Thursday, April 05, 2007

Counting Strengths

See if you can find the pattern in these numbers: 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 31, 35.

Give up? It’s the ages of the Twins lineup, the same lineup that many pundits are predicting will come back to earth this year. The problem with that prediction is that there’s only one guy who remembers the bicentennial. Most of them are still in their peak years.

Plus, the entire starting lineup is returning, and the Twins added to their bench with the signing of Jeff Cirillo. Cirillo isn’t Barry Bonds, but he fills some important roles. For starters, he provides insurance for the player most likely to come crashing to earth like Skylab (another event these guys don’t remember) – Nick Punto. His right-handed bat can also spell Jason Kubel against tough southpaws at designated hitter.

The American League’s best bullpen also returns every player. How good is it? This offseason the Twins brought in a number of left-handed relievers, determined to add one to the bullpen. One of the veterans they brought in, Mike Venafro, pitched ten innings and didn’t give up a single run. And they STILL couldn’t find a place for him in this bullpen.

All that’s left to cover is the starting rotation that has drawn more attention locally than the “Who Shot JR?” episode. (Yes, that makes three historical references the lineup doesn’t remember. I’m going for four before this is over. I think I can do it.) Before we start rending our garments about the loss of Brad Radke and Francisco Liriano, let’s not forget that Radke was terrible for the first two months and hurt for the last one. And that Liriano didn’t really pitch after July.

Last summer’s stretch run depended heavily on Johan Santana, Boof Bonser, Carlos Silva, Matt Garza, and Scott Baker, and all of them are either back or available. Now, at least, the Twins have a couple of veterans and some other promising arms in Rochester to turn to as necessary. They may not have the quality, but they have an abundance of quantity, and they’ve proved adept at untangling knots like this as the season progresses.

If this looks a bit familiar, it's because it was published earlier this week in the Dugout Splinters of GameDay. If it doesn't, then you should really start getting the best magazine since Dynamite (Four!) You can buy GameDay before every Twins game across the street from the Metrodome from the guys in the red vests.
That's it for this week. Monday we'll have previw of the Twins/Yankees series, and I hope to see all of you at the blogger even on Saturday at BW3.


TwinsJunkie said...

I thought I was going crazy for a minute

Lichty said...

starters, he provides insurance for the player most likely to come crashing to earth like Skylab (another event these guys don’t remember) – Nick Punto.

Yeah, but when it comes to recognizing coming down to earth, Gardy is as skylab challenged as Mauer. Gardy has made up his mind that Punto is his 3b starter and Punt-Punt or whatever cute nickname Gardy will come up with for him, will only have to make one web gem every few weeks and get on base once and run really hard every once and a while for Gardy to keep his etched in stone belief that Punto is the best everyday third baseman in the league much less on the team.

Any struggles will be met with Gardy stating that "Punt-Punt is battling his tail off, and has just had some bad breaks, we need him to work through it by playing more innings." Cirillo will get some DH time and I bet more first base time than third base time.

I hope I am wrong, but when one of Gardy's guys is at stake, goodbye - logic and proportion.

Cirillo should be playing 3b against most lefties, not because Punto is any better or worse at hitting lefties than righties, but because Cirillo is better than Punto at it. Won't happen though - Cirillo will DH against lefties with Punto at the corner.

It is another example of the Heintz decision really hamstringing the lineup.

If there were another capable RH bat, Cirillo could platoon at 3b and the RH bat could DH. Maybe with Heintz in place, that could be Redmond, which I am not opposed to, but not likely to see that happen.

Kyle said...

You don't think Mauer and Morneau will regress a little from last season?

The knee-jerk response I often get to that question is that both are young and young players always improve. But is that really true?

Alex Rodriguez posted his best RC/27 at 20 years old. Ken Griffey Jr. posted his at 24 years of age.

Last season Mauer was the only modern catcher to ever win a batting title, and even the most homerific Twins fans probably wouldn't have picked Morneau to bat .321.

Peak years, sure. None of the Twins core is likely to experience a significant decline at the plate. But counting on a repeat performance from all of Morneau, Cuddyer, Mauer and Hunter seems unwise.

Still, it's only a minor delusion compared to White Sox fans that think swapping out Freddie Garcia for Gavin Floyd and adding Darin Erstad while doing nothing else is going to turn their third place squad of a year ago into a contender in the AL Central.