August 9, 2005
They Still Can't Hit
It's comforting to know that I can go on vacation to another country for a week, pay very little attention to the Twins, and come back to find them just as clueless at the plate as they were when I left. I wouldn't want to come back to find them scoring actual runs, because that would be like coming home from your freshman year at college to find that your parents turned your bedroom into an office or something.
The Twins faced the best pitching prospect in all of baseball last night and were completely shut down for eight innings, before Eddie Guardado slammed the door in the ninth. The funny thing is that it's tough to tell exactly how well Felix Hernandez pitched. In most cases a 19-year-old throwing eight shutout innings in his second big-league start would be a huge deal, but the Twins have been making just about every pitcher look dominant over the last six weeks or so.
However, even setting aside the fact that Hernandez was basically facing a Triple-A lineup despite being called up from the Pacific Coast League last week, he looked damn good. He can blow people away with his fastball, he features outstanding offspeed stuff, and he did an excellent job jamming Minnesota hitters to force pop ups, broken bats, and weak ground balls.
IP H R ER BB SO HR PIT
8.0 5 0 0 0 6 0 94
The sad part -- aside from the fact that I was already sick of watching this pathetic lineup before I left for Toronto -- is that the Twins wasted an outstanding effort from Kyle Lohse, who gave up one lone run in seven innings, while striking out seven Mariners and walking just one. (Of course, the boys on Baseball Tonight would gladly tell you he just doesn't know how to win.)
The Twins have gotten some extremely good pitching all season and that has continued during their slide down the Wild Card standings. If their offense could muster any sort of attack on a consistent basis, the big story would be just how effective the pitching staff has been this year. Instead, Lohse gives up one run and gets a loss, dropping to 7-11 on the year despite a 4.21 ERA.
After sitting at 35-22 on June 9 and 46-34 on July 5, the Twins are now in danger of dropping to .500 with a loss against the Mariners tonight. There's little you can do when the White Sox look headed for 105 wins and the A's refuse to lose more than a game per week, but there is simply no excuse for this team to finish at or below .500.
Despite three straight trips to the postseason, I have often been critical of the Twins, from trades and free agent decisions to in-game managerial moves and lineup construction. For the most part my criticism was met with rolled eyes while the team was winning. Perhaps if things completely fall apart down the stretch, Terry Ryan, Ron Gardenhire, and company will finally do something about the team's ongoing inability to maximize its talent on nearly every level.
One interesting note on Michael Cuddyer, who sat out last night's game with a bum knee and might be headed to the disabled list. He hit just .205/.275/.288 in April and looked brutal in the field, and because of his awful start his season totals have looked pretty sickly all year. However, if you toss out the first month, Cuddyer is hitting .286/.369/.471 with seven homers, 15 doubles, and 24 walks in 64 games.
I've been saying for the past few years that Cuddyer was capable of putting together .275/.350/.450 seasons, and it looks like he's finally starting to show signs of that being possible (although no one has noticed because of his poor April). In fact, over the last three-and-a-half months Cuddyer has probably been the best hitter on the entire team. So it only make sense that he's hurt now.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Business of Baseball Report (by Bryan Borawski)