Saturday, April 28, 2007

Recap 4/28/2007 Twins 11, Motor City Kitties 3

Man did the Twins need this. It's not just the win, but this sort of win has got to do a lot to lift up what must have been a demure locker-room.

For the second night in a row the Twins rose to meet the level of play of their opponents. While the team spent the past two nights struggling to produce against a weak Royals team, they have now risen to the occasion against pitchers such as Joel Zumaya, Nate Robertson, and Justin Verlander. The Twins also received another solid performance from starter Carlos Silva who skirted disaster all game, allowing ten hits in six innings, but allowed only three early runs earning another quality start. But the story of the game was clearly the offense.

Last night the Twins scored five runs off Nate Robertson and Joel Zumaya, two quality pitchers after having scored only seven the previous three games combined. Today the Twins really came out strong against Verlander, the same guy who went 3-0 allowing only 2 runs in 22 innings last year. In three innings they pounded out 8 of their 17 hits against Verlander chasing him from the game after allowing 5 runs, 3 earned. The bats didn't let up their though as they continued to hammer the Detroit relievers scoring six more runs on nine more hits and four more walks. Clearly with 17 hits, lots of guys had good days but of all the guys out there, no one could have had a better day, especially with how things had been going, than Justin Morneau. For the day Justin was 3-4 with his sixth homerun, a double and a walk.

And, since everything was going right today, its only fair that I mention the Twins relievers who I called out in my post last night for being less-than-effective this season. Today the team got no hit innings from both Dennys Reyes, who desperately needed to have some success, and Glen Perkins who pitched a perfect ninth. Also having a scoreless inning was Pat Neshek who is looking better and better with every appearance. I for one don't think I could ever see Neshek as a closer or even a setup guy, but his dominance this year has been incredible. Against righties
he's been his usually stellar self, allowing just a .133 BAA, but the real story has been how successful he's been against lefties, allowing just a .154BAA. His 2.45 ERA also certainly looks good, but his .91 WHIP is insane.


- The top of the lineup. This is probably one of only two or three games where this has been true all season, but the combination of Jason Tyner and Nick Punto went 4-9 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt. They set the table and moved guys along. If we can start getting this sort of production consistently, it would go a long ways to solving our offensive woes.

- MVP and Batting Champ. The two guys who get all the attention dished out plenty of punishment going 6-9 with two walks, five runs, and two RBI's, and each had a solo homer. They raked.

- Torii Hunter. Two more singles added to his hot start. Torii's always been a streaky guy so it will be interesting to see how long his bat stays hot. He also gets delayed Kudos from me for taking one to the face and playing the next day.

- Michael Cuddyer. He was terrible at the plate, failing with runners in scoring position once again, but he sure brought the biggest cannon to the gun show, throwing out two more runners including Gary Sheffield at home in support of Carlos Silva.

- Jason Kubel. His .262 average this season may not seem impressive, but I think nearly anyone who follows this team closely could tell you he's been hitting the ball hard all year. If he keeps it up that average will come way up. He's doing a good job of working the count and seems to hit the ball hard nearly every at-bat. If he keeps this sort of approach, expect big things before this year is out. Oh yeah, he went 2-5 today with two big singles and three RBI.

- Carlos Silva. Depending on which part of the final line you look at, he either had a good day or a bad one. I look at the only line that matters, the runs allowed, and it was three in six innings. However you'd be foolish to overlook the fact that in those six innings he allowed 11 baserunners over those six frames, nearly two an innings. He's certainly lived dangerously this year, allowing 37 hits and 7 walks in only 29 innings of work, but he has somehow parlayed that into a 2-1 record with a 3.10 ERA which is way more than anyone would have predicted. A WHIP as high as his will catch up to him eventually, but for now I'm glad to enjoy his success.


- When every starter in the lineup has a hit, the D is rolling, your starter gives you six good innings, and the bullpen is on lock-down, what could be wrong?

Stat of the day

- Twins against Righties: .288/.361/.413
- Twins against Lefties: .235/.273/.352

Think we needed Cirillo and White back? I'd say so.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Recap 4/27/2007 Twins 5, Motor City Kitties 3

It seems like its been a long time since I've been able to write a recap about a win, and thats mostly because it has been. The Twins have gone almost a full week without a win and it's been an emotional drain at my household watching as our beloved Twins lose close game after close game because of an inept offense that has been terrible at getting runners on base via hit or walk, and has failed almost completely when the opportunity comes to bring those runners in.

Twins Batters Over The Past 5 Games;

- 37/174--.212BA
- Twins Batters not named Joe Mauer 32/157--.203
- 4/31 W/RISP-- .129

There's a lot people have said about this losing streak. They've blamed Gardy for not getting the line-up right. They've blamed Sidney Ponson for getting trashed by the Royals. They've blamed Nick Punto because he's been miserable all year. But the truth is, everyone has been terrible. There is simply no excuse for major league hitters, even bad ones, to hit .129 with runners in scoring position. None. Honestly, I think most guys have to TRY to hit that bad. But we Twins fans have been subjected to an entire week of the same exact thing and its tiring. In a division where wins will be earned with blood, as Torii Hunter can attest, losing winnable games to weak teams is a death sentence, because not every year can be last year. Rest assured, if the Twins dig themselves a 12 game hole as they did last year, this division will not allow them to climb back into the race again.

All of that being said there were some good things that happened tonight. I'm certainly not going to call it a turn around, we still hit only 8 hits in 34 at bats (.235), but we did score when we needed to, and if we can begin doing that more consistently we'll win enough ball games to stay competitive. And once again we got another string performance from Ramon Ortiz who continues to defy the odds and stay solid. Tonight was probably his worst performance of the season and it was still a quality start against a tough Tigers team. Though he did spend much of the game in trouble due to his four walks, he did a good job of working through it and avoiding the dreaded "big inning" we had been led to fear would be coming. His 2.57 ERA thus far is certainly far beyond what anyone could've expected and the contributions he's made to the team are perhaps more important than those of any other single player.

Offensively the action came in the eighth as the Twins finally got to Tigers starter Nate Robertson as Jason Bartlett led off the inning with a walk before Nick Punto chased Robertson with a single to center. The Tigers then turned to fireballer Joel Zumaya. Luis Rodriguez successfully got down a sacrifice bunt moving Bartlett and Punto to to second and third. Then for the second night in a row Mike Redmond delivered a clutch single to score both runners and tie the score. Next up was Mike Redmond who doubled, moving Redmond to third. Then the Tigers inexplicably gave Morneau, who's hitting .200 with runners in scoring position, a free pass so they could get to Torii Hunter who's been hitting the cover off the ball. However, just to prove they know more than I do, the plan worked and Torii went down swinging. Then the Twins brought in their not-so-secret weapon, Joe Mauer who (shock) delivered a two run single giving the Twins the lead.

The other great piece of news for Twins fans is that our vaunted bullpen came through, something they haven't been doing as good a job as one might think they would be. So far this season Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon, Dennys Reyes, and Glen Perkins all have WHIP's above 1.60, and the Twins relievers are allowing a combined .365 BAA!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Recap? 4/24/2007 Twins 3, Indians 5

Its been a rough week for the Minnesota Twins. Besides dropping four of their last four games, despite being in nearly all of those games, they've been hit with injuries to Luis Castillo and have been mired in a major hitting slump. Last night I mentioned that the Twins hitters not named Mauer had hit only .146 over the past two games. Tonight was more of the same. While the Twins did hit .250 last night (8-32) the majority of those hits (3) came off the bat of one player, only this time it was Jason Kubel, Mauer did however have his obligatory hit, a double.

While the bats were once again were held nearly silent by a vastly over-matched pitcher, there are reasons for hope. Or at least fewer reasons to be fighting mad as I was last night. For one, Twins hitters did a better job of taking pitches, if only marginally so, drawing 3.75 pitches per at-bat versus the 3.36 P/AB that they had taken over the previous two games. Further, the Twins only had one bone-head baserunning mistake, with Torii Hunter being thrown out by a good five feet trying to take second with two outs in the 2nd. Think he doesn't know its a contract year?

Even though Johan 'El Presidente' Santana had a relatively rough night, going only seven innings and allowing four runs, he did what every good pitcher is supposed to do, he kept his team in the game. The only problem of course is that the offense has done nothing to win those games. Last year when the Twins went on their incredible streak, the offense, and the 'piranhas' in particular were getting on base, moving runners, and generally not striking out and hitting harmless pop flys to middle infielders which has generally been the case thus far this season. And while we're certainly not so far into the season that things are out of hand (we have a winning record after all) there is cause for concern. To how we might solve that concern I have few ideas. The Twins have never been a club to go out and make a big trade for a proven veteran hitter, and General Manager Terry Ryan has repeatedly stated that he won't trade any of the Twins young arms to acquire hitters. And so far he is resisting bringing them up to the majors too soon, a move which I fully support. So the truth is Twins fans may simply have to ride this season out with what we have. Of course, there is always the chance that this could change. The Twins hit a bunch of balls hard last night that didn't find holes (at least until about the fifth inning when the bats went to sleep entirely). But something must be done about Nick Punto. If Gardenhire is insistent on playing him, as he appears to be, shouldn't he at least be demoted in the order where less will be asked of him and he wont kill so many innings...?

Turnaround: Jason Bartlett

(NOTE: This article was written before the conclusion of Tuesday night's game, thus, all stats are current through Monday 4/23)

What follows is an analysis of Jason Bartlett's first 56 plate appearances of 2007 divided into "bad" and "good" periods. I recognize that the season is young and it's a small sample size, but the idea is to catalyze some thought and possibly some debate. Enjoy! and thanks for reading.


Jason Bartlett's first real playing time in the Majors began in 2005 when he came out of spring training as the starting shortstop. He started 23 of the Twins first 34 games, and posted a .242/.310/.374 line in 100 plate appearances with a 16:8 SO:BB ratio. He was sent down for the majority of the summer and recalled on August 1 and finished out the year starting 32 of the final 52 games. Again he posted a similar line of .241/.320/.308 in 152 plate appearances while improving his SO:BB to 21:13.

2006 began with Juan Castro as the Twins starting shortstop and Bartlett in AAA. Finally, on June 14, Castro was traded and the Jason Bartlett era began in earnest. He responded by posting an impressive .309/.367/.393 line while playing every inning save 3 of the final 98 games of the 2006 season. His SO:BB ratio stayed fairly constant at 46:22.


Jason Bartlett: 12-51, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 5 BB, 6 SO, .235/.304/.275

Given Bartlett's success in '06, fans looked toward '07 as the year Jason would not have to worry about any challengers to his everyday shortstop job, and, barring injury would have the whole season to contribute. Unfortunately, Bartlett got off to an extremely slow start, going 1-20 with 5 SO in the first 7 games of the season, before a groin injury caused him to sit out two games. Upon his return, he has reminded fans of the Bartlett of '06, going 11-31, with hits in 7 of 9 games. If JB doesn't put up numbers of the same caliber as last year, some may point to his .354 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) last year which placed him in the top 10 in the majors in that category. As most statisticians consider BABIP to be mostly random, it wouldn't be surprising to see that number come down and his offensive production with it. So far this season his BABIP sits at .267 (.067 for the first 7 gms., .367 for the last 9).

Despite his lackluster start, Bartlett has been very effective in the clutch. He is 4 of 11 with runners in scoring position (3 of 6 since his return) and 3 of his 4 RBI were either go-ahead or game-tying runs. So, when he's been given a chance, he has come through at an encouraging rate.

The Turnaround

One of the biggest differences betwixt the first 21 plate appearances and the 34 since then is the percentage of ground balls. During the first few games, 27% (4 of 15) of the balls Bartlett put in play were ground balls with only one instance that was described as a line drive by MLB GameCast. Since then, 43% (13 of 30) of balls in play were ground balls and 8 of the 17 non-ground balls were described as line drives. Bartlett has always been a good contact hitter, he has never finished a season with a strikeout percentage higher than the MLB average (~19%). In the early part of the season, Bartlett was striking out 25% of the time, since then he has returned to his contact-hitting self only striking out only once in 31 at bats (3%). All this is just statistics showing that JB is indeed hitting better recently than in the beginning of the season. Not surprisingly, more line drives and less strikeouts correspond to more hits, but the question remains, what has he done differently now as opposed to then?

Swing the Bat!

The thing that jumped out at me, looking at each of Bartlett's at bats is the difference in his aggressiveness early in the count. In the first seven games Bartlett saw 3.7 pitches per plate appearance, 32% of the strikes he saw were called strikes. In the last 9 games, he has averaged 3.1 pitches per plate appearance and 27% of strikes were called. (That percentage has come up a bit in the KC and Cleveland series, previously it was around 20%). Most telling is the difference when a first pitch strike is delivered. In those cases Bartlett has hit a robust .368 (7-19) in the last 10 games, compared to .333 (4 of 12) when the first pitch is a ball. Looking further into these numbers, Bartlett is hitting .500 (6 for 12) when he swings at the first pitch! When he has a called strike 1 on the first pitch he is only 1 for 7. Notice that nearly two-thirds of the time, he is swinging at the pitch if it's strike one. In the first few games of the season, he encountered a first pitch strike 12 times. This time the trend was reversed; 8 of 12 times, it was a called first strike (needless to say his average in all cases was miniscule). It seems that when Bartlett is approaching his plate appearances with an aggressive mentality, he has had more success putting the ball in play and reaching base.

On a related note, his walk rate last year (.309 BA) was a much lower 5.9% (as compared to 8.3% previously in his career [.233 BA]), which could lend some more weight (as a larger sample) to the argument for aggressiveness. When Bartlett is aggressive at the plate early in the count, it's an indication that he's seeing the ball better, and he's more likely to put it in play (hopefully for a hit). Since his turnaround his BABIP and GB% have been at about 2006 levels. If he continues to hit more ground balls, with his speed, I think he can keep his BABIP well above the league average for the remainder of the season. Bartlett only has 2 extra base hits so far this season (both doubles). Last year about 1 in 5 of his hits went for extra bases, so far this year, 1 in 6. Power isn't a large part of Bartlett's game, but if he can pick up those numbers slightly, it looks like a repeat of last year's breakout performance is not out of the realm of possibility.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Twins notes

After a full night to sleep on last nights event's, I must admit that, while disappointed, I feel much better. A few notes from around Twins land...

- Last season, Torii Hunter made a promise to buy the Royals Dom Perignon if they swept the Tigers allowing the Twins to win the division... (Taken from an ESPN report, Full Story) rule 21-b, which proclaims "Any player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered ... in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club ... shall be declared ineligible for not less than three years."

Long story short, the Twins had to call and ask for the bubbly back. Oops.

- ESPN interviews Pat Neshek

Monday, April 23, 2007

Recap? 4/23/2007 Twins 3, Indians 7

To say I'm furious would be an extreme understatement. I'm not angry about the loss tonight nearly as much as I am about the manner in which we lost, the poor decisions that were made, both by players and by Gardenhire. That and what may have been the worst strike-zone I've seen from a major league umpire in a long, long time.

I'm too angry to really write well so, I'm just going to start listing the negatives, as there really were no positives tonight.

- Ron Gardenhire. This is the second game in a row that he's allowed his hitters to swing away completely unrestrained and to disastrous effect. Over the last two games Twins hitters not named Mauer have hit precisely .164 and drawn two walks. I can't begin to explain my overwhelming frustration, but suffice it to say, I want to hit everything that moves. Seriously, I'm violently angry about this. There is just NO excuse.

Furthermore, the Twins unwillingness to take pitches and work counts has once again allowed an inferior starting pitcher from an inferior team to win games they had no business winning. People said the offense would be the strength of this team, but clearly its the club's greatest liability.

Why in the Sam's-you-know-where did Gardy let Crain, a guy who's made precisely one appearance after missing a week + with tendinitis try and pitch more than one inning? Now I've heard and believe that Gardy is probably the best bullpen manager in baseball but that decision makes no sense. None. Not with Joe Nathan resting on his laurels. Not that Nathan fared any better but seriously... Perhaps the Twins need to hire a VP of common sense.

- Last year Justin Morneau won the MVP. This season the only award he should win is LVP. Tonight was just a microchasm of his miserable, terrible, no good, really bad, amazingly awful, ungodly abhorrent, appalling, repulsive season. Send him to the minors, trade him for Doug Meintkeiwcz, I don't care, just don't let me see him or I'll wring his neck. After yet another 0-fer, this time with two GIDP's and three at-bats that lasted precisely one pitch I'd be glad to see him strike out looking four times a night for about a week just so I knew he had any idea how to take a darned pitch.

Against such vaunted pitchers as Jorge De La Rosa, Jeremey Sowers, and Raphael Betancourt, and rule five pick, Joakim Soria, he's 0-9 with two strikeouts, two GIDP's and has looked beyond terrible at the plate.

- You know things are going bad when Torii Hunter is the only hitter who is consistently working the count.

- Nick Punto needs to be optioned to the minors immediately for Chris Heintz, at least he may be able to hit above .195... I'm through with him and he'll need to hit .300 before the season is out to change my mind. He's a fringe player at best and probably in over his head even as a backup to the regular utility infielder.

- Glen Perkins, despite his decent outing tonight has no business being on a Major League staff. His stuff is average at best and his control is going to get him slaughtered.

This Week in Twins: The Start of Something New

Welcome to the debut edition of "This Week in Twins," or TWIT. I'm your author, Andrew Berg, and from this point forward, you can anticipate a weekly wrap-up of where the Twins have been and where they are going. Also, I will do my best to keep week-t0-week developments in the context of the bigger picture and how they implicate Minnesota's chances of the postseason. If another big story intrudes during the year, I will make room to facilitate its inclusion. For now, expect a broad review with something of an analytic bent. If you enjoy the reading, don't be afraid to check out my own site,, or my other work at Write On Sports.

Weekly Roundup

The Twins endured an up-and-down road trip, sweeping the usually feisty Mariners in Seattle, then succumbing to the Royals twice over the weekend. While it is hard to complain about a 4-2 record, the Twins have yet to take a bit out of the meat of the schedule. Even though Kansas City is not the pushover they have been the last few years, there is no excuse for managing one run against Jorge De La Rosa.

Before the disappointment came the glee of pounding the Mariners, averaging 7.3 runs per game in the series, even if some of that good fortune came at the expense of Felix Hernandez’s royal sinews. Mike Cuddyer led the hit parade, piling up 8 total bases and five runs batted in through the series. The starting pitching continued to impress, as well, with Ortiz, Silva, and Santana turning in a trifecta of quality starts. These early season trips to Safeco have become something of a tradition in the last several years, and they usually give the Twins fits- despite the disparity in the quality of the two teams over the last five years, the Twins are only 8-8 at Safeco since 2002. In that light, a series sweep looks even more appealing.

While the Twins sparkled against the M’s, all that glitters is certainly not gold. The same team that looked so capable mid-week looked inept throughout dropping two of three to a team that has come to know a thing or two about ineptitude. Game one saw another seven runs scored, including another Cuddyer homerun and three hits from the typically scorching Joe Mauer. The run prevention side of the equation left us wanting, though, as Sidney Ponson kept the question open as to whether his ERA or his waistline would end the year further above league average. I would say Ponson is some sort of pathetic example of déjà vu from 2006, but nobody on that roster- not even Tony Batista- was as remarkably hopeless as Ponson. If he remains this out of shape, he may challenge Patrick Ewing’s record of “sweatiest athlete in the first five minutes of a sporting event.” Sixteen hits and four shutout innings of relief helped to pick up Boof Bonser in Saturday’s 7-5 win, making it the weekend’s biggest highlight. The week ended on a sour note nonetheless, as poor weather kept the team from hitting any batting practice. And keeping in mind the adage that “how you practice is how you play in the game,” it should be no surprise that the Twins did not hit in the game either. Jorge De La Rosa cast an eight inning spell on the entire lineup, allowing only another RBI double from Cuddyer. Buddy Bell wisely switched to Joakim Soria for the ninth, putting De La Rosa back in his carriage before he turned back into a pumpkin. The game was something of a microcosm for what has gone wrong for the Twins outside of the pitching staff- although Cuddyer and Mauer each played well, the rest of the lineup mustered only a few singles, and Bartlett committed his Jeter-esque 6th error of the young season. Now I don’t want to tempt fate by suggesting that he needs more AAA seasoning, but if he keeps fielding this poorly, the AL Gold Glove voters might start thinking of him as serious competition for Jeter’s throne.

Biggest Surprise

Even though it seems counterintuitive to believe that a lifelong underachiever could turn around his career after spending one month with a new pitching coach (his fourth), I keep hoping against hope that Ramon Ortiz is for real. He has been the team’s most valuable pitcher in terms of Value Over Replacement Player, and he has done it by pulling off his best Carlos Silva impression. No, not that Carlos Silva. I’m talking about the one who kept the ball over the plate constantly, but with enough downward movement to prevent extra base hits. Sure enough, Ortiz has given up some singles- a respectable, but not earth-shattering, 6.6 per nine- but walks and homeruns are tougher to come by. His two quality starts this week only resulted in one victory, although the 25-12 groundball-flyball ratio hints at the potential for continued success. Let me be clear: I don’t make a policy out of banking on pitchers with a 3.3 K/9 rate; he’s demanding entirely too much from his defense. With a little improvement, however, the rest of the peripherals are there to keep up a very solid season, munching innings just as Terry Ryan had hoped.

Biggest Disappointment

Maybe it is not fair to call it a disappointment if everyone could see it coming. In any case, Nick Punto’s .204/.283/.315 line could not cut it in the middle infield, and it certainly does not cut it at the hot corner. I know he has not been entirely healthy this year, and I know that he actually managed 5 hits (2 XBHs) over the weekend. Still, this piranha has a long way to go before he convinces me that he is more solution than problem. The history books are littered with guys who could draw a walk now and then with good pitch recognition skills. Without the ability to punish mistakes, though, these same batters eventually stopped walking as pitchers realized they could throw the ball over the plate without repercussions. With an anemic .342 career SLG, Punto does not profile as a Mark Teahen type who eventually learns to start pulling the ball. If he can use his speed and ability to make contact to squeak out a few hits or turn some singles into doubles here and there, he could make himself a solid contributor as an infield super-sub. As a full-time player, though, he is all disappointment.

On the Horizon

The Twins have a full slate this week, welcoming Cleveland and Kansas City to the Dome for two apiece, then traveling to Detroit for three over the weekend to rekindle a matchup that generated some very entertaining games a year ago. Cleveland has looked good, if a little disjointed. That fault can be easily forgiven considering their odd schedule so far. The Twins will likely see the back end of Cleveland’s rotation, with Jeremy Sowers matching up against Silva on Monday, and Fausto Carmona trying to prevent Santana from starting a new Dome winning streak on Tuesday. The Twins could feast on this pair of starters with 5+ ERAs, or they could make them into this week’s Jorge De La Rosa. Only time will tell. Against the Royals, the Twins will get a repeat look at Odalis Perez and Zack Greinke. All four starters saw the opponent over the weekend, so there should be plenty of runs scored.

The Big Picture

Nobody ought to complain about first place in the division. Be wary, though, as the competition has not been terribly stiff and the rest of the division has not found any consistency so far. The Twins are already a win and a half above their run differential, and two and a half wins above their third order projections (based on how many runs they should have scored and prevented, derived from individual performance). According to those numbers, they’re only a .500 team so far, not so hot after facing a bunch of teams who figure to occupy fourth or fifth place in the standings by year’s end. The early returns on the playoff odds report from Baseball Prospectus place the Twins as roughly an even-money bet to make the postseason. Since I saw them as something less than a playoff team before the season began, I have no complaints.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Recap 4/22/2007 Twins 1, Royals3 Recaps and boxscore

Coming into tonights contest between the Twins and Royals my main concern, as I stated towards the end of last nights recap, was for a letdown from Ramon Ortiz. To a certain extent I was right, as he probably had his worst outing of the season, though seven innings and three runs is certainly far from bad. The one thing I didn't anticipate was such a precipitous decline in production from an offense which had been racking up hits the last two evenings like they were going out of style. However that is precisely what Twins Nation received.

Ramon Ortiz took the hill against a team that had just beaten up on Sidney Ponson, which many predicted, and then on Boof Bonser, which few predicted. Looking ahead I thought conditions were ripe for a return to form from Ortiz, what with having pitched so well of late, a return to normal was entirely too predictable. That was not the case though as Ramon delivered another seven sterling innings, allowing just three runs to an offense that has thus far been solid against the Twins, roughing up not only the starters, but to some degree the vaunted bullpen as well.

Once again I didn't get to see the game, I haven't seen a a single game of this series due to the sports gal's demanding softball schedule, and I must admit, I'm going through a serious bout of withdrawal. From what I heard on the car radio between rain delays the Twins bats were stifled by the always imposing sounding, though never dominating Jorge De La Rosa. De La Rosa, who will from here on be referred to as DLR obviously had it going as he held the Twins to only five hits, and only one extra base hit, a double off the bat of Michael Cuddyer which plated Batting Champ for the Twins lone run in the sixth. DLR, a 26 year-old from Mexico came into tonight with some incredible career numbers, though for all the wrong reasons. A reliever for most of his career, DLR has pitched a total of 170 2/3 Major League Innings, also known as almost a full season for a starter. In those innings he's managed to post a career WHIP of 1.73, (184 hits, 11 walks (yeah that's right, 111 walks in ~171 innings...)) all to the tune of a 5.43 career ERA. And while he's been much better this year, going 1-1 and registering a 3.04 ERA (all coming into tonights game)

On the other hand you could probably say much of the same things for Ramon Ortiz, a career
4.80 pitcher who as of today is sporting a 2.48 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP(no thats not a typo) . As I stated earlier, this was probably Ramon's worst start of the year, however he still allowed only three runs and only seven hits in as many innings while striking out four and walking none. Along with dishing out another good outing, Ortiz also surely delivered the quote of the game which I stole from's recap, "If I pitch like that all year, we'll win more games than we'll lose." Brilliantly well stated Mr. Ortiz.

Usually I finish by mentioning how the Twins offense did, but seeing as how they scored just one run and had only five hits, I'll say nothing, since thats pretty much what happened. I would however like to hear about what others thought of the Twins hitters, especially in terms of patience, and plate approach, etc... Generally I'm of the opinion that the Twins are most effective when they're hitters aren't hacking away early, a common bit of baseball acumen, but certainly one which I find far too often to be applicable to a team of veterans that should know better. My guess is that the Twins we're they're own biggest enemy, not DLR, swinging early, and allowing him to pitch until the eighth.


- Ramon Ortiz baby, Cy Young, here he comes. Seriously though, thats four pretty great starts from a guy who most people (coming into spring training) thought would be lighting it up for Rochester (or maybe Tampa Bay (aren't they the same thing?)) by now.

- Batting Champ, for using his arm to gun down two more runners today.


- Everyone in the batting order who's last name does not rhyme with 'power'. I suppose Cuddy gets a pass too for drawing the only walk against a guy who's made a career of allowing people the free pass to first. Honestly, thats pathetic.

- Ron Gardenhire. Seriously, did he miss the part of the pre-game speech where he tells the guys the pitcher they're about to face has allowed walks at a rate of 5.85 per 9 innings? Did that just conveniently slip by? Did he miss the, "make sure to work the count so we can spend as much time pounding the worst bullpen in baseball," part? Sure, DLR's final strikes-thrown rating was pretty good at 68%, but I'm curious how many of those were Twins hitters flailing away at pitches out of the zone. My guess is a lot. I'm hoping someone who saw the game will confirm this, because I'm almost positive its true.

- MVP, who has been anything but so far this year, failing with astounding consistency with guys in scoring position. Today's line? 0-4 with two strikeouts (including a bases loaded, one out job) and four left on base. I may be the only person who's hating on him hard right now, but he's really been bad. So far this season he's hitting .208 with runners in scoring position. However, as a leadoff hitter he's batting .412. Looks like he and Luis Castillo have decided to swap roles. Castillo is hitting .400 with runners in scoring position.

Another point of interest with Morneau would be that it seems he's trying harder than ever to hit homeruns, and for the most part, failing. For his career, Morneau has a .94 GB/FB ratio, this season that ratio has dipped to .79. I can't be certain if it's a mechanical problem or a mental one, but its clear that he's probably not bringing the bat through the middle on a level plane, which is probably the reason I've been hearing, "Morneau hits a harmless pop fly just behind shortstop," so often this season. Also, has anyone else noticed that he's no longer hitting the ball consistently to left field as he did last season and that teams have once again begun to play him hard to pull? According to Inside Edge from ESPN, 26% of his balls in play have been to left, compared to 40% to right. He also has a HUGE hole up and in where he consistently chases and fails to put ball in play. Just to pile on, he's also averaging a career low 3.26 P/PA. If anything good can be taken from all of this, it'll be that it'll give T.R. some leverage in contact negotiations, presuming these trends continue throughout the year. Of course that would also mean the twins probably won't be making the playoffs again, but I didn't/don't expect them to anyways.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow the Twins have to face a real team in the Cleveland Indians and yet another left hander in Jeremy Sowers, regretfully to say, this lefty has talent. So far this season the Twins have hit lefties at a .240 clip and righties at a .304 rate. The good news? We send Cy Young contender Carlos Silva to the mound to face a team who he's allowed a 4.87 ERA and .324 BAA against to over the past three seasons. Oh, hold on, thats not good news? Well, 11-8, here we come!