April 29, 2004

Weekend Reading

Nothing new for you here today. I'm coming down the home stretch for school and I've got a big test tomorrow, plus the Twins didn't play yesterday. However, I do have a whole bunch of good stuff for you to check out over the weekend.

First and foremost, here are my articles from The Hardball Times this week:

-- Remember Him?

-- Old Man Franco

-- Top 50 Prospects: April Checkup (Part One)

-- Top 50 Prospects: April Checkup (Part Two)

And then, of course, if you missed any of the stuff from this blog over the past week or so:

-- There are bad MVP voters in basketball too!

-- 12-6

-- Disaster Averted

-- Reader Mail (Did I Mention Luis Rivas Stinks? Edition)

Then, for those of you who are sick of me, here are some non-Gleeman links to check out:

Batgirl -- The exclusive blog of Batgirl, Minnesota Twins fan. Less stats, more sass

I came across this website last week. It's sort of hard to describe exactly what type of stuff you can find on the site -- although the "less stats, more sass" tagline is very accurate -- but I will say that the author is a female and she's a Twins fan, which is a pretty great combination for a blogger, in my opinion. Plus, she's a very witty, entertaining writer. It has quickly become one of my daily stops. Stop by and say hello.

Steve Silver -- Musings on news, politics, sports, and culture from a not-so-quiet American

A lot of people ask me what blogs I really love to read. I am about as sports obsessed as they come, but everyone who reads this probably knows all about the good sports blogs. Despite my sports obsession, I still occasionally like to read some good non-sports writing and Steve Silver's blog is the only non-sports blog I check more than once a day. In addition to being a great site with musings on a wide-range of topics (sports included), Steve is also from Minnesota. In fact, he and I went to lunch on campus when he was in town a little while ago. Great guy, great blog.

Twins Chatter -- Your source for insightful, thoughtful, and somewhat opinionated Minnesota Twins coverage

Despite the fact that I'd still like to be "your source for insightful, thoughtful, and somewhat opinionated Minnesota Twins coverage," this is a very good new website for all my fellow Twins fans.

The Marshall Plan

Now, this isn't a sports blog or a site that has new content on a daily basis, but it is a blog written by someone in my journalism class. I like it and, like many blogs in the blogosphere, it hasn't lucked into a lot of visitors yet (and trust me, a lot of getting a bunch of readers is luck). So, if you've got a few minutes, go check it out and give my buddy Marshall a little thrill and a bunch of new readers.

Today's picks:

Atlanta (Hampton) +110 over Colorado (Kennedy)

Chicago (Wood) -130 over St. Louis (Williams)

Toronto (Halladay) -120 over Chicago (Buehrle)

Boston (Arroyo) -120 over Texas (Drese)

Anaheim (Ortiz) +110 over Minnesota (Silva)

Total to date: $210

W/L record: 28-31 (1-2 yesterday for -105, losing both games by one damn run.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

April 28, 2004

Reader Mail (Did I Mention Luis Rivas Stinks? Edition)

For some reason I haven't done a mailbag entry in a while, so here you go...

From Randy, regarding Monday's entry, in which I complained about Luis Rivas yet again:

It seems to me that you think Luis Rivas is the worst second baseman in the majors. Who would you rather have then, Luis Rivas or Pokey Reese?

Now I'm not hating on Reese here, I like the guy and he has a terrific glove. But no where in your article did you talk about Rivas and his glove, so let's look at the hitting statistics:

Rivas: .207/.233/.345

Reese: .200/.237/.236

Though Reese is currently playing shortstop and we're only comparing hitting stats, Rivas could be hitting like Reese. So as a Twins fan like you are: it could be worse.

First of all, Randy can't possibly be a frequent or long-time visitor to this blog if he thinks I haven't talked about Luis Rivas' defense (yes, I know he specifically said I didn't mention it on Monday...I'm just saying).

I think Rivas' defense at second base stinks. I think he turns a fine double play and I think he has a very strong arm, but I also think he has very little range and hands that are not particularly good. I've probably said this about a thousand times over the last couple years.

Do I think Rivas is "the worst second baseman in the majors"? No, I don't. As long as Enrique Wilson is playing everyday (for the Yankees, no less), Rivas probably doesn't have a shot at that title. But he's certainly among those who need to be considered, and he has been for four years already, which is where my biggest problem with Rivas comes from. The fact that he simply has not gotten better.

Every defense (no pun intended) of Rivas starts with the fact that he is young. First it was "he's only 21." Then it was "he's only 22." Then last year it was "he's only 23." Well, guess what? Now he's 24 and he hasn't gotten any better this whole time. The "he has potential because he is young" theory can only go so far.

In fact, I dealt with this issue in some depth before the season started, in my preview of the Twins over at The Hardball Times. If you missed it back then, I think you'll want to check it out. It should open some eyes for those of you out there still hoping for big things from Rivas.

To answer Randy's second question (Rivas or Reese?), if we are talking specifically about this season, I certainly would rather have Pokey Reese than Luis Rivas. If we're talking about in general, for the future, I'm not sure. If their real-life contracts are to be considered, then Luis Rivas is beyond useless, as he'll be making quite a bit in arbitration next year, certainly way more than I would ever even think about paying him.

Neither Rivas or Reese can do much of anything offensively. The big difference between the two is that Reese is, by personal observations and almost any defensive metric around, one of the best defense second basemen in baseball. Rivas is, as I've said, one of the worst. The difference between the two in this area should not be glossed over, because it is huge.

And really, this is a moot point, because the only reason Pokey Reese is playing every day right now for the Red Sox is that Nomar Garciaparra is out. Not to mention the fact that Reese hasn't played second base all year, since he's been filling in for Nomar at shortstop. Once Nomar returns, Reese will be splitting time at second with Mark Bellhorn and I'd be surprised if he started more than once or twice per week.

As Randy said, "it could be worse" than Luis Rivas. For instance, the Twins could sign me to play my old little league position, second base. I was always stronger defensively than offensively and, at my peak, was pretty damn good with the glove. At this point though, my range is slightly less than that of a potted plant.

However, the "it could be worse" scenario does not include Pokey Reese. I'd make that swap before you can say "bouncing ball just past the outstretched glove of Rivas."

New article at The Hardball Times: Top 50 Prospects: April Checkup (Part One)

Today's picks:

Philadelphia (Millwood) -110 over St. Louis (Carpenter)

Florida (Penny) +105 over San Francisco (Williams)

Montreal (Ohka) +190 over San Diego (Wells)

Total to date: $315

W/L record: 27-29 (2-1 yesterday for +115.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

April 27, 2004

Disaster Averted

I was "watching" the Twins play the Blue Jays last night on MLB.com's Gameday play-by-play tracker. Johan Santana got the start for the Twins and it looked like it was going to be a disastrous start for the struggling lefty.

Santana gave up hits to three of the first four batters he faced and he was down 2-0 immediately. Then in the second inning, Santana hit the first batter he faced and gave up a single to the second guy. Two batters later, Cristian Guzman made an error that allowed a run to score, and then Santana walked Chris Gomez. At this point, I was thinking the worst possible thoughts.

Santana has not pitched well this year and, as I've discussed before, he has been the same type of pitcher that he's been over the past two years. He hasn't been able to put hitters away with two strikes and he hasn't been nearly as fly ball dominant as he has been in the past. And now he's giving up singles and doubles to the Blue Jays and it was 3-0 with runners on base in the second inning.

Santana got a double play to get out of the second without any more problems, but he got back into trouble in the fourth inning. Kevin Cash led off the inning with a single, Orlando Hudson followed with another one, and then Reed Johnson drove Cash in from second with yet another single. Once again, Santana got a double play to avoid a total meltdown, but plenty of damage had already been done.

Through four innings, the Twins were down 4-0 and Santana's line looked like a total mess:

IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO

4 7 4 3 1 2

Yuck. Now, Santana was not being hit particularly hard (six of the seven hits were singles) and his defense had let him down a couple of times, but still...not pretty.

Then, just when I was about ready to officially panic, he came back and did this:

IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO

3 1 0 0 1 6

That is a Johan Santana that I've grown to love over the last two years, the guy we haven't seen yet this whole year. He struck out six of the 11 batters he faced after the fourth inning, and all six of them were swinging strikeouts.

It's funny how quickly things can change. After four innings, I was worried that perhaps Santana wasn't recovered from his off-season elbow surgery, or worse, that he was hurt again. I was worried that all this talk about Santana not being able to get a feel for his changeup was going to be a long-term problem. I was worried that the pitcher I have been hyping and getting excited about for two years now was just not right.

And then, in the next three innings, he was so dominant that I almost forget all about my worries. As bad as the first four innings were, Santana ended up with a start that was by far his best of the season (which isn't say all that much, admittedly):

IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR     PIT

7 8 4 3 2 8 0 108

It's not a great game by any means, but it's a step up from what we've seen from Santana so far this year and it's a whole lot better than how it looked after four innings.

Check out the difference between how Santana pitched in his first two starts of the season and how he's done in his last three starts:

              IP     SO     SO9     GB     FB     G/F

First 2 9.0 4 4.0 20 5 4.0
Next 3 19.1 20 9.3 23 22 1.0

That's not to say Santana is back to where he was last year. He's still giving up too many homers (aside from last night) and far too many singles, but the strikeouts are back and he's not the ground ball machine he was early in the year.

Just like Santana, the Twins as a whole were horrible for the first four innings last night and then were great after that. Juan Rincon relieved Santana after seven innings and threw two shutout innings to combine with Santana for five straight scoreless frames.

While Santana and Rincon were keeping the Blue Jays off the scoreboard, the Twins were putting up some big numbers. They scored one in the fifth inning, two in the eighth and then put up a four-spot in the bottom of the ninth, winning the game on a Jacque Jones three-run homer.

Aside from Santana's in-game turnaround and a great comeback by the Twins offense, there was another piece of good news. Ron Gardenhire batted Luis Rivas at the bottom of the lineup for the second straight game, after batting the useless second baseman in the #2 spot until this week.

On Monday I ranted about Rivas' suckiness and basically said that I was at the end of my rope when it came to watching (or not watching, I guess) him stink up the place. Well, Gardy isn't quite at that point, but it appears he's getting close. First Nick Punto and Michael Cuddyer started to take some playing time away from him and now Rivas has been demoted to the #9 spot.

Personally, I would have Rivas batting leadoff...in Triple-A. Still, I'll take what I can get at this point. Rivas is batting .190 right now, so hopefully he can finally make Gardenhire see the light at some point.

Incidentally, with Rivas out of the #2 spot, the top of the Twins' lineup is exactly how I would have it:

1) Shannon Stewart, R

2) Doug Mientkiewicz, L

3) Corey Koskie, L

Good things come to those who wait, I guess.

New article at The Hardball Times: Old Man Franco

Today's picks:

Florida (Beckett) -160 over Colorado (Jennings)

Philadelphia (Myers) +135 over St. Louis (Marquis)

Atlanta (Ortiz) -120 over San Francisco (Tomko)

Total to date: $200

W/L record: 25-28 (2-4 yesterday for -220, with one rainout.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

April 26, 2004

Sick Day

I appologize for the lack of a new article today, both here and at The Hardball Times. I think I may have a case of food poisoning. Rather than give details, I'll let you use your imagination, I guess. It's not pretty.

Suffice it so say I wasn't doing a whole lot of writing yesterday. Assuming I'm able to spend some time away from my bathroom today, I hope to have some new stuff for you to read tomorrow. In the meantime, we've had some very good articles over at The Hardball Times so far this week, so feel free to head over there and check them out.

Today's picks:

Houston (Redding) -140 over Pittsburgh (Fogg)

Cincinnati (Lidle) -110 over Milwaukee (Davis)

Florida (Oliver) -110 over Colorado (Estes)

Arizona (Webb) -130 over Chicago (Mitre)

Oakland (Hudson) -100 over New York (Mussina)

Anaheim (Lackey) -130 over Detroit (Cornejo)

Toronto (Batista) +140 over Minnesota (Santana)

Total to date: $420

W/L record: 23-24 (1-0 yesterday for +130 betting against the Twins. I know, I know, I'm a horrible person.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

12-6

We're four weeks into the 2004 season and guess who has the best record in the American League? That's right, the Minnesota Twins! (Actually, they're tied with the Red Sox, but "guess who is tied for the best record in the American League" doesn't sound as dramatic.)

The Twins are 12-6 right now, thanks mostly to an offense that is tied for second in the AL in runs scored. The Twins' pitching staff has given up the third-most runs in the league, which is where pessimistic Minnesotans like myself can go to find something to complain about.

The thing that came to me over the weekend is that the Twins currently have no fewer than four pitchers on the team that I could call "11th pitcher" types. You know, the last guy in the bullpen. The guy who gets shuttled back and forth from Triple-A to the majors all year and makes some spot starts and long-relief outings in-between mopping up.

Having one of those guys isn't a problem and there are quite a few good teams that might even have two of them. But four? The Twins are currently carrying Joe Roa, Carlos Pulido, Seth Greisinger and Terry Mulholland. Seriously. There isn't a guy in the group who can hit 90 with his fastball and I wouldn't want any of them on the mound in anything resembling a close game.

But not only do the Twins have four of them, they actually used all of them in a single game over the weekend. As you might suspect, the end result was rather ugly.

                     IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR     PIT

Seth Greisinger 4.2 7 3 3 0 4 1 88
Terry Mulholland 1.1 2 2 2 2 0 0 36
Joe Roa 1.0 2 1 1 0 1 1 12
Carlos Pulido 1.0 4 4 2 0 1 0 29

For those of you without calculators, that's eight innings of pitching and 15 hits, two walks and 10 runs. As if that weren't enough, they needed 165 pitches -- 20.6 per inning -- to get destroyed by the Kansas City Royals.

Of course, their starting pitchers haven't been much better. In fact, Carlos Silva has the best ERA at 4.50. Still, I have some confidence in their ability to turn things around soon. I do not, however, have any confidence in Roa, Greisinger, Pulido or Mulholland to do anything other than supply other teams with hits and fans with souvenirs.

But enough with the bad stuff. Last year at this time, the Twins were 9-9 and right in the middle of a six-game losing streak. In their 19th game, they got embarrassed by the Yankees on ESPN, by a score of 15-1. It was a mess.

So, despite all the injuries and all the free agent defections and all the crappy pitchers on the staff, 12-6 is a pretty good place to be after 11% of the season.

No "state of the Twins" entry would be complete without me ripping Luis Rivas. At this point, stopping the madness at second base for the Twins is my life's goal. I don't care if it's Nick Punto, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Bartlett or an un-retired Chuck Knoblauch and his "Guess where's it going!" arm, it just has to cease being Luis Rivas.

Rivas is currently hitting .207/.233/.345. As I've pointed out in the past, Rivas' horrific hitting goes even beyond the obvious numbers. Despite being very fast, Rivas is one of the worst offenders in baseball when it comes to hitting into double plays. So far this year, he has hit into six of them, most in the American League

There isn't much that's more frustrating than seeing Shannon Stewart on first base with Luis Rivas coming to the plate. It's almost as if Ron Gardenhire has decided that Stewart is too good leading off, so the Twins need some sort of handicap. That's right, I just called Luis Rivas a handicap. Not handicapPED, mind you, since that would be an insult to them.

Here's something to chew on: Luis Rivas has 60 plate appearances this season. He has been responsible for 52 outs. That works out to .87 outs per plate appearance.

For the love of Barry Bonds, can we put an end to this?!

New article at The Hardball Times: Remember Him?

Today's picks:

Toronto (Lilly) +130 over Minnesota (Radke)

Total to date: $290

W/L record: 22-24 (1-1 on Friday for -25.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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