Saturday, April 21, 2007

Recap 4/20/2007 Twins 7, Royals 5

I'd first like to apologize for not having last evenings recap, I have no real good excuse other than being disgusted by the pitching of---everyone, and I decided to spend the night with my sports gal. That said, on to todays action.

This afternoon Boof Bonser made his fourth start of the season against the Royals. Last year Bonser made three starts against them and they didn't go as smoothly as the Twins may have liked as he went 1-2 with a 4.80 ERA. This season Bonser has been having a tough time keeping the ball in the park, coming into the game having allowed five homeruns and leaving with a league leading seven homeruns allowed. For those of you keeping count the Twins as a team have hit only 9, or 3/4 of Alex Rodriguez. In five innings Bonser threw 87 pitches and allowed five runs, three earned, giving up seven hits. While Bonser has had a rough go of it so far this season, racking up a 6.73 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP. The one positive Twins fans can take away from his starts thus far this season is that his K/9 is up from 0.83 to 1.08. Though I personally question whether or not it may be leading to him overthrowing some pitches and leaving those up in the zone.

As for the offense, it showed up for the second straight day, pounding out hits all afternoon and finishing with 16, translating those hits into seven runs. It would have been more if not for a number of foolish base-running mistakes and double plays. On the mound for the Royals was Zack Greinke who's been a pitcher on the come for a number of years. Greinke started off the year well going 13 innings in his first two starts striking out 12 and compiling a 1.39 ERA. Since then however its been a difficult road, in the start before this he went only 2/3 of an inning and allowed 4 runs. Of the 16 hits, 6 were for extra bases, including two doubles apiece from MVP and Batting Champ and a triple from Nick Punto. Speaking of Nicky, he has finally raised his average above the .200 mark after back to back 2-4 performances. Hopefully this is a sign that his bat is coming around.

Despite the fact the Twins record stands at an AL Central leading 11-6 I do see cause for concern. Last season it seemed the Twins were constantly in a cycle where the hitting would be on and the pitching would be off or vice-versa. This season seems much the same, the difference is simply a couple runs here or there. The Royals, despite being much improved, are still easily the worst team in the AL Central and possibly the worst in the AL, or even all of baseball, splitting games is simply not what the Twins needed. The Twins thus far have been helped by having an awfully soft schedule, with perennial losers like the Orioles, Devil rays, and Royals taking up 10 of their first 18 games while teams such as the White Sox have had a far tougher road to hoe. Speaking of the White Sox, despite everyone predicting their imminent demise, they've weathered six games against the Indians, three against Oakland, three against Texas and two against both the Tigers and Twins, and managed to put themselves in second place.


- Nick Punto. I never thought I'd say this but his bat is finally coming around, after another 2-4 with a walk, hopefully he's starting to find his swing.

- Alexi Casilla. He's not much of a major league hitter yet, as he seems almost clueless when he tries to swing away, but man alive is he fast, if he doesn't hit it hard at someone, he's on. He went 2-5 today, striking out once and stealing his third base. He still doesn't make the greatest contact (5K's in 22 AB's with no walks) but he seems adept at working the count as his P/PA is now up to 3.87. Solid.

- Batting Champ. He just keeps on hitting.

- Justin Morneau. After an up and down first 12, his bat seems to be coming to life as he's hitting the ball all over the place, and hard. I'd still like to see him cut down on the terrible swings, as there are still lots of them, but as long as he's driving them in, I'm a happy man.

- Joe Nathan and Pat Neshek. Theres nothing worrisome about striking out the side in order.


- The Twins started off the season getting many dominating pitching performances, they could really use one here from Ramon Ortiz. My main concern is that Ortiz is going to become satisfied or complacent and it could lead to us losing a game we should win tonight.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Recap 4/19/2007 Twins 6, Mariners 5

After six innings of frustration and in danger of spoiling another good outing from their starting pitching the Twins finally broke through against Jarrod Washburn and Julio Mateo in the seventh, roughing up the Mariners pitchers for five runs. The inning started on two first pitch bunt singles by Jason Bartlett and Alexi Casilla who had entered the game in the fifth replacing Luis Castillo who pulled up lame after a double leading off that inning. The Twins followed that up with a sac bunt by Nick Punto who made his return to the team, and following an intentional walk to Joe Mauer who celebrated his 24th birthday, Michael Cuddyer who had been 0-3 finally came through with a 2 RBI double. With runners on second and third the Mariners intentionally walked Morneau to get to Mike Redmond who then singled in two more. The Twins would finally go down after a fielders choice by Rabe and a pop up by Tyner, but the damage was done.
Coming into the seventh inning the Twins bats had been failing with runners in scoring position once again going 1-10 up to that point including an 0-4 mark by Cuddyer and Morneau, which led to many profanities spilling from my mouth. Thankfully to say my sports gal was not around as she was busy in Moorhead as her Fighting Scots took on Concordia Moorhead. For those who are anxious to find out how they did, and I know the numbers are many, I still don't have an update.

On the mound the Twins had that Johan Santana guy twirling and while he didn't look to be at his best through four, allowing four hits including a homerun by Yuniesky Betancourt, he settled down after that homerun to retire the final eleven batters, recording four of his seven strikeouts in that span. For the night he went seven strong innings allowing just the two early runs and left after the Twins big seventh with a 6-2 lead. He allowed just the four early hits, struck out seven, and walked one.


- Jesse Crain made his first appearance since reporting shoulder soreness (tendinitis is what they called it) and looked good, touching 95MPH with his fastball and having a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

- Alexi Casilla came in and was 2-2 with a bunt single and a chopper to SS that he beat out. He also stole third on a double steal by the Twins and scored a run while making a great play on a ball in the hole and running down two pop flys in shallow right in the ninth.

- Batting Champ. On his 24th birthday he goes 1-2 with two walks and a HBP.

- MVP was 2-4 with a couple singles and a walk but failed twice with runners in scoring position striking out and lining one into the side of Washburn.

- Joe Nathan had his first "good" game in a while. He did allow a double to Richie Sexson but it had more to do with Michael Cuddyer losing the ball in the sun. He stapled it down after striking out Jose Guillen. Save #5.


- Clutch hitting. While the Twins did end up driving in 6 runs, this is a game they could've won by 10 had Cuddyer and Morneau driven in runs in the third and fifth. Through the first 6 innings the Twins went 1-10 with guys in scoring position.

- Scott Ulger's decision to send Morneau in the second. Yeah he scored but if Ichiro's throw doesn't bounce into the air off the mound Morneau is out by 10 feet. Seriously, why do you run on Ichiro's arm? Why? Anyone?

- Castillo could miss some time with a hamstring injury. Thankfully to say, Casilla is about as good a replacement and as an exact a clone as you could reasonable conjure up.

- Pat Neshek. He made this game too darned interesting after surrendering a three run blast to Raul Ibanez.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Recap 4/18/2007 Twins 5, Mariners 3

Just this week new MNSG writer Ray Felix did a fantastic write up of Carlos Silva's early season success and gave his rationale. Tonight Carlos Silva took the mound looking for his third win of the season just like Ramon Ortiz did last night. Once again he was near brilliant for much of the game going 6 1/3 innings while allowing 3 runs on 8 hits. The damage was done in the sixth when the Mariners had two bloop singles and a Richie Sexson homerun on what was a very good pitch down at the knees and in. Silva couldn't have made a much better pitch. He also walked one and struck out four. So far Twins fans, skeptical or otherwise must be completely thrilled with Silva's early success. Coming into this season you'd have had a hard time finding anyone who would've said they had faith in Carlos Silva, except perhaps Terry Ryan and Gardy. While I'm not saying that he'll continue to be so successful throughout this year, on the contrary, Mr. Felix pointed out the one very good reason he wont, even if he limits the total number of hits as he has and continues to keep the ball in the yard, it's simply not possible to continue scattering the hits he does allow as well as he has. He will give up runs, he will have bad games, its the nature of sinker-ball pitchers. But if he can continue to intersperse the good with the bad the Twins will be thrilled to have a .500 season from him, as would I.

In the 7th inning the Twins brought out Silva to try to get one last inning out of him as he was only at about 75 pitches and after a bloop to left that was into and out of Kubel's glove on a sliding play and a sharp single by Lopez, then Twins brought in Reyes who failed to get Ichiro. With the bases loaded and needing an answer the Twins turned to Matt Guerrier, usually a long reliever forced into short duty due to the injury to Jesse Crain got Adrian Beltre swinging on a curve and got some defense when Justin Morneau made a great play on a smashed liner off the bat of Jose Vidro to end the inning.

The other huge piece of news from this game was the Mariners loss of star pitcher and phenom Felix Hernandez. Hernandez who had been utterly dominant in his first two starts came into tonight expecting to continue his torrid pitching against a Twins team that would seem to play right into the hands of a strikeout pitcher. However he got off to a real tough start and ended up leaving with an injury after 24 pitches in the first inning while surrendering three earned runs. This was definitely welcome news as no one wanted to face Hernandez the way he had been pitching this season.

On offense the Twins scored all their runs in the first two innings, taking advantage of Felix Hernandez's bad outing to jump out to a 5-0 lead on an assortment of singles, stolen bases, and walks. However after Hernandez left the Twins bats fells silent against long reliever Jake Woods who didn't surrender a run after the 2nd inning. Even though the Twins did manage to put up five runs the offense wasn't particularly impressive managing just 6 hits on the night with four walks.

The Twins will have the chance to break out the brooms on the road tomorrow when El Presidente squares off against Jarrod Washburn.


- A good game from Luis Castillo who finally got his bat back going 2-4.

- Carlos Silva. Another quality start.

- Matt Guerrier who came in a clutch situation and got two huge outs when he had no room for error and the game was on the line.

- Jason Tyner kept his hitting going with a 1-3 night at the plate and played a serviceable if occasionally frightening center field.

- Stand Up and Shout got his fourth save but made it interesting in the ninth but got some defensive help in the form of Michael Cuddyer getting his 5th (?) outfield assist as the Mariners inexplicably sent Beltre home where he made the final out by about 15 feet.


- Jason Kubel, what a terrible night. He went 0-4 with a strikeout and his only good looking at-bat was his first when he lined a pitch to left center that Ichiro used his virtually limitless range to catch. He also dropped a ball on a sliding play in the seventh that very nearly cost the team the game.

Recap 4/17/2007 Twins 11, Mariners 2

Booyah. I've said it before and I'll say it again but these are the types of posts I love to write and I know you love to read.

Tonight the Twins began a three game set against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Taking the mound in the first game was Ramon Ortiz. In his first two starts of the season Ortiz turned a lot of heads as he not only started the season without getting shelled, he shut people down. In his two games against the Orioles and Yankees he went 15 innings while surrendering just three runs, while striking out eight and walking just two. Coming into the game its safe to say people were genuinely beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe the Twins had found a diamond in the rough. Ortiz didn't disappoint as he delivered another seven sterling innings allowing just two runs, both on solo homeruns. One to Ichiro on the very first pitch of the game and the other to second baseman Jose Lopez. For as well as he pitched Ortiz wasn't completely dominating as he did begin to allow a number of base hits in his final couple innings but labored through and finished strong. His start tonight once again provided the bullpen with some much needed rest.

On yet another positive note the Twins offense which has been quiet most of the year broke out in a big way tonight with fifteen hits, ten of which were for extra bases. Every starter save for Justin Morneau had a hit this evening and Mauer, Tyner, Cuddyer, Bartlett, and Hunter each had multi-hit games. Of course the biggest blow came in the fifth. With runners on second and third the Mariners decided to intentionally walk Morneau to get to Hunter. Bad decision, after his first patient (he took three pitches) at-bat of the evening Hunter delivered a 2-1 pitch to left for a grand slam which broke the game open 7-1. The one piece of bad news for the Twins was that Hunter would later leave the game in the 6th with a bruised shoulder.


- Jason Tyner has continued to be a God-send for the Twins in the two hole replacing the injured an utterly ineffective Nick Punto. In his three games as the #2 hitter in the lineup Tyner has gone 7-14 with four doubles and very nearly his first homerun. Not surprisingly the two games the Twins offense has gotten going this year Tyner has had three hits. I've said it before and I'll continue, Nick Punto has been killing this team. If he comes back and gets the two hole before he's proven he's remember how to hit, I'll be furious.

- Joe Mauer had another yawner day going 3-4 with three double, two runs and three RBI's.

- Despite striking out twice with runners in scoring position early in the game Cuddyer still had a decent game tripling in a run in the first and then singling in two more in the eight.

- Jason Bartlett seems to be getting better going 2-5 with a single and double.

- Even though he's not doing fantastic Luis Rodriguez has still been hitting .238, whats that, a full.100 over Punto? As a big added bonus he was great over at third tonight stopping anything that came his way (which was a lot).

- Jason Kubel just keeps hitting the ball on the screws. A 1-5 noght but he hit most everything hard and didn't strikeout.

- The Bullpen. Neshek and Reyes each pitch scoreless frames.


- Justin Morneau was 0-3 with two walks. We really need him and Hunter to start delivering more consistently.

***My bad***

I made a prediction on N^2 that the Twins would be three hit and shut out by Weaver. Talk about your all-time bad calls.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

One Good Week: Carlos Silva


This is different, I kind of like it here.

Oh, hi there, I didn't see you come in. I'm Ray, and Corey has recently enlisted me to write some articles here at MNSG-Twins. This is the first of (hopefully) many of those articles, looking at Carlos Silva's first two starts. If you're interested in my other writing, check out my own blog, Daneeka's Ghost. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy it.

CARLOS SILVA, Apr.6 - Apr.13
(2GS, 0-1, 0.77 ERA, 11.2IP, 12H, 3BB, 5K)

Coming into the season, there was much hue and cry about Carlos Silva's presence on the roster. The Twins exercised Silva's option this offseason for $4.35 million, and then he had a terrible spring training, posting an 8.44 ERA in five starts and one relief appearance. He pitched 21.1 innings and allowed 31 hits to go with 4 walks and 2 hit batsmen. That's 1.73 baserunners per inning. Nonetheless, he was given a spot in the rotation over Matt Garza and was slated for his 2007 debut in Chicago to open the second series of the season.

That game was cancelled due to inclement weather, but Silva was sent out the next day and pitched 5 solid innings, only allowing 1 run on 5 hits (all singles), a walk, and a hit batsman. Jermaine Dye was the recipient of the hit by pitch, so I'm counting that as a point in Carlos' favor. Unfortunately, the Twins offense couldn't solve Javy Vasquez and Silva left trailing 0-1, eventually taking the loss as the Twins fell 3-0 to the South Siders.

It's fair to say Twins fans were skeptical after the first start. Everyone agreed that Silva deserved a win for his effort, but few were convinced that this would become a regular occurrence. Then Silva took the ball on Thursday and shut out the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for 6 2/3 innings, leaving the game with a 2-0 lead. Silva gave up 7 hits and walked two while striking out 4. Juan Rincon allowed the Rays to tie the game, leaving Silva with a no decision in the eventual 3-2 Twins victory, but that made two excellent starts for Silva which I felt merited a closer look.

Silva is an interesting case to look at, because he has always given up a lot of baserunners; remember the 11-hit shutout of the Angels? His WHIPs for the last three years were 1.43, 1.17, and 1.54, so the real difference betwixt a good start and a bad start for Carlos is whether those baserunners are allowed in the same inning or scattered throughout the game. This trend is continuing so far this year. Silva has only one 1-2-3 inning so far this year, and has allowed a hit in 10 of the 12 innings he has pitched. However, he has been able to keep posting zeros because only twice has he allowed more than one hit in an inning. So, when you see a 1.29 WHIP thus far this season, that's because Silva really is allowing almost exactly one hit every inning.

The key has always been keeping the ball down and using his sinker to induce large quantities of ground balls, as well as limiting the number of walks, since there are already enough runners on without giving up free passes. So to assess how Silva was controlling the count and working ahead of hitters I looked at what count the ball was put in play and what the results were.

Tampa Bay0-21-1
# of pitches123456789101112+
Tampa Bay0-21-35-101-10

Silva hasn't been involved in very many marathon at bats. Again, this tells us that hitters don't foul off pitches when Silva is pitching, if they're hit, they're going to be in play.* Also Tampa apparently loves to swing the bat, with only 3 at bats getting past the fourth pitch, while almost half the White Sox extended their at bats past 4 pitches. The other thing I noticed with this data was that those at bats that ended quickly were less likely to end with ground balls than other at bats. A closer look yielded the following:

Overall - 43% GB
1st or 2nd pitch - 11% (9 balls in play)
3rd through 5th pitch - 64% (25 balls in play)
6+ pitches - 0% (6 balls in play)

It's a small sample size, but this whole exercise is based on two starts, so bear with me. It seems that Silva tries to get ahead with his fastball early, and if that is put in play it's almost always in the air. Later in the at bat, the sinker plays a larger role and an impressive 64% of balls in play are on the ground. I also looked at some of the splits to see if the GB% increased with runners on base, but there was very little difference (47% with runners on base, 42% with the bases empty). Especially in the Tampa game, Silva seemed to bear down with runners on (see chart below) but not necessarily through the ground ball, I guess.

OTHER STATSBFRHBLHBEmptyRunnersGB%K%1st strike1st ball
Tampa Bay293-13

Other interesting points on the first two starts; left-handers seem to get on base better against Carlos (OBP - .385 LHB, .261 RHB) but that's also due to the fact that all of his walks were issued to lefties (is that weird?). Predictably, Silva fared much better when starting out with a first pitch strike (OBP - .391 ball, .269 strike). Carlos is not known as a strikeout pitcher, of the 20 batters who reached 2-strike counts, he fanned 5 of them (25%). Overall, Silva was remarkably consistent in the number of pitches per inning (avg. - 15.9), with the one hiccup coming in the very first inning of the year (the only inning he allowed a run).

Tampa Bay16151218121610----

It seems that the Tampa game was the better pitched of the two; observe the higher GB%, the higher K%, and the fantastic 0-10 with runners on base. In fact, it seems Silva was a little lucky to escape with only one run allowed against Chicago. It always seems like more runs should be allowed with all those baserunners, but, nonetheless, Silva has turned in two quality performances this week. I don't think that anyone would argue that it's realistic for this to continue all season, but if a few of these types of outings are interspersed with more average outings in the future, Twins fans should be pleasantly surprised.

Keep up the good work Carlos!

* After making this statement, I went and looked it up. In these two games, in 49 plate appearances, 40 balls were put in play and hitters hit 37 fouls (6 from one Darin Erstad at bat). Not as big of a difference as I thought, but technically I was correct.