Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On the way to KC and STL

Well, thank gawd I don't need to write about that game....

If I did, I'd probably talk about the same thing as I suspect everyone else, namely leaving Blackburn in to pitch the eighth inning. It was absolutely defensible, and with long-term goals in mind it was probably the right call.

It was also something that Gardy would not have done two years ago. And that's what I would like to explore. But I'm not gonna.

Instead, let's talk about the weekend. The Voice of Reason and I will be traveling this weekend and following the Twins, and if anyone would like to meet up, please let me know. Our tentative schedule:

Fri - Field of Dreams and Clinton, Iowa to watch the Snappers
Sat - Arrive in St. Louis Sat afternoon and play with other Twins fans.
Sun - Go to the game
Mon - Drive to KC, tailgate with Nick and go to the game
Tues - Negro League Baseball Museum and head home.

If you're going to be playing with other Twins fans, drop me a line either using the email link above or replying to my Twitter account, which I encourage you to follow this weekend.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dissecting Liriano

As I write this, Francisco Liriano is in line for his third win of the year. But this shiny W isn't going to help anyone feel any better, because this game was every bit as maddening as any of his starts. Maybe more so.

The superfans will point out that Liriano only gave up three runs, and can correctly posit that "he made the pitches he needed to make." That's fair enough. But Shaq makes the free throws he needs to make, and that doesn't make him a great free throw shooter. And Liriano, right now, is not a great pitcher.

And, to be fair, it isn't clear that he has been since the surgery. That's the conclusion I can't help but draw after laboring to figure out what the difference is between Liriano this year and Liriano last year. The rest of this story will expand what I found, but I can save you about 400 words of reading effort by just cutting to the chase: I don't know.

Prior to yesterday's start, he had about the same number of innings he had last year. He also had about the same number of strikeouts and the same number of walks. It's spooky, really. He had given up 10% more hits, but what's really hurt him is he's given up so many more home runs.

So is he having trouble keeping the ball down in the zone? Having trouble inducing ground balls? Not any more than usual. Again, the ground ball/fly ball ratio from last year is almost identical.

Using, one can pull more granular data, but it doesn't provide a lot more insight. Bert spoke last night about how Liriano is having trouble locating his fastball, and that's undoubtedly true, but he had the same problem last year, and it's dropped something like 3% from last year to this year.

And in a number of metrics, he's better. He's quite a bit better at locating his off-speed pitches than he was last year. He's actually better at throwing strikes earlier in the count. He even gets higher grades for his efficiency, which is really hard to believe.

The only really big difference that I can latch onto is the quality of teams he's faced in the two years. Last year when Liriano returned to the majors I initially noted how many times he faced some bad teams, but looking back, that's almost all he faced.

Of his eleven August and September starts, ten of them were against teams that would end up finishing under .500. This year, he was the Opening Day starter, and thus lined up several times early this season against other Opening Day starters.

Subjectively, the only other thing I can offer, is that this year when things go bad, they seem to stay bad longer. Tonight's game was a good example. In the fourth inning he got two quick outs and then lost the strike zone. It was not gonna be found, or at least not with his fastball. I have almost no ability to really follow a pitchers mechanics, but you could see that his body on every throw was nothing like it had been the pitch before. Maybe when he loses it this year, it stays lost longer, and that leads to more runs.

Or maybe I just have no idea. Check that - obviously I have no idea. I'm open to your thoughts below.

Gomez' Gonads

This was written for the Minnesota Twins Radio Network's Extra Innings, and was broadcast last Sunday after the Twins game.

First impressions can count for a lot. Want proof? Answer this: Is Carlos Gomez a base-stealing threat?

You probably said yes, and so it might surprise you to find out that he has just six stolen bases this year, which is just two more than that speedster Michael Cuddyer. [Editors note: He now has seven.] Of course, we remember our first impression from last year, when he had six stolen bases by April 14th. So what’s happened?

Well, the opposing team is more careful, and unfortunately, so is Gomez, who has become exceptionally cautious about running on the first few pitches. But that’s often all a basestealer gets. Take Tuesday night. Gomez is on first, trying to get an insurance run when there are zero outs.

Pittsburgh tries to pick him off. Then he doesn’t run on the first pitch. Pitt throws to first again. He doesn’t run on the second pitch. Or the third. Or the fourth. After which Pitt throws to first twice. And he doesn’t go on the fifth pitch.

OK, by now two batters have been up and there are two outs. He’s gotta go now, right?

Nope. Stays on the sixth and seventh pitches. Another throw to first. Stays on the eighth, and finally steals second base on the ninth pitch. On a pitchout. That’s right, after being cautious on the first eight pitches, he ran EXACTLY when you shouldn’t have – and STILL stole the base.

And there’s a reason for that – it’s because he’s a guy with 60 stolen base speed - who is on pace for about 15 stolen bases this year. Teams are paying more attention to him – we get it. But it’s time for Go-Go to rediscover his gonads, and reaffirm our first impression.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Totally Off Topic - Something Fierce

Sorry Twins fans, but this is for my friends.

In the late 80s and very early 90s there was a great local power pop band named Something Fierce that we followed religiously, dancing some weeknights at the 400 Bar until we were all salty messes. They had a fairly sudden ending, when one of the two main song writers (Jeff Carpenter) was in a car accident that he's never fully recovered from.

Anyway, they somewhat reunited this weekend at my college's reunion weekend, and short of a Twins World Series victory, that night will probably be the highlight of 2009 for me. I danced so hard that my 42-year-old hamstrings started cramping up in my sleep this morning. I wouldn't change a thing.

Anyway, this is a clip of their last song "(I Miss You) Something Fierce". I'm afraid it's only the first verse, because I really wanted to get back to dancing. For those of you who remember them, I thought you might like to know that they can still really do a heck of a show (with Jeff present and watching fro the side). For those of you who don't, you can find more about them here and here.

I should also mention that they've selling a compilation of virtually everything they've every recorded, even if it wasn't sold before. You can get that here. I will be.