Monday, May 09, 2005

Twins Falter, But Don't Worry Too Much

I'm going to cover a few topics tonight.

Tonight's Game
Daniel Cabrera is going to be a good pitcher, I don't doubt it. With an intimidating 6'7" frame and the ability to hurl a fastball with movement at 100 mph, the guy undeniably has what it takes. But is he really as good right now as the Twins made him look tonight in their 3-0 loss to Baltimore? I don't think so.

The problem was mainly bad pitch selection. I couldn't count how many batters I saw take a fastball right down the middle and then proceed to swing at something way out of the strike zone at least once in the same at-bat. Terry Tiffee went 0/3 with three strikeouts. Nick Punto and Joe Mauer both went 0/4 with two strikeouts apiece. Jacque Jones, whose hot start excited many a Twins fan, went 0/3 and has seen his impressive batting average drop steadily as of late. Just a couple weeks ago he was contending for the top spot on the AL leaderboard for batting average and now he's down to 11th.

Give some credit to Carlos Silva for only allowing 3 runs over 7 innings to the league's best offense despite the fact that he didn't pitch particularly well. He got more outs by fly balls than by grounders, which is usually a sign that his pitches aren't doing what he wants them to.

I really think the Orioles have a great team this year. If their starting pitching can hold up, they really could hold on and win that division, which would be an unthinkable upset. They have a phenomenal bullpen (there is no pitcher in the Majors that is more dominant against left-handed hitters than BJ Ryan), and Miguel Tejada really is something else. That said, I don't expect their starting pitching to continue to be great and I don't think anyone expects guys like Brian Roberts to continue at their pace; we also all know that the Yankees and Red Sox are going to get very hot and start gaining ground very quickly. Nonetheless, I think it would be great to see neither New York or Boston in the playoffs.

On the White Sox
The Sox are off to a tremendous start, and have been especially dominant as of late, today's loss to the Devil Rays not withstanding. But should we really be that impressed? I mean, okay, it's always impressive when a team posts a 24-8 record to start the season, but their competition has not exactly been daunting. I think it goes without saying that the AL Central outside of the Sox and Twins has been average at best so far, and 17 of the Sox 32 games so far have been against the Tigers, Royals, and Indians. The teams they have played outside of the division haven't been what I'd call elite either. Their recent sweep of the Blue Jays must be seen as impressive, but their play against the 14-18 Athletics and the 13-19 Mariners wasn't exactly stellar... they barely squeaked by the M's and lost their series to the A's.

The Twins' schedule has been somewhat tougher. After Wednesday, they will already series under their belt against the Angels and Orioles, the class of the West and East divisions. The White Sox have yet to face either of these teams. But take a look at their schedule after they leave Tampa Bay: 4 games against Baltimore, followed by 3 games against Texas, then 3 games at the Cubs, then 4 games at LA Anaheim, then 3 games at Texas, then 3 games against LA Anaheim. That is TWENTY straight games, ALL against teams that are better than any they have faced so far, save for perhaps the Twins. The Twins' schedule over that span is significantly easier. If the White Sox are still in first place by three or four games at the beginning of June, then you can count me as a believer.

Lineup Change?
I've come to realize that there is very little chance that Justin Morneau is going to be able to reach 100 RBI this year if the lineup stays the way it is now. Why? Pitchers are going to start to realize that there is simply no reason to pitch to him because he has NO protection in the lineup. Torii Hunter has been miserable recently, and as aforementioned, Jones isn't hitting the ball like he used to either. It is difficult to solve this problem without putting three consecutive lefties in the lineup (a definite no-no), but here is what I propose: Stewart, Jones, Ford, Morneau, Mauer, Hunter, Cuddyer, Punto, Bartlett. Granted, the bottom half of that lineup is filled with some palty averages, but the top 5 would produce some serious runs.