Monday, August 28, 2006

Weekend in Review

Well, it was a pretty darn good weekend for the Twins, even if it wasn't such a good weekend for me. I drove all the way out to Chicago, only to become extremely sick and be stuck in my bed for my entire stay, leaving me unable to attend any of the games. It did cheer me up a little to see the Twins win the series and leave Chicago with a slim lead in the Wild Card race and just five games behind Detroit for the AL Central lead.

The Twins continue to impress the hell out of me. This team that couldn't win away from home? They're 15-4 on the road since the All-Star break. Those Twins that simply couldn't compete against the tough AL Central competition? They've won seven of their last eight series against Detroit/Chicago/Cleveland. The Twins have been absolutely fantastic, yet as well as they've played and as fun as they've been to watch, I can't shake the feeling that they can't keep this up for the last month of the season.

I'm not optimistic about Francisco Liriano returning this season, and the fact that Brad Radke had to be pulled after just 30 pitches on Friday night is deeply concerning. If neither of those guys are able to come back this season, the Twins' rotation for the rest of the season would likely consist of Johan Santana, Carlos Silva, Matt Garza, Boof Bonser and Scott Baker; a group of pitchers who, as Jim Souhan says, "fall into three categories: Cy Young, Sigh Young, and Too Young."

Santana is great, but the rest of those pitchers are just too inconsistent. You have to wonder how much longer the Twins can continue to start Silva. After serving up three more home runs to the White Sox yesterday, Silva has now surrendered 33 on the season, tops in the Majors. His .340 opponents' batting average ranks BY FAR worst in the MLB among qualifying starters (the next-worst is Joel Pineiro at .321). His 6.50 ERA? You guessed it, easily the league's worst.

I want to resist getting down on Silva too much, but the fact is several times this year, he has stepped on the mound and halted momentum.Remember the series against Chicago in May in which the Twins slaughtered the White Sox in first two games at the Dome and then got out to a 7-0 lead against Mark Buerhle in the first inning?

If you recall, Silva was awful in that game, giving the White Sox eight runs back on their route to a 9-7 victory, and leaving with 8.80. We all thought such a high ERA couldn't last, but 6.50 isn't exactly that much better.Since July, Silva has basically followed a pattern: two bad or not-so-great starts and one good start. At this point, its hard to swallow those bad starts, even for an occassional win. The thing is, Silva did fine in the bullpen (giving up one run in seven innings). Because he's been a starter, he can be a long reliever, a mop-up guy, a spot starter, or anything else.

Obviously, the Twins lack options, but there are a few decent ones. Matt Guerrier could simply swap roles with Silva. Guerrier was a starter in the minors and came up as one on the Twins. With a 2.72 ERA, Guerrier has had a fine year out of the bullpen and could offer the Twins some good innings out of the back of the rotation.

There is Scott Baker. Baker has been a wreck at the big leagues this year, but he's doing just fine in the minors. After a loss today in Triple-A, he's 5-4 with a 2.67 ERA and 68 Ks and 25 walks in 83 2/3 innings. With those numbers, he's at least worth another shot. Otherwise, the Twins could possibly throw Willie Eyre in the mix or call up Mike Smith again, but that seems like a worse option that Silva.Essentially, Silva is probably a fine member of the clubhouse and we'd all love to see him do well, but the only place he has consistenly done well this year is in the bullpen.

Why not move him into a position where he can succeed? If you watched his start today, Silva was effective for the first few innings before his sinker got up and he starting giving up homers left and right. For the sake of the team and Silva, he needs to be moved.

Other notes:

* Lost in the ugly loss was a few defensive gems, mainly from Nick Punto. Twice Punto made outstanding plays with runners in scoring position to start double plays and get Silva out of trouble. If not for Punto's glove, the score could have been 10-1 or more.

* Ron Gardenhire's penchant for resting Joe Mauer on Sundays is getting awfully annoying. Instead of having Mauer in the game at DH and backup Mike Redmond in the seventh spot, where he should probably be, Gardy had White in the game. Keep in mind that Mauer is hitting .480/.567/.660 with six RBI in 50 at-bats as a DH. Thats significantly better than what White or Jason Kubel can offer and with a off day today and an important game against the White Sox, there was little reason to keep Mauer's bat out of the lineup.

The Twins are currently in a playoff position, but they'll have a tough time staying there over the final month of the season with 2/3 of the top of their rotation missing. Here's hoping that either Radke or Liriano (or both) can come back and pitch effectively down the stretch.

4 comments:

twayn said...

I've had concerns about the depth of our rotation as far back as late July, when I was advocating a trade for another starter. So I agree completely that our playoff hopes rest on the arms of the starters. Also, once Gardy gets his precious third catcher in the September call-ups, we should see Mauer DHing (or PHing) more frequently. Gardy is absolutely paranoid about having to use Morneau, or anyone else, as an emergency catcher.

BD said...

To win the wild card, the cortisone shot has to give Brad relief - period.

To do any damage in the post season, we need the cortisone shot to work and for Cisco to come back mid-September & be effective.

The most aggravating thing for me is Baker. Last year, he kept the ball down; this year, for some reason, he can't do it.

He wouldn't have to be spectacular - if he was just giving us 6 innings of 4.00 ERA ball, the rotation would be significantly more stable.

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