Friday, August 11, 2006

A Disaster for a Debut

Right now, I'm in Washington D.C., out on a trip to see my brother. Last night, I went to a Nationals-Mets game and witnessed a fine pitching duel between Tom Glavine and Washington rookie Billy Traber. It was a matchup of finesse lefty pitchers, but Glavine made it interesting with seven Ks. It was a great experience to see a future Hall of Future still able to compete with a fastball that only reaches 87 mph, mixing that great changeup and baffling hitters after all these years. And of course, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and Jose Reyes are all stars that are a delight to watch play.

As for the Twins, it was a long week that built up to a big disappointment. Matt Garza finally made his debut, but it wasn't as great as we all hoped it would be. Garza did great in the minors and put his first hitter away on three pitches. But the trouble came very quickly after that. He gave up an infield single to Frank Catalanatto before striking out Vernon Wells looking and walking Troy Glaus. With two men on and two outs, he gave up a big double to Lyle Overbay, with both runners scoring, before escaping the inning.

The rest of Garza's night followed the same path. In the second, he gave up a two-run shot to Reed Johnson, whom he struck out easily in the first, and a RBI single to Troy Glaus. In the third, it was a two-run home run from John McDonald that ended his night. McDonald, of course, is a career backup hitting .231, so it was like giving up a dinger to Juan Castro.

All in all, Garza got through only 2 2/3 innings, gave up seven runs, walked two, and struck out two. It was not pretty. However, Twins fans shouldn't despair and no one should give up on Garza. Making adjustments is part of the transition from the minors to the majors and Garza is no difference. Liriano was a huge outlier when it comes to prospects and we can expect Garza to improve plenty if we continue to give him starts. Everyone has to keep in mind that we are talking about a guy with much better potential than Boof Bonser or Scott Baker.

Another important to consider, of course, is that the offense has been putrid of late. The Twins have scored only five runs in the last three games. The noticeable difference in the games against Toronto is an absolute lack of patience. The Twins hitters, from Michael Cuddyer to Justin Morneau, helped Toronto starter A.J. Burnett by expanding the strikezone and not waiting or working counts at all. Its notable that Morneau and Torii Hunter went hitless in eight at-bats or that Justin is 1 for his last 12, but more notable is Jason Tyner.

Tyner is the ultimate representative of the "empty" batting-average. Tyner has a .294 average, but a .639 OPS to go with it. He has one extra-base hit (a double) for a .303 slugging percentage and six walks in 109 at-bats for a .336 OBP. He simply is no longer getting it done. He's 1 for his last 14 and has started to show his true colors. There is no way the Twins remain a contender if Tyner is in their starting outfield.

Of course, Jason Kubel isn't healthy and the other outfielders aren't getting it done, but I'd rather see Josh Rabe in the starting lineup. At least he has some power. For all this talk of Tyner's "speed," he hasn't stolen a single base all year. Even our MVP slugger Morneau has done that. Tyner isn't worth very much if his only contribution is a few base hits a week.

Today should be even more interesting. Boof Bonser, back from Triple-A, makes a start against Scott Downs. Bonser hasn't been very great and I'm not expecting much, but that offense really can't be this bad for a whole homestand, can it?