is fast approaching.

Another issue that has serviced today is the injury to Jim Thome. Thome was suppose to be in the line-up as the DH but he was hit in the leg during his at bat last night. He did make a pinch hitting appearance, a strike out, but it will be interesting to see how this impacts him in the coming days.

JJ Hardy's wrist has continued to be bothering him. He sat out the 2nd game of the series. In the 3rd game of the series he finished 1-4. He also looked really bad when he lead off the 9th inning and his team was down a run. The Twins will continue to monitor their SS but this means that other players will continue to get more playing time.

It is the dog days of summer and the end of the Twins season is looming. If there is anything to learn from this Texas series, it is that there are still flaws with this Twins team. Luckily there is still time left before the season is over.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Twins' 5 Goals for the rest of 2010

After their thrilling walk-off win against the White Sox, the Twins have pulled ahead in the AL Central by 4 games. The Twins have 43 games left in the season and a lot left to accomplish.

Here is the list of goals for Ron Gardenhire to post in the clubhouse until the conclusion of the 2010 season. The goals are listed in order of importance and in order of the sequence in which they need to occur.

Goal #1: Qualify for the playoffs. The Twins need to find some way to make make the playoffs as either the AL Central Champion or as the AL Wild Card winner. Either spot would be sufficient. There needs to be playoff baseball during the first season of Target Field. Hopefully some of the magic from the Metrodome years has made the trip across downtown.

Goal #2: Win the AL Central. With a four game lead, the Twins are heading in the right direction. The White Sox are not going to go away lightly. They are a very good team with the pieces in place to catch the Twins down the stretch. The Twins are in a new position over the last couple of seasons. They are the team being chased instead of the one doing the chasing. Hopefully they don't get complacent and allow the Sox to sneak up on them. Another Game 163 would be too much drama for the Twins fan base to take.

Goal #3: Make it through the 1st Round of the Playoffs.
No matter how well the Twins have been playing entering the playoffs, they seem to have a hang-up getting through the ALDS. The Yankees have been the rival that has stood in the Twins' playoff path. It will be interesting to see if the Twins and Yankees meet-up again at some point in this years post-season tournament.

Goal #4: Win the ALCS. The Twins have not been to the ALCS since 2002. They have not won the ALCS since 1991. Almost a decade later, it is time for the Twins to conquer this obstacle.

Goal #5: World Series Champs. No explanation needed.

Bonus Goal: There is another goal that I think is within the Twins grasp as they make their push towards the Fall Classic. The Twins should push to catch both the Yankees and the Rays for the best record in the American League. Going into play today the Twins are four games behind the both of the leaders in the AL East. With 41 games left to play and the Twins playing well, there is a chance that they could catch and pass both of these teams. It would be great to know that the road to the 2010 World Series had to come through Target Field.

The goals are in place. Their sights are set. Let's party like its 1991....or 1987.

Kubel's Catch and a Walk-off too

Monday, August 16, 2010

Slowey vs. Jackson no-hit comparison

Well it was fun while it lasted...

7 innings of no hit baseball from a very unlikely candidate, Kevin Slowey. Slowey was not dominate in this outing by far. There were walks, a hit batter, and only a handful of strikeouts.

Very reminiscent of the no hitter that was thrown by Edwin Jackson earlier this year for the Arizona Diamonbacks. He is currently a member of the White Sox. In his no hit outing he had to pitch 149 pitches and he allowed 8 walks. Slowey might have needed as many pitches as Jackson to finish his no hit bid. And there is no guarantee that Slowey would have gotten the job done.

The Diamondbacks are playing for anything important this year. Jackson offered this team and their fans a moment to remember and cherish. Slowey is pitching for a team in the heat of pennent race. There is no way that Slowey was going to be completing his no-hit bid. The Twins roation could have been thrown off for the next week and a half. With the injury to Jose Mijares the Twins can't afford to lose another pitcher to the DL. Slowey was coming off of 9 days rest because of some elbow problems. His arm was fresh but there still was no decision that needed to be made for Ron Gardenhire. He had to pull Slowey and let the bullpen take care of the rest of the game.

There are some other striking comparisons between the Slowey no-hit bid and the no-hitter thrown by Edwin Jackson.
By looking at the graphs above there are a variety of things that make these two pitching performances seem very similar. Enter the late innings in the game both players had a 1-0 lead. There were double plays and defensive brilliance behind the pitcher that helped to preserve the no-hit bid. There were walks, home runs and both games weren't decided until the very end.

It was a great moment for Jackson to get his no-hitter. It would have been great for Slowey to have the same kind of moment. The better moment for Slowey would be to help lead the Twins on a deep run into the postseason. A win in the World Series is going to be more memorable than a regular season no-hitter.

It seems to be National Kevin Slowey Day in the Twins Blogosphere and most people believe that Gardenhire made the right call in pulling Slowey:

Aaron Gleeman: "Kevin Slowey & the no-hitter that was never going to happen"

Twins Geek: "Courage"

Seth Stohs: "Controversial but Clearly Correct"

Parker Hageman: "Sunday's game: One right decision, another questionable"

Nick Nelson: "Slowey taking his foot off the brakes"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The evolution of the piranha

In 2006, Ozzie Guillen famously gave the Twins a nickname, "The piranhas." At that point the team played a style of baseball that was very fitting of this title. They bunted, used sacrifices, and played solid fundamental baseball. The Twins would slowly eat away at a team until they had won, hence the piranha nickname.

During this week's series with the White Sox, Guillen said that the Twins are no longer worthy of this nickname because their style of play has changed (Twins no longer piranhas). This quote came the day after the Twins had mashed the White Sox for five home runs and a 12-6 win.

So what should the Twins new nickname be?

Guillen had a few options for a new nickname for the Twins.

1. Killer Bees: This seems too close to piranhas. So I don't think it is a viable option.

2. Sharks (I think he chose this in honor of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel): This choice seems to be just a larger version of the piranhas. I think it was Guillen's way of saying that the current Twins roster is fat. Which could be true. The Twins have been doing a lot less base stealing this season. But when your team is 1st in batting average and 1st in hits, you can move the players around the bases with hits and not steals.

There has to be a nickname to describe the team that continues to pester their nemesis from the South Side of Chicago.

Other animal nicknames to describe the Twins:

1. The rhinos- This name fits because some of the Twins have looked like rhinos on the basepaths. Exhibit A: Jason Kubel's baserunning blunder in the first inning last night. Other players such as Jim Thome act as a rhino on the basepaths and cause the Twins to get away from their piranha style of play.

2. The grizzly bears- A very fitting name for the wilderness side of Minnesota. This name could fit because there have been games, such as the above mentioned thumping of the Sox, that the Twins have come out and mawled the other team. I am sure that the Twins mascot TC would be proud to have his team related to him.

3. The mosquitoes - A very common occurrence in the Minnesota/North Dakota area. The comparison between this and the piranhas are evident. Both of these creatures are annoying and they're out for blood. Granted both of them are out for blood on different levels.

My choice...... The wolf pack

This name originated from the famous speech made by Zach Galifianakis in the movie The Hangover (See video clip below). Why does this nickname work? First of all, gray wolves and timber wolves are common in the forested northern regions of Minnesota. Second, a wolf can strike fast like a piranha but also has more power that is hidden inside.

The Twins still have players that fit the piranha style of play but there are other styles of play with the Twins as well. They are a wolf pack out on the prowl. They are working as a team and looking for any foes that care to stand in their way. A wolf pack...

The Hangover - One Man Wolf Pack Speech

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Morning After...

So here we are the morning after...

The Twins sneak out of Chi-town with a one game lead in the AL Central.

So what does it all mean? What can the Twins take out of this series?

This series showed that the Twins were the stronger team at this point. The Twins used the power of 5 home runs to win the first game 12-6. In the second and third games the teams traded 6-1 scores behind strong pitching performances.

Since the series was in Chicago, the Twins needed to win at least one of the three games. For the Twins to steal the last game, against the pitcher that has being pitching the best for the White Sox, was a definite bonus. The Twins have yet to lose a series to the White Sox in 2010. The Twins are now 8-4 against the Chi-Sox. The Twins have been cleaning up in the Central division this season. The Twins are 31-17 against their division foes, while the White Sox are a miniscule 21-23.

The Twins finished this most recent road trip strong. There have been a lot of road games for the Twins since the All-Star break. In fact, 17 of their last 20 games have been on the road. It will be nice to see the team return to Target Field where they are 33-20.

There were a few injury concerns for the Twins coming out of the series. Jose Mijares ended up on the 15-day DL with a knee injury. Jeff Manship got called up to replace him on the roster but Glen Perkins will stay with the team to fill the left-handed relief pitcher role for the team. JJ Hardy tweaked his troublesome wrist but won't end up on the DL. John Rauch hurt his big toe covering 1st on Friday. He should be available tonight to pitch. So it will be interesting to see how these injuries impact the team in the upcoming series.

The Twins and Sox will face off again starting on Tuesday. The Twins will see two of the same pitchers that just faced them, John Danks and Gavin Floyd. It will be interesting to see how the teams and pitchers adjust to facing each other on such a short turn around time.

So here we are the morning after, a one game lead for the Twins, and a lot of baseball left to play...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

O-Dawg on Jim Rome

Check out this inside look into the Twins Clubhouse with your tour guide, Orlando Hudson. There is some pretty funny stuff in here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Co-Host SethSpeaks.net Weekly Podcast

Check out this weeks SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Podcast. I had the privilege of being the co-host for the week. We discussed the Twins bullpen troubles, the upcoming White Sox series w/ fellow blogger JJ Stankevitz, and a variety of other Twins topics.
Listen to internet radio with SethSpeaks on Blog Talk Radio

Monday, August 9, 2010

AL Central Showdown

Well here we go. Six games in ten days between the Twins and the White Sox. Going into today there is just a half a game separating the teams (this depends on the results of the White Sox game tonight vs. the Orioles). After the next ten days there will only be three more games between these division foes. So this next span of games will go a long way into deciding who will be the 2010 Central Division Champions.

Here is a break down of each of the pitching match-ups that are expected over the next three days.

Game 1 (Tuesday):
Scott Baker vs. Freddy Garcia

Baker 2010 Stats vs. White Sox
(1-0) 1.29 ERA: 7 IP: 5 H: 1 R: 3 K

Garcia 2010 Stats vs. Twins
(1-1) 3.15 ERA: 20 IP: 23 H: 7 R: 8 K

These two starters matched up earlier in the year with Baker out dueling Garcia. Garcia has had a couple other chances to face the Twins and came out on top in one of those meetings. Baker is coming off three consecutive strong outings. His last start against Tampa Bay was his strongest performance of the year.

Game 2 (Wednesday)
Glen Perkins vs. John Danks

Perkins 1st Start of 2010
Career Numbers vs. White Sox
(2-1) 5.22 ERA: 29.1 IP: 31 H: 17 R: 17 K

Danks 2010 Stats vs. Twins
(1-1) 4.74 ERA: 19 IP: 24 H: 11 R: 14 K

With Slowey taking a start off, the Twins will call on Glen Perkins to make a spot start. Perkins is coming off the month of July in which he seemed to be getting back some of the consistency that he had been lacking this year. He was (3-1) in July and his last start on Friday he pitched 6.2 innings and he only gave up 2 ER.

Game 3 (Thursday)
Francisco Liriano vs. Gavin Floyd

Liriano 2010 Stats vs. White Sox
(1-0) 3.29 ERA: 13.2 IP: 10 H: 5 R: 11 K

Floyd 2010 Stats vs. Twins
(0-1) 1.80 ERA: 5 IP: 7 H: 4 R: 5 K

This could be a very important game for Twins. Depending on how the rest of the series goes the Twins might be fighting for their playoff spot. The Twins can't afford to be swept by the White Sox. With Liriano pitching with an extra day rest the Twins hopes might be on the line. Gardenhire said that Liriano was complaining of a dead arm. Hopefully this won't be a factor for the rest of the season.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Matt Capps' Wild Ride

Matt Capps has had quite the ride over the last week. He has gone from a team with no chance of making the playoffs to a team that is in the thick of the playoff hunt. Besides all the craziness involved in switching teams and jumping to a new league, Capps has also been involved in quite a wide array of game situations.

Appearance #1 (July 30 vs. SEA)
The day after being traded Capps arrived at Target Field and found himself in a new uniform. He looked as advertised and pitched his first save in the American League. It was a whirl wind day. Flying half way across the country, getting aquatinted with a new team, and picking up a save for a team fighting for first place. All in a days work...

Appearance #2 (Aug. 3 vs. TB)
Capps needed some work so Gardenhire decided to put him in the game in a non-save situation. This didn't turn out quite as planned. He didn't make it through an entire inning. In 2/3rd's of an inning Capps gave up one hit and two walks. Not exactly getting the job done.

Appearance #3 (Aug. 4 vs. TB)
New day. New Game. Capps was back in a save situation against a first place team. The pressure was on. Wait what are the outfielders doing. All of a sudden they can't catch fly balls. Scott Baker pitched great and Capps couldn't close it out. His first blown save in the American League. Two bad appearances in a row. Here's hoping the next one goes better...

Appearance #4 (Aug. 5 vs. TB)
Another close game against the Rays. Appearing in a game for the third day in a row. Entering in a tie game. First time Capps has had to pitch over one inning in the American League. Kubel hits a single off the roof at Tropicana Field. He gets his first win for the Twins. Crazy game.

Capps has had quite the wild ride in his first week as a member of the Twins. One save, one interesting non-save, one blown save, and one win. Here's hoping there are more save situations coming. And a lot less drama.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Scott Baker: The Beast in the East

Scott Baker looked like an entirely different pitcher last night (Twins outlast Rays on Young's RBI single). Was it the important match-up with the first place Rays? Was it the challenge of facing the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award, David Price? Or was it something else?

Throughout his career Scott Baker has put up some impressive numbers against the American League East. He has been dominant at times, such as last night's game. This season alone Baker has been a beast in the American League East. His stats against the AL East in 2010 breaks down like this:

8 Games Started
4 Wins
53 Innings Pitched
17 Earned Runs
50 Strikeouts
2.89 ERA

Over his career there have been some rough patches against the AL East. The beginning of 2008 Baker had a few tough outings against a division that produced three very good teams that season. Over his career his numbers against the East are better than his overall numbers.

27 Games Started
10 Wins
159 Innings Pitched
68 Earned Runs
125 Strikeouts
3.84 ERA

In comparison with his 3.84 ERA over his career against the AL East, Baker's overall career ERA is 4.35. The AL East also has a low batting average against Mr. Baker over the span of his career. The AL East has a career batting average of 0.246. Baker's career average that he has allowed is 0.268.

It was great to see Baker have a pitching performance like he did last night. The Twins needed a start like against a very good Tampa Bay team. If the Twins make the playoffs this year they will be playing a team from the AL East. Scott Baker has excelled this season against the East and hopefully that will transfer to the Twins' post-season push. He has been a beast in the east, so bring it on Rays and Yankees.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Delmon's Dramatic Turn Around

It can be seen as the low point in the career of Delmon Young. The infamous bat throw that got him suspended for 50 games. Flash forward to a little over four years later and Young's name is being talked about as a possible MVP candidate. What a difference four years can make.

With Matt Garza throwing a no hitter last week and with the trade deadline passing there has been time for fans to reflect on the trade that brought Delmon Young to the Twins. Brendan Harris has been relegated to Rochester for the Twins. Jason Bartlett has also had his struggles with the Rays this season. So the trade has amounted to a Young for Garza swap. I still feel that it is hard to weigh in on how this trade went for both teams. The Rays and the Twins both wanted to get rid of an attitude on their team. The trade was a wake-up call for both players and if Young and Garza continue to develop the way that they have been then it will look like a great trade for both teams.

It has been quite the season for Delmon Young this year. Justin Morneau had been carrying the offensive load for the Twins at the beginning of the season. Morneau has been out of the line-up since the beginning of July and Delmon has stepped in the fill that offensive void. Young is currently 5th in the AL in both batting average and RBI. In July alone he batted .434 with 30 RBI.

Another dramatic change has been the weight that he lost coming in to this season. Young has a new focus for this season and it has helped him in many facets of his game. There are fly balls that he is getting to that he wouldn't have got to in the past. There are infield hits that he can now beat out down the line. He is maturing into the player had hoped for when the Twins traded for him.

For Young to continue to be in the talks for MVP he is going to have to continue his torrid hitting from July. The Twins are also going to need to continue to push for another division title. Young is going to have competition from Josh Hamilton, Miguel Cabrera, etc. But with his new attitude, new focus, and new direction he can be the leader that the Twins hoped for.

Here's hoping your MVP caliber season continues, Mr. Young.

There are still opportunities to see the Twins on the road this season with a group of other Twins fans. Hop on the Twins Train to see the Twins in Chicago and Detroit. The Twins are fighting for the division lead so enjoy a road trip with the Twins Train. Here is my post about my experience on the Twins Train from earlier this year. (Detroit: A Twins Train Diary)