Tuesday, June 27, 2006

On Dodgers and Saints

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Ask most Twins fans about connections between Minnesota baseball and the Dodgers, and they’ll mention the 1965 World Series. However, the Dodgers have a much deeper history with baseball in the state through the old St. Paul Saints, who became a Brooklyn Dodgers farm team starting in 1944. A number of famous Dodgers spend time in St.Paul, such as Duke Snider (of “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke” fame) who played 66 games with the Saints in 1947.

The following offseason, the Dodgers went a step further and purchased the Saints. Branch Rickey was the president and general manager at the time and had integrated the major leagues by promoting Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers earlier that year. On May 18th of 1948, he did the same with the American Association when he sent Roy Campanella to the St. Paul Saints. Campanella hit two home runs in his first Twins Cities appearance, a game at Nicollet Park against the Minneapolis Millers. After less than two months he was recalled to the majors, where he won the Most Valuable Player award three times, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969.

The Future Twins Double Play Combo?

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Twins drafted two high school shortstops in the second round of the 2005 draft, Paul Kelly and Andrew Thompson. After very good short seasons last year with the Twins Gulf Coast League rookie league team, the two now form the double play combination for the Class-A Beloit Snappers. For Twins fans, they look like a tandem worth following.

Kelly has been Beloit's primary starting shortstop, and as of the recent all-star break, he was hitting .272 with 36 RBI (which is one shy of Eric Lis’ team leading 37). Kelly is a complete player who plays excellent defense with a strong arm (he was a high school pitcher with a 93 mph fastball) and very good range.

Thompson, who is ex-major leaguer Robbie Thompson's son, has played second base. He’s battled some strange injuries this year, such as being blindsided during a bench clearing brawl, ending up on the disabled list with a concussion, and then being beaned in his first game back and missing several more games. He’s hitting .266 and shows a little more “pop” with his bat.

Those numbers don’t make them prospects as much as the number “19” does – neither will turn 20 years old until after the season is over. This year they were both selected for the league’s all-star game with Kelly earning a starting position. By comparison, six of the nine starters for their all-star squad were 20 to 24 years old.

On the Hill

Dodgers: Brett Tomko? (5-6 5.12 ERA)
  • 2005: 8-15, 191.2 IP, 114 K, 4.48 ERA

  • 2006: 83.2 IP, 95 H, 47 K, 20 BB, 14 HR

  • May not start due to injury

  • It’s unclear exactly how Brett Tomko has survived for ten years in the majors. He’s never had a really exceptional year, except for possibly his rookie season in 1997. His career ERA is 4.55, and most of that has been in the National League (where ERAs are lower) and in pitcher’s parks. The Twins likely have three minor league pitchers that could outperform Tomko this year. Apropos of nothing, he just signed a contract guaranteeing him $8.7 million for the next two years. And you wonder how Kyle Lohse keeps winning these arbitration cases?

  • Tomko played a role in the hubbub two years ago when an unnamed Giants pitcher called AJ Pierzynski a “cancer”. Pierzynski’s refusal to quit playing cards to go over hitters with Tomko was one of the criticisms of AJ.

Twins: Johan Santana (8-4, 2.75 ERA)

  • 2005: 16-7, 231.2 IP, 238 K, 2.87 ERA. Led league in strikeouts, second best ERA, third place in Cy Young voting.

  • 2006: 111.1 IP, 92 H, 115 K, 17 BB, 12 HR

  • It’s too early to debate the leader for the Cy Young award, but Santana is at least a candidate again. He leads the league in ERA and in strikeouts. Kenny Rogers leads the league in wins (10), but if Santana and the Twins new offense can rack up close to twenty wins, it would be awfully hard to not give it to him.

  • In his last couple of starts, early leads have helped Santana, which is very good, because in neither start was he really dominant. Instead, he could focus on being efficient and eating innings. It’s all relative, and the stats don’t really show it (unless you’re looking at strikeouts) but Santana is going through a slightly rough patch right now. That the results are still so impressive is a testament to how good he is, and how high our expectations are set.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tomko's been put on the DL; according to MLB.com, Odalis Perez will be starting for the Dodgers this afternoon.