September 15, 2010

Say goodnight, Ozzie

It wasn't pretty, but the Twins have already done what they needed to do in Chicago, which is simply avoid a sweep. They're now up seven games with 18 left to play, only two of which are against the White Sox, which puts the Twins' odds of winning the division at about 98 percent. Another win tonight or tomorrow night and everyone can start worrying more about homefield advantage and ALDS matchups. For now the magic number is 12.

Francisco Liriano was great early, but got hurt by ugly defense (self-inflicted and otherwise) on the way to six innings of three-run ball. Not bad in a hitter-friendly road ballpark against a solid lineup, but it could have been much better. Jesse Crain came up big yet again, wriggling out of Matt Guerrier's jam with his slider of death, Delmon Young, Danny Valencia, and J.J. Hardy each had key hits, and Jason Kubel put together a great at-bat against a tough lefty.

I'm sure Twins fans are hesitant to declare any division race over following last year--and after prematurely writing the Twins off then I should've learned the lesson as well as anyone--but ... well, I'll let legendary Lakers announcers Chick Hearn describe the state of the AL Central:

Hopefully the Twins will hammer the final nail into the coffin tonight, so we can have some fun eulogizing the White Sox's season on the 1500-ESPN postgame show. Win or lose, I'll be on "Twins Wrap" talking about the game with Darren Wolfson and taking phone calls beginning 30 minutes after the final out. You can listen online here.

  • Pedro Munoz

    I can’t decide if my favorite moment was the fans booing Manny Ramirez when Crain struck him out in the 7th, or the shot of the fans just pouring out of the stadium after Rios muffed that hit by Span in the 8th.

  • John

    Love the video.

  • festivus

    Let’s not forget to mention Mauer’s 1000th hit! Not bad in 3062 At-Bats!

  • MC

    Cool Standings has us in at 99.2% this am and the White Sox are now closer to the WC than the Twins.

  • MC

    And we’re 1.5 back from the best record in baseball. We need to pass them to get the home field for the AL playoffs.

  • JB (the original)

    Certainly a great game to watch, and I 2nd the comment about the fans bailing after the Rios double-flub. Sure seemed like the umps were doing their best “three blind mice” routine again last night. At least Gardy kept his cool. AJ probably cost his team any close calls in these next two games (I still can’t get over Mauer being called “out” at 2nd, WTF was that?)

  • AK

    Hey, I know the Mets had an epic collapse (or two) a few years back, anyone know what the biggest collapse in baseball history is? I want to say the Mets blew a 7 game lead with 13 to go? Does that ring a bell for anyone else?

  • Brent

    Aaron, When are we going to see the post about denard’s lousy hitting and his dreadful defense? YOu’ve taken every opportunity to rip DY. PLease we need your wisdom as to why our centerfielder is having such a lousy year hitting and than pile on with some complaints about his awful defense?

  • Tom W.

    The 2007 Mets were 7 up with 22 games to go, I believe. The 1964 Phillies were 6.5 up with 12 to go. Of course, the 2009 Tigers 3 up with 4 games left.

  • Jake

    Brent,

    Denard Span has quietly been one of the worst hitting center fielders in baseball this season while coupling it with mediocre defense. Delmon Young as it stands is an average left fielder considering WAR and combining defense and offense.

    I don’t think Gleeman is totally off base in criticizing those two players.

    With that said, Span seems to be turning it on at the right time and I feel fine with him in there. Delmon is a different cat but it seems like he comes up with big hits against big pitchers and I have a gut feeling that he’ll be big in the post season.

    Our pitching has been quietly under rated and great as of late. Defensively we are very strong in the infield. We have great depth in hitting. Valencia’s emergence has been HUGE. This is a damn good team and we are down one of the best players in all of baseball with an outside chance of getting him back.

    Seriously, can you imagine this team with Morneau healthy in the lineup? Yankee like…

  • TMW

    ‘Aaron, When are we going to see the post about denard’s lousy hitting and his dreadful defense? YOu’ve taken every opportunity to rip DY. PLease we need your wisdom as to why our centerfielder is having such a lousy year hitting and than pile on with some complaints about his awful defense?’

    Denard has looked bad here and there defensive, but AG isn’t saying anything because actually been pretty above average defensively according to UZR and UZR/150. You may be frustrated, but it turns out he’s getting to more balls hit out there than the average CF.

    He’s had a down year offensively, but I think that’s mainly because of luck. His Line Drive %, Ground Ball %, and Fly Ball % are all pretty much the same as where they were last year. But his BABIP is down from .353 in ’09 to .294 in ’10. So it’s a combination of good fortune last year and bad luck this year, which shows a pretty dramatic difference in results.

    Also, little has changed on his pitch selection too. I think the decrease in walks this year has more to do with the scouting report saying to pitchers he’ll let you walk him if you don’t give in on 3 ball counts.

  • Noely67

    I sure hope Gardy chooses wisely to utilize Guerrier in only mop up situations in the playoffs. The guy’s been MISERABLE the second half of the season and only because of outstanding performances by the other RP’s in the pen has it not cost the Twins dearly.

  • jokin

    I don’t think Gleeman is totally off base in criticizing those two players.

    Except he hasn’t in the case of Span (at least not with the vitriolic glee reserved for Delmon).

    Delmon Young as it stands is an average left fielder considering WAR and combining defense and offense.

    Except he isn’t. WAR is a flawed statistic, that even the most fundamentalist stat-geek admits has great problems in the weighting and scoring of the fielding component. Case in point- does anyone seriously think that Jason Repko’s WAR value to the team at .4 is in any way, shape or form, commensurately close to DY’s 1.5?… or that Span at 2.7 WAR is 1.2 wins above DY?… or for that matter that any Twins “Replacement” minor leaguer is only 1.5 games less value than DY? Look at the list of OFs above DY and I bet most any honest fan could pick a dozen players they wouldn’t take over Young (Alex Rios is the 7th best outfielder in the AL? Seriously?) Fangraphs link:
    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=of&stats=bat&lg=al&qual=n&type=6&season=2010&month=0

  • jokin

    Denard has looked bad here and there defensive, but AG isn’t saying anything because actually been pretty above average defensively according to UZR and UZR/150. You may be frustrated, but it turns out he’s getting to more balls hit out there than the average CF

    When are you UZR/WAR fundamentalists going to start believing your very own lying eyes over admittedly flawed statistical methodology? Span has looked bad “here”, “there” and everywhere this year, last night’s adventure with Kubel was exemplary of a CF afraid of his own shadow, in the take-charge position in the outfield. His poor performance has in turn hurt his corner-men in terms of tentativeness on balls hit to the gaps. Open your eyes, man.

  • TMW

    If you’re going to come back at me with a nothing, ‘Open your eyes, man’ argument, then we’re done here. Baseball is a game in which antecdotal observations can very easily fool the observer. This is why stats like UZR are around in the first place.

    I’m really having a hard time understanding why you visit a Twins blog that is deeply based in sabermetric theory if you are just going to go off antecdotal observation.

  • TR

    And I’m having a hard time understanding why you even WATCH the Twins? Why not just read boxscores and run computer scenerios? Then you don’t have to do something radical like trust your own eyes or make an independent judgement based on what you actually see

  • D-Luxxx

    I remember seeing Carlos Gomez taking horrible routes to balls, and still catching them. I also remember seeing Torri Hunter dive for a ball and have it bounce over his head for a 2 run inside the park homerun to Mark Kotsay. Good fielders make plays sometimes, and sometimes they don’t. Making a knee jerk reaction about someone based on something percieved will tell you the short story, but looking out at the average body of work will tell you a more complete story.

  • Jon

    My observation is that I’m not sure who is to blame when tweeners have dropped this year. Is Span not communicating well, or is it the other guy not listening or reacting properly? I can’t tell from the sofa.
    Some of these parks are full, and the noise level is up.
    It is not characteristic of an outfield we have grown accustomed too, it seems to me, but its far better than we have witnessed elsewhere.

  • TMW

    “And I’m having a hard time understanding why you even WATCH the Twins? Why not just read boxscores and run computer scenerios? Then you don’t have to do something radical like trust your own eyes or make an independent judgement based on what you actually see”

    Why do musicians learn the in’s and out’s of their idols’ best work? Just enjoy the tunes, man!

    Why would a wealthy car lover work on a hot-rod on the weekends when he can probably afford a BMW?

    Why bother adding a dimension of technical analysis to anything one is passionate about when they can just watch and enjoy?

    Your way is fine as an observational fan. But when you throw this rebuttle out, it holds about as much value as the jock stuffing a nerd in a locker.

    I’m a nerd. I think talk radio is stupid and I read blogs like this that use better facts to argue their points. But it’s all in the spirit of following my favorite baseball team. If you don’t like analytical arguments on baseball, I seriously have no idea why you visit this site.

  • Steve J

    When are you UZR/WAR fundamentalists going to start believing your very own lying eyes over admittedly flawed statistical methodology? Span has looked bad “here”, “there” and everywhere this year, last night’s adventure with Kubel was exemplary of a CF afraid of his own shadow

    When are you traditional scouting “fundamentalists” going to stop believing your very own “lying eyes” and embrace an actual objective means of measurement?

    Here’s the biggest difference between Traditional Scouting “Fundies” and those who embrace sabermetrics: Sabermetric people understand the flaws in the systems, are always questioning their approach. and constantly look for ways to improve observations. Traditional Fundies are the dogmatic ones who lazily fester in their own subjectivity because they don’t/can’t understand the work behind the numbers, so they dismiss it so they can go on feeling superior.

    Fact is, behind every person who looks at Sabermetrics is someone who also values traditional scouting. It is, afterall, another system that needs to be tested against other systems.

    it’s all about objectivity and process versus subjectivity. I’ll take objectibity.

  • I can understand feeling comfortable with a 7-game lead, but I wouldn’t say it’s the end just yet.

  • Also, that’s the last time I read a headline here and post without reading the whole thing. Ha!

  • Chris from Cambridge

    “It’s all about objectivity and process versus subjectivity. I’ll take objectivity.”

    Didn’t Billy Beane say that?

  • brianS

    I miss Chick Hearn. Nice pull.

  • brian

    It’s fun to see AG being loose and ridiculous on Twitter and more reserved and thoughtful on the blog. If only that was the internet norm.