Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Revenge of Moneyball, Series Recap, and Other Notes

A SWEEP! A real, honest to goodness, three-game sweep! A fun come-from-behind win! An even funner walk-off win! And a strong-pitching-performance win! Yay, winning!

And all these wins came with the classic "M" caps. So you know that we'll be seeing more of them. I like the "M" logo and all (even though I still prefer the "TC" logo), but I do worry about unilaterally embracing a throwback item; last year was the old cream uniforms, and we all know how that went. But, as Crash Davis said, "respect the streak," so they may as well go with it for a while.

A couple notes:
  • Josh Willingham wants each and every one of us to love him.
  • A note to Mr. Revere: Benny, honey, every one already pretty much loves you because you're fast, and scrappy, and smiley and all, but really, you need to work on that bunting thing. Seriously. I know bunting is hard, but dude...
  • If I were to give this series a title, it would be "Building Pitchers' Confidence"
In the movie Moneyball, Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) said something like (I'm paraphrasing here, I don't really remember the quote word for word, and I tried to look it up on IMDb, but I couldn't find it, and I don't feel like putting the DVD in and waiting to hear it again, and it might have really been said by Jonah Hill's completely fictional character, so just go with me here)... "How do you win ballgames? By scoring runs. How do you score runs? By getting on base."


So on Tuesday, Cole De Vries allowed a bijillion A's to get on base. Not one of them scored runs. And ultimately, they didn't win the game. So there.

Ok, I know, that game was more of a fluke-fest than a commentary on on-base percentage, but it also demonstrates how truly bad Oakland's offense really is.

I suppose I shouldn't get too gloat-y about the sweep, huh?

Jason Marquis signed with the San Diego Padres.

Erik Komatsu cleared waivers has been returned to the Washington Nationals.

Phil Dumatrait, who has spent the season in AAA Rochester, has decided to retire. He's been battling a shoulder injury all year. The Twins released him rather than have him complete retirement papers so he can sign with another team if he changes his mind after a while.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Homework and Catching Up on Other Notes

Sometimes writing a blog feels a little like homework. Especially when the topic of the assignment is so hard to watch sometimes. I've already failed to turn in the Chicago and Detroit series assignment, and since it's too late to get any credit for those, I may as well move on. Like the Twins pitchers.

I was going to write about Matt Capps and trust, but since he pulled off a save on Monday, I don't want to jinx anything. Besides, it would probably have been a C+ effort on my part anyway. (For what it's worth, I really do want to be able to trust Matt Capps, but he still has a ways to go before I get there. But I'm trying. I know he is too.)

I feel like my grades are slipping. I'd better try to get some extra credit. Sometime.

I mean, it is summer now, and even though baseball is the quintessential summer school topic, it's also hard to concentrate on class when you're daydreaming of other summer things. Much like the Twins pitchers.

So, anyway, sorry. I'll try to do better next time. Just like the Twins pitchers.

Injury watch
Nick Blackburn is set to begin a rehab stint in Rochester on Tuesday.

Roster moves
I have some catching up to do here...

The Twins designated Jason Marquis for assignment. They tried to trade him, but couldn't, so they put him on waivers. He cleared waivers, and both the team and Marquis declined a minor league assignment, so he is now a free agent. As much as I cringed whenever he pitched, I do wish him the best. That story about his daughter's bicycle accident tugged at my heart, and I image he still has a bajillion dollars left in hospital bills to pay.

To replace Marquis on the roster, the Twins purchased the contract of Eden Prairie, MN native Cole De Vries. I don't know too much about him; he wasn't even a spring training invitee (didn't the Twins invite like 174 pitchers to spring training? And De Vries wasn't one of them? And they mentally checked off all the other ones to get to him? Wow). He already made one start, and he did so-so. Call it newbie nerves. It'll be interesting to see how he does in front of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and everybody.

The Twins have recalled pitcher Jeff Manship from Rochester. He will be assigned to the bullpen to take the place of Francisco Liriano, who is moving back to the starting rotation.

To make room for Manship, the Twins have designated OF Erik Komatsu for assignment. He was acquired off waivers from St. Louis, who selected him in the Rule 5 draft from Washington. He now is exposed to waivers again; if he clears them, he must either be offered back to the Nationals or, if the Twins want to keep him Rochester, a trade must be worked out.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Handcuffed Arms, Brewers Series Recap, and Other Notes

On Friday when the Twins were beating up on the Brewers, for as much as I was enjoying the production, I was thinking to myself that they should save some of their hits for another day when they needed them. It's a cliched joke, I know, but considering how shaky this season has been, I worry about such things.

But I'm reasonably pleased that the Twins still took the series, and things have been looking less glum. And, yeah, Sunday was pretty ugly; fortunately it only counts as one loss.

A few notes about the series:
  • After the game on Mother's Day, Trevor Plouffe cut off his flowing long hair for charity. It's a great story. Before then, he hadn't hit any homeruns; since then he's hit three, including the game-winner in extra innings on Saturday. Maybe his bangs were in his eyes. Maybe all that hair made his helmet too tight. Maybe he's more aerodynamic now. Whatever -- keep it up, Trev.
  • I think Matt Capps's new pitch -- it's a splitter / chageup combo that he calls a "splange" -- is flirting with me. I think it's kind of sexy.
  • I thought it would have been safe to take a nap on Sunday afternoon when the Twins were down 11-2. I was more than a little annoyed that no one woke me up when Drew Butera pitched the bottom of the 8th. 
  • I don't think Jason Marquis wants any of us to love him.
The Twins are sure handcuffed when it comes to dealing with their struggling pitchers. Hendriks was sent down to Rochester, Liriano was sent to the bullpen, and Blackburn was placed on the DL. Pavano has been fighting discomfort in his shoulder, and even though he looked pretty good on Saturday, the Twins would like to push his next start back a day. And then there's Marquis.

The Twins are running out of options to fill in while the starters get on track. Swarzak could have made a spot start on Thursday to allow Pavano an extra day, but he pitched a ton on Sunday in relief of Marquis. Duensing could do it too, but it seems like he's been used a lot out of the pen lately.

So, the Twins are stuck praying that batters haven't figured out Diamond and Walters yet, and then, after that, who knows? Liriano? Duensing? Call up Hendriks again? Someone else? Oh, and there still isn't anyone to replace Blackburn.

Gardy said earlier this season that he can't replace the whole starting staff. But, man, he might have to. It's a bummer that it's come to this.

Injury updates:
Carl Pavano received some extra treatment on his shoulder earlier this week, and was able to make his start on Saturday. He was pretty effective, and his velocity seemed better that it had been. The Twins still want to push his next start to Friday to let his shoulder get back to normal.

According to Sports Illustrated, Ryan Doumit tweaked his calf muscle last week by leaping in the air celebrating a win. I didn't know that's how it happened. Anyway, I think he'll be fine. By resting for the most part during National League play (he did make a pitch-hitting appearance on Saturday, walked and got pulled for a pitch runner), plus the off day on Monday, he should be good to go again soon.

It was good to see Denard Span back in the lineup.

Tweet of the series:
We've all seen Drew Butera make strong throws from behind the plate. I guess he carries that skill to the other side of the battery as well. From blogger, and noted stat-head, Parker Hageman:

He links to the site that tracks Drew's pitching performance. Cool stuff.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blackburn or Doumit, Tigers Series Recap, and Other Notes

I know it was another short series, and I know the wins weren't pretty, but it still counts as a series sweep, so I'm breaking out the broom, mostly because there's a real chance that I won't be able to break it out any more the rest of the season.

Some notes from the series:
  • Hits. Hits. Hits.
  • Taking advantage of errors.
  • Who's this Trevor Plouffe? I like this Trevor Plouffe. To be clear, I like this homerun-hitting Trevor Plouffe.
  • Brian Dozier keeps flirting. I think I have a crush on him.
  • I think the entire bullpen is flirting with me.
After Wednesday's game, the Twins announced that Ryan Doumit was going on the DL with a right calf strain. They also mentioned that Nick Blackburn was hurting as well. They called up OF Ben Revere to take the roster spot.

Wednesday morning, Doumit had an MRI and it revealed that the strain wasn't serious. So, because Ben was already on his way, the Twins decided to place Blackburn on the DL instead.

The Twins have placed RHP Nick Blackburn on the 15-day DL with a left quad strain.

Blackburn reported a stabbing pain in his leg in his last two starts. His performance during those starts proves the point.

It's unclear who will be used to start in his place. They can skip his next scheduled start because Monday is an off day.

I just hope that Doumit's "mild" strain is really just that and the Twins don't have to put him on the DL in eight days.

Other injury updates:
Denard Span sat out both games of the series with a tight hamstring.

Matt Capps was unavailable Wednesday due to a sore arm. He pitched on Thursday, and he was fine.

Tweets of the series
On Thursday, Glen Perkins came in to the eighth inning with a one-run lead and served up two walks before snapping out of it and getting Prince Fielder to strike out and Delmon Young to hit into a double play. Whew.

After the game, he tweeted:


Even funnier was Brian Duensing's reply:

And funnier still was Matt Capps's addition:

How mature.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Short Indians Series Recap, and Other Notes

Short series; short recap; short paragraphs.

Men left on base.

Leaving pitches up.

Shin-Soo Choo.




Grounding into double play.

Grounding into double play.

Grounding into double play.

Grounding into double play.


Injury update
After Tuesday's game, Justin Morneau was activated off the DL. He's been swinging in batting practice for the last couple of days. The Twins optioned Chris Parmelee to AAA, so that means Justin will be back at first base.

Carl Pavano's shoulder is still bugging him, even though he seems committed to keep pitching through it. He's going to hang back in Minneapolis while the team travels to Detroit so he can do some more work with a soft-tissue specialist. He'll meet the team in Milwaukee before his next scheduled start. I admire his willingness to play through this. He's not really helping the team, but he's certainly not hurting it. And it's not like he's blocking anyone who could do a better job.

Denard Span was held out of the lineup on Tuesday due to a tight hamstring. It didn't sound serious.

Tweet of the series
ESPN1500 writer and radio personality Phil Mackey had this little nugget of information after Tuesday's game:
Way to learn how to make adjustments, Twins.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Living Well, Blue Jays Series Recap, and Other Notes

After a truly awful, embarrassing effort by the Twins on Thursday, they got it together and acted like a big league team the rest of the series. A split of a four-game series against a pretty good team isn't bad, and Saturday's loss was at least somewhat respectable (if there is such a thing as a "respectable loss").

A few notes:
  • Brian Dozier keeps flirting with me. I was happy for him for his first big league homer, and his defense makes me smile.
  • Scott Diamond is flirting with me too. Another super-duper-quality start out of him. 
  • Speaking of Scott Diamond, there is one drawback to him pitching well: all the reporters use some kind of lame "Diamond/gem" play on words. Yeah, we get it.
  • I've been pleased by Matt Capps performances lately. 
  • Speaking of Matt Capps: the lame name play on words trick applies to him too (Capps off the game, et. al.), but maybe not to the Diamond extent.
  • PJ Walters didn't look too bad on Saturday. Too bad the Twins decided to be really good at leaving men on base that day.
  • I don't have a problem with Willingham's defense lately. 
Mother's Day weekend was very nice for me. I took my mom and a couple of friends to the Twins game on Saturday, and we had a unexpectedly great time. We were treated especially well, and we loved it despite the loss.

Sunday was fun; I had the Twins game on the TV in the garage as I planted my flowers around the yard. My kids treated me like a queen. And the Twins won!

I've got a good life, and I'm grateful for it.

Injury watch
Justin Morneau hopes to begin swinging a bat again soon and try to return soon.

Carl Pavano's velocity is noticeably lower this season. He had an MRI recently, apparently to see if there was an obvious cause. It's unclear if he's suffering any pain or discomfort. The MRI revealed some inflammation and a strain to the interior shoulder capsule (the front of the shoulder). He still plans to start on Monday, but I'm sure the long-relief guys have been put on alert. If things don't go well, he said he'll try a cortisone shot.

Scott Diamond took a line drive off his shoulder area during Sunday's game, but he remained in the game and pitched well. He might feel it in the morning.

Kyle Waldrop, who was placed on the DL (strained UCL) during Spring Training, has begun a rehab stint in Fort Myers. He'll need a few more starts before he's activated; the Twins will decide at that time where he'll report (I predict AAA at first).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Newbies, Angels Series Recap, and Other Notes

Turns out the only guy who can breathe some life into the Twins' anemic rotation is a rookie. In fact, Scott Diamond is so magical, he even breathed some life into the Twins' hitters too. Alas, his magic only lasted one night.

Some notes on the series:
  • I'm so happy that the Twins are done with the Angels, and more specifically Albert Pujols. I love Albert, I really do, and I'm happy that I can start rooting for him again, but, lord, I'm tired of all the broadcasters trying to break down his swing. I don't care why he's struggling; I can't do anything about it anyway. He's Albert Freaking Pujols -- he'll figure it out. And I'll be cheering him on.
  • I think Scott Diamond wants me to love him. Also Jared Burton.
  • I'm not sure yet, but I think Brian Dozier is trying to make a case to get me to love him, too. Also Anthony Swarzak.
  • Apparently, all the boys think that growing creepy mustaches paves the the path to victory. So far I've noticed Ryan Doumit, Carl Pavano, Trevor Plouffe, and I think Willingham (it's hard to tell). Also, Jamey Carroll had a classic truck driver 'stache for one day.
  • I have my doubts that the ugly 'staches are actually effective.
Roster moves

The Twins made a few roster changes after the Angels series. I'll try to explain; try to keep up.

The Twins have optioned Danny Valencia to AAA Rochester. He hasn't been hitting well at all (he has 23 strikeouts to only one walk this season), and his defense could still use a little work. I'm sure he'll be back soon enough. They called up OF Darin Mastroianni to take his roster spot.

The Twins have also designated LHP Matt Maloney for assignment. They purchased the contract of PJ Walters to replace him. They've also moved Francisco Liriano to the bullpen.

Mastrioanni came to the Twins in February when the Twins claimed him off waivers from Toronto. In Rochester, he was batting .283/.341/.345. He's 26.

Walters was signed in December to a minor-league contract. I honestly don't remember seeing him in spring training. He pitched .270 in AAA. He's 27. He'll start on Saturday.

Injury watch
Denard Span missed a game during Angels series, a day after he ran into the outfield wall making a catch. Gardy said that he had planned to give him the day regardless. Span is fine and has been back to play.

Josh Willingham also missed a game. It was originally reported as flu-like symptoms, but then it was amended to a skin thing near his lip. I don't think I want to know what it really was. He's fine and playing as well.

Justin Morneau had another opinion on his wrist by a specialist in Cleveland. He offered the same diagnosis -- post surgical swelling and soreness. Justin got a cortisone shot. He hopes to be ready to play again next week.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Morneau, Series Recap, and Other Notes

Remember back in late April when the Twins faced the Red Sox and Royals and lost like 6-7 and I said "if you score six runs, you ought to win the ballgame" (well, I didn't actually say it so you could hear it, but my husband heard it, so just work with me here)?

I miss those days.

The Twins have officially become "that" team. You know, the team that all other teams, even if they're bad teams, look forward to facing because they know they'll win the series.

"That" team starts trading off all their good players. one wants to be a fan of "that" team.

Home stand coming up; let's hope that helps.

Injury Report
The Twins have placed Justin Morneau on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 1, with soreness in his surgically-repaired wrist. I'm about 90% certain that it's his left wrist, even though the Twins transaction report on their website, and several news outlets, say that it's the right wrist. He had surgery on his left wrist during the off season. I'm going with left wrist. Justin, if you're reading, can you verify?

It's not such a huge problem to put Justin on the DL; everyone wants him to get healthy. We all get that surgery is a trauma to the body, and sometimes the body fights back during the healing process. We're all also hoping that it's just that -- healing -- and that it's not something that requires re-doing. Putting Justin on the DL was the right move.

The wrong move, however, was waiting until Sunday to make the move. The whole point of the DL is the ability to call up another man to replace the injured player. It's entire reason for being is to make sure teams aren't short-handed when someone gets hurt. So, every day the Twins waited to put Justin on the DL was a day they were short-handed. And with a 13-man pitching staff, their bench was already thin. It's never a good day when the entire available bench is comprised of Drew Butera.

This isn't the first time that the Twins have gotten burnt by waiting. It happened several times last year. It may have been a little forgivable last year, because the Rochester team had been so ravaged by the number of DL stints by the big league club, there was no one left to call up at times. That is not the case right now.

Here's a tip for the Twins: if you deem it necessary to fly a player back to Minnesota to have a specialist evaluate what hurts, it's probably necessary to put him on the DL. That day.

Roster Moves:
The Twins claimed OF Erik Komatsu off waivers from the Cardinals. St. Louis acquired Komatsu as a Rule 5-draftee from the Nationals. Rule 5 rules still apply: he must remain on the big league club for the rest of the season. If the Twins want to send him down, he must go through waivers, and if he clears them, a trade must be made with the Nationals in order to keep him. The Twins designated OF Clete Thomas for assignment to make room for Komatsu. Thomas has cleared waivers and will report to AAA Rochester.

The Twins have purchased the contract of INF Brian Dozier to replace Justin Morneau on the 25-man roster. Dozier's line is .276 BA / .339 OBP / .371 SLG in AAA Rochester this season.

The Twins have optioned RHP Liam Hendriks to AAA Rochester and have called up LHP Scott Diamond. Diamond's stats in Rochester are: 2.60 ERA, 1.212 WHIP, and 3.71 K/BB ratio.

Sean Burroughs has cleared waivers and has accepted the assignment to AAA Rochester.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tears, Series Recap, and Other Notes

Oy. That was a punch in the gut. Followed closely by a knockout punch to the jaw.

There's no need to go into detail about how awful that was. Not only has the starting pitching failed to improve to a satisfactory level, but now the offense has taken a break from acceptability. Let's hope that a day off in beautiful Seattle helps matters. Although we all said that for the last off day...

Just keep fighting.

A few notes:
  • I don't think Clete Thomas wants us to love him anymore. At least hes' not acting like it. Guys who want us to love them don't strike out 15 times in 28 at-bats.
  • If anyone needs some time away, it's Gardy. He'll get to miss the Seattle series to attend his daughter's college graduation. Maybe hanging out with his family and forget about baseball for awhile will add a new spring to his step.
  • I think I know why Albert Pujols didn't hit any homeruns during the Twins' visit -- it's kind of hard to swing a bat with Roy Smalley's lips firmly placed on his butt. Ok, I exaggerate, but Roy really, really needs to use fewer words. And he really, really needs to stop saying "really, really." I never thought I'd say so, but I'm really, really looking forward to Bert coming back.
It's been well-documented that I love excellent pitching. Few things in life exhilarate me more than a well-spun no-hitter, or even a beautiful shut-out, except when my team is on the received end. Normally, when an historic pitching happens, I'll buy that man a beer. But not for Jered Weaver; not today. I'm just too sad.

In fact, there may have been tears flowing in my house right after Torii caught Casilla's fly ball for the final out on Wednesday. Real tears. (In my defense, three day's worth of frustrating west-coast games leads to sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation usually leads to over-the-top emotions.)

Clearly, I'm not the only one who's upset. I didn't stay up late enough to see Gardy's post-game interview, but all the reporters say that he was raging. Who can blame him? It's his job to get these guys to play well enough to win, and, for whatever reason, they're just not doing it.

A lot of fans believe that perhaps Gardy should be fired in the face of this debacle. I don't agree with that sentiment, mainly because I don't see how it would help. Who would they get to replace him? The problems feel deeper than just the manager. This is a team comprised mostly of replacement-level players, but even so, they need to own their work ethic. The team needs a shake up, but I don't think firing the manager is the ticket. Especially with no clear successor in mind.

Unfortunately, however, is that this is beginning to look like another "great sucking period" -- like the '90s. And there's not much anyone can do about it in the immediate future. Thus, we're all very rage-y. Or sad.

So, no, Jered Weaver, you'll not be getting a beer from me, even though you deserve one. Sorry. Perhaps a nice Phillies or Cardinals fan out there would be willing to do so in my place.

Injury watch
Justin Morneau left Monday's game early due to soreness in his surgically-repaired wrist. He flew back to Minneapolis to have it checked out. Fortunately, it sounds like it's just some fluid build up and swelling. He's still day-to-day.

Danny Valencia sat out on Wednesday with tightness in his back. He should be fine.

Joe Mauer's leg is still pretty sore from taking a foul ball off it during last series. He's been limited to DH or first base duties for a few days.

Roster moves
With Joe Mauer unable to catch for a few days, the Twins really needed a third catcher for a while. Drew Butera has been recalled to the Twins. Infielder Sean Burroughs has been designated for assignment to make room for him.