Posted on: April 30, 2010 2:32 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2010 2:35 pm
In the wake of the Twins' second-straight loss and Nick Blackburn's mystery "is-it-an-injury-or-is-it-a-fam
ily-issue" thing, I decided to check out a month's worth of minor league stats to see if there's anyone cooking right now. I'll give you the bad news first: if you're hoping there's some little-known starting pitcher waiting to throw quality innings at the major-league level, you're not going to find him. Because you've probably already seen what Jeff Manship, Glen Perkins and others can do. And it's not really that great. But when you look at lower levels, you find a wealth of fun young talent outside of the Ben Revere's and Aaron Hicks' of the world. If you take a closer look, this is what you'll find…
Anthony Slama, RP, AAA Level
Everyone's heard about this guy by now, but it's worth mentioning that against all odds (he's a "fool you", not an "overpower you" kind of pitcher), Slama is leading the Rochester Red Wings in strikeouts in a relief role. He's recorded five saves, and would be a great choice to sub in for any of Jesse Crain, Sean Burnett or a few other relievers who've screwed the pooch this year. By the way, batters are hitting just .109 off him to start the year… I realize it's early, but he's displayed this kind of dominance at every level for the past three years or so.
Dustin Martin, 2B, AAA Level
I'm not saying Martin is the next big thing at second base, but he's shown quite an improvement in plate discipline this year in 16 games. He's got a 9:12 strikeout to walk ratio going right now (.424 OBP), where last year it was 39:92 (.319 OBP). Also, he hit a total of five homers in AAA last season, but has three this year. Looks like he's growing as a player, and he just turned 26, so there's reason to believe he could make an impact with the Twins.
Trevor Plouffe, SS, AAA Level
It's too early to evaluate a guy like this because there's not as stark a contrast to last season's totals like our guy Martin above. But in 20 games this season, Plouffe has only a 7:7 K/BB ratio (.367 OBP compared to .313 last year). And he's stolen two bases already compared to three in all of 2009 (118 games). He's making a little noise, so I'll keep an eye on him.
Brian Dinkelman, 2B, AAA Level
His power stroke hasn't come in yet, but the 38 doubles and eight homers in 2009 kind of caught my eye. Dinkelman is patient at the plate too, so far having recorded a nice .404 (13:11 K/BB) On-base percentage through 20 games played. He doesn't run much either, but I'm looking for a sign that the home runs might increase this year. He's 27 this year, and it's time to shine.
David Bromberg, SP, AA Level
Bromberg earned a promotion with a sizzlin' 2.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 performance at High-A Fort Myers in 2009, and has responded well this year to souped-up competition. In his first three starts - 18 innings - he's given up just 13 baserunners and struck out 17 batters. Just two earned runs, as well. Impressive!
Bobby Lanigan, SP, High-A Level
Through four starts, it's pretty apparent why the 22-year-old Lanigan breezed through Elizabethtown and Beloit last year. He's struck out 20 batters and allowed two earned runs through 22 innings in 2010. Also, Lanigan has allowed just 20 baserunners, giving him a pretty dominant base from which to POSSIBLY leap to New Britain later this season.
Kyle Gibson, SP, High-A Level
A lot of people know Gibson's name… he was a highly-rated prospect in last year's draft, and has performed accordingly in 30+ innings at Fort Myers. In fact, he just threw a complete-game shutout his last time out, with six strikeouts and one hit allowed. Gibson's first start of the year was a little bumpy, but from that point on he's given up just 21 baserunners in 27 innings. And struck out 21 batters. He'll be in New Britain by year's end.
Liam Hendriks, SP, Low-A Level
Hendriks showed some signs of being really good last year with a solid K/BB ratio and K/9 ratio. Gotta love a guy who refuses to give free passes and limits balls in play. This season in Beloit, he's been downright dominant with 26 Ks in 22 innings and just nine TOTAL baserunners allowed. One earned run in four starts, as well. Somehow he hasn't factored into a decision yet so his record is 0-0, but don't let that fool you. He's been absolutely filthy thus far.
Can't wait to watch the Twins face off against Cleveland this weekend. I'm a little worried about how bad the hitting looked over the past 14 innings or so, but then I remembered that we're actually a pretty solid scoring team, and that we'll probably sweep the Indians this weekend. Because they suck.
Until next time, thanks for reading!
Posted on: April 22, 2010 9:31 am
Edited on: April 22, 2010 9:32 am
It's April 22, and I realize the season started like 2-1/2 weeks ago. But this blog doesn't run on MLB time, so I'm starting now. And if this is your first time reading Twins Hotspot, you should know we do lots of things differently around here. You won't get point-by-point game reports or minor league updates every day. But I do care about that stuff… it's just that I package it differently. And I only write here because I love the Twins. From Game 1 to the Playoffs, I hang on just about every pitch. Which means I'm a damned mess during games.
For the record, I haven't been to the new Target Field yet. Maybe you've heard about the place. And there are a variety of reasons why (in no particular order):
Speaking of things that are different , last night was the first time I'd seen Liriano pitch this year. The first thing I noticed - and I was positively GIDDY when I saw it - was that all of his motion was positive. No jerking around during the delivery. No falling off the mound. Just fluid, straight-toward-the-plate movement. I loved it. I actually bounced on the couch a little bit when I was watching. My wife can vouch for that. Plus, I kept him in a fantasy baseball league, so that's going well. All together, it's 15 shutout innings in a row with 14 Ks over that span. Plus two wins (which don't matter, but do look good).
Also, the team looks to be on quite a roll, with 11 wins in 15 games, and a chance at a sweep at noon today vs. Cleveland. Scott Baker vs. Mitch Talbot. Feels like a mismatch. Looks like a mismatch. Must be a mismatch.
More writings and thoughts and stats to come!
Posted on: September 4, 2009 9:24 am
Joe Nathan is about as much of a performance "lock" as you'll find on the Twins roster. Except Joe Mauer. In 53 innings, he's sporting a 2.36 ERA with 70 strikeouts. The guy has 35 saves. He's nearly untouchable. And yet, yesterday afternoon, he took a elephant dump on the mound when we had the White Sox in a choke hold. And it wasn't just your run-of-the-mill blown save. He did it spectacularly, giving up back-to-back bombs to Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko. Oh, and it didn't end there… he then walked two batters in a row before Ron Gardenhire realized the game hadn't ended in a 2-0 win, like he planned when he sent Joe to the mound to start the ninth. Oooff! Stomach-punch, baby!
And it's not like the season is over, but it's been over 24 hours since that second home run cleared the left field wall, and I'm still reeling. Really up in arms over this whole thing. I can't concentrate at work, my food tastes weird and my tooth even hurts. Things just don't feel right.
Thankfully, the Twins play a three-game in Cleveland this weekend. And the Indians are ripe for a butt-kicking after being swept by Detroit from Tuesday-Thursday.
Carl Pavano duels with Jeremy Sowers Friday night, then Scott Baker takes the mound Saturday against Justin Masterson. Then Sunday, we've got Nick Blackburn facing David Huff in the finale. Three very winnable games with -- I think -- our three most-trusted pitchers on the mound.
If this team has any designs on the division, they'll take 2-of-3 this weekend, and possibly sweep.
I'll be watching as much as possible, so hopefully these guys give me some reason to believe Wednesday was a complete fluke.
Posted on: August 14, 2009 10:10 am
Edited on: August 14, 2009 10:23 am
I listened to the Twins game at work yesterday and could hear it in John Gordon's voice: Carl Pavano is WHO WE THOUGHT he was. If you didn't have a chance to read my larger post on Wednesday, I spoke about Pavano's horrific numbers against teams under .500. For a review… 41 2/3 IP, 7.52 ERA. And that was before yesterday's seven-inning, five-run ugliness. I was impressed that he managed to get through seven frames, and it was encouraging that he got better after the first time through the Royals' order, but by that time, the damage had been done.
The hitters can't be let off the hook either. What a horribly vanilla performance. Four runs, all driven in by Mauer. The team coaxed seven walks and picked up eight hits, but left nine men on base, including Orlando Cabrera's absolutely backbreaking bases-loaded double play to end the sixth. Mind you - three of the previous four batters were walked. Kansas City did their very best to gift-wrap a series win, but instead got their first one since late June. On top of all that, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Crede piled up zero hits in 11 at bats.
We can't expect the offense to produce big numbers every night, and against truly awful teams like KC, four runs of support should be enough. But they weren't, and the Twins completed a stretch of 3-12 baseball since their season-high four-game winning streak from July 26-29.
As a matter of fact, since their high-water mark of three games above .500 (43-40) on July 5, the team has spiraled into oblivion, going 12-19 since that point. Our saving grace has been taking 5-of-6 from Chicago, which is probably the reason for higher-than-normal fan morale. So that's why I still care… I was under the impression I was still full of hope, but it turns out the weight of beating Chicago makes me feel like less of a loser. Because hey, if we can beat them, then we can beat lots of different teams, right? Of course, now that they've added Alex Rios and Jake Peavy, we're probably going to struggle a bit more.
I think this stings more because it came on the heels of such an uplifting start from Liriano.
Alas, we must move on.
Cleveland comes to town on with 12 wins in their past 20 games and a combined 6-3 record vs. Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota over that stretch. Some of that was with Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, but Lee only pitched twice in there - both outings were wins.
In our most recent series against the Indians, the two teams traded blowout wins before Cleveland took the rubber match by a score of 2-1 on the "strength" of Fausto Carmona's six innings of one-run ball. The Twins really helped him out though - grounded into 12 outs, including two double plays. Worst of all, the team completely wasted a really good outing from Nick Blackburn … he pitched into the seventh inning and gave up just two runs in the loss. He'll pitch Sunday and hopefully duplicate his success (Two starts, 1-0, 2.02 ERA).
Against Detroit and Anaheim - two of the better-hitting ballclubs in the American League - in his past two starts, Anthony Swarzak showed his true colors. If you want the numbers… a 24.75 ERA and 4.25 WHIP with no strikeouts in four innings. He's not a dominant stopper or even especially effective starter. He's a Bobby Keppel… a Brian Duensing. My guess? He'll be replaced by Glen Perkins as soon as his shoulder calms down (came out yesterday that he will not need surgery). Maybe in September. Swarzy looked capable against the Cubs and had nice outings against Oakland/Anaheim back-to-back, so there's some talent there, but nothing consistent. He'll go Saturday vs. Cleveland's David Huff.
Tonight's starter, Scott Baker, pitched three scoreless innings before falling apart in Detroit last Sunday. The longball bit him again as he gave up a solo shot to Marcus Thames and a three-run job to Miguel Cabrera. It's been the story of Baker's season and a summation of his poor outings. He almost always starts strong, then crumbles into a fine powder when he starts to get hit. But before I throw him under the bus any more, I should mention the previous 26 innings where he went 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 24 Ks. He'll face Justin Masterson, the gem of the Cliff Lee deal.
Funny how quickly a rant can turn into a miniature weekend series preview.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the post and I'll be back soon. Thanks for reading!
Posted on: August 13, 2009 9:16 am
Edited on: August 13, 2009 9:17 am
I got pretty lucky. On Monday, my friend Craig offered me box seats to last night's Twins game, and of course, I accepted without reservation. But on Monday, I could never have known what I'd be treated to in that climate-controlled cavern… yeah, the free drinks were nice, but Francisco Liriano's pitching performance was infinitely better. I was giddy the entire time, texting friends about how "vintage" he looked. There was a certain confidence and mission-mindedness about him that I hadn't seen since '06. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Seven innings, eight strikeouts, one run given up. HE'S NOT DEAD YET!
Yes, I know it was against the putrid Royals.
Yes, I know it was in the near-always-friendly Dome.
And yes, I know that pretty much anything resembling not sucking would have blown me away last night after Tuesday's abomination.
But I, and we, as Twins fans can't be satisfied with one sparkling start. That wouldn't be fair after what this a-hole Minnesota team has put us through recently. We need MORE. And we need Carl Pavano to provide us with the punctuation mark on a series win today. I chronicled his terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad stats against sub-.500 teams in one of the three August 12 entries. In short, we shouldn't be surprised by a Nick Blackburn-like (post-All Star Break) outing today. And just how bad has Blackburn been in the second half of the season? Check this out:
Five starts… 0-3 record…8.87 ERA (23 ER in 23-1/3 IP)… 2.100 WHIP… players are .407/.426/.638 COMBINED batting against him…
I could go on for a long, long time. Oooohh… just found another stat:
He gave up 1 HR per 51.8 batters faced in the first half… Is giving up 1 HR per 28 batters faced in second half.
What the hell is wrong with this guy? Is the sinker not sinking? Is his arm tired? Are contract negotiations throwing off his concentration (rimshot!…a la The Common Man)? We might have to go to a four-man rotation with the bullpen pitching every fifth day. Or maybe get John Smoltz?
***Special thanks to Joe Crede for restoring my faith in his power bat. Now, can someone please toss him into a padded room between games from now on?
Twins day game today at 12:10 CST! Enjoy! Thanks for reading.
Posted on: August 12, 2009 11:46 am
Edited on: August 12, 2009 11:59 am
After reading that headline, you probably think I'm insane.
Maybe I am.
But I believe that with just 50 games left in the major league baseball season, Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker will lead our Twins to a Central Division championship. And before you crucify me and call me a bleeding-heart homer-idiot-stupid head, consider that the Minnesota offense ranks ninth in the MLB and sixth in the American League. The hitting is there, but can the pitching get up to snuff in time?
Of our remaining schedule, we play 60% of the games against teams with sub-.500 records. And that against such teams (CLE, KC, TOR, BAL, OAK), our pitching staff looks like this:
Vs. teams with sub-.500 records, 2009
Liriano - 41 IP, 4.17 ERA… the recent setback vs. Cleveland pushed his ERA over the 4.00 mark. Otherwise, he's had some very good starts. And I KNOW you remember how he finished 2008 (if you don't, let me help… August 3-September 21 - 61 IP, 2.05 ERA, 1.076 WHIP, 55 Ks). This is the same pitcher with a worse mindset. He's not hurt. A couple of solid starts could get him rolling.
Blackburn - 51 IP, 4.94 ERA… majorly affected by last night's blowout vs. KC and the implosion in Oakland a couple weeks back.
Pavano - 41-2/3 IP, 7.52 ERA… funny, Pavano can't pitch against bad teams, but has been magnificent against the likes of Detroit (30 IP, 1.48 ERA), Chicago (22-1/3, 2.42 ERA), Boston (6 IP, 2 ER) and New York (13-1/3, 2.70 ERA). I will now skip any sort of analysis, because this could be beyond explanation. Either way, I call it a wash, because 13 of our 20 remaining games vs. teams with above-.500 records are against CWS and DET. The thought is that he should be good enough not to get pounded by those same bad teams the rest of the season while remaining proficient against the Pale Hose and Motor City Kitties.
Swarzak - 22 - 2/3 IP, 4.37 ERA… he's really been up and down all year anyway. I don't trust him and I don't trust Perkins.
Baker - 53-2/3 IP, 3.83 ERA… if anyone thrives on bad-hitting teams, it's Baker. He'll strike 'em out and put up zeroes through most of his outings.
I think I just talked myself into a division title. Did I talk you into it?A few hitting notes…
Posted on: July 27, 2009 10:56 am
Edited on: July 27, 2009 10:58 am
Ever gotten a Christmas present you really didn't want? A couple of years ago, I got a zip-up sweater from my parents that wasn't my favorite. I held it up and muttered "huh...". Without saying another word, everyone knew that A) I didn't like it and B) I was too courteous to say so. And they haven't let me live it down, either. But hey, the wrapping paper was nice, and it's the "thought" that counts, right?
Much like that scenario, the Twins wrapped up their 10-game road trip with a win Sunday, leaving most fans with a nice taste in their mouths despite the 4-6 west coast swing. They wrapped up that turd of a trip with wins - both on Friday the 17th and Sunday, but there's the issue of the proverbial sweater inside… the nuts and bolts of their journey. And it was an ugly one, where the pitching was horrid. Interestingly enough, Anthony Swarzak emerged unscathed, with a 1.98 ERA in 13-2/3 innings in his two starts. But there weren't many bright spots outside of him. Most disappointing was the week-long collapse of our bullpen.
Joe Nathan saved the first three wins of the trip before blowing Friday's game. Jesse Crain got beat down on Friday in extra innings. R. A. Dickey gave up at least one run in each of his past four outings, ballooning his ERA to 4.05 from 2.83 on July 11. Even the previously untouchable Bobby Keppel was touched for four earned runs (Mon., Thu.) before pitching two shutout innings Sunday. But the good thing is that most of our relievers are good enough to bounce back. And we have some guys going pretty well, like Matt Guerrier, who's only given up ONE earned run since May 26. The key now is to keep them fresh with good starting pitching, so that they'll be of use to us in September.
Speaking of pitchers that are "of use", here are my top 6 Twins pitchers who scare me the least when taking the mound. I'll probably do this every week or two for the rest of the season.
Have a great night - go Twins!
Posted on: July 24, 2009 12:43 pm
Edited on: July 24, 2009 12:49 pm
The Twins have been battered since this past Sunday, giving up an amazing 43 runs in five games, including 32 in a three-game series with Oakland. Not only were the starting pitchers remarkably terrible (aside from Liriano/Swarzak on Sunday/Tuesday), the bullpen sported a 12.55 ERA in the four losses. The hitting has really be fine - we're scoring runs at a decent clip, so that's not really to blame. So it looks like we're left with starting pitching as the major problem, if only because the 'pen only just faltered over the past seven days. Let's dive in and dissect this mother.
Kevin Slowey (DL - Back next week to start for Perk) - After a dismal start to the year where he was shelled for five runs in consecutive starts, Slowey calmed down and was pretty much the Ace of the staff. From April 18-June 19, he struck out 60 batters in 73 innings while limiting the opposition to a .280 BAA and posting a 3.44 ERA. Then the wheels fell off in his two most recent starts, presumably because of the wrist soreness he was experiencing. We hope. This, however, is a guy I trust.
Francisco Liriano - In June, a better version of F-Bomb showed up, and that's exactly who we need the rest of the way. His full-season stats may not recover from the terrible start to 2009, but from June 5 to July 19, he shaved off 1.27 runs off his ERA, and struck out 49 batters in 49 innings. Couple that with a nice little .238 BAA, and we're cookin' with gas. As a matter of fact, Liriano has gone less than six innings just twice in his past eight starts. I won't hide the truth though - he's walking WAY too many batters, a problem that has led to short outings and unnecessary runs. The thing with Liriano is that the strikeouts mask his control issues, and that's something most guys on the staff can't do.
Scott Baker - For Baker, there was a clear turning point in June. He had just come off three consecutive starts where the opposing team blasted two home runs, and was facing Cleveland. Bake proceeded to strike out ten Indians in seven innings of two-run ball. Next game? He struck out eight in eight innings in that super-weird game in Oakland when the team went into the ninth up 10-0, then won 10-5 in scary fashion. Fast forward, and Baker - despite two straight games where he gave up five earned runs (CHW/NYY on July 7/12) - has a 3.94 ERA and 57 strikeouts in his past 61 innings. He's also consistently giving the team a chance to win.
Nick Blackburn - It's been documented elsewhere, but Nick Blackburn is getting VERY lucky as a ground ball pitcher this season, and it's a major reason for why he's been so good thus far. His strikeouts are down from a year ago, yet his ERA and WHIP are much better than 2008. The answer? His BABIP is almost 30 points less than last year. The same balls simply aren't finding holes. The defense is better with Crede manning third base, and that probably helps a bit, but not that much. Thus, he'll get hammered on occasion like he did Monday. Of course, if anypitcher left that many balls up in the zone, they'd get pounded too. All that said, you gotta love his stats from May 10-July 5… a 1.98 ERA in 81 innings. Without Blacky, the Twins would be at least 7-8 games behind in the division. Instead, they remain just 2.5 out.
Glen Perkins (Shoulder injury, might be placed on DL) - It's hard to hammer Perkins right now because of his shoulder injury. It's possible the malady led to some ugly performances, but either he's got some MAJOR issues, or he's just been bad since that early-season hot streak. When you look through his post-April outings, you can only point to one that was a legitimately dominant start - June 26 at St. Louis. Since April 26, he has an embarrassing 7.16 ERA in 60 innings pitched. Clearly not the guy he was last year, or people have figured him out. If you're looking for a guy to send to the bullpen when Slowey gets back, this is your man.
Anthony Swarzak - Our up-and-down rookie has flashed enough talent for me to believe he deserves to stay in the rotation when Slowey gets back. He's only made seven starts, but has better strikeout potential than Perkins and seems to have a better plan of attack. One flaw is that he has a much shorter leash… the managment must be babying him a bit still, as he's been pulled at 4-1/3 innings or less three different times. Overall, he seems to AT LEAST not get smoked by lower-echelon teams, and gives us a chance against the better ones.
So after all that, I contend that Perkins needs to leave the rotation in lieu of Swarzak for the balance of the season. But honestly, there isn't a whole hell of a lot of difference between he and Perkins right now. Let's hope for a solid weekend of baseball as we march toward the top of the Central division!