Monday, May 31, 2004


Twins Chatter doesn't take a holiday but do to the recent rash of poor play we are taking the day off to rest our poor heads. Yesterday the Twins and Kyle Lohse finally got back into the win column. This coming after a week of terrible play against below average competition. Don't get the wrong idea, we at Twins Chatter are not fair weather fans (anyone who was around during the mid to late 90's could not be), we just have high expectations for our team. Luckily there is some good news. The team is two games out of first and looks to be getting pheonom Joe Mauer back within the week. In a lot of ways this swoon has come at a much better time then last years'. If the team can begin to pull things together it will be setting itself up for a strong summer. Still, there are things that concern me with this team such as improved competition from the White Sox this year, our own inconsistent play, and too much being expected from a guy who has played in exactly one major league ball game. This will probably be a topic of a future column this week. Until then make sure to cast your vote for us to be in the World Series of blogs. We are so new to this but are very excited whenever we receive any recognition. Hope to see you back here tomorrow at your source for insightful, thoughtful, and somewhat opinionated Minnesota Twins coverage.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Enigma Up the Middle

The past week, there has been almost nothing but bad news emanating from our Minnesota Twins, including Thursday’s 5-4 loss at the hands of the hapless Deviled Hams. However, we did get a nice little boost today; a “ray of sunshine poking through on a cloudy day,” if you will. This ray (not of the deviled variety, fortunately) was none other than Corey Koskie. It was great to see him go to the opposite field in his first AB for a homer. Hopefully his presence will help solidify the lineup. One thing this move does mean is that Michael Cuddyer is now free to resume his super-utility role. With Louie still out that means we will probably be seeing a lot more of Cuddy over at second base. The following is from today’s Star Tribune:

Third base coach Al Newman, who drills the infielders, said Cuddyer can be a better second baseman than a third baseman.
"We didn't spend hours upon hours at 7:30 in the morning on field number six [in spring training] taking ground balls and working on double plays for me not to feel like he's comfortable enough over there," Newman said.
When Cuddyer is playing third, the Twins coaching staff believes he tends to stand up when balls are hit toward him, instead of making his first move toward the ball. Second base doesn't demand the reflexes third base does.
"If you watch his body language, he's definitely more comfortable over there," Newman said. "More than he is at third. I don't think he doesn't like third, but I look at body language and he's more comfortable [at second] than at third base."

I began writing today with the thought that I would once again state my opinion that Cuddyer could not be the Twins everyday second baseman. These few quotes by Al Newman aren’t going to sway me entirely, but they are very interesting nonetheless. Watching Cuddyer play second a handful of times early in the season, I was extremely unimpressed with his defense. He was not getting good reads on groundballs, and he was not displaying the soft hands that are so crucial for a middle infielder.

I could not believe that the Twins organization, the same one that had benched Todd Walker for his defense, would put such a poor fielder at a crucial position on the infield. Now, I’m not crazy about Rivas, but you can’t say he doesn’t turn the double play as well as anyone in the league. Louie’s range isn’t spectacular by any means, but he makes Cuddyer look almost like Jose Offerman out there (notice I said almost).

To me, the epitome of Twins Baseball™ is good defense and pitchers that throw strikes. When it all comes down to it, I’m a firm believer that it is those two things more than anything else that helps you win ballgames. That’s what TK always says, and I’m a huge TK guy (come on, how can you not be?). As much as I love their bats, starting guys like Matthew LeCroy and Cuddyer in the field directly contradicts this basic principle.

But Newmie’s quotes here are interesting. When Koskie went down, I thought it was finally Michael Cuddyer’s time to shine. He had the chance to play his normal position, third base, every single day. But Cuddy performed well below expectations at the plate and especially in the field. I can recall at least a few instances where Cuddyer didn’t even come close to fielding balls that Corey vacuums up handily, simply because Cuddyer doesn’t seem to react quickly enough. Whereas Koskie does a great job of staying low and just reacting to the ball, Cuddyer does have a tendency to come up before deciding how to approach it. How many balls did we see go through the hole between short and third in Tampa Bay, just out of Cuddyer’s reach? How many at Metrodome against the ChiSox?

Perhaps Cuddyer can make some in-season adjustments and become an adequate second baseman. No one is in a position to say anything definitively just yet. All I know is that he still has a ways to go before he gets to that point. But if Al Newman sees some potential, then I suppose I can hold off on any final judgment for at least a little while. Unfortunately for Cuddyer and the Twins, however, the clock is ticking.

Twins fans may be seeing a whole lot more of this unless Michael Cuddyer makes some serious improvements in the field

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


It's a busy time of year for the Twins. They are right in the thick of a real, all out dog fight for the division. They await the return of some of their injured players while others continue to go down. The team is witnessing impressive performances and some not so impressive ones. And for the first time in years the team may be willing to part with prospects to be active players in the trade market. In all, a lot is going on in Twins land right now.

Injury Updates -

Twins third baseman Corey Koskie will be activated from the 15-day disabled list in time for today's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. - Star Tribune
This should be good news to every Twins fan out there. This move allows the team to move Michael Cuddyer to second base finally giving them some infield depth. While Cuddyer's bat has been relatively hot, his fielding at the hot corner has been below adequate. Koskie should give the defense a much needed boost while his bat will be a welcome addition to the lineup. He is the first step in the Twins getting back to full strength.

C Joe Mauer (left knee) is set to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment and might rejoin the Twins next week.
Let us all rejoice! No more Henry "I can't buy a hit, heck I can't hit a ball off a tee!" Blanco. Mauer is not only a major boost for the offense, his presence behind the plate is also an addition. Matt LeCroy can do a lot of things but one of them is not throw out runners. Mauer will solidify the bottom of the order, call a great game behind the plate and keep runners honest. He brings a new life to the team, a star quality. Every time he bats is exiting to watch. The guy hit two homeruns in a game Tuesday. The time is quickly approaching where we will finally get to see Mauer up close on a daily basis.

Trade Winds -

Clubs that have spoken with the Royals say Baird has told them that if his team doesn't make some kind of move up in the standings in its current run of division games against Detroit and Minnesota, he'll be ready to listen. And not just on Beltran. Jayson Stark
Bet on that run in the standings never happening. This Royals team is bad. They have no pitching and many of their free agent signings where old and over the hill. On the surface it looks like a good thing for the Twins that there is one less team in the race. Depending on where the Royals ship their guys it could actually make things harder on the Twins. The Twins could have to deal with getting Carlos Beltran or Mike Sweeney out in the postseason. Judging from the games played so far this year against the Royals, that is a scary proposition.

As the potential July sellers begin to separate themselves from the buyers, there appears little question that the two starting pitchers who figure to attract the most attention before the trading deadline are Kris Benson and Freddy Garcia. Opinions are mixed on the reliability of both of those guys. But one scout who saw Benson recently puts him at the top of his team's list. Stark
This is every Twins fan's dream, acquiring an ace for a push deep into the playoffs. Too bad there are none out there and those pitchers available will come at a high cost. Garcia has been great so far this season with a 2.71 ERA and 6.86 K/9 but his career has been mostly up and down. He has pitched great in the playoffs against the Yankees though and when on, is tough to beat. Benson had major arm surgery over a year ago. He has a 4.61 ERA and 5.98 K/9. He has always had potential but has not lived up to it. Perhaps an escape from the Pirates would do the trick. His stuff might make him a better postseason option then Garcia. Since he has never been there, nobody knows. Then again a certain 21 year-old from Texas had never been there before last year's playoffs and look how that turned out.

Stat Lines of the Night -

Hitting - Lew Ford 3AB 3H 2R 2BB .344AVG
Reaching base 5 times in 5 tries is not easy. This guy continues to hit and he isn't going away. He creates things for the offense. His short swing is likely to keep him from any extended slumps. He hits the ball hard and when he doesn't still manages to find a way to get on base. Now he is batting lead off and setting the tone. His performance in that spot has so far been admirable. A .344 average puts him just out of the top 5 in the American league. Incredible, that's the best word to describe his play so far.

Pitching - Joe Nathan 1IP 0H 0BB 1K 1SV
He is un-hittable right now. He has given up 3 runs all year! Not only are teams not scoring off him, they are no longer getting on base. It's such a luxury to enter the ninth with a lead and have the win be automatic.

And Then There Was Justin:
.353AVG 17AB 6H 2HR 3RBI
Not a bad start to his major league season. He can flat out mash. His swing is filled with power and the potential of homeruns. He is going to stick this time. The Twins would not have called him up if they weren't ready to hand over the reigns. Now is the time to let him go out there and play. He is going to put up numbers and he is going to go through slumps. Most power hitters do. Patience is key. Other teams have to respect his potential in the lineup. He is the one guy capable of rocking a pitch and taking the team from a 1 run deficit to a 2 run lead. I was really impressed with how he played against the White Sox this weekend. He didn't back down. He was a large part we won the game we did. The Twins are doing it right by batting him lower in the order to take some pressure off to start. The beginnings of a formidable lineup are in place.

Deviled Hams Feast on Lohse

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I wasn't able to catch very much of Tuesday's 6-1 loss to the Devil Rays for a variety of different reasons (the most notable of which being my 15-page Russian history paper) but looking at some of the stats I'm not all that sad I missed it. I know the Rays are hot, but come on! We had won 11 straight against the perrenial bottom-dwellers! I only hope that this current slide doesn't become last year's infamous pre All-Star break skid, at the end of which the Twins will find themselves looking up at both the ChiSox and (*shudder*) the Tigers.

Kyle Lohse was once again subpar (4 ER in 6 innings). This guy just can't buy a break--many starts he is able to hold it together through five but just can't seem to avoid trouble in the sixth or seventh. The Twins were also unlucky enough to catch the enigma that is Victor Zambrano on his only good day of the entire frickin' month. The guy has electric stuff, no doubt about it, but has been terribly inconsistent so far this year. His April ERA was a solid 3.73 but for May it was (before Tuesday) a bloated 11.00. It also doesn't say much for the Twins' allegedly improved plate discipline when they are only able to coax 2 walks out of a guy that had walked a mind-boggling 44 batters in 55.1 innings before Tuesday (including single game totals of 7,7, and 9!).

The only hightlight was once again Justin Morneau. I know we got a taste last year, but man is this guy good! He is so naturally strong that I think his new nickname should be "Popeye". Kinda catchy, isn't it?

Justin "Popeye" Morneau is congratulated after his second homer of the season, a monster shot in the 3rd inning while Popeye the Sailorman contemplates the tremendous power of his namesake

Monday, May 24, 2004

Five Reasons The White Sox Shouldn't Get Excited

They must really be patting themselves on the back in White Sox land today after their strong weekend showing against the Twins. Let's be honest, it wasn't merely strong showing, it was a thumping not seen 'round these parts since the 2001 NFC title game. All a fan can do is tip their cap to the Sox. They won this round but they still have a mountain to climb to win the division.

1. It is still very early - Games in May are important but the baseball season is a marathon. Are the White Sox capable of winning the big game? What about against their division rival, in September, when they need it? They will need to overcome past demons to do so.

2. Most of the Twins starters did not play in this series - That's right; no Koskie, Mientkiewicz, Stewart, Mauer or Rivas. The White Sox bullied a battered team that until recently had dealt fairly well with its rash of injuries. Now they seem to be in a transition where too many guys are out and they are figuring how the pieces fit.

3. The Twins defense is never that bad - Jose Offerman at second base? This is an indirect effect of the injuries. When the right guys return other teams will have to work more to score runs. Defense improves every facet of the game. The pitches are more confident, the hitters have less of a hole to come back from and the other team scores less.

4. Twins pitching will improve - It is not a stretch to believe this is going to happen. Johan Santana had no command of his pitches this weekend and as a result got shelled. Seth Greisinger will give way to a more viable option if he continues to lay an egg. Kyle Lohse did not get a chance to pitch in this series but just ask Paul Konerko what he thinks of facing him. The jury is still out on Carlos Silva. He has followed a great start to the season with two very lousy outings. Chances are his overall performance will fall somewhere in between. The bullpen was up and down all weekend. They were strung out and not used in anything close to ideal situations. When they are set up properly they have looked very good this year. It all starts with improved starting pitching.

5. The White Sox wanted this series more then the Twins - They are the ones with something to prove. The Twins don't worry, they are trying to work some things out right now. Of course there are concerns but the Twins have shown in the past they are more then capable of getting through problems. The White Sox have yet to have problems this year but in the past have crumbled. Maybe with Ozzie Guillen things will be different this year. They would have to start by upgrading their pitching. Outside of Buerhle, their starters are not good. Loiza was great last year and has done alright thus far but has not shown the same stuff. The Twins hit Jon Garland hard on Sunday and with any kind of a pitching performance would have won the game. The White Sox bullpen is one big roller coaster ride. The White Sox don't play defense like they should and some of their hitters are streaky. Add it all together and you have got one very large team slump somewhere on the horizon.

Add it all up again and what you get is another great race for the summer and Twins division championship in the fall. This weekend the White Sox came into our house and took 3 out of 4. That is baseball. The manner in which it occurred was disturbing but that happens sometimes. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the White Sox don't deserve the Twins respect until they've earned it. Earning it can only come from going to the playoffs. They are a better team than last year but the Twins are still above them. The Twins took the Sox’ best punch this weekend and they are still standing.


What a difference four days makes. The last time I wrote, May 19, the Twins were riding a wave of momentum. Matthew LeCroy had just put an exclamation point on what had been a very impressive nine game stretch for the team with his ninth inning game-winning grand slam against the Blue Jays. From May 11-19, the Twins went 7-2 overall, including a sweep of the Mariners at home and winning series in both Chicago and Toronto. Despite the omnipresent injuries, things were falling into place nicely.

Fast forward to May 23. The Twins had just lost in embarrasing fashion to division rival Chicago by a score of 17-7. This finished off what was an ugly weekend of baseball for Twins fans (execpt of course for Saturday's 9-1 win). The Twins finished the first 7 of their 19 games with the ChiSox 3-4. As the Strib noted today, the totals in those four losses have been extremely one-sided:

Category: Twins-White Sox
Batting Avg: .264-.398
Runs: 12-45
Hits: 37-66
Doubles: 4-13
Home Runs: 3-10
ERA: 10.03-3.00

I don't care what school of baseball thought you subscribe to; there is absolutely no way in to put a positive spin on any of those numbers.

I was one of the unfortunate 22,859 people in attendence at today's game. I was really looking forward to the game beforehand. It was Shannon Stewart bat giveaway day (I'm a sucker for promotions) and Saturday's win had me thinking that the Twins were poised to salvage a split in the series and head to Tampa alone in first place. Plus, it has been raining here for like 5 days nonstop and I was looking forward to catching some live indoor baseball (note: this is the ONLY circumstance in which the Dome is a positive).

I'm sure most of you caught at least some of the game (or watched the "highlights") and to make a long story short, it was the epitomy of an ugly loss. I knew we were in for a long day when Johan had some unfortunate circumstances (bloop hit, bunt single, outfield misplay) cost him 3 early runs. But when the Twins took a 6-3 lead in the 3rd, I thought the Twins had a good shot to pull out the "W". Then came "The Neverending Story" also known as the top of the 4th inning. Oh, the horror. That is something I would rather not relive. Needless to say, people started exiting the Dome by the 5th. Even yours truly commited this terrible sin and left after the 7th (with the score 17-6). Hopefully, the baseball gods will forgive me. After this past weekend, I'm sure most Twins fans are wondering when the wrath of the baseball gods will subside and we can get back to the good ol' days: last Wednesday.

Interesting note from Jimmy Souhan over at the Strib sports section: "Top pitching prospect Jesse Crain, who has been hitting 98 miles per hour on the radar gun, was the Twins' minor league player of the week after pitching three perfect innings at Rochester. He's 2-2 with a 2.38 ERA and nine saves."

Anyone think this weekend's pitching implosion may hasten the call-up of the game's top relief prospect?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Wrong Man for the Job

That sound of thunder in the distance last night wasn't another summer storm rolling through. It was the White Sox bats coming alive against Twins pitchers. It didn't matter that Magglio Ordonez wasn't in the lineup, the previously over-the-hill Big Hurt and Paul Konerko of the "I can't buy a hit or homer" variety more then made up for his absence. This could have been the night the White Sox finally sent the message that they deserve respect. That all their millions had not been wasted for a third year in a row and that their manager, though inexperienced, was the real deal. Too bad their amazing night came against a guy that wasn't even good enough for the Tigers, let alone the Twins, last year.

That's right: Seth Greisinger was so bad that those Tigers of the 119 loss ilk chose not to retain his services during the past off season. No matter: the Twins after 2 mediocre outings and one outstanding one eagerly declared them their fifth starter. Despite having a former (albeit inflated) 20-game winner in the minors most Twins fans quickly joined the bandwagon. Some even speculated on the possibility of Greisinger passing Kyle Lohse in the hierarchy of the rotation.

After all, why not? Here was a former high draft pick coming off of surgery who was still relatively young and seemingly finally putting it all together. What many of us failed to do was look more closely at the situation. Greisinger pitched 37.7 innings last year with a whopping 6.21 earned run average. This year he began the season in the minors and upon being called up was promptly pummeled in his first outing. People then pointed to his earned run average as a starter which was under 4. In those starts Greisinger has pitched more then 5 innings exactly once and that was his great outing. Perhaps his great outing was the aberration. Remember, even Rich Robertson once threw a shutout for the Twins. In all his other outings Greisinger far exceeded expectations and did what a fifth starter is supposed to do: he kept the team in the game long enough to hand it over to the bullpen. He was not a horse and he was far from great.

Eventually the Twins are going to need a real fifth starter this year. One who can eat innings when the rest of the starters are struggling and the bullpen is burnt out. Greisinger has never shown himself to be that man. That's why it would be a mistake to just hand Rick Helling over to another organization. It will happen though and the team will be kicking itself within a couple of weeks after suffering through several more outings like the one last night. Greisinger will return to form and so far during his major league career what we saw last night is it. The kid is not so young, does not have amazing stuff and has barely held his head above water this season and still the Twins insist on presenting him the keys to the car. This is a move that will come back to haunt them.

Notes - The injury bug continues to plague the Twins this year. While they have done an admirable job overcoming them to this point it might be time to call in reinforcements. The only upside to not doing so is that it shows a tremendous amount of disregard for the abilities of the White Sox in this weekend’s series. Then again, losing the series one game to three would be hard to stomach. Especially when the Twins have the quality of hitting they do at AAA. Justin Morneau has done everything possible to show he is ready for another chance and for once the team has room to get him regular at-bats. What he adds to this team is much needed power and hopefully a certainty that Jose Awfulman won't ever be called on again to bat clean up. The only reason the Twins might hold off is because when they make the call they want him to be able to stick. He is not the type of player they want to yo-yo back and forth between the bigs and Rochester, especially if he is doing well.

Mike Restovich would also be a good candidate for a call-up. He is finally living up to his hype and deserves a reward for all his hard work. 10 homeruns so far this year are hard to ignore and should Shannon Stewart go on the DL he would be a great option to play left for a couple of weeks.

There is a possibility that no one will go on the disabled list and that a pitcher will be sent down to make room on the roster. This leaves the Twins with a difficult decision. It basically is between Joe Roa, Terry Muholland and Grant Balfour. Some have already labeled Balfour a key to the Twins bullpen. He is out of options and has great stuff, not to mention that the time the organization has invested in him, making him the least likely to be sent out. Roa might be the easiest to keep but it's probably unlikely they will sneak him through waivers either. He has pitched too well this year and if the Twins let him go he will no doubt contribute to some other team. The best choice would be Greisinger but the Twins seem to feel he deserves several more starts in which to implode and prove that he lacks major league talent. It's amazing how some of the AAAA pitchers brought in during the off-season have really made the bullpen a strength and a place of depth so far this season.

Ron Gardenhire is terrified of losing a catcher by DHing Matt LeCroy. This has left the lineup little flexibility in the last couple of days. It would be terrible if a catcher were injured and the Twins lost the DH but when you weigh that with what a hot LeCroy bat adds to the lineup it would appear to be worth the risk. LeCroy in the lineup over Awfulman is definitely a bonus every game it happens. Heck, I'm not convinced Awfulman is that much better then the pitcher hitting anyhow. He belongs on the bench in a pitch hit role where his veteran presence means something. If that's what he was brought in for that is where they should use him.

Look for Carlos Silva to bounce back tonight. The team needs a big win and Silva just seems like the guy to give it to them. He has shown a resolve on the hill this year that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. As long as his sinker is working he will be tough on the Sox and keep the ball in the park. This would allow the Twins to stay in the game long enough for Jacque Jones to work his magic and make his first hit off of Mark Buehrle a game winning homerun!

Greisinger looks away as Frank Thomas rounds third during his HR trot.
His performance on Thursday wasn't quite what the Twins had in mind.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Hitless Wonders Strike Again…KG beats Kings

Only one word can describe a day like today. Wow. That’s all I can say. The thing is, had I looked at the calendar a week ago, I would have pegged this day, May 19, as a potentially crappy day. I had a final (albeit a rather easy one) and I have a killer psychology test looming over my head that I have studied little for thus far. But today, enough great things happened to not only overcome today’s pitfalls, but to transform this day, May 19, into one of the most exciting in Minnesota sports history.

We’ll start with first things first. Since this is a Twins blog, we’ll discuss the state of your Minnesota Twins. I don’t know how many of you caught today’s game on TV, but what a game it was! I still haven’t come down from cloud nine. First off, compare the Twins’ opening day lineup:

LF- Shannon Stewart
2B- Luis Rivas
1B- Doug Mientkiewicz
3B- Corey Koskie
CF- Torii Hunter
RF- Jacque Jones
DH- Matthew LeCroy
C- Joe Mauer
SS- Christian Guzman

With today’s lineup:

LF- Lew Ford
SS- Christian Guzman
RF- Jacque Jones
1B- Jose Offerman
CF- Torii Hunter
DH- Michael Ryan
3B- Michael Cuddyer
C- Henry Blanco
2B- Alex Prieto

That’s exactly THREE opening day starters- a lousy THREE!! Awfulman batting cleanup (again)!? Blanco and Prieto back-to-back? Not exactly a lineup that strikes fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. But somehow (as I stated the other day) the Twins simply find a way to win! Twins pitchers, most notably a Mr. Juan Rincon, made the victory all that more dramatic, but no matter. Today’s “hitless wonders” battled all day long at the plate, but it took until the ninth for the pot to boil over.

Down 5-2, singles to the outfield by Hunter and Cuddyer were followed by an INFIELD SINGLE (!) by Blanco (I know, I almost went into shock too). That set the stage for today’s hero, Matthew “Big Country” LeCroy. The only man left on the Twins’ bench (not including Jerry White or Wayne Hattaway) absolutely crushed a Terry Adams fastball over the centerfield fence for a grand slam! I was watching the game by myself but I couldn’t help jumping up and yelling for joy! My behavior earned me a couple of confused stares from passer-bys, but who cares! Joe Nathan came in and slammed the door, capping what was one of the most satisfying regular season wins in a long time. Bring on those ChiSox!

Unfortunately, it seems that the buzz from today’s spectacular Twins game will be overshadowed by the Wolves Game 7 win over the Kings. But I’m just as excited about the Woofies! Great win for them as well, and a very entertaining game to watch. KG finally played like an MVP should, and all I can say is that it's about frickin' time! I’ll bet there wasn’t a person in the state who wasn't holding their breath as Webber launched that three as time expired. But hey, “a win is a win” as they always say! We'll all take it!

Overall, it was a very emotionally draining day. But still a good day. I can still only think of one word to describe it all: Wow.

Big Country takes Adams deep for a game-winning GS

KG howls after the Wolves eek by the Kings in Game 7

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Giving Thanks

Today is my birthday and I was thinking about how thankful I am for the Twins success so far. Luckily, for me, a lot has gone right lately so I have been in an altogether good mood as a result. I have an extra bounce in my step and I get to talk trash about the White Sox. The Twins being in first place is one of my best birthday presents.

I am most thankful for the off-season trades the Twins made. Where would this team be without Carlos Silva and Joe Nathan? Silva probably can't keep it up as he got lit up for the first time in his past start. Still, he's got himself a nasty sinker that has yet to induce groundballs at the rate he is used to. With a solid defense behind him his performance should remain strong once hitters begin to put the ball on the ground. Nathan got off to a shaky start but has quickly taken to his role. Having a closer that doesn't give everyone a heart attack is a godsend. This guy is automatic and a pleasure to watch.

Christian Guzman appears to be back and that means only good things. As he continues to gain confidence there is no reason to assume he will falter anytime soon. This guy pressures defenses and sets up the Twins lineup at the top of the order. He can also be one of the most exiting players in the game to watch, though also one of the most frustrating.

Michael Cuddyer is finally getting regular at bats. We have been waiting for this kid for 5 years. All along the way we were told that he could hit and then he got to the majors and never really was given a chance to. In limited action he has been mediocre with flashes of power. Now, all Twins fans get the chance to see if he was worth the hype or if it is time to cut bait. So far he has produced in his role and I expect he will continue.

Joe Mauer is on his way back. This is a double bonus because that means we won't have to suffer through too many more Henry Blanco at-bats. No one knows for sure how fast Mauer is progressing but he is steadily improving. That means he should be back within a month at the latest. This is an upgrade both in the field and at bat.

I see Luis Rivas's average is steadily creeping upwards...

Forget No Name Steaks, the No Name Bullpen is quickly becoming the best deal around. Roa, Rincon, Fultz and Muholland all are giving the Twins quality innings at a discount price. These guys are keeping the team in games and are proving to be better then advertised. This is yet another key to the team's success and more proof that Terry Ryan is one of the best general managers in the game.

I'm thankful for a starting rotation that seems to be putting things together. Heck we don't even need Rick "Longball" Helling anymore. The rotation is no longer just keeping the team in games, it is starting to win some. This team was a fluke without its starters. Even Kyle Lohse pitched decent in his last outing giving the team a chance to win no matter who starts.

Jacque Jones ate his Wheaties and now he can hit lefties. This guy is straight-up scary for opposing pitchers. He is the best pure hitter on the team and capable of someday winning a batting title if he can keep it up against the southpaws. Take that Royals- what do you think of your 4 lefties in the rotation now?

I have thought Torii Hunter was overrated for years but right now he is going through one of his patented hot streaks that make everyone love the guy. Torii, it is really nice to have you back in center and providing the power this team needs from you.

Lew Ford is back to raising his batting average which bodes well for this website. We were getting worried that perhaps we had errored in so quickly jumping to proclaim him our official player. He continues to reward our faith as do you, our readers. We are thankful for your support always and that we have the good fortune of following a great baseball team. Here's hoping my birthday present is a series win up in Toronto tonight.

Peter Gammons is Ripping Off My Ideas!

While perusing through my daily Internet baseball site, I came across this article by Peter Gammons. I think it ties in perfectly to my post for today (see directly below). After you read mine (keep in mind that I'm no Peter Gammons- at least not yet) I encourage you to click on the following link and see what Gammons has to say on the subject of our Twins. Very solid piece: - Gammons: Budgetball.

How Do They Do It?

Monday’s 9-5 victory over the Blue Jays at Skydome really got me thinking about the Minnesota Twins franchise. Now, the game in itself doesn’t appear to have been that extraordinary. Radke pitched well but not spectacularly; J.C. did not pitch that well but was hurt by a couple of unfortunate defensive plays (Hunter’s near-catch on Cash’s double and Rivas’ poor relay to Guzie on Delgado’s grounder); and the bullpen blew a three-run lead.

But lately, I think that the rest of the country is finally figuring out what Twins fans have known since 2001: this is a franchise that has it figured out! Now I don’t mean to say that Terry Ryan can predict the future or anything, but things seem to work out for the Twins more often than not. I honestly believe that most people around the country thought that the 2002-03 Twins were a fluke: the team had gotten lucky when a bunch of talented players hit the big leagues at the same time, nicely complementing the pieces already in place. Many thought that once that little “bubble” was broken this past winter the team would spiral downward and join the rest of its small-market brethren at the bottom of the standings.

Obviously, this has not been the case. Monday’s game perfectly exemplifies the spirit of these Minnesota Twins. It doesn’t matter if things look like they are spinning out of control- someone will inevitably step up and right the ship. Monday that someone was Jacque Jones. Strangely enough, even though J.C. had blown that lead in the 7th there was no doubt in my mind that the Twins would win that game. Even when Nakamura looked so tough in the 8th my faith was not shaken. Even though the Twins were playing on the road, I did not falter. In my mind, it was just Jacque’s turn to step up. I’ll bet JJ will say the same thing.

What is it that separates the Twins from all those other teams that languish in futility? Is it the front office? Is it Terry Ryan? Is it Ron Gardenhire? Even TK perhaps? Or is it simply luck?

And yet another question: Why have the Royals been so unsuccessful in trying to emulate the follow-up success of the 2002 Twins (coming off their nice 2003 season)? I don’t think there is a simple answer to that question (although Rob Neyer tried recently), but it is an interesting topic to explore at another time. In the meantime, fellow Twins fans, we need to realize just how fortunate we are to have a franchise that defies conventional “logic” and just keeps on winning. Monday was just one more drop in the bucket.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The End is Near...

I'm sorry to report that we were unable to get a new Twins post up today. Things have been busy up here on "the hill" as we say at St. Olaf. This is finals week- need I say more? Perhaps by Monday afternoon I'll have a post up (probably dealing with the Helling and Greisinger controversy- although the Geek has a nice article about that already today. If not, we'll for sure have something new up on by Tuesday.

For any of you MIAC students/alums out there (and I know there are at least a couple of you that read this blog) the MIAC baseball tournament was held this past weekend here in Northfield and Dundas. This is one of the reasons that I'm going to bed right now- I'm dead tired from a weekend of nonstop baseball. Unfortunately, St. Olaf was eliminated and those blasted Tommies from St. Thomas will once again advance to the NCAA Division III regionals. I liken the Tommies to the Yankees; they don't rebuild, they just reload. Hopefully someday they will meet their comeuppance.

With the St. Olaf season done, I am now able to focus much more on Twins baseball. After all, isn't that the most important thing of all? The end of school is near, and summer is fast approaching. We appreciate all of you that have stuck with us here at Twins Chatter. I look forward to a summer filled with some great writing.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The Rivalry

They are separated by a game in the standings and they open a three game series tonight. The Twins and White Sox are quickly becoming one of the most heated rivalries in baseball. Only it's not really a rivalry yet. A rivalry would involve each club getting the best of the other at some point. Up until this point it has been all Twins which burns at the very center of the White Sox franchise. After all they are supposed to be the last remaining big market team in the central division. The last two seasons the division was theirs for the taking and they choked.

What is different this year is the manager. His name is Ozzie Guillen and he is the polar opposite of the fired Jerry Manual. He is head strong, inexperienced, at times obnoxious and perhaps just what his team needs. Then again he could be the match under the powder keg that just needs a spark to explode.

These White Sox are still filled with high priced, no defense players who are stars but have never shown the ability to play together for a whole season. The Big Hurt is also the big cry baby who goes away when his team needs him most. Paul Konerko is inconsistent and Jose Valentine is the most erratic shortstop in the league.

What really hurts the Sox is their lack of pitching. Last year it was a problem and this year there is less depth with the loss of Bartolo Colon. So far they have been saved by the surprising performance of Scott Shoeneweis who has 3 wins and 3.49 ERA. With Esteban Loiza still pitching like as if it were last year, the always reliable Mark Buehrle and the realization of talent by Jon Garland, they have been able to field a reliable rotation so far this year. The likelihood of all those guys keeping it up is slim though. When that happens they will be forced to rely once again on young starters and a shaky bullpen, where Billy Koch or whomever else they trot out for the ninth has been far from certain in the closer role.

Who ever said this coming series with the White Sox was one of the biggest of the year had it all wrong. The Twins have more depth than them and are unlikely to experience the same drop off as the White Sox. On the contrary the Twins with returning players can only get better thus leaving the White Sox in the dark yet again. Until the White Sox are able to step to the plate and win the division they do not deserve any more respect that that.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Lost Month

Despite the team’s less-than-stellar West Coast swing (followed by a nice couple of wins here at home), the talk around Twins-town has been all about last Friday’s TV deal with the devil, err, I mean Fox Sports Net. It has only been since this past Saturday that Twins baseball has had a viewable audience larger than Saum, Minnesota (population: 8). Up until that point, we all did our best to keep up with the team through various other sources- in print, on the radio, and on the Internet. But without actually seeing the games for ourselves, how can we be sure what really took place? Take the following scenarios for example:

What we think happened: The Twins revamped bullpen was one of the major’s best
What ACTUALLY happened: Rick Anderson still had a one year’s supply of his patented “magic pixie dust,” but unfortunately Joe Roa snuck into Anderson’s locker and used it all up. Naturally, the bullpen has only been human in May.

We think: Lew Ford was one of the league’s best hitters in April.
Actually: Sensing an opening for an official player at a newly-formed internet blog called “Twins Chatter”, Lew sabotaged Torii Hunter’s cleat so that he could move up to the big leagues. He knew he would soon perform well enough to be recognized on Twins Chatter, something that was one of his life goals.

We think: Joe Mauer was injured after 14 innings of play but finished April with an OPS of 1.583.
Actually: Manager Ron Gardenhire is only using this “knee surgery” thing as a cover story so that he can rest his young catcher for the ever-important stretch run.

We think: Carlos Silva, the same Carlos Silva who had started exactly ONE major league game heading into 2004, won five consecutive starts.
Actually: Terry Ryan found a different pitcher in the Phillies organization, one who is also named Carlos Silva. The “real” Carlos is still back home in Venezuela due to visa problems.

We think: Five Twins players made trips to the DL before the season had barely begun.
Actually: AstroPlay, the company originally commissioned to install the Metrodome’s new surface, employed undercover agents to improperly install the Dome’s Field Turf in a last-ditch effort to discredit their competition and save themselves from bankruptcy.

We think: Luis Rivas reverted back to his normal, terrible form.
Actually: Luis Rivas reverted back to his normal, terrible form.

We think: Jacque Jones finally acknowledged the importance of drawing the occasional walk.
Actually: Hell froze over; this was only a natural consequence.

Anybody have potential inconsistencies of their own? Drop them in the comments section below.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Fantastic Finish

This post was originally supposed to be about the recent plunge of JC Romero and where that has left the bullpen. Then a funny thing happened on the way to another loss. For the first time in 2 weeks the Twins came roaring back and won the game in 11 innings. Some amazing things happened to make it possible.

What stands out most is the at bat where Torii Hunter actually battled his way back in the count to draw a pivotal walk. This was so unusual that I had actually left the room to get a soda right in the middle of it. Why Hasagawa didn't throw him a breaking ball in the dirt even once no one will ever know. How Torii found it within himself to lay off several very close pitches is another story. He looked like Shannon Stewart up there and all any fan can hope is that this is the start of something wonderful.

Another funny thing happened last night. Luis Rivas showed that every now and then he is a real hitter. Slowly his batting average is creeping higher and higher. A couple weeks back I suggested that he be sent to the minors while there were other options to play. It looks like he didn't need the wake up call and shame on me for losing faith. Luis came through in the clutch with his 8th inning single last night and that is what he brings to this team. The little guy capable of the big hit when they need it.

The other half of the double play combo continued his hot hitting as well. This only proves that you can't put too much stock in early season slumps. Is Guzman as good as he is now or as bad as he was? Of course not but so far the move to the top of the order has been very positive, at least for him. The lineup sets up quite nicely with him in the 2 hole. It still leaves some speed, should Stewart not get on, while taking pressure off of Rivas by allowing him to bat lower.

There were two scary scenes with Hunter and Stewart. Hunter appeared to re-injure his hamstring on an awkward swing. The way he has been hitting it would be a real blow for the team to lose him. Stewart sets the tone for the lineup. He came in hard on the final play at the plate and all signs point to his injury not being serious. Despite an organization stacked with outfielders, this team needs these two guys' leadership on the field.

Tuesday saw the return of Matt LeCroy leaving everyone to breath a big sigh of relief that we will be seeing a lot less of Henry "I never was, am, or will be the babe" Blanco. Blanco lowered his average to .222 last night, which considering where he was earlier in the season means he has been pretty bad. There is a reason this guy was signed as nothing more than a baby sitter for Joe Mauer. He belongs on the pine. To bad the Twins sound like they don't expect LeCroy to be completely taking over the catching duties. The sooner Joe Mauer returns the better although his impact will be less then most expect.

Which brings us to the bullpen. Watching the game tonight I jumped to the conclusion that these guys are terrible. Then I began to think about it and I realized it just wasn't true. One guy is terrible and he just happens to be in the most important spot in the pen. The last couple weeks of have seen the demise of JC Romero. He has been entrusted with games the Twins lead or were tied in. He has promptly given up those leads or ties which is part of the reason the team has played so many darn extra inning games of late. Hence the strain on the rest of the pen and inflated numbers. A closer look reveals that despite it all, Nathan 1.72 ERA, Fultz 2.89, Roa 2.35, Muholland 2.13, and Rincon 3.63, have all been pretty good at keeping guys from scoring. The only problem they have also been walking guys. This needs to be corrected or it is bound to catch up to them in the long run and then the pen will really be in trouble.

Back to Romero, the team needs to make a decision on whether they feel they can trust him in pressure situations. His stuff is good but not great. The Mariners are a team of aging sluggers that should never score 4 runs in the eighth inning off a team’s supposed best reliever. It is bad Karma when it happens. This is the second year in a row JC has proven he is not ready to be a big time reliever. Maybe he will never be one. If not’ something needs to be done. Either one of the other guys in the pen has to step up, Balfour has to come back and be lights out, Crain has to come up from the minors and contribute or the team should trade one of its outfield prospects to bring in some relief.. All of these options have a catch. Balfour hasn't done anything yet at this level. Crain could be being rushed and would come up with an awful amount of pressure for a young pitcher to be under. There are always risks in a trade and who would the team get back? Chance are he would be an over-rated, over paid reliever who is also over the hill. My faith is gone in JC, he is "The Rock" of the pen no longer.

Overall it was a great win for a team in desperate need of one. They are not supposed to lose to a reeling Mariners squad. It was frustrating a week ago to watch the Twins lose 2 out of 3. As the pieces fall together for them this week, they need to rebound with a sweep and regain a spot amongst the American League's elite.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Sunday Chatter...Hey batta batta!

For the third week in a row we have tweaked our regular Sunday feature. While we kept it easy to read we decided the name didn’t quite fit us so we changed it to "Sunday Chatter". Same format, new slick name! These are exciting times to be a fan with the team battling for first and the games back on television. We appreciate all the support we have received so far for this site and we hope to continue to provide quality fan perspectives of what happens every day with this team. If you would like to contribute anything to improve the site or a general comment email me at or Ryan at

Obviously, the big news of the weekend was the new TV deal. What does being on television really mean for this franchise and its fans?

Ryan‘s Response: “First and foremost, I think this move was done with one huge factor in mind, the stadium legislature in the house. It is no coincidence that this last minute deal with FSN just happened to come on the exact day that the bill suffered a huge setback in the House Ways and Means committee. I read a quote from Jerry Bell in the paper. He talked about how hard it is to market a team that is not on TV. He is absolutely right. Here the Twins have been playing some great baseball for over a month and only 5% of the state gets to see it. I’m not sure if there will be an increase in attendance but this new deal definitely won’t hurt. Most importantly it means that Twins fans will be able to see their beloved Twinkies on TV again.”

John's Response: “It goes along with the old adage about a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear. Not being on TV was hard on even the most dedicated of fans. It really caused a rift with the casual ones. The Twins allowed themselves to lose ground, during their great start, to both the Timberwolves and the Viking’s draft. I'm saddened that Victory did not work out because in the long run it would have been better for the team. But you have to weigh which is more beneficial, the cable revenue or a new stadium. Either way I'm just happy I can come home after a long day and relax with my favorite pastime again."

These last two series against the Mariners and Athletics, the Twins have looked less than spectacular (to put it lightly) in losing 2 out of 3 to each team. Which do you think is the "real" Twins team: the one that played so well in April or the one we have seen in May?

JPB: “The team was inconsistent last year, and until all their players are healthy it might be difficult to expect anything else this year. This team played very well in April without all their parts. Now some have returned while the guys who filled in so admirably are losing a bit of steam. It has to be a readjustment for the team, but luckily this organization has lots of depth and options to call upon when something goes wrong. Soon Matt LeCroy, Joe Mauer, Grant Balfour and Rick Helling will all be back. That should give the team stability and right the ship before it gets out of hand. What really scares me is that they lost to a bad team in the Mariners but west coast trips can be rough."

RM: "I have to agree with you about the West Coast trip. They can be rough, but the Twins have handled those teams pretty well in the past (the 2002 Mariners notwithstanding). It's not a good sign to see them losing all these games now, especially when they are games they can and should be winning. I'm somewhat of a pessimist, but I'm not going to give in and say that the Twins will be the mediocre club many experts predicted them to be before the season. This team probably isn't as good as they looked in April, but they aren't as bad as they looked today (Sunday) either."

Matt LeCroy is returning from the disabled list this coming Tuesday. Of all the Twins players who have been hurt, who are you most excited to have back?

RM: "For me, this question is a no brainer: Grant Balfour. I know what you're all thinking: ‘What about Joe?!?’ Well, for the sake of this discussion, I'm not including Mauer. Reports indicate that he is at least 2 weeks from coming back, and I don't think he's going to jump-start this team offensively, especially not right away. Balfour is the guy the Twins have REALLY missed thus far, and that was no more evident than in today's game. Juan Rincon has been struggling with his command lately, but Gardy had to put him in a situation where the Twins really needed a solid relief effort. I could tell as soon as he threw his first pitches that Rincon was not going to be that guy. Unfortunately, there really weren't any other viable options left in the pen. Balfour has a chance to take over LaTroy's former role and run with it."

JPB: "Offense has not been the problem with this team. As exited as I am about the return of Joe it is pitching where this team really lacks depth. I'm not so sure about Balfour. He has an amazing arm but he hasn't done enough at this level to put faith in him succeeding in tough situations. The return of Helling could be the key. He isn't going to put up amazing numbers but he can do something Seth Greisinger has not and that is contribute innings. It is all a domino effect after that. Suddenly, there is less pressure on the bullpen because they have less innings to pitch. They can rest more and Gardy can actually play match-ups. I'm also exited about the return of the other Joe, Joe Mays that is. Before the season is over he will contribute something to this team. His arm could be a god send mid season for this bullpen."

"Fact or Fiction: Kyle Lohse will endure yet another season as a middling, inconsistent, mediocre starting pitcher."

JPB: "Fiction, Kyle Lohse will endure no more then 3 more starts. Then he will find himself in the minors where he can get his head straight. Hopefully he will return a la Joe Mays in 2000 and be a new man. I’m really disappointed in his start to the season because he was poised to make this the year he stepped up. He has too much potential for the team to keep throwing him out there to struggle."

RM: "Fact. I seriously thought coming out of spring training this was going to be the year that Lohse harnessed his immense talent and had the season that he is capable of. That's not going to be the case this year. His problems are the same problems he has always had: location of the fastball and inability to throw his outstanding curveball for strikes. He falls behind in the count too often and is forced to groove a pitch, and he hangs his curve WAY too often. It is too bad; because this is the year the Twins were really counting on him. I think he ends the season with an ERA in the mid-4's once again. Maybe 2005 will be his breakout year..."

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Glory Glory, Hallelujah!!

Wow! What a strange turn of events! At about 9:00 pm Friday, it was announced that the Twins had reached a new 8-year agreement with Fox Sports Net North for the rights to broadcast Twins baseball. I don't know about you, but I was completely caught off guard when I heard the announcement. My initial reaction was the same as most Twins fans I'm sure: GREAT! The Twins are going to be back on TV! What could be better than that!?

But this new development also raises a ton of new questions, not only about the TV situation (namely the financial terms), but about the future of the franchise. Why did they sign such long deal? Was the deal reached because the Twins felt it would help with the stadium bill (which suffered a big setback in the House on Friday)? Will the failure of Victory have any long or short term financial implications for the team? Were the financial terms offered by FSN actually half decent? Personally I think it had a lot to do with today's stadium development. The team realizes that Victory will be all for naught if the team can't get a new stadium soon.

That's all I'm saying today. John will probably have a more detailed analysis tomorrow. As I type now, the Twins-A's game is not going so well. The Twins have issued an astounding 10 walks, and you aren't going to win too often when you do that. It's tied 9-9 in the 10th, and the game is in the hands of Terry Mulholland. 'Nuff said. But even if we lose today, I will still consider it to be a good day. Rejoice, fellow Twins fans! Rejoice!

Friday, May 07, 2004

Baseball Article: Scouting Primer for Pitchers

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch yesterday’s 2-1 loss to the Mariners on the radio. From what I could discern from MLB Gameday and the box score it sounds like it was a pretty decent game- Radke pitched well but so did Freddy Garcia (to the tune of one run and eight Ks in seven innings). The fact that I’m unable to watch the games on TV robs me of one of my favorite aspects of the game of baseball: player analysis. I love watching players and analyzing their various strengths and weakness, no matter what the level of play.

This is the reason that I find scouting methods to be so fascinating. Now I know the number of baseball “statheads” is growing all the time- I too read “Moneyball” and found it extremely interesting. But to focus only on the statistical aspects of baseball is to ignore what makes the game so great in the first place- the players. I’ll never forget what I heard at a Q and A session with Terry Ryan this past winter. Someone asked if the Twins had anyone on payroll whose job included evaluating players using in-depth statistical analysis (i.e. a sabrmetrician). TR’s response was classic: “Yes we do- they’re called scouts.” We hear all the time that “scouts really like this guy” or “our scouts think he has great potential.” But what do scouts actually look for in a player?

A couple weeks ago, my dad (who is a long-time high school baseball coach and veritable baseball guru) came across a couple of articles about the basics of scouting. He thinks he got them from Baseball Primer, but I have been unable to find the URLs. Below, I’ve reproduced some of the key points of the article on pitching. Even though we can’t watch the Twins, that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of other baseball games being played every day right in your town! You could take in a Little League game, high school, college, semi-pro, or minor league game- spring is the perfect time to relax outside and catch a ballgame. Maybe some of the below points (from the article by Deric McKamey) will give you something to look for next time you’re out at the ballpark. Try to see the game from a scout’s point of view- but take it easy on the Little Leaguers :).

-Pitchers are graded on a 20-to-80 (or 2-8) scale, with 80 representing the highest achievable grade.

Grade (Player Caliber)
*65-80 (Major League Star)
*50-64 (Major League Regular)
*50 (Major League Average)
*40-49 (Major League Fringe)
*38-39 (Organizational Player)

-Pitchers are graded for fastball velocity, fastball movement, control, curveball, slider, change of pace, "other" pitch, mechanics, poise, baseball instinct, and aggressiveness.
-Fastball and breaking ball are considered to be the main “tools” per se. The rest are considered player development issues.

-Scout will usually want to target athletes (note: “Moneyball” attempted to debunk this, but it holds true for the most part)
-“Being athletic in and of itself does not make one a better ballplayer, but it gives a player a better chance to succeed.”
-Body projection- potential for added velocity in amateurs
-“Height- taller pitchers tend to generate more body leverage and exhibit a more vertical, downward plane to their pitches, which makes them more difficult to hit. Most short pitchers have to expend a little more effort to their deliveries in order to throw the ball harder” (see Santana, Johan).

- Fluid throwing mechanics are key- arm gets to “L” shape parallel with shoulder, thumb down with good wrist action
- “A player will possess one of seven arm angles (extreme overhand, overhand, high-3/4, 3/4, low-3/4, sidearm, and submarine). Adjustments can be made to a player’s arm angle, which can alter both velocity and movement. As a rule of thumb, the lower the arm angle, the more movement a pitcher will get, but at the expense of velocity.”
- Long arms with fluid movements may be able to improve their arm strength, whereas muscular, short-armed athletes tend not to improve- another reason why taller pitchers are often seen as more intriguing prospects.

PITCHING (very different from throwing)
-Arm action (the ability of the ball to “jump” out of the pitcher’s hand) is extremely important. Good examples are Roy Oswalt and Mark Prior- fluid arm motions with great velocity.
-"Pitchers that show effort to their deliveries can become problematic. While these pitchers can still throw hard, it is difficult for them to maintain their velocity at higher pitch counts and also leaves them more susceptible to injury.”
-“In breaking down a pitcher’s delivery, a scout will note the type of windup (full, semi, or none), arm angle, balance, hand separation (between belly and chest bone), stride foot (straight-down with some knee flexion), and arm extension. A pitcher’s delivery must work together in perfect synchronization, showing good extension in front and back, along with balance, rhythm, and leg involvement.”
-Deception is a nice bonus- guys like Dontrelle Willis and Hideo Nomo create deception by hiding the baseball well during their deliveries.
-Repeating arm action, windup, and arm slot is essential.
-“Velocity is related to the pitcher’s arm strength, ability to generate leverage through proper mechanics, and hand speed. The ability of a pitcher to hold velocity throughout the game is important for starting pitchers.”

Grade (MPH)
*80 (96+)
*70 (94-95)
*60 (92-93)
*50 (89-91)
*40 (87-88)
*30 (85-86)
*20 (84-)

-Different types of pitches: fastball- 4-seam, 2-seam, or cut-fastball, curveball (tight rotation wanted), slider (sharp horizontal movement), slurve, change-up- circle, straight, palmball (good ones will be at least 8-10 mph slower than fastball).
- Pitchers need to be reasonably quick to home plate in order to keep the running game in check. The Major League average is 1.3 seconds.

I realize this was a little long, but I hope you took the time to read some of this information as it is very interesting. If you want a full copy of the article just pop me an e-mail at Hopefully we’ll have our first guest columnist posting tomorrow. If not, I’ll do the same type of thing with the scouting article about position players, which is equally fascinating but a tad more complicated. Plus, those of us around the Twin Cities will actually get to watch tomorrow’s game on Channel 45! Oh happy day!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Quick Takes

The last 2 days have been a little hectic. It's the end of the school year and I have to move out of my dorm this morning. Throw a couple of finals on top and the Twins have been my one chance to relax. Throughout this I have done my best to still reserve time to write for this site as Ryan and I both believe it is important to have something new almost every day of the week. Needless to say, tonight's entry will be just a few brief thoughts on last night's game. Our first guest columnist is coming later this week.

I love baseball and the more of it I can get, the better. However, it was still refreshing to have a brisk game last night thanks to the excellent pitching performance of Carlos Silva. He is quickly developing into the ace of this staff! What's more, he continues to build on each start. Last night's performance was particularly needed for a Twins team in the middle of a 3 game losing streak. Where would the Twins be without Carlos Silva? He is 5-0 and has given the team innings that is has sorely needed. The rest of the starters have been inconsistent yet are showing signs of coming out of the woods.

Silva is not likely to keep this pace the entire year but I could see him putting together a really nice season. Perhaps 15-17 wins, much like 2001 version of Joe Mays. The Twins gave him a chance and he has more than repaid them for it. What he has given the the rest of the staff is time to work through their problems so that when he inevitably falters, they can pick up the pace. What the Twins need to be careful of is not overworking Silva since he has never thrown that many innings in a season before. As long as he stays around a hundred pitches or so a game, he should be all right.

Why does Gardy hate Lew Ford? He is among the league leaders in hitting yet he batted lower than both Cristian Guzman and Jose Offerman last night. Of course Ford had another great game and is producing wherever he hits, but the team is not using him where he can contribute the most. Jose Offerman should not even be in the lineup. He is a veteran presence on the bench for pitch hitting- that's it. His bat speed isn't good enough to be in the everyday lineup, let alone bat 5th on a playoff contender! He has been terrible of late and although he deserves a spot on the team (because he is capable of coming up with the big hit), those at bats could be spent elsewhere. Michael Cuddyer or Mike Ryan each would have been better options.

The Twins have not taken advantage of the opportunity to see what they have in Cuddyer. He hit a homerun on Sunday and yet doesn't get the chance to build on it. He isn't a second baseman but surely he can DH! Why are we wasting ABs on Offerman when that is not his role? Ford could have hit second in this game and Cuddyer fifth. If nothing else Ford should have been hitting fifth in the order. Maybe the Twins are afraid of bunching all their terrible hitters at the bottom of the order but as it is they seem to be wasting a lot of Shannon's at-bats.

I don't even want to talk about the poor play of the middle infielders anymore. They have pushed the outer limits of futility but the other options are still not that much better. I will say I was happy to see Rivas's double and he keeps teasing that he is ready to come out of his slump. Guzman still has no excuse for last night's baserunning gaffe. I saw the replay on ESPN and it was a TERRIBLE brain freeze.

The team finally hit the ball a little bit last night, which was good to see. Jacque Jones homered to the opposite field, which is a great sign of things to come. This team is fun to listen to when things are working. Joel Piniero used to be good but the Mariners overworked him and he is having trouble recovering.

Signs are good that Grant Balfour and Matt LeCroy could be back early next week. This means it will soon be decision time for the Twins. Of course the Twins will demote Rob Bowen and hopefully start LeCroy at catcher when he returns although I see them more likely easing him at DH to at first. When Balfour returns the team should ship out Seth Greisinger. He has done a good job giving the team some innings but that's about it (note the 8.10 ERA). Muholland is more valuable in his role and Joe Roa can be stretched out if they really need an extra starter. Roa has been head and shoulders above Greisinger so there is no reason why the Twins would demote him. When Helling and Mauer returns there could be some more difficult decisions coming. I will speculate about them when their time approaches.

That is the best I can do tonight, thank you everyone for your patience. Now that school is over I get to go back to Northfield and watch games on Friday nights. I'm crossing my fingers that when I return to school in the fall Victory will be on. Until then I will have ample opportunity to work on this website and voice the opinion of this fan.


The Island of Lost Chances

I'm sure many of you reading this post are bleary-eyed today for the very same reason that I am, last night's epic 16 inning 4-3 loss to the now "surging" Seattle Mariners. Even though I am in college, where staying up until 2 a.m. is a pretty normal, I'm still going to keep today's post short for the sake of my sanity. Simply put, even though the Twins came out on the short end of the stick it was still a very entertaining game. Entertaining, yet EXTREMELY frustrating! This is a game that the Twins should have won about five times over, but what a game! Great defensive plays, plays at the plate, and a plethora of ejections. Let's list all the missed/blown chances for the Twins in extra innings:

9th- This was possibly the most frustrating moment of the entire game. The M's sent Eddie G. out to face his old teammates and he did not disappoint; his old teammates that is. Eddie was true to form: a couple of singles, and then, with two outs, he allowed a key run-scoring hit to tie or lose the game. Last night, that hit came from the most unlikely of sources: our very own Torii Hunter! Listening to the game, I could just picture the swing Torii would put on the 3-2 pitch from Eddie. It would be a little back-door slider (or splitter in Eddie's case) and Hunter would pull his head out and miss by about a foot. Somehow, miraculously, Torii instead lined a double to right field. Guzy scored easily from second, but Koskie was thrown out at the plate on a TERRIBLE call by the home plate ump. Like the vast majority of you I couldn't actually see this call, but I'm willing to take Gordo and Gladden's word for it. Koskie, who is usually pretty mild-tempered, thought the call was so bad that he was tossed from the game for arguing. So was Wayne Hattaway, which would have been a very entertaining sight to see. Damn the ump and damn Victory!

10th- Lew Ford, who is still the official player of this blog, connects with a one out double. With two outs, Cuddyer comes through with a single to left. Unfortunately, the throw from Raul Ibanez is a good one and Ford is... "OUT at the plate! Ohhhhhh, my," to quote John Gordon.

11th- The entire inning was just one big disaster from the get-go. It starts promising enough, with a leadoff Stewart walk, but he is erased on the subsequent Guzman bunt. Boys and girls that is one of baseball's cardinal sins: you have to get the sacrifice bunt down! What happened next is something that no mere box score can explain. With Mientkiewicz at the plate, Guzman takes off for second. Mientkiewicz lines a single to right, but for some reason Guzman thought that Ichiro caught the ball! He touches second but then turns and GOES BACK TO FIRST!! Instead of a single, all Dougie gets is a lousy fielders choice! I know the hit-and-run play wasn't on, but Guzy, what were you thinking!?!? You see, that is why we have such novelties as "third base coaches": to help prevent these kinds of debacles. Instead of first and second with one out the Twins now have a man on first with two outs. Naturally, Dougie Baseball is picked off trying to steal a couple pitches later.

14th- Guzy started the inning off by reaching on an error. Mientkiewicz was bunting, but for some reason towards the left side of the infield (much to the dismay of Dan Gladden). The bunt was a shallow pop-up, and Spiezio nearly made a diving catch charging in from third. Guzman had to wait and see if the bunt would be caught, so the catcher forced him out at second. Another botched sacrifice! Punto walked and after a Ryan groundout, Jones was grazed by a pitch to load the bases for our man Lew! But Lew couldn't deliver (hey, nobody's perfect) so the game remained tied.

As somewhat of a pessimist, I was predicting the Twins' doom the moment Seth Greisinger entered the game. He actually did a nice job for two innings, but the veteran line-up of Seattle was just too much for him in the 16th. Too bad the Mariners had to win on yet another cheap call by the umpire! I can't wait to see the highlights tomorrow, just so I can see how bad those two calls (the ones in the 9th and 16th) really were.

I've got 9 a.m. class tomorrow so I'd better get at least a little sleep. Today's entry should at least help those of you who chickened out and didn't stay up until the end of the game. John and I also feel it is important that we consistently post at least six days a week until we are better established. Coming up later this week we have (hopefully) our first guest writer! Stay tuned for that, and good night everyone!

Monday, May 03, 2004

Early Season Playoff Matchups

Twins Chatter has learned that if the season were to end today, the Twins would be back in the playoffs as the number two seed. Because April counts, we think it is never too early to analyze a possible post-season match-up. This year's opponent looks to like it will be those cursed Boston Red Sox. How do the teams match up in a five game series? The following is a breakdown of the series. Remember, you saw it here first!

Catcher -
Joe Mauer will be healthy and adds balance to the batting order while Jason Varitek has been a steady early season contributor to the middle of the Boston order. Mauer gets the slight edge defensively.
Edge - Boston

First Base -
Doug Mientkiewicz wins hands down the defensive side of this battle. David Ortiz was a strong MVP candidate last year. Both have started off well offensively with Ortiz hitting for a little more power.
Edge - Even

Second Base -
Luis Rivas has been terrible to this point and anything he contributes to this team is a bonus from here on out. Nick Punto has been better and a pleasant surprise. He stands to come down to earth in the coming months. The two-headed monster of Pokey Reese's glove and Mark Bellhorn's glove could give the Twins problems but is more likely to cause a mere whimper.
Edge - Futility - Even

Third Base -
Corey Koskie has been a strong member of this team despite early season back troubles. As long as he holds up expect a great series from him. Bill Mueller is not the player he was last year but contributes a solid glove.
Edge - Twins

Shortstop - Cristian Guzman has shown some life of late and could cause a lot of problems in a short series but it will probably be an up and down season. Nomar Garciaparra has been injured all season but has some time to get healthy and put it all together. He's in a contract year and one of the best shortstops in the game.
Edge - Boston

Left Field - Shannon Stewart is the catalyst of the lineup. He never has a bad at-bat. His defense isn't spectacular but adequate. Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters in the game and has exhibited some extra fire this year. His defense is a liability.
Edge - Even - Key to the Series

Center Field -
Torii Hunter is still coming back from his early season injury and his numbers are not strong. He adds stability to the lineup and his glove is worth half a run a game. Johnny Damon is one of the best lead off guys in the league but Boston doesn't steal a lot of bases. He could drive Twins pitching insane.
Edge - Boston

Right Field - Trot Nixon, like Garciaparra, has been injured to start the season. He is a playoff performer and solid all around player. Jacque Jones is an exciting professional hitter who will have a year under his belt to feel comfortable in right.
Edge - Twins

Designated Hitter -
Who will it be for the Twins, Lew Ford, Matt LeCroy or Justin Morneau? It doesn't matter because the Twins have the luxury of riding the hot hand. Kevin Millar was a huge part of Boston's success last season but has started off slow this year. He is a great hitter and his fortune could be his team's in this series. The team has Twins-killer Ellis Burks in reserve if they need him and his knees hold up.
Edge - Twins

Bench -
Boston has weapons and is likely to go out and get what it needs at the trading deadline. Many of them are over the hill players and mixed parts that don't necessarily fit together. The Twins have a chance to develop a lot of depth by the playoffs. Michael Cuddyer can play anywhere, Nick Punto has been great to this point and the Jose Offerman/Mike Ryan combo is an excellent pitch-hitting option. The Twins can pick their match-ups at this point.
Edge - Twins

Ace -
Pedro Martinez isn't even the best pitcher on his team and his best stuff is behind him. He is an intimidator in what could be his last playoffs with Boston. Brad Radke has been a playoff horse for the Twins.
Edge - Even

Second Starter -
Curt Schilling wins in the playoffs. He has started the year off great and sets the tone for his team. Johan Santana has worked through his problems and has the potential to be really tough in a short series.
Edge - Boston

Third Starter -
Kyle Lohse has been inconsistent his entire major league career and has really struggled with his control in big games. Derek Lowe struggled last year and has been decent so far. He has the potential to take over a game and dominate.
Edge - Boston

Fourth Starter -
Tim Wakefield is a Twins killer who gives Boston flexibility because he can throw a lot of innings. Carlos Silva has been an early season surprise but has never started before and could be blown out by playoff time. He has good stuff and keeps his team in the game.
Edge - Boston

Closer -
Keith Foulke is one of the best in the game and has solidified the Boston pen. Joe Nathan is in his first year closing but was a great set up man who is 7/7 in saves so far and brings a nasty slider to the table.
Edge - Boston

Bullpen -
The Boston Pen was rebuilt this year and so far so good. Williamson, Embree and Timlin can be really tough but they are also capable of imploding at anytime. The Twins pen has kept itself afloat to this point and will get an added boost from Jesse Crain and Joe Mays before the year is out. JC Romero will be the key to its success.
Edge - Twins

Intangibles -
The Twins are hungry and an early exit will not be acceptable this year. They always play Boston tough. They also play station-station baseball, which could make the difference. This could be Boston's year. They built this team to beat the curse and the expectations are huge.
Edge - Twins

Coaching -
Ron Gardenhire has been here the last couple of years and has had a chance to learn. Pitching coach Rick Anderson has done a great job getting the most out of pitchers. Terry Francona is in his first year but is an excellent manager and under the pressure to win.
Edge - Even

Prediction -
When all is said and done it is going to be tough for the Twins to overcome Boston's pitching. Look for the games to be low scoring with the Twins pushing it to five before losing for the second time to Schilling in the series. The starters will not be able to keep the Twins in the game long enough. Boston in 5

Texas vs. Chicago? Yikes! It might still be a little early for that one.

Any Thoughts or Comments? Email me at

Sunday Conversation: New and Improved Formula

Last week, we introduced a new feature called the “Sunday Conversation”. To say the least, while the concept itself was solid, the execution was a little lacking. We’re introducing a slightly more “user friendly” version this week that we think you’ll all enjoy a lot more. Let us know your answers to the questions proposed here (or just a general thought) in the comments section below. It's a bit long, but an extremely good read.

Question: First of all, has the early performance of Carlos Silva surprised you at all?

John’s response: “I have been surprised by Carlos Silva. I knew he had potential that he had never quite lived up to yet. All the reports coming out of spring training sounded great, but then again he was traded for Eric Milton. I think the team had to talk him up just so it didn't look like a salary dump. Before this year he had one major league start and was by all reports a mediocre reliever. What we all have to worry about is that he's never thrown a lot of innings in a single season. What happens in August and September, when we need him the most? So, yes, I'm very pleasantly surprised by his performance while at the same time crossing my fingers that he doesn't implode later on.”

Ryan's response: "I have to agree with you there John- I have been pleasantly surprised by the early returns from Silva, but I also have to wonder if he can keep this up over the course of a full season. The new Field Turf seems like it will benefit Silva the most out of all our starters, but in the only game I've seen him pitch (Friday) he gave up an inordinate amount of fly-ball outs. But after the game, I recall Henry Blanco saying that Silva's power sinker was "nasty", so I’ll assume he can still be effective even if he’s getting more fly-balls. Overall, I would say that I'm cautiously optimistic."

We got two great, albeit wasted, starts from Johan Santana and Brad Radke this weekend. Do you think they have turned a corner and are ready to heat up or is this just more inconsistency?

RM: "I was as shocked as the next Twins fan to see that those two previously ineffective pitchers had turned in back-to-back stellar performances. Radke has already shown flashes this year, and he has traditionally had some success against the Halos for some reason (2002 ALCS, complete game shutout last year). Santana's outing today, even though I wasn't able to catch much of it live, was what really impressed me. His line sounds like the Santana of old- 7 innings, 6 Ks, 1 ER in 108 pitches. Looks like he struggled a bit early on, but hopefully he has now found the elusive feel for his devastating change-up and is ready to pitch like this for the rest of the season.

In my experience, the change-up is a pitch that requires more "feel" than just about any other pitch- it often doesn’t come back as easily as say the fastball or breaking ball. Johan didn't pitch in winter ball for the first time in his career, and it seemed like he was always just a little behind schedule up to this point. Now it seems like he's finally caught back up."

JPB: Excellent winter ball point. I think the only thing shocking is that these two haven't performed yet. Radke is a pretty good pitcher and Santana has a chance to be great. Brad always has some rough spots in his season before rattling off about 10 great starts in a row, so at least he got them out of the way early this year. Santana is the key to this team’s success in the long run and this is the 3 or 4th start in a row that he has built on. With these two guys on track there aren't going to be many more weekends where the team loses both games in which they pitch.

Two rather disturbing trend emerged from Saturday and Sunday's games- the Twins utter lack of ANY kind of offense, and the re-entry of J.C. Romero into his patented (2003) 'implosion mode'. Do these trends concern you?

JPB: “We all knew this was coming with the offense. They were just hitting too well to keep it up. They aren't going to be as good as they were but they also aren't going to struggle as much as the last two games. The Twins also have a lot of hitters with more on the way. I think it was more telling that the starters were effective because they had been so bad up to this point. The hitting isn't going to come down near as much as the pitching is going to come up.

J.C is concerning. He had been so dominant to this point but relievers outside of Gagne have bad stretches every now and then. Last year his problems had more to do with control and I'm not sure that was as much the case this weekend. As long as that's true, J.C. should be fine. I look for him to rebound this week. As it stands it was two games which don’t make a trend. Remember, the Angels are a very good hitting team that had just been stifled by the starters for 7 innings.”

RM: "I might be overreacting a bit because the only inning I heard today was J.C.'s disaster, but this concerns me quite a bit. I'm willing to overlook Thursday's nightmare performance (0.2 innings, 4 ER) and even Saturday's (since he only allowed the one hit). But today's outing really broke my heart. I realize he was going against one of the best lineups in the game, but here Gardy entrusts our supposed ‘best’ reliever with the task of keeping the game tied and he falls utterly on his face.

All I could think was, 'J.C., PLEASE PLEASE don't go back to last year. Please. Last year, we had the back-up net ready to bail you out (LaTroy), but this year J.C. is it. There is no one else.’ If J.C. falters again, the Twins bullpen is doomed. There is no doubt in my mind. For positives, at least he wasn't walking guys like crazy. He has been throwing strikes for the most part, but has been getting hit hard. Today, I was concerned that he was unable to put a couple of key hitters away when he got 2 strikes on them. But we'll see. It is definitely still early."

Don't look now but Cristian Guzman is hitting .286 and was seen driving the ball this weekend. Is it possible he could finally be doing something for this team?

RM: "I'm completely baffled by Guzman's recent 'hot' streak (if you can call it that yet). If he is still in fact capable of driving the ball, why hasn't he been doing it for the last 2 years? This is the longest period of time since 2001 (that I can remember anyway) that Guzman has looked this good. The extra base hits haven't been there yet, but if he keeps hitting the ball this well, they can't be that far behind. What is causing this? Is it the fact that he is in a contract year and money is the only motivational technique that appeals to Guzie's laid-back personality? Or is it something deeper than that? And why hasn't any of this rubbed off on his soon-to-be ex-double play partner Luis Rivas? Tune in next time for answers to these questions and more on our next episode of Unsolved Mysteries."

JPB: “Well I'm tired of waiting for the exciting Guzman to return. Maybe he's just been in a rather long extended slump these past two years, although I don’t know if that is possible. Perhaps it was at this point that he realized that he wasn't a slap hitter, never should have been a slap hitter and so he decided he would start driving the ball again. I remember reading this past week that the team fixed some flaws in his at-bats, so I'm guessing that is the real cause of his sudden production (what else could it be?). Only time will tell if these changes have created a player or merely prolonged his stay. It was nice to see one of the two stiffs in the middle of the field finally produce. I have always gone back and forth on Guzman but I'm hoping that he continues to hit the ball.”

Check back next week for a new installment of the "Sunday Conversation". If you have any ideas for questions, feel free to drop a comment below sometime this week or send a quick e-mail to me ( or John (

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Why is This So Hard to Believe?

“The Minnesota Twins are living a contradiction. At least, that is, when it comes to the baseball adage, games are won with pitching and defense.”
–Tracy Ringolsby, Rocky Mountain News (4/30)

On the surface there seems to be nothing wrong with this statement (although I can’t imagine there are many regular readers of the Rocky Mountain News that give a hoot about the Twins- I couldn’t care less about the Rockies). Ringolsby goes on to cite some facts to back up his argument: the Twins’ relatively high team ERA (now exactly 5.00), their less-than-stellar defense thus far (21 team errors through Friday), and the team’s lackluster strength of schedule (games against Cleveland, Detroit, KC, and Toronto).

You know what I say to all of this? Phooey.

The problem with Ringolsby is that he didn’t look much past the statistics. Point one: the Twins 21st ranked team ERA. Sure, 5.00 isn’t great by any means, but a closer examination reveals that it isn’t nearly as bad as it looks. The bullpen’s ERA is a respectable 4.64, and that includes terrible performances from guys like Pulido, Thomas, and Greisinger. This is also a bullpen that could receive two huge shots in the arm come June/July: Grant Balfour and Jesse Crain.

The starting staff is mostly to blame for Ringolsby’s accusation. Once again, a closer look reveals that the situation can only improve from here on out. We all know that Brad Radke (5.64), Kyle Lohse (6.51) and Johan Santana (5.40) will all undoubtedly pitch substantially better than they have thus far. Carlos Silva has been a pleasant surprise with his 4-0 record and 4.02 ERA. The point is, this staff has grossly underachieved so far and it will shape up, hopefully sooner rather than later. Ringolsby conveniently fails to mention this.

Just as the pitching staff is undeniably bound for improvement, so is the Twins’ shaky defense. Friday’s two errors bring the season’s total to a whopping 21 in 22 games played, an unheard-of ratio for a Twins team. The main culprit has been the infield: their 13 errors rank tied for last in the major leagues. This is a rather startling statistic, but let’s consider past performance. These same starting five (Koskie, Guzman, Rivas, and Mientkiewicz) have anchored infields that finished 2nd and 3rd in the majors in infield errors the past two seasons respectively. Now, they’re going to have to really tighten the hatch in order to match that feat this year, but there is absolutely no reason to believe that this infield will go from being one of the game’s best to one of the worst in just one year. It’s just not going to happen.

I love the new turf, but I think it is at least partially to blame for this odd influx of errors. Once the players grow accustomed, the defense will shore itself up.

Ringolsby’s last point is one that I can’t debate as well. Until Friday’s impressive win over the “best team in the American League” (to quote Eric Chavez), the Twins had yet to play any potential playoff teams- unless you consider the Royals contenders (*snicker*). I think the next couple of weeks will speak volumes about this team. Tonight was just the beginning.

Now, I also realize the hitters will probably come back to earth somewhat. I firmly believe Twins will continue to be a very good hitting team, but probably not second best in the majors (just as Detroit isn't going to lead the league in runs scored).

Where the casual fan might find this blurb by Ringolsby as a foreshadowing of doom for our beloved Twinkies, I actually see it just the opposite way: If the Twins have started 15-7 with all these factors working against them, just imagine what they can accomplish when things really get going! I don't know about you, but I can't wait!