August 25, 2004
Twins 8, Rangers 5
Some notes on last night's game ...
- Joe Nathan is a complete mess right now.
He went 29 straight innings without allowing a run and converted 27 straight saves. Then, last week against the Yankees, Nathan fell apart, giving up four runs while blowing the save and getting a loss. He then gave up a run in his next appearance and followed that up with blowing another save against the Rangers on Tuesday. So 24 hours later, Nathan came into last night's game with a three-run lead to protect in the bottom of the ninth inning and, although he converted the save, looked terrible.
He walked the leadoff man, Eric Young, gave up a single to David Dellucci, got Michael Young and Hank Blalock to strike out (both looking), and then walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases. The third and final out of the inning came on a long fly ball to deep center field by Laynce Nix, who missed a game-winner homer by about 10 feet and a game-tying double by about three feet.
Plus, in addition to the actual results of his pitching over his last three appearances, Nathan simply doesn't look good out on the mound. He's got that sort of confused look on his face that bad closers get when they're just hoping the ball gets hit at someone, and that's completely different than the "Here it is, try to hit it" look Nathan has had for most of the year.
Nathan has no control of his breaking ball and it is forcing him to throw his fastball right down the heart of the plate. His fastball is generally 95-96 MPH, which is why he's not a complete disaster right now, but I wouldn't be surprised if he blows several more saves before the end of the season.
Getting him back on track and getting his confidence back (Henry Blanco may have set a record for most trips to the mound in a scoreless inning last night) should be priority #1 for the Twins right now, because they aren't doing anything in the playoffs if he's pitching like this at the end of games.
- Who woke Luis Rivas up?
Rivas came into last night's game hitting .208 since the All-Star break and .210 in August (and .247 on the year, for that matter), and proceeded to double, triple and homer before the eighth inning was over. He got another at-bat in the top of the ninth inning to try to single for the cycle, but flied out to center field.
Any time Rivas wants to impersonate an actual hitter it's perfectly fine with me, but the problem is that, in all likelihood, he'll go back to stinking starting with today's game, but last night's outburst will "earn" him all sorts of slack (and playing time) from Ron Gardenhire and Twins fans.
In other words, he's been stinking for months (and, in the larger scheme of things, for years), but I'd be willing to guess that his three hits last night did more to boost his stock in Gardenhire's mind than all of his awful hitting since the All-Star break has done to drop his stock, combined.
For all my fellow poker players out there, here's a really awful analogy: What Rivas did last night is like when you decide to see the flop with some crappy hand like J-6 off-suit and the flop comes J-J-6. Sure, you flopped a monster hand and won a big pot, but now you're probably going to be tempted to play hands you should be folding.
Luis Rivas is a seven-deuce off-suit and that stinks, no matter how many flops come 7-7-2.
- Kyle Lohse was once again awful last night, giving up five runs in five innings while getting his seventh "win" of the season. Normally I'd use a game like last night to ridicule the importance most baseball fans place on a pitcher's wins and losses, but I'm sick of doing that lately and I'm only going to get sicker once Mark Mulder steals Johan Santana's Cy Young award.
Santana now leads Mulder in the following categories:
- Batting Average Against
- On-Base Percentage Against
- Slugging Percentage Against
- OPS Against
- Strikeouts Per Nine Innings
- Walks Per Nine Innings
- Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio
- Quality Starts
- Quality Start Percentage
- Average Game Score
- DIPS ERA
- Component ERA
- Win Shares
- Win Above Average
- Win Shares Percent
- Runs Saved Above Average
- Value Over Replacement Player
- Support-Neutral Wins Above Replacement
ESPN.com's Buster Olney, on his choice for AL Cy Young: "Mulder is the Cy Young right now for me."
I assure you, he's not alone. The idea that in the year 2004, intelligent baseball fans, some of whom are paid nice salaries to report on and analyze the game, cannot get past the fact that a pitcher who has 17 wins might not be better than a pitcher who has 14 wins is one of the most mind boggling non-developments in sports history.
And yeah, I know I just said I wasn't going to use last night's game to complain about this. And yeah, I know Santana hasn't actually been robbed of his award yet. Consider this a preemptive strike.
New article at The Hardball Times: Enigmatic Disappointment to Superstar in 465 At-Bats
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