Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Links of the Day for 8/3/06

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  • Kelly Thesier, the official twins beat writer, wrote an article pointing to the Twin's depth problems after Liriano's sore forearm. Itwas hard to imagine the starting rotation as a weakness heading into theseason. As if to illustrate this point- Scott Baker was moved into therotation, got shelled, and was sent back down within 24 hours. In a dejavu moment, Boof Bonsor gave a repeat performance and was called up and sent down before sunset.

  • Nick M. over at Nick and Nick's commented today that Baker appears to have the stuff of a major leaguepitcher, but not the mental toughness. You have to wonder how his 24-hour stint in the majors has helped his coping skills. The extra roster spot previously filled by Boof Baker is now filled by the MIB, apparently.

  • Aaron Gleeman took a well deserved day-off today in recognition of his four year blogging anniversary. Please take amoment to congratulate him in his comments section today. It's hard to imagine keeping up with such fresh insight for so long. I think two weeks is my personal record for journal keeping, and my writing was farfrom insightful. I hope we are lucky enough to get another four years!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Trade Deadline Hangover

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For some, the trade deadline is an event. For me, it’s a sickness - a compulsive obsession that starts in March and builds until I’m in the throws of a semi-conscious twitch over the last few days of July. I’m only partially exaggerating. I couldn’t be happier it’s over, like the morning after my bachelor party.

The queasy feeling I have reminds me of that morning, too. The Twins mostly sat on their hands, and no matter how much I want to justify it, there’s no way to deny the disappointment. This team looked like it was in a position to do some things, and there were things left to do.

It’s forgivable to not get another starting pitcher. Not that they didn’t need one; it was their biggest need. I’m as bullish on the Twins minor league pitching as anyone, but Brad Radke’s last start should have Twins fans, coaches and management concerned. If he tries to “battle his way through this thing” and stinks, there is NO shot for the Wild Card. But there just wasn’t much out there worth pursuing, and what little there was mostly stayed with their own team.

More disappointing was not adding a right-handed power bat to the mix. I know, I know, Torii Hunter is back and hit a home run last night. And Michael Cuddyer continues to impress. But neither really belongs in that spot between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. There were a few players available who might have fit that mold, and at least two of them were traded yesterday.

The one who wasn’t was Alfonso Soriano, and again, Terry Ryan gets a free pass on that one. The Washington Nationals GM, Jim Bowden, has often come up short on change when trying to board the clue bus. Remember that contract he gave Cristian Guzman? Dealing with incompetence is always a crapshoot, since you can’t save someone from himself. If it’s true that the Twins were willing to give up Scott Baker and Jason Kubel for Soriano, and Bowden turned it down, well, you can’t say Ryan didn’t try.

On the other hand, two lesser names with big right-handed power WERE moved, and they were moved for next to nothing. Craig Wilson, the streaky right-handed slugger for the Pirates, was traded to the Yankees. Ryan Shealy, a right-handed slugger for the Rockies AAA team was traded to the Royals. Neither is a great fit for the Twins defensively, since neither could play left field here, but both would have provided some right-handed pop, even if it was just as insurance policies.

Ryan appeared on the Twins broadcast last night to talk about the deadline, and it sounds like he is having trouble making tradess because of the Twins past deals. He was asked if he had any GMs call him today out of the blue who hadn’t talked to him previously about a trade. He said he had, just an hour before today’s deadline, and he was very interested in the deal. Which resulted in the other GM immediately withdrawing the offer, afraid he had made a Sabean-ormous sized mistake.

He added that he liked having Wayne Krivsky acting as the GM of the Reds, since Krivsky knows that the Twins aren’t trying to pull any fast ones, while other GMs might be more cautious. I wonder if Krivsky will feel the same way in a couple of years, because the one trade the Twins made looks like a real steal from Krivsky’s crib.

When the Twins traded away Kyle Lohse to the Reds yesterday, they acquired Zachary Ward, who looks to be ten times the prospect I thought they would receive. I hadn’t heard of Ward before yesterday, but there’s a lot to like from his profile. He was a third round pick last year, he has a high strikeout rate, has only give up two home runs in over 100 innings pitched. There’s some anecdotal evidence that he tends to induce ground balls, and with twelve hit batters this year, it looks like he’s not afraid to pitch inside. Finally, his splits show that he’s improved every month in Low-A ball.

Everything about him sounds great, except for those last two words. He’s absolutely dominated that level for the last two months and he’s 22 years old, so the Twins are likely to start moving him aggressively through their system. I wouldn’t be shocked if he jumps High-A ball and starts out in New Britain immediately, though the Twins may want to see what they have first.

Ward is more evidence (and there was plenty before this, I assure you) that I should be careful about pointing fingers too much in Ryan’s direction today. If the worst news is that they didn’t get Wilson and Shealy (two names which most Twins fans probably have never heard), that’s not such bad news. Maybe good enough to help me recover from this post trade deadline hangover.

Links of the Day for 8/1/06

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Well that was kind of anti-climactic wasn’t it? For awhile there, it really looked like the Twins order would once again have a former Yankee in it, albeit one slightly better than Ruben Sierra. Jim Bowdon, however, fresh off his fleecing of the Reds, seemed to have had quite a high asking price, namely Matt Garza. Or maybe the Nats just wanted to resign Soriano. Terry Ryan might have his faults, but let’s all thank the baseball gods that Jim Bowdon isn’t in charge of our squad.

Like all good GM’s, it seems that Ryan doesn’t play chicken, and when the Twins decided not to trade away the best pitcher in their system for a two month rental they weren’t going to back down. Whether or not they’ll regret that decision remains to be seen, and depends on two factors—whether or not they make the playoffs, and how Garza turns out. If he keeps pitching like he has been, Garza will get his first chance to prove he’s worth more than two months of Soriano this season.

And while they didn’t get a big bat for the cleanup spot, the Twins did manage to utilize the trade deadline to divest themselves of Kyle Lohse, someone who’s proven his ability to use a bat in slightly less traditional means. The move clears up payroll, both by removing part of Lohse’s salary and by lessening the chance the Twins have to use their precious resources to replace manager’s doors and furniture in the clubhouse once every five days.

They also managed to get one of the Reds’ top ten prospects out of the deal in Zach Ward, who’s been phenomenal in low A ball and will likely be promoted by the Twins. Once again, it looks like the Master has gotten the upper hand in a trade with his student. And if you’re interested, you can see a host of ex-Twins scrimmage each other in September at Wrigley Field.

And now, for some quick links:

  • Twinkietown has a lengthy discussion of the Lohse-Ward trade.

  • The cast of Baseball Tonight getting you down? Well, it turns out there is a way to get fired from that show. Sadly, it has nothing to do with being a horrible analyst.

  • Finally, Peter Gammons’ health continues to improve. If we’re lucky, he’ll be back in time for the waiver deadline.


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Over the course of 40 games (80% of which the Twins won), we gradually became convinced that they were Supermen. It took one highly anticipated and attended weekend series to remind us that our Men of Steel have their kryptonite.

The series against the Tigers was praised as two talented teams playing at a high level in closely contested games, which the Twins just happened to lose. That’s partly true, but it’s also worth noting that the two losses came against the bottom of Detroit’s rotation, and that their All-Star catcher was sitting in the dugout for the entire series. Looking closer at the games, they also showcased some of the flaws and concerns this team has as it tries to reach the 96 wins that will likely be necessary for a wild card spot.

  • The biggest concern has to be Brad Radke and his shoulder. At the beginning of June, the Twins made some roster moves on the left side of their infield that coincided with their return to competence. But that’s also when Brad Radke went from being the second worst starting pitcher in baseball to one of the top five.

    This weekend’s performance suggests that benefits of the cortisone shot he received over the All-Star break are fairly short-lived. Cortisone shots aren’t something that an athlete takes several times per month. At most, player take them a few times per season – anything more than that can be harmful. If Radke regresses because of a chronically sore shoulder, the Twins suddenly have three question marks in their rotation, something that few contending teams can afford during a playoff push.

  • An equally large concern is the recent performance of Joe Mauer. Hint #1 was the three strikeouts in one game last week. Hint #2 was the two-day rest the Twins felt he needed to have. And Hint #3 was the half dozen times he grounded out to the right side of infield this weekend. The hints suggest that Mauer is fighting some kind of nagging injury, maybe in his back or his hamstrings.

    That isn’t too surprising considering the position Mauer plays, and we’ve certainly been warned about it happening. That doesn’t mean the Twins can afford any stretch where Mauer becomes anything less than superhuman. The Twins need that high average to bridge the gap between the string of table setters in front of him and the table clearers behind him. If his performance over the last two months is burdened by some ongoing soreness, the Twins offense will be considerably less dangerous.

  • The Metrodome is apparently a little crabby about its impending mortality and has enlisted the help of left field to eat our players. Just look at what has happened to anyone who has dared to play there. First there was Shannon Stewart’s plantar fasciitis. Then there were Jason Kubel’s knees. On Saturday Rondell White was moved to designated hitter (DH) because of soreness in his legs, and was pulled from the game on Sunday. That means Josh Rabe started there on Saturday night, and Jason Tyner will likely play there when Torii Hunter returns for this series.

    That’s bad news, but there’s worse news about the six names in the previous paragraph. For each one of them, there is a serious question about their health or inexperience or performance. The Twins are going to need three of them (in left field, in center field and at DH) to perform at a high level for the last two months of the season to keep the offense fueled.

  • The mixing and matching that’s been happening in the fourth and fifth starter slots still isn’t producing anything close to consistent quality. They’ve burned through Kyle Lohse, Scott Baker, Carlos Silva and Boof Bonser. JD Durbin is now hurt for the year, so the newest supposed savior, Matt Garza, is drawing Twins fans attention with his recent promotion to Rochester. That attention is more a result of Francisco Liriano’s success than Garza’s performance, which we know very little about. What we do know is that Garza started the year in A ball, and his professional career is just one year old.

  • With all the pleasant surprises the Twins have had from new players, the award for Most Unforeseen belongs to Nick Punto. His hitting streak ended on Saturday night, but he’s still hitting .311 for the season. “Sparky” has been stellar defensively and the best table setter the Twins have. The strides he’s made this season have been enormous, and they’ve happened exactly when the Twins needed them most.

    Maybe too enormous? Or at least too enormous to count on for the next two months? Consider that Punto’s career batting average coming into the season (over 600+ plate appearances) was just .238. His batting average over eight minor league seasons was just .265. It isn’t completely unheard of for a player to step up to a new level of performance at Punto’s age, and everyone (including this Twins fan) wants to believe that’s what happened. But this seems a little too good to be true.

Add those up, and suddenly the Twins have serious questions about most of their starting rotation, their best pure hitter, their best table-setter, and three other positions. All of which were raised over one disappointing weekend. Over the last two months, we’ll get some answers, whether we like them or not.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

This weekend’s links assembled while furiously pounding “refresh” at Will’s Mill

  • The Twins dropped one to the Tigers in 10 innings on Friday, 3-2 . The F-Bomb was brilliant again, but Zach Minor (6IP, 4H, 2R, 5K) and the rest of the Tigers staff pitched very well.

  • The possibility of an additional bat remains, but Washington’s asking price is still sky high (at one point, I read that Jim Bowden was asking for either Lackey, Santana, or Weaver, along with either Kendrick or Wood, from the Angels. Yikes…).

  • As mentioned in the above article, and also here, Eye-Eye’s return looks imminent.

  • The cutting edge of baseball style.

  • I just feel that this picture needs to be seen by everyone.

  • The Fury!

  • And finally, there’s still time to set your daughter up with Albert Belle.