Thursday, September 28, 2006

Silva Out

With last night's ugly start, it would seem there is now little to no chance that Carlos Silva will make an appearance as a starting pitcher in the playoffs. For the Twins, that's a good thing. I understand that maybe Silva is a good guy in the clubhouse and his teammates want to stand by him, but for the sake of winning, Silva is better served in the bullpen as a long reliever. With that said, if Brad Radke is hurt and the Twins need a game four starter (which presumes they are ahead 2-1 in the series, if it is an elimination game they have to go with Johan), the Twins should take Silva over Scott Baker, provided he has a leash of around 60 pitches or 3-4 innings of work.

Want proof? Check out the following lines: .284/.311/.517, .285/.317/.438, .309/.340/.486, .341/.358/.623, .404/.423/.489. That's Silva opponent lines in his first inning of work, pitches 16-30, innings 1-3, innings 4-6, and innings 7-9. Clearly, early on, Silva can at least be decent and help the team out. Once he is out there for a few innings, though, he explodes and homers start to fly off opponent bats. All you had to do was watch last night's game to know that.

Thus, if he is limited to just a few innings per outing in the postseason and perhaps even as early as this weekend, Silva can be useful to the team. However, his worth as a starter is gone. We know that Santana, Boof Bonser, and Radke (if he's healthy enough), will make up the post-season rotation. If necessary, it looks like Matt Garza will get the nod as the third starter, which is good news. Garza has the stuff and the poise to win in big games, but Silva appears to flop the moment the pressure is on.

Naturally, more than just Silva's outing contributed to a loss last night. Here's the recap:

* Torii Hunter hurt himself late in the game, fouling a pitch off his foot. When he tried to continue his at-bat, he flailed at strike three and fell to the ground, as he couldn't even put pressure on the feet. This could be potentially devastating news, as Hunter's bat has carried the team through September and his defense has been significantly better in recent weeks.

* For whatever reason, the ineptitude against Mark Redman continued. Granted, the Twins scored three runs and weren't shut out this time, but one of those came with some help from Shane Costa's Manny-ish defense in right field and for all the strikes Redman threw, the Twins didn't do very much at all against him. Redman allows a .305 BAA average, but he also has a 1.34 GB/FB ratio, so a lot of ground ball hits are expected. To the Twins credit, they got some of those hits, but not nearly enough to put any big innings together.

* Nick Punto continues to play stellar defense at third, especially with a downright amazing play late in the game last night. He went 2-for-4 last night, though his strikeout against Redman was particularly frustrating since he (a la 2005) watched a fastball go right down broadway.

* Joe Mauer went 2-for-4 last night with an RBI double and a nice bunt hit, raising his average to .350. With Robinson Cano sitting at .343, there are still no guarantees, but Mauer looks like he is in good position to become the first AL catcher to win a batting title. As a note, Mauer and Mike Redmond also can make history by being the first pair of catchers to hit .340 on the same team, if you consider 175 at-bats as a cutoff line. In 1930, Bill Dickey and Jimmie Reese hit .339 and .346 respectively, but Dickey only played in 109 games (154 game schedule at the time, obviously) though Reese had 188 at-bats. As far as I can tell, that is the only pair to come close.

* Juan Rincon, though he pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, still looks shaky. In ninth inning he put two runners aboard with one out on a walk and HBP, but then was lucky enough to catch a sharp liner back up the middle and turn it into a double play. Still, he did not strike anyone out. With a 1.35 WHIP, Rincon has simply allowed too many baserunners this year. At this point, I would assume Gardy takes Neshek, Reyes, or even Crain over Rincon in the eighth inning of a close game. Hopefully that's true because he should.

* Today, Brad Radke makes his return to the pitching mound. In some ways, I feel like I did when Francisco Liriano came back; I'm glad to see it, but very nervous because of the injury he has. However, Radke is done after this year and as a fan, I want nothing more than to see this guy pitch a fine game and grab some glory in the playoffs. All I can say is that I don't think I can recall anyone being as tough or determined in my days of watching baseball. Amongst all the primadonnas and high-paid self-loving sluggers, Radke is someone to admire, as he has stuck with a small-market team and has played through what is undoubtedly excrutiating pain. I only have these words: thank you, Brad. You're one-of-a-kind and this whole state will miss you.