Thursday, August 09, 2007

Wakeup Call?

It's been an awful long wait it seems, but the Twins finally broke out of their offensive funk in the last night's game, winning 11-4 and managing two home runs, their first since the end of July. Of course, it's good news that the offense broke out, but it's unfortunate that the "breakout" game had to come against such a pathetic batch of pitchers. Instead of being a breakout game, it seems that the offense did precisely what it was supposed to do: beating up on bad Kansas City pitching and giving Johan Santana his first victory in some time.

The best thing about last night's victory, offense-wise, was that the Twins 3-through-6 hitters, who had been struggling, had a much better game. Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter went a combined 10-for-20 with eight RBI, six runs scored and five extra-base hits, including home runs from Cuddyer and Hunter (and one from Morneau that was incorrectly called back). Considering the recent struggles of the Twins' most important bats, it's good to see them come alive even if it is against the soft-tossing Odalis Perez.

The lowlight in the victory was no surprise: Nick Punto. He did have a double, a walk and a much-touted sacrifice, but he also made two poor plays in the field, including an embarrassingly bad throwing error. Considering his average is still at .210, there isn't much of an excuse to put him in the second spot in the lineup. While Ron Gardenhire made a good move in putting Jason Bartlett in the leadoff spot instead of Jason Tyner, he followed it with a boneheaded move by not leaving Punto at the bottom of the order. Alexi Casilla is still pretty raw, but I'd rather see Casilla in front of Mauer if need be. Of course, it would be smarter just to move Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau, and Hunter up a spot and leave the 7-9 spots as weak as they have been before. If Punto is going to be an atrocious hitter, the least he can do is field and be left in a position where he gets the least at-bats possible. It's the fault of his manager for not making that so.

As for the pitching, Santana surprisingly lacked dominant stuff against the Royals offense, going six innings and allowing eight hits, two walks, and two runs while striking out six. The six strikeouts aren't a bad number, but allowing ten baserunners is very unlike the typical second-half Santana. Hopefully, he starts to be his thoroughly dominant self very soon, but even last night's Santana is still pretty great.

While last night's victory wasn't exactly a convincing wakeup game for the offense, it may have gotten some important bats going and it was another needed victory against a weak opponent. Today, Matt Garza takes on recently acquired right-hander Kyle Davies in the series finale. Davies wasn't particularly great in Atlanta, as evidenced by his 5.76 ERA in the NL, and his first start in the AL wasn't great either, as he allowed five runs in three innings to the Yankees. Davies is homer-prone, as he has allowed 13 home runs in 89 innings, and he walks way too many, as evidenced by his ugly 61/47 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This is another starter the Twins should have success against, if they are patient enough. If they do, then maybe last night really was a rallying cry. Too bad for Twins fans that once there are reasons for optimism, the team goes and makes a ridiculous move like this.

19 comments:

Jason said...

Good entry, though I think the tribute to or rather criticism of the move to bring Tommy Watkins up is a bit overblown. It's not really all that wave making, seeing as it's just the filling of a roster spot that was open to begin with. If nothing else, it's giving a shot to a guy that's been in the system for 10 years or so now.

No big deal. Were we to somehow trade for Cal Ripken Jr.....now THAT would be something to make a stink about

Nick N. said...

I would agree, Jason. Calling up Watkins isn't going to help the team any, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "ridiculous" move.

Nick M. said...

Its not just that Watkins isn't going to help the team. Its that Matt Tolbert might actually be able to help this offense somewhat. While its true that Tolbert slowed down significantly in July, as he hit .213/.257/.340 after three straight months of hitting .300, but he has also hit .364/.447/.485 in 33 August at-bats. Tolbert isn't a savior, but neither was Buscher. However, I think he would be an easy improvement over Punto at the plate and Watkins of course. Maybe the move isn't ridiculous. Perhaps, to use a Gleeman term, its "curious."

beth said...

"This is another starter the Twins should have success against, if they are patient enough."

That statement is scary. Because Twins and patient really shouldn't be used in the same sentence...

Nick M. said...

Occassionally-albeit only that-the Twins have shown patience against bad pitchers they should be patient against. Their .331 team OBP ranks 17th in the majors but only 10th in the AL. Their 350 walks is 9th. Those aren't good rankings, but the Twins aren't the worse. I grant it can be a scray statement. I'm just hoping they prove me wrong.

Tricia said...

I don't know much (anything) about the new guy they're calling up, so I guess I'll just wait & see what happens.

I'm really glad the bats woke up last night. I was ready to be Royally ticked off if they couldn't get hits off Perez. He pitched against the Twins last August, and if I recall correctly, he issued about 800 walks in 6 or so innings of pitching. Clearly, he's no Santana (or Baker, Garza, etcetera).

Sean Schulte said...

If Davies gives up a lot of home runs and walks, prepare to see him absolutely dominate the Twins.

After all, TR's organizational philosophy believes that home runs and walks are not part of the game. (I can only assume that because he hates it when our team hits home runs, when our team gives up walks, and when our players see more than two pitches per at bat which might allow them to be walked.)

Ouch. Quite a bit of vitriol here in the morning. Last night's game was pretty good ... go Twins!

Nick M. said...

Yeah, you don't want to be negative after a win, but its hard to forget that this team has been shut out 10 times this year (tops in the big) and its certainly hard not to get the feeling that Ryan absolutely ignores OBP and power in favor of average, bunting, and speed or something. Whatever the case, it will be really sad if the Twins can't beat around Davies today.

twayn said...

Santana really is in a class by himself. Last night he struggled with control of his pitches, but still allowed just 2 runs in 6 innings. Even when he doesn't have his usual, dominant stuff, he's still as good as any pitcher in baseball.

Andersklasen said...

How good do you think Scott Baker can be? A good 1-2 pitcher later in his career? Or is he just on a hot streak?

Also, what do you think the future of Matt Garza holds?

Nick M. said...

Twayn -

Hard to disagree there. Santana might "struggle," but he's still Johan freakin' Santana, which means he can still take care of business. I'd love to see him be the ERA leader, strikeout leader, etc, but even if he doesn't do that, he'll still complete another great year.

Andersklasen -

I don't think Baker will be a 1-2 starter in the future. I think he's future is a steady middle or bottom of the rotation starter. I don't think that he is as good as he has been recently, but he also is not as bad as he was earlier in the year. I expect he can put up ERAs around 4, show good control, strike out some hitters, and pick up some wins. He'll be a good pitcher, but not a great one. As for Garza, I'd still tout him as a potential number one pitcher. I think he's shown since his call up that he not only has a great fastball, but that he has some good compliments such as his slider and the curveball he's shown. With that combination of pitchers, he can be a dominant top-of-the-rotation starter. Its only 30 1/3 innings, but the 1.78 ERA, 29 Ks, and one home run allowed are all good signs.

Nick N. said...

To add to Mr. Mosvick's sentiments on the pitchers, think about it this way: If Liriano comes back healthy and strong next year, you'd have the best ace in baseball as your No. 1 in Santana, a No. 1 guy pitching as your No. 2 in Liriano, a No. 1/2 guy pitching as your No. 3 in Garza, a No. 3 guy pitching as your No. 4 in Baker, and the best in a very talented group of youngsters in the No. 5 slot. I'd say that's a pretty good situation. If the Twins can find a way to re-sign Santana, they could potentially have that setup in place for many years, which is recipe for multiple championships if Terry Ryan can find a way to build a sufficient offense.

Nick M. said...

I think what you mean Nick is if Terry Ryan can find a way to stop himself from the unquenchable urge to sign some veteran retread starters, we'll have a very good young rotation.

Andersklasen said...

Yeah, if next year turns out to be another Ponson/Ortiz experiment we're in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Your optimism is overwhelming.....

Nibbish said...

Then again, today's fantastic loss proves that any optimism is best stifled and forgotten.

Ryan said...

Good lord our offense is terrible. Losing 2 out of 3 to KC, including yet another 1-0 loss. It's embarrassing.

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