July 25, 2005

Notes From the Weekend

Five games in four days against the same team, and plenty to talk about ...

  • I can't help but think that the Padres trading for Joe Randa this weekend saved the Twins from themselves. Judging by the package the Reds ended up getting from San Diego for Randa (two mid-level pitching prospects), I would guess that Cincinnati was asking for something along the lines of Boof Bonser and J.D. Durbin from the Twins. I wouldn't give up either of those guys for Randa, let alone both of them (and I'm not even all that high on Bonser or Durbin).
  • Speaking of pitching prospects, Scott Baker looked great Saturday night:
     IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR     PIT
    7.0 5 2 2 1 5 0 84

    He showed good velocity with his fastball and threw strikes, building on a very solid first outing earlier this month. If the rumors about the Twins shopping Kyle Lohse and/or Joe Mays have any truth to them whatsoever, Baker's start Saturday (and rough outings from Mays Friday and Lohse Sunday) had to have given Terry Ryan more confidence to pull the trigger.

  • And speaking of rough outings Friday, here is Terry Mulholland's:
     IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR     PIT
    1.2 7 4 4 0 0 0 26

    Facing a doubleheader Saturday, the Twins really could have used a long relief outing from Mulholland after Mays was knocked out early. Instead, he gave up seven hits and four runs while recording five outs, and the team ended up using Jesse Crain and J.C. Romero for 19 pitches each to finish the blowout loss.

    Mulholland supposedly has two qualities that are assets to a team. One is his literal ability to "pitch every day." I've discussed the silliness behind Mulholland's "rubber arm" numerous times in the past and it was on display this weekend, as he pitched both Thursday and Friday and got knocked around both times. His other alleged ability is eating innings as a mop-up man to save the bullpen, which he failed miserably at Friday.

    Neither outing led to the Twins losing a game, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the Twins would be better off using his spot in the bullpen on someone who actually has a chance to get big-league hitters out, now or in the future. After going 5-9 with a 5.18 ERA in 123.1 innings for the Twins last season, Mulholland is 0-2 with a 5.49 ERA in 39.1 innings this year. In addition to the poor ERA, he has just nine strikeouts compared to 11 walks, and opponents are batting .293/.341/.497 against him.

    If he can't pitch effectively two days in a row and he can't eat up innings after a starter leaves early, what use does he have to a team desperately clinging to a playoff spot? There is no doubt in my mind that the Twins would be better off with Baker as their long reliever down the stretch or with Travis Bowyer in a middle-relief role and Matt Guerrier sliding back into long relief.

  • I enjoyed hearing everyone talk about how Justin Morneau "got back on track" Saturday night, as if one good game renders his inability to hit over the last several months meaningless. The talk of sending Morneau to Triple-A seems to have died down, which is good, but does it strike anyone else as strange that the Twins spoke so publicly about possibly sending him down in the first place?

    Ron Gardenhire made several comments over the last few days about needing to "protect" Morneau and not wanting to "drive him nuts." That makes plenty of sense in theory, of course, but everyone in the organization was perfectly willing to speculate about demoting him to the minors to anyone who would listen for the past week. Seems counter-productive, at best.

  • On a somewhat related subject, I wonder if Gardenhire batting Morneau near the bottom of the lineup recently has actually contributed to his poor hitting. Obviously sliding down to the seventh and eighth spots started because Morneau was already struggling, but doesn't it seem like it would be tough for a power-hitter to get back on track when he's got the worst hitters on the team (and often one of the worst hitters in baseball, Juan Castro) batting behind him?

    What incentive do opposing pitchers have to throw Morneau strikes when Castro is lurking in the on-deck circle? And what good does it do to put a struggling young hitter in a position where he is unlikely to see a lot of hittable pitches? If you're curious, Morneau has hit .262 with a .328 slugging percentage in the seventh and eighth spots, compared to .245 with a .486 slugging percentage everywhere else.

  • I think it's probably safe to say that Bret Boone is as washed up as I suspected. He has one walk and zero extra-base hits in 10 games with the Twins and hasn't looked good defensively either. He'll continue to be referred to as "four-time Gold Glove winner Bret Boone" when most people talk about his defense, of course, which makes about as much sense as describing Kirstie Alley's current looks by saying, "She used to be really sexy."
                       G      AVG      OBP      SLG     BB     XBH
    Bret Boone 10 .195 .233 .195 1 0
    Luis Rivas 48 .250 .293 .287 6 3

    The Twins are aware that their second basemen are allowed to draw walks and get hits that aren't singles, right?

  • I realize he's pretty far down on the list of players who deserve criticism this season, but why does Shannon Stewart get a free pass from the mainstream media regarding anything negative? He's been shaky defensively at times, his arm is horrible, and he is hitting a very mediocre .287/.337/.411 this season, which is significantly below average for a corner outfielder.

    And yet Dick Bremer, Bert Blyleven, and all the print guys talk about Stewart as if he's been great this year. I just don't get it. Oh, and I realize this horse has been dead a while already and I have long since admitted total defeat, but:

    2005 STATS             AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS     SALARY     
    Shannon Stewart .287 .337 .411 .748 $6,000,000
    Bobby Kielty .281 .376 .411 .787 $875,000

    Just saying.

  • And just to finish on a positive note (which is admittedly pretty tough to do right now), Joe Mauer is a stud.
                      G      AVG      OBP      SLG     BB     SO     SB
    Joe Mauer 77 .311 .385 .443 34 41 7

    Toss in an arm that has gunned down 36.6% of attempted base stealers and the argument could be made that he has been the best catcher in baseball so far this season. And he turns 23 in about nine months.

  • Today at The Hardball Times:
    - Lost in the Numbers (by Aaron Gleeman)

    Today's Picks (81-68, +$1,160):
    Cleveland (Sabathia) +170 over Oakland (Zito)

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