Thursday, September 30, 2004

Laying an Egg in the Bronx

I’ve decided to take a day off from our extended “Playoff Previews” feature to focus on a hodge-podge of current events a little. The 2004 Central champs were swept by the Yankees in yesterday’s doubleheader, losing 5-3 and 5-4. As the Geek points out today, may people out there will be quick to point to the possible repercussions of Tuesday’s 0-fer. First of all, it caused the team to lose its hold on home field advantage in the ALDS (the Angels won and are now tied with the Twins). Secondly, many pundits will claim that the Twins cannot win in Yankee Stadium, which is where they quite possibly will open the playoffs next week.

I would like to address both of those issues. I, for one, still firmly believe that the Twins will open at home in the ALDS. Anaheim is hot right now, yes, but Radke will take care of business tonight and the Twins will take two of three from the Indians this weekend. However, our home field hopes are indeed becoming questionable. However, don’t lose hope: the 1987 World Champions went 0-5 after clinching the division, yet still managed to turn it around in the ALCS.

A Streak is Broken
Johan Santana’s amazing streak of 12 consecutive starts with a win ended yesterday, thanks to J.C. Romero’s latest entry into his patented “implosion mode”. Ever since Game 5 of the 2002 ALCS, J.C. has been prone to the big inning, a highly undesirable trait for a reliever. Had Johan been allowed to pitch his normal seven or eight innings (which I’m not saying he should have), the Twins would have probably won the game.

In any event, today’s sweep, while disappointing, is pretty meaningless. Yeah, we’d like to stick it to the Yankees every chance we get, but the Twins played two competitive games today (more than we’ve been able say in previous meetings with the Yanks) and simply came out on the short end of the stick. Jason Kubel played extremely well, and Kyle Lohse did not. Hopefully today’s outing will officially eliminate Lohse from any consideration for a playoff start.

The Predictable Case of LaTroy Hawkins
Having watched LaTroy Hawkins pitch for the better part of nine seasons, we all know what he’s capable of. LaTroy struggled as a starter for so many years, yet the Twins kept giving him chances until he finally discovered himself in 2000. In 2001, he was anointed the team’s closer and almost single-handedly dashed the team’s playoff aspirations with his legendary meltdown in the second half of that year. The next two seasons, LaTroy was arguably the best setup man in the game, posting ERAs of 2.13 and 1.86. Despite the fact that he was grossly overpaid for many years by the Twins, LaTroy chose to make his contract negotiations (or lack thereof) a public issue last season, creating a noticeable distraction in the Twins’ clubhouse. This winter, he signed a 3-year, $12 million contract with the Cubs before the Twins could even make an offer.

Eventually, you knew the Cubs were going to play with fire. When closer Joe Borowski went down earlier this year, Hawkins became the closer by default. Twins fans everywhere knew the perils of this decision: LaTroy does not pitch well in the ninth inning for some reason. Thus far, Hawkins has not disappointed Twins fans in their assessment. He has blown 9 of 33 save opportunities this season, including three of his last five (last night being the latest). If the Cubs don’t make the playoffs, look for LaTroy to become the latest scapegoat on the South Side this winter.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’m resting up tonight in preparation for a high-quality post tomorrow, which may end up being the biggest day in the history of this blog. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to check us out as you’re reading your morning paper…


Playoff Perspectives

The Twins were swept in a doubleheader by the Yankees, who’s magic number in the division is down to one.

Red Sox lost 9-4 to Tampa Bay, now 4 GB New York.

Anaheim beat Texas 8-7 in 11 innings to take the AL West division lead and tie the Twins in the race for home field advantage in the ALDS. The Rangers are 4 GB.

Oakland lost 4-2 to Seattle and is now 1 GB behind the Angels.
Note - Ichiro had a single and is now 2 hits shy of 257 with four games remaining.

National League

Chicago lost 4-3 to the Reds in 12 innings and is now .5 GB Houston for the NL Wild Card.
Note – Adam Dunn hit a game-winning double off LaTroy Hawkins to win the game.
Houston beat St. Louis 6-4, now leads in the NL Wild Card race.
San Francisco lost 4-3 to San Diego in 10 innings, fall .5 GB the Astros in the Wild Card and 3 GB the Dodgers in the NL West.
Note – The winning run scored on a sac fly when former Twin Dustan Mohr tripped over the bullpen mound while catching the ball.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Playoff Previews: Why This Could be the Year, Part II

Yesterday we took a look at how this year’s hitters stack up against the teams from the past two postseasons. Today we will cover the pitching half of the equation. In the playoffs, the game is elevated to a new level. A dominant pitching performance can still come up short, and it is important to have as much depth as possible. For the first time in years, the Twins have a legitimate playoff number one starter in Johan Santana. They have a power bullpen. They have a pitcher to compliment Santana in Brad Radke, one who won't let down in game two. All of this is reason to get excited for the Twins' chances. Below we take a closer look at how they compare to previous years.

Number One Starter
One of the Twins biggest problems going into the 2002 playoffs was a lack of playoff pitching experience. At the time there was actually a debate of whether Brad Radke or Rick Reed should start game one. Reed was coming off a pretty good year in which he went 15-7 with a 3.78 ERA. In the end Brad Radke was given the nod in game one and he did not disappoint, going 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA in the playoffs. He overcame the Twins' early jitters and beat Oakland twice. Last year the number one was Johan Santana, who pitched great in the second half after coming out of the bullpen. He started well against the Yankees but his final line was 6 runs in two starts, totaling 7.2 innings. This year, Santana taken his game to another level and has had arguably one of the most dominate second halves in baseball history. He has been in his starting role for a season and a half and has not backed down in any of his big games this year. He is now a legitimate ace, one who strikes fear in the hearts of any possible playoff opponents. Curt Schilling is the only other pitcher who will be able to match up with him if he is in his regular season form. Now, all he needs to do is go out and prove he can carry it into the second season.
Edge - 2004 Twins - Santana will carry his dominance into the playoffs but will need to give the Twins a win every time out.

Number Two Starter
Rick Reed was the man going into the 2002 playoffs and gave up 8 runs in just 10.1 innings. His playoff experience meant nothing as the Twins lost both his starts. Brad Radke continued his playoff success in 2003 by keeping the Twins in the game that he pitched, giving up 2 runs in 6.1 innings. Radke was a solid regular season pitcher last year with 14 wins and a 4.49 ERA. This year, he is having one of his best seasons. His ERA is almost a full run lower and he has been consistent all year. He gives the Twins a second starter who can match up with anyone. It still might be hard for him to improve his numbers from the last 2 years.
Edge - 2004 Twins - Radke may need to win every game he pitches for the Twins to win the World Series but he seems to be especially up to the task this year.

Third and Fourth Starters
Both Eric Milton and Joe Mays had been injured in either 2002 or 2003. Milton won his start against Oakland and pitched well in the ALCS in '02. Mays had been terrible for most of the year and struggled in the ALDS. He pitched a spectacular game one against Anaheim and won the only game in that series for the Twins. Against the Yankees, the Twins only needed a third starter. Kyle Lohse gave up a disappointing 3 runs in 5 innings. He had won 14 games with a 4.61 ERA in 2003. This year, the Twins third starter is Carlos Silva. Silva has finished strong nailing down his spot. He was not a starter before this year; he gives up a lot of hits and uses his sinker to induce double plays and get out of trouble. When compared to the rest of the third starters in these playoffs his 14 wins and 4.16 ERA are pretty darn good. Terry Muholland has come out of the 'pen to keep the Twins in most of the games he starts. However, he probably won't be needed unless the team goes deep into the playoffs. He is a wily veteran and capable of getting the Twins five solid innings before handing it over to the bullpen in addition to contributing in long relief.
Edge - Previous Teams - In 2002 the Twins had more starters capable of pitching well; for now it is wait and see how Silva fairs.

Eddie Guardado was not particularly dominating in the 2002 or 2003 playoffs. In both years he had an ERA over 9, and we all remember Mark Ellis' famous blast in game five of the ALDS. He did record 3 saves in his outings while not losing a game for the Twins. Joe Nathan has been much more dominant than Guardado this year. He is more of a power pitcher and strikes out 10.70 guys per 9 innings.
Edge - 2004 Twins - Nathan shuts the door on the 9th innings and maybe even the 8th if they need him to.

Lefthanded Setup
The Twins had a great 1-2 punch of JC Romero and Johan Santana going into the 2002 playoffs. Both pitchers struggled, posting ERAs over 8 after dominating in the regular season. Much of this was blamed on overuse during the season. Last year Romero was back and didn't allow a run in 3.1 innings after struggling during the regular season. This year, Romero has been up and down but has an impressive 3.04 ERA and over 8 K per 9 innings. He has pitched close to where he was during his dominant 2002 season. He will be counted on to get big outs but has struggled at times in those situations. He is a wild card going into theplayoffs.
Edge - Previous teams - It is hard to trust Romero with a lead and so the big outs will have to come from the hard throwing righties.

Righthanded Setup
LaTroy Hawkins was a great pitcher in 2002 but struggled in the playoffs somewhat. Last year he dominated the Yankees in game one, but they were able to get him later in the series. Juan Rincon has replaced him in the bullpen and had an outstanding year with 11 wins, a 2.67 ERA and 11.47 K/9. Rincon strikes out more batters than Hawkins but at times has looked worn down throughout the year.
Edge – Even - Rincon should be able to improve on Hawkins' postseason numbers and hopefully make it a 6-7 inning game.

The Rest of the Bunch
In 2002 the Twins relied mostly on their big 3 with Mike Jackson and Tony Fiorie struggling in their appearances. Last year, Rincon pitched well, giving up no runs in 2.1 innings. The regular season starters also pitched some good innings in relief for the team. This year the Twins have more depth. They can throw Jesse Crain and Grant Balfour at teams and then come back with Joe Roa when they need someone to eat some innings. Crain has a chance to be the K-Rod of this year's playoffs. He has pitched 22.1 innings and given up just 6 ER.
Edge - 2004 Twins - The Twins have a bullpen with the ability to shrink a game and dominate should a starter have to leave early.

(Note yesterday we forgot to include a comparison of the bench players so we will slip it in here)

The Twins had a decent bench in 2002 with Dustan Mohr, Matt LeCroy, Bobby Kielty and Denny Hocking. Mohr and LeCroy even started games for the Twins, while Kielty was probably their best pitch hitter. What they lacked was experience. The same goes for last year, evidenced by the fact that Mike Ryan was the best option to pitch hit against Roger Clemons in a crucial situation. The Twins believe they have fixed that this year with the addition of Jose Offerman. Offerman has already had some big hits off the bench this year and will probably be joined by Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Matt LeCroy and Augie Ojeda. That group includes more potential than in past years.
Edge - 2004 Twins - Offerman has stayed on the roster all year for this one purpose; Kubel and LeCroy give Gardenhire flexibility.

The Twins are legitimately a better team then they have been. They have more weapons on top of that added experience. Johan Santana scares other teams and then the Twins get to follow him with Brad Radke, a proven playoff commodity. If they make it to the late innings with the lead, Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan should shut the door. This doesn’t mean the Twins are going to win it all, but it gives them a chance. They are no longer the new kids on the block and seemed poised to go further then they have before. Only the Yankees, Red Sox, and possibly St. Louis stand in their way.

Playoff Perspectives

Boston won 10-8 over Tampa Bay to go 95-62 and move to 2.5 GB the Yankees.

Twins and Yankees rained out, doubleheader today starting at 3 p.m.
Notes – “El Duque” Hernandez is expierencing a tired arm but should be able to pitch later in the week.

Anaheim beat Texas 8-2 to go 89-68, now tied for the lead in the West.

Oakland lost 7-2 to Seattle to go 89-68, tied for the lead in the West.
Notes – Tim Hudson allowed 7 runs in 6 innings, Ichiro collected two hits and is only 3 from 257.

National League

Atlanta won 5-2 and lost 2-1 to the Mets in a doubleheader to go 93-65.
Chicago lost 8-3 to Cincinnati to go 88-69, .5 GA in the Wild Card.
Houston beat St. Louis 2-1 to go 88-70, .5 GB in the WC.
San Francisco won 7-5 over San Diego to go 87-69, .5 GB in the WC.
Los Angeles won 5-4 over Colorado to go 91-66, 3 GA in the West.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Playoff Previews: Why This Could Be the Year

The last two times the Twins made the playoffs they have failed to reach their ultimate goal of winning the World Series. They were favored to make it in 2002 but lost to the eventual champion Anaheim Angels. Then last year they had a meager performance against the Yankees and failed to advance past the first round. There is something different about this year’s team. They are playing with more purpose and in less awe of their own achievements. They have 2 big time pitchers for the first time and the kind of power bullpen that dominates in the playoffs. Their defense is at the high level the Twins have grown accustomed to. The real cause of the Twins playoff struggles has been their inability to score runs. This year the additions of Justin Morneau and Lew Ford and an entire lineup that has looked less intimidated could change that. Below is a comparison of this year’s position players and the last 2 playoff teams. For the most part we will use the outdated batting average as a measure of the player’s ability because it is easy to understand and work.

The first 2 division winners were anchored by A.J Pierzynski at this position. A.J batted over .300 both years while providing a spark to the lineup. Joe Mauer was supposed to be his replacement but injuries have hampered his season and will almost certainly keep him out of the playoffs. Henry Blanco has struggled to bat over .200 but his defense is an upgrade over Pierzynski in the field. AJ batted .344 in his first playoffs but struggled to .231 last year.
Edge – Previous Years – This team could really use Joe Mauer but has played without him all year.

First Base
Doug Mientkiewicz was once considered the heart of the team. He now plays in Boston and has been replaced by Justin Morneau and his 18 homeruns. Justin is the powerful cleanup hitter this team has lacked in previous years and his defense is above average. Doug batted .263 with 6 RBI’s in 2002 but really struggled against the Yankees batting .133.
Edge – 2004 Twins – What Morneau gives up defensively he more then makes up for with his bat. His mere presence in the lineup forces teams to pitch differently.

Second Base
Comparing Luis Rivas to Michael Cuddyer/Luis Rivas. It is still unclear who the starting second baseman will be come October. Cuddyer filled in admirably while Rivas was hurt and is even playing better in the field. He is the better hitter of the two. Rivas came out strong when he returned from injury but is again hurting. Rivas will probably start if healthy. He batted .250 in 2002 and went 0-13 in last year’s playoffs.
Edge – 2004 Twins – Even if Rivas starts, he cannot possibly equal last year’s lack of output.

Third Base
Which Corey Koskie will we see? The one who Peter Gammons claimed was the heart and soul of the 2002 team or the one who has never hit over .205 in the playoffs. Koskie’s average is down this year .243 but his power numbers are up, 24 to 14 last year. He played a big part in turning the Twins season around when he homer'd in Cleveland in mid-August. He also was a big reason the Twins offense struggled the past two playoffs. He needs to be a solid, middle of the order, contributor this year.
Edge – 2004 Twins – With experience comes more production…we hope.

Cristian Guzman has been the Twins shortstop for all three Division Championships. His play has been slightly improved this year but he is still no where near the player he was in 2001. He hit .231 in the 2002 postseason and .154 in the '03 postseason. His numbers need to be closer 2004's .277 batting average if he is going to make an impact in the playoffs. This team doesn’t need his production but it would go a long way towards improving their postseason scoring. The one improvement he may have made is that his defense appears to be better this year than it was the past two.
Edge – Even

In 2002 Jacque Jones batted .175 in the playoffs. Last year Shannon Stewart batted .400 and was billed as a major reason the Twins made the playoffs. Stewart was not the reason the Twins didn’t hit last year. He will bring much of the same to this year’s second season. He sets the tone for the lineup and even contributed a big defense play in last season’s playoffs. This year his return to the lineup once again correlated with the Twins improved position in the standings.
Edge – Even

In no player has the increased maturity been more evident this year than Torii Hunter. Hunter bats in the middle of the order and has contributed as much as any Twin to the offense the last two years. In 2002 he scored 6 runs and hit 6 doubles. Last year he scored 3 of the 6 total runs the Twins had in the ALDS while batting over .400. This year he has sent a message that he wants to go further and that his team is ready to do it. He has played big in the biggest games with his charging into Jamie Burke being a defining point of the season. On top of that his defense remains stellar.
Edge – 2004 Twins - Fantastic numbers the last two years do not outweigh the drive going into this year’s playoffs. He may just be the key player for the Twins offensive fortunes.

Cuddyer and Dustan Mohr split time in the 2002 playoffs and both contributed offensively. Last year Jacque Jones was worse than in 2002 by hitting just .125. His defense should be improved this year with more time in right but his offensive struggles have now spread to the regular season. Right now he is mired in a slump and his average is at .256, well below his career mark of .285. He does have 24 homeruns. The big question is whether Jacque will start against lefties. Unless Ron Gardenhire has changed his philosophy, he probably will and that lowers the grade of this position further.
Edge – Previous teams

Designated Hitter
In 2002, it was a platoon of Matt LeCroy and David Ortiz. LeCroy batted .417 while Ortiz getting the bulk of the playing time hit .276, driving in 4. This was not the David Ortiz of today who is now hitting .297 with 40 homeruns and a .376 OBP. In 2002 the DH was again LeCroy who batted .091. There is no way Lew Ford will play worse then that this year. He is also more versatile and can give the outfielders a day off should the Twins begin to go deep into the postseason. Ford has a sweet short swing made for the playoffs and has hit .302 this year with a .388 OBP.
Edge – 2004 Twins – One of those guys who will not play scared.

The Twins are certainly posed to be a better offensive team than they were the last two postseasons. With the additions of Justin Morneau and Lew Ford they have more weapons than before. The only major loss was Pierzynski. The real question is whether another year of experience will be enough to put the Twins over the hump of their offensive woes. That will be determined in October but as it stands now this looks to be a more potent hitting team. Many people would point to the Twins big 2 starters and hard throwing bullpen as the biggest reason they stand a better chance this year. Tomorrow we will take a look at how the pitching compares. Mark Buerhle may have to make a couple of calls before it’s all over.


Playoff Perspectives
Anaheim won 5-3 over Texas to go 88-68, .5 GB in the West. Texas is 86-70, 2.5 GB.
Recap – Bartolo Colon pitched 8 innings giving up 3 R, 2 ER. Kenny Rogers missed out on his 18th win giving up 4 R in 7.1 innings. Vlad Guerrero homered in the top of the 2nd but Texas took the lead off a Kevin Mench 2 run homer in the 4th. The Angels came back with 1 in the 7th 2 in the 8th and 1 in the 9th to seal the win. Chone Figgins had 3 hits and 2 RBI for Anaheim. Twins killer, Troy Percival recorded his 31st save.
Notes – In what amounts to a stunning move the Angels suspended outfield Jose Guillen for the rest of the season including the playoffs. He was .294 with 27 HR and 104 RBI.
Boston beat Tampa Bay 7-3 to go 94-62, 3 GB.
Recap: Bronson Arroyo pitched 6.1 innings giving up 2 ER to get his 10th win of the season. The Red Sox scored all their runs on 4 home runs by Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Jason Varitek and David McCarty. Keith Foulke pitched a scoreless 9th.
Oakland won 6-5 over Seattle to go 89-67, 1 GA in the West. If the season ended today they would play New York.
New York DNP, they are 97-59.
Notes – Kevin Brown struggled in his bid to come back from a broken hand by giving up 4 runs in 2/3 of an inning Sunday.
National League
Atlanta PPD, they are 92-64 and would play Chicago if the season endedtoday.
St. Louis lost 10-3 to Houston to go 103-53 if the season ended today they would play Los Angeles.
Chicago won 12-5 over Cincinnati to go 88-68, 1 GA in the Wild Card.
Houston won 10-3 over St. Louis to go 87-70, 1.5 GB in the Wild Card.
Los Angeles won 8-7 over Colorado to go 90-66, 3 GA in the West.
San Francisco DNP, 87-69, 1 GB in the Wild Card.
San Diego DNP, 85-71, 3 GB in the Wild Card.

Playoff Previews: The Picture Begins to Focus…Sorta

Before this weekend began, I was one of those who believed much of the American League’s playoff picture would be all but decided. Someone, I thought, would make a statement. The Yankees would sweep or take two of three from the Red Sox. The Athletics would finally right their ship and put away the Angels. The Twins would snap out of their doldrums and take three of four from the Indians, thereby securing home field advantage in the ALDS.

As is true with most of my premonitions, absolutely none of those things occurred.

The Red Sox battered a much-maligned Yankee staff Saturday and Sunday, outscoring the Bombers 23-9 in taking two of three. The Angels made a statement against Oakland, convincingly winning their weekend series with the A’s to move within a game of first. And our Twins managed to tread water while battling the late-season injury bug, splitting a four game series with the Tribe.

Right now, here is what the overall standings look like in the American League:

x-New York Yankees9759.622--
Boston Red Sox9362.6003.5
Oakland Athletics8867.5688.5
Anaheim Angels8768.5619.5
Texas Rangers8669.55510.5
x=clinched playoff berth; y=clinched division

Just one quick glance will tell you exactly what we know for certain about the AL playoff picture: absolutely nothing. The Yankees could still conceivably finish second in the AL East; the Twins could easily still wind up with the third-best record among division champions; and either the Athletics, Angels, or Rangers could wind up as the AL West champion. The fact that all these possibilities still exist with only six or seven games to play in the regular season is truly amazing. Here are the four most likely playoff match-ups for the ALDS:

Scenario 1: Oak/Ana/Tex @ New York, Boston @ Minnesota
Scenario 2: Oak/Ana/Tex @ Boston, New York @ Minnesota
Scenario 3: Minnesota @ New York, Boston @ Oak/Ana/Tex
Scenario 4: Minnesota @ Boston, New York @ Oak/Ana/Tex

There are also two other mathematically possible scenarios (Ana/Oak/Tex @ NYY, Oak/Ana/Tex @ MN and Ana/Oak/Tex @ NYY, MN @ Oak/Ana/Tex) but they are all highly unlikely, given that the Athletics, Angels, and Rangers are 5, 6, and 7 games behind Boston respectively with only 7 to play.

All this mathematical posturing begs a few questions. Which one of these possibilities is most likely to occur? Which would favor the Twins the most? How the hell has Texas managed to stay in the race this long?

The short answers? One, One, and I have no idea.

Now, I know you didn’t come all the way to Twins Chatter to be satisfied with just one-word answers, so I will elaborate somewhat (at least on the first two questions). First of all, my guess is that the playoff picture will remain as it is now. The Athletics host the lowly Mariners for four games this week, and I suspect that the A’s, perhaps out of sheer desperation, will take care of business (although the M’s did take two of three from the Rangers this weekend). I’m predicting that Oakland takes three of four. Meanwhile, the Rangers and Angels will tango four times this week. The pitching match-ups do not grossly favor either team, so I’m going to go the safe route and predict a split. That would leave the A’s two games up on the Halos and three up on the Rangers, meaning the A’s would only have to win one game in their three-game set against Anaheim this weekend to take the division crown. Things could very easily pan out much differently, but that is what I’m envisioning.

As for our Twins, I’m going to go out on a limb here (albeit a very sturdy, conservative limb, complete with matching wooden hand rails) and say they finish the season 3-3 to finish 93-69 overall, an extremely respectable mark. Tomorrow’s Lohse vs. El Duque match-up isn’t particularly favorable, and the team has the double misfortune of facing Scott “I-pitch-like-Cy-Young-against-the-Twins-and-Scott-Elarton-against-everybody-else” Elarton and giving Terry Mulholland his final start of the season this weekend against Cleveland. 3-3 (or possibly 4-2) sounds about right to me, and it will probably give the Twins home-field advantage in the ALDS.

As for the Yankees-Red Sox, I’m thinking that this thing is probably decided. The Sox needed to sweep the Yankees this weekend to win the division, and they did not. The Twins are struggling with the injury bug a little bit, and I don’t think that they’re in a position to sweep the Yanks in the Stadium this week (although 2 of 3 is a definite possibility). Once the BoSox clinch a playoff berth, which will probably happen within the next couple days, I suspect they will rest some regulars and set up their rotation for the playoffs. I think it’s likely that both teams will finish the season right where they stand today.

So there you have it. Even though this weekend didn’t exactly solidify a ton of things in the push for playoff posturing, it did clarify a few things somewhat:
-The Yankees will win the East and the Red Sox the Wild Card
-The Twins aren’t going to totally collapse over the season’s final six games
-The AL West is still very much up for grabs, although the A’s hold a slight advantage

Be sure and check back here tomorrow, when we continue our “Playoff Previews” series. No doubt John will have some wise nuggets of wisdom to share with all of us, as he taps his vast reservoir of exquisite baseball knowledge. Take care, everyone.

-Ryan Maus

Playoff Perspectives

...will be taking the day off. Almost all of the information you would have found here is covered in today's post. This feature will be back tomorrow.

Friday, September 24, 2004

TGIF, Johan Pitches Tonight!

We apologize for the lack of a new post today. We have an updated Playoff Perspectives as well as a preview of series to watch this weekend. JD Durbin lost his first major league start last night as the Twins really begin to give their younger players a chance. Durbin allowed 5 runs in 3 innings walking 4. Hopefully he can build on this start for next year and not worry about being nervous. Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman turned in a nice double play last night as Rivas continues to make his case to be the second baseman come playoff time. The Twins battled back all game but in the end it was too much for them to overcome their third straight loss since clinching the division.

That losing streak should turn around tonight with Johan Santana on the mound going for his 20th win. Every statistic on Johan going into this game is phenomenal. He is going for the team record for consecutive wins and he has pitched 30 scoreless innings. It would not be surprising if he gives up a few runs tomorrow night as a result but still gets the win. This streak is unbelievable especially if he carries it into the playoffs. Winning 20 will also cement the Cy Young Award for him as well.

Make sure and read Aaron Gleeman’s new article at the Hardball times. He compares the Yankees and Red Sox to determine which would be the better first round opponent for the Twins. He really does a good job of laying out the argument for both teams. Other then that, we hope you all have a great Friday and good weekend. There is a lot of good baseball yet to be played and the best time of year for fans is just around the corner. We are really starting to get spoiled around here with 3 straight years of postseason baseball.

Playoff Perspectives

New York won 7-3 over Tampa Bay to go 96-57, 4.5 GA in the East.
Notes – Jon Lieber pitched 7.1 innings giving up 3 runs in his bid for a playoff start.

Boston lost 9-7 to Baltimore leaving their record at 91-61, 4.5 GB

Oakland lost 5-4 to Texas, they are 87-65 2 GA in the West
Notes – Tim Hudson went 7 strong innings giving up 2 runs, Octavio Dotel blew the save giving up 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th.

Texas won 5-4 over Oakland going 85-67 2 GB in the West

Anaheim DNP 85-67 2 GB

National League

St. Louis won 4-2 over Milwaukee to go 100-52.

Chicago won 6-3 over Pittsburgh to go 86-66, .5 GA for the Wild Card.

Atlanta lost 3-2 to Cincinnati to go 89-64.

Los Angeles won 9-6 over San Diego to go 87-65, 1.5 GA in the West

San Francisco lost 7-3 to Houston 86-67, 1.5 GB in the West and .5 GB in the Wild Card.
Notes – Jason Schmidt pitched 7.1 innings giving up 2 runs. Dustan Hermanson gave up 4 runs in a third of an inning to take the loss; Carlos Beltran had 3 hits for the Astros.

Houston won 7-3 over San Francisco to go 84-69, 2.5 GB in the Wild Card.

Weekend Preview :
NY Yankees At Boston
Friday – Mussina v. Martinez
Saturday – Vasquez v. Wakefield
Sunday – Loaiza v. Schilling
Chicago Cubs At NY Mets
Florida At Atlanta
Houston At Milwaukee
Seattle At Texas
Oakland At Anaheim
Friday – Harden v. Escobar
Saturday – TBA v. Washburn
Sunday – Mulder v. Lackey
Los Angeles at San Francisco
Friday – Perez v. Rueter
Saturday – Lima v. Hennessey
Sunday – Weaver v. Tomko

As you can see there are 3 very good series being played this weekend that could drastically change the playoff picture. Boston needs to sweep to keep their hopes of passing the Yankees. Oakland and Anaheim will spend the weekend beating up on each other while Texas hopes to take advantage and pass the both of them. San Francisco could catch Los Angeles in the West or end up falling behind in the Wild Card.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Playoff Previews: (Ro)star Wars

Some of you probably stopped by your nearest retailer yesterday and picked up your copy of the “Star Wars” DVDs (I know I sure did), but there is possibly a similar battle raging in the Twins front office regarding the playoff roster. Technically, playoff rosters were “set” on August 31, but as we all know, there are exceptions to every rule. Injuries to Nick Punto, Joe Mauer, and Joe Mays technically give the Twins three roster spots to play around with before the postseason begins on October 5 (more if they put someone like Balfour on the DL). Much of the roster is a forgone conclusion, but Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire will have some decisions to make in the coming weeks.

This issue has been a topic of discussion ever since the Twins clinched the division on Monday, simply because postseason rosters are no longer an eventuality but a certainty. There is a new thread pertaining to the subject over at the DTFC, and Jim Souhan also wrote an article for the Star Tribune on Tuesday. In the spirit of piggy-backing on popular ideas, I thought I would throw my two cents into the mix as well.

The Sure Things™

The Lineup™
Shannon Stewart- Stew has been a tad beat up of late, but he should be fine for the postseason.
Jacque Jones- JJ has been slumping lately (.458 OPS in Sept.) but he will undoubtedly still start every game in the playoffs, even against tough lefties.
Torii Hunter- Torii is one of the key cogs in this lineup, and the team is counting on him to produce come crunch time.
Justin Morneau- The Twins’ biggest power threat received a cortisone shot for his ailing hand on Sunday. He’s missed four straight games and is day-to-day; he should be back soon. We all know how important he is for the Twins’ offense.
Lew Ford- Sweet Lew has been a model of consistently in 2004 and will be big factor in October.
Corey Koskie- Koskie has looked pretty good since returning from his ankle injury. Hopefully he’ll flash his late-August form next month.
Christian Guzman- While Guzy really hasn’t played as well as everyone thinks he has, his defense has been much more consistent and I worry about him far less.
Henry Blanco- Henry’s really the only choice here, and although I wouldn’t be surprised if he went 0 for October, he’s done his job defensively all year.
Luis Rivas- Rivas has done almost nothing this year to deserve his job, although he is 5-16 this month (.313 avg.). Gardy will probably go with what’s worked before.

The Bench™
Michael Cuddyer- Cuddy has played nearly every game in September, and I daresay he’s played quite well (.298/.403/.474). I’ve always been a little skeptical of Cuddyer’s defensive abilities, but he’s improved enough in that area that I would consider starting him at 2B. He sat out last night with a possible pinched nerve, which is a bad sign.
Pat Borders- Borders probably won’t start a game in the playoffs unless Kyle Lohse starts, but he’ll be used as a defensive replacement if Blanco is pinch-hit or pinch-run for.
Jose Offerman- Remember Mike Ryan’s pathetic at-bat against Clemens last October? That’ll be Jose this year. And I’m glad it will be.
Matthew LeCroy- I don’t know how effective Matty will be off the bench, but he’s the team’s best bet if they need right handed hitter late in the game.

The Starters™
Johan Santana- It has been all but that confirmed that Cy will start Game 1 of the playoffs, and I know Red Sox hitters aren’t looking forward to that treat.
Brad Radke- Personally, I don’t think there’s a better Game 2 starter out there than Radke. It’s almost a guarantee that he’ll keep the Twins in the game.
Carlos Silva- After Mulholland’s lackluster outing yesterday, there is no doubt that Silva will start Game 3. I think he’s a perfect fit for Fenway, but we’ll see what happens.

The ‘Pen™
Joe Nathan- Super Joe has been the epitome of a great closer almost all season long. There will be a lot of pressure on him in the postseason, but I think he’s up to the challenge.
Juan Rincon- Rincon has been the team’s most consistent middle reliever all year, and he’s the guy Gardy should use in the tough situations. He might even get a little rest now that the Twins have clinched!
J.C. Romero- J.C. went into his patented “implosion mode” the other day, but I still think that he’s as close to his 2002 form as he’ll ever be. He’ll be Gardy’s 2nd go-to guy in the pen.
Jesse Crain- Crain did give up the grand slam the other day, but he’s still earned a spot on the playoff roster. You can never have too many strikeout pitchers in the playoffs.
Terry Mulholland- Even though I don’t see what purpose he’ll serve, Mulholland will undoubtedly make the roster. I guess he’ll be Gardy’s second lefty and/or one of his long relief guys. You might want to close your eyes when he comes in though; it might not be pretty.

What’s Left: Two bench spots, two bullpen spots

The Contenders™

Augie Ojeda- If Nick Punto isn’t fully recovered from his broken collarbone, the Twins will go with the reliable Ojeda in a utility role. He won’t contribute much, but he’s not a liability either.
Nick Punto- Punto seems to think that he’ll be ready in time for the postseason; the Twins aren’t so convinced. If he can prove that he’s healthy, the Twins would probably prefer him over Ojeda because he can pinch-run as well.
Joe Mauer- I watched Joe take batting practice the other day, and he was hitting line shots and monster homers left and right. We know that he won’t be able to play defense this year, and if there’s any doubt at all that his knee isn’t 100%, he’ll be shut down (as he should be). But if Joe can play, he’ll no doubt be an offensive asset. We'll know more on Friday after his doctor visit.
Jason Kubel- Kubel hit another homer last night, and it looks like he’s the fallback plan if Mauer can’t go. I don’t know how effective he’ll be coming off the bench in a pressure situation, but he certainly has talent to spare.
Grant Balfour- I think that Balfour, if healthy, should be a no-brainer for one of the final two bullpen spots, but that’s a huge “if”. If there are any lingering concerns with his reliability, Gardy may look elsewere.
Kyle Lohse- Unfortunately, Kyle Lohse will probably make the playoff roster. I’m telling you right now: he doesn’t deserve it. I’d actually rather have Roa or Mulholland out there in a mop-up role, simply because they’ve filled that role before this season. If the Twins advance to the ALCS and need a 4th starter, then I would consider adding him.
Joe Roa- After a solid August, Joa’s play in September has been decidedly less-than-stellar (14.40 ERA). Although he’s pitched pretty decently overall this year, he’s still a long shot to make the roster.

My Contender Predictions: Kubel, Ojeda, Lohse, Balfour

There you go. If you agree or disagree with my analysis or choices, feel free to post a comment below or e-mail me at Don’t’ forget to catch up on yesterday’s action with “Playoff Perspectives” below, and hopefully we’ll see you again tomorrow.

Playoff Perspectives

New York lost 5-4 to Toronto leaving them 3.5 GA at 95-57.
News - "El Duque" Hernandez finally pitched poorly allowing 5 earned runs in 6.1innings.

Boston won 7-6 over Baltimore, they are 91-60 and in first for the Wild Card.
News - Possible playoff third starter Bronson Arroyo allowed 5 runs in 5.1b innings, Orlando Cabrera won the game with a homerun in the bottom of the 12th inning.

Oakland lost 5-3 to Texas, they are 87-64 2.5 GA of Anaheim in the West.

Anaheim lost 16-6 to Seattle, dropped 6.5 GB in Wild Card race

Texas won 5-3 over Oakland, they are 84-67 and only 3 GB in the West.

National League
St. Louis won 3-2 over Milwaukee to go 99-52, they have the best record in baseball.
Atlanta lost 11-8 to Cincinnati,
Los Angeles lost 4-0 to San Diego, remains just .5 GA of San Francisco in NL West
San Francisco won 5-1 over Houston, has won 3 straight. .5 GA of Cubs in Wild Card standings.
Chicago won 1-0 over Pittsburg, they are 85-66 a game
Houston lost 5-1 to San Francisco, fall 3 GB in NL Wild Card

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow

Last night the Twins played their first game since clinching the division. This means the younger players who have been waiting for a chance are finally going to see some action. Last night it was Jason Kubel, Mike Restovich and Jason Bartlett. Each of them contributed. Kubel hit his first major league homerun, Restovich hit one out too and Bartlett drove in a run with his first ML hit. Kubel is the only one who has a chance of playing in the postseason and this may be his audition. It was good to see Restovich have another big hit. He may no longer be a top prospect but there is no reason he can't contribute to next year's team.

Kyle Lohse started and pitched like Kyle Lohse, going 6 and allowing 4 runs. The biggest hit of the game was a grand slam off the bat of Juan Uribe in the 7th. It is always heartbreaking to lose to the White Sox but even more disappointing given the Twins had the lead even after Lohse left the game. All that is left though is positioning for the playoffs. It is really a tossup of whom the Twins should play in the first round.

I would like to see them get home field advantage. Boston is a tough team but the Twins match up well with Santana and Radke vs. Schilling and Martinez. The Yankees still have that mystique that will be hard for the Twins to overcome especially at Yankee Stadium. It would be great if Oakland could knock them out in the first round and this might finally be the year they do it. Oakland just seems to have a better chance of beating the Yankees then they do of Boston. In other words, if the Twins play and beat the Yankees they will still have to play Boston in the LCS. Clinching so early definitely gives the Twins a slight advantage. The rest of the teams are almost certain they are in but cannot start setting their playoff rotations just yet.

Today Twins Chatter debuts a new feature called "Playoff Perspectives". From now right up to the playoffs we will take a look at what is going on with the rest of the possible playoff field. This feature will supplement our regular columns and appear at the end of every entry. Some will be longer than others. We plan on at least giving the results of the previous night's game and each team's current record and place in the standings. On some occasions we will take a look at important news coming from each team. We will also recap some games. We feel that in doing this our readers will be better informed going into the playoffs. The Twins will play the Red Sox or Yankees in the first round but they could play Oakland in the ALCS and any of the National League teams if they make the World Series, making all the teams relevant. We hope you enjoy this feature. Let us know what you think.

Playoff Perspectives

New York Yankees

The Yankees won 5-3 over Toronto to finally give Estaban Loaiza his 10th win. Loaiza gave up 2 runs in 5 and a third innings before handing it off to the bullpen. The Yankees bullpen continued their dominance by not allowing a run until Mariano Rivera entered the game. Rivera gave up a run but recorded his 50th save of the season. Both Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi homered for the Yankees. They are currently the #1 seed at 95-56 4-½ games ahead of the Red Sox. If the season ended today they would play Oakland in the first round of the playoffs.

Boston Red Sox -

Boston won their game 3-2 over Boston with Curt Schilling failing to get the win despite pitching 8 shutout innings with 14 strikeouts; at least making the Cy Young race interesting (Don't worry there isn't one). The Red Sox came from behind in the 9th to give Keith Foulke the win. He had blown a save in the top of the inning when he allowed a 2 run homer to Javy Lopez. Mark Bellhorn got the winning hit and Bill Mueller had a 4 hits in the game. The Red Sox are currently 90-60 and would be the wild card playing Oakland.

News - Pedro Martinez has admitted to not having his best stuff in his last couple of outings. Twins fans can only hope this carries into the playoffs for a possible match up but it's unlikely, given the caliber of pitcher.

Oakland -

Oakland lost to Texas 9-4. Mark Mulder got shelled giving up 9 runs in 4 innings. Mark Kotsay and Jermaine Dye each had 3 hits in the game and Nate Swisher of Moneyball fame contributed an RBI. Oakland is now 87-63 and percentage points behind the Twins in the American League.

National League

St. Louis lost 6-4 to Milwaukee and is the Central Division champion at 98-52.

Atlanta won 5-4 vs. Cincinnati, they are 9.5 up at 89-62.

Los Angeles (Playing San Diego Late) is 86-63, 2.5 games ahead in the West.

News - Hideo Nomo has been sent to the bullpen after only going 1 1/3 in his last start.

San Francisco (Playing Houston late) is 84-66, 2.5 back in their division and tied for the wild card lead.

Chicago won 5-4 over Pittsburgh, they are 84-66 and tied for the wild card lead.

Houston is 83-67 and a game back in the wild card.

San Diego 80-70, 4GB in Wild Card

Florida lost 4-2 to Philadelphia, they are 79-71 5 GB in Wild Card.


Champions Again!

We’ve known it was coming for quite some time, but no amount of anticipation can compare to the real thing. Our Minnesota Twins clinched their third consecutive American League Central Division championship last night, crushing their “rivals” from the South Side of Chicago, known as the “Bitch Sox” in some circles. I put the “rival” in quotes for the oft-cited reason that for a rivalry to exist, each team must at least occasionally beat the other. Over the past three years, the White Sox have wilted in the heat of the pennant race quicker than John Kerry’s views change under the heat of scrutiny.

Of the three division championships, this year’s has to be the most pleasant surprise. In 2002, the Twins were a team on the rise. The Indians and White Sox were both teams in decline, and the Twins experienced a storybook season and were never seriously challenged. In 2003, the team was tabbed a couple publications as the team to beat in the American League and woefully underachieved in the first half. A second half for the ages (and subsequent White Sox collapse) allowed the Twins to collect 90 wins and their second straight playoff berth.

This year, many “experts” predicted that the Twins would fall back to the rest of the pack. Not many were stupid enough to bet against the Twins (John Kruk comes immediately to mind) because they recognized the ineptitude of the Sox, but I read numerous accounts that believed 82-85 wins would be enough to win the division. These people woefully underestimated the talent of the Twins’ farm system and the genius of one Terry Ryan.

However, our team has exceeded almost everyone’s expectations this year, including my own. They clinched the division with 12 games left to play and will probably win 95+ games overall. In my opinion, year’s version is the best of the three championship teams. It is also the one best equipped to advance in the postseason. In 2002, just getting to the playoffs was an amazing accomplishment, and anything on top of that was simply icing on the cake. Last year, a first round victory seemed improbable, even after a Game 1 win. Beating the Yankee juggernaut seemed unlikely, especially in Yankee Stadium.

I firmly believe that 2004 is the Twins’ year. I wouldn’t have said that last year, and I certainly wouldn’t have said it back in 2002. The differences are obvious: Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, and Justin Morneau.

Tomorrow at Twins Chatter, we’ll begin out Playoff Preview series of articles. There are a lot of things to cover before October 5, and we plan on finally implementing some method into our madness. Right now, I’m simply reveling in last night’s victory. It was the first step in what promises to be quite a journey.

Torii and the Twins celbrate in the clubhouse after the game

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Weekend in Review and Looking Ahead

The Twins began their weekend like a lamb and went out like a lion. In a sense they failed to get the job done and clinch in front of the hometown fans. The first two games against the Orioles were a let down following the absolute shellacking of the White Sox last week. First, the Twins lost Shannon Stewart and Torii Hunter to injuries and then Brad Radke had a poor outing for the first time in months. Then came Sunday and all was not lost. With every pitch Johan Santana erased the poor memories of the last two games. Tossing strikeout after strikeout and ending 7 out of 8 innings with one in dramatic fashion. Johan reminded everyone that the real prize was yet to come. He created hope for something so big that it has not been seen around here in nearly 15 years.

Johan, as he has been since early June, was, “the man”. When he is on the mound it is alright to expect to win. He is the closest thing to certain in baseball. Early on it looked like maybe he would follow suit and this would be the day a team would finally get to him. He uncharacteristically allowed a few hits and was saved by a couple of close calls by the umpires. Then it all came into perspective. Santana was so on that it didn’t matter. He induced double plays and he got every strikeout he needed as he toyed with the Oriole lineup. The result, a career high of 14 K's for the game. Santana is no longer just making his case for the Cy Young, he is now throwing his hat in for the MVP. It will be interesting to see if his own local writer votes for a pitcher, since La Velle E. Neal was the man who cost Pedro Martinez the award in 2000.

It is true that the Twins lost Stewart and Hunter in Friday night’s game. Luckily neither injury was serious. They are both day to day along with Justin Morneau. The Twins instead took a step toward getting healthy during the weekend. Both Corey Koskie and Luis Rivas returned to the lineup with a bang; hitting homeruns in their first games back. Koskie still holds the team lead in homers with 23 and is a big piece to the postseason puzzle. Rivas’s place on the team is less certain. Usually players don’t lose their spots to injury. As bad as Rivas played before getting hurt and as well as Michael Cuddyer has played in his place it would seem hard for Luis to regain his spot. There are players who can handle the utility role better in Augie Ojeda and Nick Punto when he returns. Rivas’s homerun on Sunday may have earned him a brief reprieve and the Twins likely will field a combination of him and Cuddyer through the playoffs. That just seems to be in line with the way the team does things even if it does not make sense.

The Twins did fail to clinch this weekend but they did lower their magic number to 2 meaning that the first game they win against Chicago this week will do it. It will be fitting if it comes tomorrow night against Mark Buehrle who was one of the Sox players to blast the Twins last week. It may not be a big deal for the White Sox to play an extra week but they’ll have to at least be envious of the party the Twins will be throwing in their house.

All that talk about clinching brings up another point. The Twins have really hesitated on playing their younger guys until they actually clinch. This is paying the White Sox more respect then they deserve. There were instances last week where Juan Rincon and JC Romero were used in games where the Twins had big leads. With all the help available out of the pen there is no reason for this. Plus, some of the guys who have been under-worked may just end up on the postseason roster. If the Twins feel like they can’t trust them now, how they can possibly think about putting them in a postseason game? More players were able to get into this weekend's games when the Twins fell behind early and when the outfield injuries left them no other choice. It is time to start preparing for the “real season” where the team has a legitimate chance of going somewhere this year. This means resting players while at the same time getting them enough action to keep them sharp. There is no need to misuse anybody at this point. Also, players like Jason Bartlett and Mike Restovich are going to have roles to play next year. The amount of playing time they get now could influence how smooth that transition is. Don’t wait until the last week to get them a few token at-bats. Jason Kubel is eligible for the postseason roster and the team has barely even seen what he could do. They need to let him get his feet wet or else it is unlikely that he will have role come October.

Usually Twins Chatter sticks to topics that are completely Twins related. However, during Football season we will briefly discuss our thoughts on the Vikings since they are the next biggest thing in this town next to the Twins (Well maybe it is flip-flopped but we can all dream). Tonight’s match up is going to be a lot of fun to watch. The Eagles are a Super Bowl caliber team and while the Vikings won last week they looked a little porous in doing so. Tonight will be a true test of where the team stands. Randy Moss usually puts up huge numbers on Monday night and he will play even better with Terrell Owens on the opposite sideline. There is no question Moss is the best receiver in football and the Vikings offense has so far looked pretty much unstoppable. As usual it is a question of whether the defense can do enough to stop the Eagles offense. Terrell will not have the production he had last week but it will be a high scoring game. The Vikings could come up big in this one but it would be safer to pick the Eagles.
Prediction: Vikings 35 Eagles 31

John Have a great Monday everybody.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Aim Low, Shoot High

Most of the time, when we refer to “making the playoffs” as either Twins fans, players, or even bloggers, it is assumed that we are referring to that third division winner slot. The AL Wild Card usually has a better record than the AL Central Division champion, and the AL East Division champion almost always does. The rather recent emergence of the Oakland Athletics as a perennial 95-100 win juggernaut means that the lowly AL Central champ must settle for the third seed.

As you probably noticed over the past couple weeks, the 2004 Minnesota Twins seem intent on throwing that little arrangement right out the window. By the time you read this, here is what the overall American League standings will look like:

New York Yankees9254.630--
Boston Red Sox8757.6044
Oakland Athletics8461.5797.5

See that? Thanks to a nifty eight-game winning streak, your Minnesota Twins currently own the second best record among division leaders in the American League, one game ahead of the slumping Athletics. That, my friends, means that Twins fans will get to see Game 1 of the ALDS right here in Minneapolis as opposed to another trip to the Bronx. It also means that instead of squaring off with Orlando Hernandez and the New York Yankees, Johan Santana and the Twins will play host to Curt Schilling and the Boston Red Sox. Hey, I never said home-field was necessarily a good thing.

In my eyes, however, no matter who the Twins play it will be a good thing. There are only a couple teams in the major leagues who play better on the road than at home, and one of the most fundamental aspects of the game is that the home team always enjoys an inherent advantage over the road team (the last at-bat). Given a choice, I will always choose to play the Red Sox at home over the Yankees on the road, regardless of which team is perceived as the more “dangerous” right now. Plus, you can never discount the home crowd advantage at the Metrodome. The Twins may not have fared particularly well during home playoff games over the past couple of years, but there is no doubt that the Dome is still an intimidating place for opponents. You can’t underestimate the mental edge that 60,000 screaming fans will give the Twins.

In addition, the Red Sox are a team that is built for Fenway Park. They’ve got some tough right handed and switch hitters (Manny, Varitek, Cabrera, Millar, Kapler, Bellhorn), which is a must at Fenway. The BoSox also have three starting pitchers who usually throw more ground balls than they do fly balls, in Lowe, Schilling, and Pedro (although Pedro’s GB/FB ratio is really screwed up this year). Playing in Fenway definitely favors the Sox statistically.

The Twins, on the other hand, have always been more of a fly ball team, especially in the pitching department. When you play on such a fast AstroTurf surface, allowing too many ground balls will eventually get to you (see: Erickson, Scott). Radke has traditionally been a fly ball dominant pitcher; hitters get off balance and out in front of his change-up and lift a nice little popup to Torii in center. Before he started striking out everybody in sight, even Johan used to be a fly ball pitcher (his GB/FB ratio is 0.9 this season, the highest of his career). Of the Twins’ playoff starting 3, only Carlos Silva is a predominantly ground ball pitcher, which makes him a perfect fit for Fenway in Game 3. Silva’s recent performance (he threw 5 and 1/3 solid innings last night as well) makes me think that the Twins have finally solved their playoff rotation problems. If the Twins can hold onto this lead over the A’s, I think there is no doubt that Silva will be the one to take the ball when the Twins take on the Sox in Boston.

Some fans, including myself at times, have kind of tuned out the Twins right now, simply because their divisional lead is so enormous. But as you can see here, the team is still fighting for playoff position. If they can win this fight, it might just turn out to be the biggest victory of them all.

Phoning it in: "Why is This So Hard to Believe?"

Sorry about my lack of a new post today folks. I had a pretty good one all planned out (it dealt with the importance of getting the league's second-best record). Unfortunately, my new job as sports editor for our school newspaper sucked up about ten hours of my day, not to mention my normal duties as a student. The Twins are currently on a nifty seven-game winning streak, the magic number is down to eight, and the lead in the division is enormous. Doesn't get much better than this, does it? The following post, which is from May 1 of this year, portrays a much, MUCH different Twins team than the one we see now. Santana and Radke with ERAs over 5.00? It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was actually only four and a half months. Sometimes it can be fun to see what we were saying way back then, and I have to admit that I predicted a great number of things correctly, even back in May. Enjoy this little filler for today, as I promise we'll have a new article up tomorrow.

“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!

Monday, September 13, 2004

Winning With Pitching and Other Rambles

Twins Sweep the Tigers
Brad Radke continues to pitch like the most underrated pitcher in baseball. He may not be as dominant as Johan Santana but he definitely makes up a large part of the two headed monster. What makes Brad even more amazing is that after 10 years he may now be pitching his best season. In the past he has often been plagued by 1 poor inning a start and occasionally he would pitch a game where he was unable to locate his pitches and gave up a lot of runs. He has never been this consistent. He is hitting all his spots, keeping batters of balance and walking people even less then he used to. His ERA at 3.51 is even lower then it was the year he won 20 when it was 3.87. Brad’s biggest problem this year has been run support. With a little help he could easily have as many wins as Santana and then people would be mentioning him being right behind Johan in the CY race. Every time either of these two pitchers is on the mound the Twins expect to win and as a result they play better.

Speaking of that CY Young race, why is it so hard to admit that Johan Santana is currently the most dominate pitcher in baseball? He is on an unprecedented streak and yet members of the media keep trying to pass out his hardware to elsewhere. The latest Gammons article compares Santana to Schilling and tries to make it an argument. Schilling has more wins then Santana but his numbers do not compare in ERA, K’s or the amount of hits Johan has given up. Yes there are other pitchers out there having great seasons but Johan is a head above them all. Why must Santana pitch a 2 hit shutout every start from here on out just to prove himself? It is unbelievable he has not had a letdown in close to 3 months. Not 1 bad start!

Call a Doctor
Terry Tiffee came out of last night’s game after colliding with Ivan Rodriguez at the plate. He may have injured his shoulder on the play. This guy has really impressed in his brief time in the bigs. He plays hard and comes up with clutch hits. His fielding seems to be average but he is an improvement over Michael Cuddyer. If his shoulder is alright and Corey Koskie is unable to work his way back, Tiffee may be the starting third baseman in the playoffs. He has not played like a wide eyed rookie and it would be surprising if he didn’t play well given the opportunity. He also gives the Twins another option for next year should the Twins decided not to resign Koskie. If both players are still hurt come October the team will have a huge hole to fill especially if Cuddyer has to play second.

Last night saw the return of our boy Lew Ford, the official player of Twins Chatter. Lew looked like his old self driving in the first run of the game and later knocking one out of the park. As always, it is great to see Lew perform. The celebration in the dugout following the homerun was another story to add to the book of Lew. As he got back his teammates were either not paying attention or just giving him a hard time because they didn’t do anything. They then all had a good laugh and congratulated him following the initial delay.

Special congratulations to Ryan for going 12 and 3 and finishing at the top of Seth’s NFL experts picks. I for one, was a little surprised he did so well. Currently I have a commanding lead in our fantasy baseball league for the 3rd year out of 5. Ryan has never won it ever (NOTE BY RYAN): John is just a lucky SOB). Apparently he has more of a knack for football. It is all in good fun though and we hope his luck continues for the rest of the season.

I apologize for such a jumbling of ideas but it is getting toward the time of the year where everyone is just waiting for the playoffs. No one is threatening in the standings while it is still too early for playoff previews. Even the DTFC forum is a little light on topics right now.

Tonight the Twins begin their series against the White Sox. Tickets are supposedly half price for the game which makes it definitely worthwhile to go down and see Johan pitch. The Sox could put a scare into the Twins if they are able to sweep the series. It isn’t going to happen and Santana will erase all doubts in game 1. Who knows, we might just see a no hitter.

To Trade...or Not
A question was brought up last week in the comments section on whether it would be a good idea to trade Lew in the off-season given the right deal. Lew is definitely a fan favorite and with Jacque Jones on his way out there is a spot open for him in next year’s outfield. The Twins may have to fill holes at second, short, third, the bullpen and in their rotation in the off-season. I don’t expect that Lew will be traded or that the team would get enough value to do so especially since he has cooled off a bit later in the year. That said, the Twins have been very good at producing good outfielders in the past couple of years. The can field a decent infield next year with a combination of Punto, Bartlet, Cuddyer, Tiffee and Koskie. If that infield could be upgraded by trading away Ford for reasonably priced talent the Twins should do it. If they can get a good arm for him they should also make the deal. The Twins have been very good at making creative deals. They traded away A.J and Milton last year and got more back in return. There is no reason to close the door and not attempt to do the same this year.


Sunday, September 12, 2004

Procrastination Catches Up

The first rule you are supposed to learn about college is that it is not high school anymore... meaning that it is time to put everything else aside and get your stuff done on time or else it piles up. Unfortunately for some of us, this lesson is not one that comes easy. Last night was one of those nights where I wished I had known better. I spent an entire weekend accomplishing everything but getting my homework done with five hours of class in front of me come Monday. Ryan is having similar issues adjusting to school (or maybe he just has more to do then me). In any matter, sometimes life catches up to us and unfortunately it gets in the way of more important things, such as this blog. That is why we must apologize for no new entry today. We will for sure have a new column tomorrow with no new deadlines for school in sight.

Meanwhile the world turned and the Twins' three starters not named Johan or Brad were able to win three games in a row this weekend. That's three consectutive games, people. I doubt such a thing has happened in a really long time. This comes with a slight caveat in that it occurred against the Tigers. In winning all their games this weekend the team was able to clinch a winning record for the year as they continued their march toward the playoffs.

Make sure to check out how Ryan did over at Sethspeaks in the NFL "Experts Picks" section (Note by Ryan: I am the man!). I'm sure we are all crossing our fingers that he was able to at least beat Gleeman:). In all seriousness though, Seth had an excellent article last week ranking the top prospects in the system. He deserves a ton of credit for all the work he does with the Twins minor league box scores throughout the season.

Hope you all are enjoying your Mondays. It is a great time to be a Minnesota sports fan but not so good to be a college student. I must not respectively leave you and return to the giant pile that is my homework.

P.S. We are currently having a problem witht the comments section on our site... hopefully that will be fixed soon. In the meantime, if you have anything to say, feel free to e-mail me at or Ryan at

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Blue Light Special

Since today is Saturday, I don't have a new post. But I do have one thing I would like to get off my chest. Earlier this week, I promised I would mention a new Twins blog that I recently stumbled across. Aaron Gleeman beat me to the punch, but that's okay. I would like to direct your attention to Stick and Ball Guy, a blog that touches upon many different topics, the main focus being baseball (and your Minnesota Twins). He occasionally delves into politics and other issues, but I find nothing wrong with that. If you're looking for something new to read this weekend (and beyond), I highly reccommend Stick and Ball Guy. You won't be disappointed.

Have a great weekend everyone and watch that magic number drop!


Friday, September 10, 2004

Sizing Up the Competition

The Twins got a well-deserved day off yesterday, so I thought that I would take the opportunity to present my thoughts on a popular topic of conversation. The lead in the Central is eight games (remember, no team has EVER lost a lead that big in September) and the magic number has been whittled down to a mere 16. We can safely start to look towards October, but since playoff speculation will be an oft-discussed topic on this site over the next three weeks, I thought that I would start slowly by answering the following question: If the season were to end now, who of the four possible AL playoff teams (New York, Boston, Oakland, and Anaheim) would I rather see the Twins play in the first round?

1. Anaheim (season series: 5-4 Anaheim)
This choice should come as no surprise to anyone out there. Statistically speaking, the Angels are probably the least impressive of all the AL contenders. Bartolo Colon, allegedly the ace of this Angel staff, still has a 5.33 ERA. He has been much better in the second has (8-3, 3.79) but is still far from his old dominant self. Kelvim Escobar has been the team’s most consistent starter but is no one to be afraid of. Neither is the wildly inconsistent John Lackey (4.89 ERA). Twins-killer Aaron Sele is really the only guy that scares me on that team, as he’s already pitched well against the Twins three times this season. Besides big boppers Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Guillen, the Angels use their speed to score many of their runs (they’re tops in the majors with 122 stolen bases). Throwing out baserunners is Henry Blanco’s specialty, so he would be a great asset in a series against the Halos. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the Twins will play the Angels in the first round, as they would have to win the AL West and Oakland would have to win the wild card.

2. Oakland (season series: 5-2 Oakland)
I know there are many people out there that will disagree with me here, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one. My reasoning here isn’t based so much on statistics or head-to-head match-ups as it is intuition. We all remember what happened in October of 2002: an upstart bunch from Minnesota stunned a 103-win Athletics by winning the pivotal game 5 in Oakland. Were the Twins to play the A’s in the first round, there is no doubt that both teams will have that series in the back of their minds. I also took into account how much easier it is to win in Oakland in front of 30,000 laid back Californians as opposed to 60,000 cursing New Yorkers. As important as statistics are, you simply cannot completely discount the impact of the intangibles. That being said, I think Santana vs. Mulder and Radke vs. Hudson, match-ups that would occur twice in a five game series, appear to be almost even. Game three is where the Twins would have some trouble, as Rich Harden pitched very well last month against the Twins and is having a terrific second half. Offensively, the A’s have scored a few more runs (706 vs. 657) and hit a few more homers (171 vs. 162) than the Twins, but both numbers are reasonably close. The Twins have a huge edge in stolen bases (obviously) which could be the deciding factor in a short series. However, given the A’s recent slide, it is highly unlikely that the Twins would get to play them in the first round.

3. New York (season series: 2-1 Twins with 3 games to play)
I’ve seen many people say that the team they hope the play in the first round is the New York Yankees. I’m here to tell them that they’re crazy. Sure, the Yanks haven’t been playing their best baseball of late, and sure, there’s a chance the Twins might beat them, but I want nothing to do with the Yankees in the ALDS. We all know that the Twins are liable to be shut down by the worst of starting pitchers, and the Twins match up very poorly with Orlando Hernandez, in my opinion. After Hernandez (who might actually start Game 1!) things get a little shaky for the Yankees. Javier Vazquez has been very ordinary, and Mike Mussina has yet to regain his velocity after missing a few months with an injury. Kevin Brown just broke his own hand, although he may be back for the playoffs. The bullpen trio of Quantril, Gordon, and Rivera has been overworked this season but will still be very tough.

Despite all these positive signs (for the Twins) the Yankees still have one of the best offenses in the majors. Let’s not forget that A-Rod didn’t play in either of the Twins’ wins against New York at the Dome this year. Sheffield, Jeter, and Matsui are also extremely dangerous hitters. This year, it seems like the Yankees are still the Twins’ most likely first round opponent. While I still think the Twins could win the series, I would rather see the Twins take on the Angels or A’s.

4. Boston (season series: 4-2 Twins)
The Red Sox are the team that no one wants to face come October. They’re the hottest team in the league right now, and feature a squad tailor-made for the postseason. Martinez and Shilling are right on par with Mulder-Hudson and Santana-Radke as far as pitching duos go, although after Keith Foulke their bullpen is a question mark. However, the Boston offense more than makes up for whatever shortcomings they experience on the mound. They’ve built a solid surrounding cast around Ramirez and Ortiz, and their offensive numbers at home (.306 team batting average) are astounding. If the Sox can overtake the Yankees and face the Twins in the ALDS, the Beantown Bombers would most certainly be heavy favorites. This is one team that I want absolutely no part of, even in the ALCS.

Well, there you have it. If you agree or disagree with my opinions, feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll be certain to engage in a lively debate when I get the time. Right now, I’m going to bed. Have a good one, everybody.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Looking Beyond

The Twins have all but wrapped up the division and for the last week both the team and fans have been looking ahead to the postseason roster. Twins players are not only playing for playoff positioning at this point, they are defining their own roles come October. There are even a few players who are now auditioning for next season. For Kyle Lohse, Jason Kubel, Jacque Jones, J.D Durbin, Mike Restovich and Cristian Guzman the end of the season is a time to prove they are worth keeping around next year.

Kyle Lohse
Lohse is an enigma. He entered the season as the third starter and has struggled the entire year. He has occasionally shown flashes of the stuff that made people think so highly of him. Up until a couple of weeks ago there was still hope that he would emerge as the third starter in this years playoff run. After all, he still has better stuff then his competition but he has been too erratic using it. Lohse’s problems are mental; he is afraid of his fastball and as a result has often gotten behind in the count. That is a recipe for disaster and high pitch counts.

This season is no longer salvageable for Lohse and he may not have a spot on next year’s club with Scott Baker and Durbin set to make the rotation. In the final weeks Lohse needs to get a head start on improving for next year. He needs to show Gardenhire that he is willing to listen and stop frustrating the coaching staff. If he can rebound even a little he has the inside track on the fifth starter spot. If not, next year there will finally be options to replace him and he may find himself in the minors or another organization.

Jason Kubel
Kubel was called up early so that he would be eligible for the playoff roster. So far he has not been wide eyed in his first taste of the majors. Few players have better minor league seasons then Kubel had (Forgive me, I wanted to include his stats here but for now I’m just lucky to get this post up with the way my internet is performing). In the final weeks of the season into the playoffs he will show whether he wants the right field spot right away or if he needs a little more seasoning. This is his chance to erase any doubts that he is ready and spare himself the same fate as Justin Morneau the last few seasons. Should Kubel struggle he may start the year in the minors barring a great spring.

Jacque Jones
There is no chance Jones will be on the team next year. There are too many options to replace him and he will cost too much to keep. Jones had a good, albeit occasionally frustrating run with the team. For him, the final weeks are an audition for the rest of the 29 teams in the league. How he performs will only help to determine his market in the off-season.

The “Real Deal” Durbin
Finally Durbin gets a chance to show if he really is the real deal. It’s been an up and down year for a guy many expected to be in the rotation at some point during the season. First he was injured early and later he struggled upon his promotion to AAA. He remains the team’s top pitching prospect and is unlikely to pitch anywhere but the big leagues next year. A couple of good outings would go a long way toward penciling him in.

Mike Restovich
Restovich is quickly becoming one of the prospects that did not pan out. He will not see many at bats in the coming weeks and that will make it even harder for him. He has failed to make the Twins find a role for him. Next year he will be 26 and will have to stay with the big club. Now is the time for him to prove that he still might reach his potential. If Kubel needs more time, Restovich may find himself sliding into an opportunity to play and produce.

Cristian Guzman
Finally there is Cristian Guzman. Statistically Guzman is having an above average season batting .279 with 27 doubles and 67 runs scored while playing good defense. The team has an option for next year somewhere in the 5 million dollar range. The coming weeks will help influence the team on whether he is worth all that money or if its time to cut bait. Guzman can at times play like the best player on the fields and then there are the instances where his head fails him. He is an unimposing hitter at the plate. No doubt the Twins will think long and hard about keeping him when they compare the rest of the players at his position in the league. In the end it may come down to how much money is left over after signing Brad Radke and perhaps Corey Koskie. Now is Guzman’s chance to leave a lasting impression and change some minds.

Unforeseen Circumstances

NOTE: I meant to post the following last night, but Blogger was down for much of yesterday and this morning. John also tried to write a post, but it didn't go through. Check back tomorrow, when hopefully everything is in working order. Thanks.

As you may have noticed over the past week or so, our posts here at Twins Chatter have become a little more sporadic. I've still been doing my part, but John has been encountering some extreme difficulties with the Internet connection in his building. Unfortunately, until that problem is resolved, John is going to have a tough time posting anything new. I just moved into my new dorm room today (it's a little small, but not Aaron Gleeman-small), so I don't have the time to write a new post tonight. I'll be back tomorrow, however. Until John gets his issues straightened out, about the most you will be able to expect from Twins Chatter is three posts a week. I don't know how the other bloggers out there manage to write every single day (especially those in college), but I simply can't do it on my own. As the division race winds down and the playoffs become a reality rather than probability, we'll be previewing almost every aspect of the postseason. The preview series should begin sometime next week.

In the meantime, anyone have any creative ways to cram two beds, two desks, a couch, and an entertainment center into a small room with all sorts of crazy angles jutting out from the walls? Bueller? Anyone?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Where's the Beef?

The Twins lost their second consecutive game yesterday afternoon, 4-1 at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, but mini-slumps like this don’t particularly concern me. The lead still stands at a very comfortable 7 ½ games over the White Sox (who may just have one last gasp left—stay tuned). The magic number is 19 games, which we all know can go down in a hurry. The only thing that I’m a teensy-tiny bit concerned about is the performance of the team’s lineup over the past few games. To paraphrase the legendary Clara Peller, just where is that beef anyway?

The answer to that question, in my opinion, is that the “beef” is currently injured and on the bench. Haven’t noticed a decline in production lately? Take a look at the number of runs the Twins scored the last couple weeks of August: 8, 4, 7, 6, 3, 8, 4, 7, 7, 8, 10, 7, and 8, for an average of about 6.7 runs per game. In September, the totals have been 4, 2, 2, 3, and 1 (2.4 runs/game). The latter games have one giant thing in common: no Corey Koskie. Before Koskie went down with that ankle injury on August 27, he was arguably the team’s hottest and most productive hitter. In his stead, the team has been playing Augie Ojeda and Terry Tiffee. While Tiffee has played extremely well (far better than anyone could have foreseen), he simply isn’t the run producer that Koskie is. An Ojeda hits about as well as Luis Rivas, just without the terrible at-bats and no power whatsoever.

One through five, the Twins are still extremely solid. Stewart has been the quintessential leadoff man since he came off the D.L., and even Jones has been decent in the #2 spot (.337 OBP). Hunter has taken control of the third spot, and I’m sure Gardy has no intention of moving him anytime soon. Morneau, despite the fact that Darrel May possibly discovered his Achilles’ heel the other day, is a force to be reckoned with in the cleanup slot. And Sweet Lew is still batting a robust .304 on September 7, even though many people expected him to fade long ago. There is nothing wrong with five-ninths of the Twins’ lineup. Without Koskie, however, numbers six through nine look a lot more suspect.

During yesterday’s 4-1 loss, the division-leading Twins sent out a lineup that featured a rookie with five games of ML experience (Tiffee), an “all-hit no-field” second basemen that is hitting under .250 (Cuddyer), a defensive specialist threatening to establish a new “Mendoza line” (Blanco), and a minor league journeyman utility infielder (Ojeda). Even with if you replace Ojeda with Guzman, that isn’t exactly a playoff-caliber bottom of the order. I’ll go so far as to say it’s downright embarrassing.

“Okay, Mr. Know-It-All,” you’re probably saying by now, “you’ve highlighted the problem. What exactly do you propose we do about it?” Unfortunately, there is really nothing we can do. Koskie is improving, albeit slowly, and should be ready to in a week or so (hopefully). Cuddyer has been given this one extended opportunity to prove that he really can become the next Jeff Kent, and while he’s shown that he can easily duplicate Kent’s less-than-stellar defense, he been channeling Rivas at the dish. Blanco is simply one of the worst hitters in the major leagues. The Twins knew this when they signed him in the off-season, but Henry, couldn’t you do something OTHER than pop out 2-3 times a game? Perhaps an occasional productive out? Sacrifice bunt? Something? Anything? Christian Guzman is a perfectly good #8 or #9 hitter, but he has no business batting sixth for a playoff-bound team.

The biggest missing piece of the puzzle is obviously Joe Mauer. Can you imagine a Twins lineup that featured Stewart, Jones, Hunter, Morneau, Ford, Koskie, Mauer, Cuddyer, and Guzman? *Sigh* What might have been, huh?

The good news is that despite the team’s lack of offense over the past six games, they still posted a 4-2 record. As the oft-repeated adage goes, it is pitching and defense that win games, and the Twins still have plenty of that. While Blanco might be one of the worst hitters in the league, he’s also one of the best defensive catchers in the league (at least according to Buck Showalter). And with the illustrious duo of Radke and Santana, the Twins are one team that no one wants to face come October.

Will the Twins lack of depth in their lineup be their eventual undoing? Possibly, but for now we’ll just have to rely on what little beef we have healthy. Hey, there’s hardly a shed of beef to be found on a McDonald’s hamburger, and they seem to done pretty well for themselves, haven’t they?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

And What a Game It Was

It's (belatedly) John's turn to write once again tonight, but I thought that to supplement his new post I would share with you, the reader, a few pictures I took from Friday's 2-0 win over the Royals. I was able to snag some free tickets, and we were treated to yet another amazing performance by one Johan Santana. I'm telling you, if he doesn't win the Cy Young Award then they might as well just do away with the whole damn thing. But that's just me. Anyway, if you're interested feel free to take a look at some of the pictures I took below.

Note: I'm obviously not the greatest photographer in the world and these pictures were taken with a simple point-and-shoot digital camera, so they may appear a little blurry. I've shrunk them down as much as I could, but they also may appear a little big on your browser, depending on the resolution of your monitor. For this, I apoligize.

John (left) and I (right) take our turns being un-photogenic as Johan warms up in the bullpen before the game

A close up on Johan as he prepares to take on the hapless Royals

The view from our seats as Santana deals on the mound

Johan gets a standing ovation after he strikes out the side in the seventh inning. Santana had 11 strikeouts overall.

Jason Kubel takes a swing during his 8th inning pinch-hit appearance (he would later ground out). Kubel got his first ML hit on Saturday

Joe Nathan slams the door on the Royals, earning his 38th save of the season

That's all there is to this little photo album. It's not meant to be a stand-alone post, just a little something to add some variety to the blog. John SHOULD have an all-new post up one of these days, but if he doesn't once again for some reason, I'll be back and writing tomorrow (Tuesday). In the meantime, have a great Labor Day!