July 1, 2004

Game 2 to Chicago

You almost have to feel bad for Brad Radke. He's been so good this year and gotten such crappy run support, and then he finally gets some runs last night and turns in perhaps his worst performance of the season.

Radke gave up three home runs in his very first start of the season, against the Indians way back on April 5. He then pitched 97.1 innings while allowing just three homers, which is pretty amazing for someone who has a history of being fairly homer-prone like Radke. It caught up with him last night though, as he gave up three more homers on his way to allowing eight runs, all earned. The Twins' hitters hit four homers of their own and finally scored some runs, but it wasn't enough.

The Twins are now out of first-place and, if Johan Santana can't come up with a big game this afternoon, I have a feeling they might be looking up at the White Sox for a while. This Twins team is very flawed and I am hoping that the bright spot in this rough patch they've hit is that it may force the decision makers into looking at the problems in a serious way.

Their bullpen is now essentially two players deep, with Joe Nathan and Juan Rincon as the only guys Ron Gardenhire can fully count on. J.C. Romero was sent to the minors because he pitched so poorly, Aaron Fultz has been awful of late, and Terry Mulholland and Joe Roa were never guys to count on for big innings. Grant Balfour has looked good recently (although he gave up a solo homer last night), which is about all it takes for him to be Gardenhire's #3 option at this point.

Meanwhile, Jesse Crain has a 3.20 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 39.1 innings at Triple-A Rochester. He also has 16 saves and has held opponents to a .215 batting average. Crain might not be completely ready, and I'm sure Terry Ryan would like to keep him at Triple-A for a while longer (what else is new?), but I think it's time to see if he can give the Twins another somewhat reliable reliever to lean on.

As bad as the bullpen has been, the offense has probably been worse for the past two months. They barely managed four runs per game in June and their team on-base percentage narrowly finished above .300. Just pathetic.

The Twins' starting first baseman, Doug Mientkiewicz, is hitting .233/.324/.327 this year and .147/.316/.200 in June. Meanwhile, Justin Morneau, the Twins' starting first baseman at Triple-A, is hitting .323/.395/.629. Again, Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire clearly don't think Morneau is 100% ready, but I think it's time to find out.

I know the Twins have been in tough spots before and come back from them just fine, but I just don't see it happening this year unless they take some chances. The White Sox are better than they have been in the past and the Twins are far, far more flawed. It's time to make some changes and give some new blood a chance.

Just once, I'd love to see them go for talent over experience. As Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera, Francisco Rodriguez and John Lackey can tell you, sometimes a little young blood thrown into the mix in the middle of a season can make a big difference down the stretch and into October.

Now, since I don't want this entry to be a total buzzkill, here's something very positive that came out of last night's loss ... Joe Mauer hit his 4th and 5th home runs of the season.

This is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First is that Mauer is now hitting .282/.358/.563 in his first 24 big league games, with five homers, 11 RBIs and 13 runs scored. The second reason Mauer's five homers are noteworthy is that he hit a total of five homers in 509 at-bats between Single-A and Double-A last year, and he hit just four homers in 411 at-bats at Single-A in 2002.

In fact, take a look at how Mauer's minor league and major league power numbers compare ...

                    AB     HR     AB/HR     ISOP

Minor League 1030 9 114.4 .093
Major League 71 5 14.2 .281

*ISOP stands for Isolated Power, which is slugging percentage minus batting average.

Talk about small sample-sizes all you want, that's impressive and it's great to see.

It appears as though the talk of Mauer's power developing as he matured is looking pretty accurate, which is wonderful. Coming into this season, I said many times that Mauer was the total package, offensively and defensively, save for power hitting. If you project his numbers out to 140 or 145 games (about a full season for a catcher), he would have right around 30 homers, which is incredible power for a 21-year-old rookie catcher.

It's looking like the package is just about complete. Now, if we could get Mauer and this Morneau kid working together in the same lineup at some point, we might have something special for a decade or so.

Today's picks:

Chicago (Garland) +155 over Minnesota (Santana)

Texas (Wasdin) -105 over Seattle (Thornton)

Boston (Martinez) -150 over New York (Halsey)

Total to date: -$1,995

W/L record: 119-151 (3-1 yesterday for +215.)

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

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