Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Just Looking

As reigning MVP Justin Morneau watched a Joe Borowski fastball sail over the outside corner of the plate for a called third strike with two outs and the tying run on second base in the ninth inning of last night's game, the Twins watched any realistic hopes of getting back into the postseason race sail away.

La Velle E. Neal III wrote on his blog before the game yesterday that Ron Gardenhire was counting on Boof Bonser to step up and pitch deep into the game, giving some rest to the Twins' worn-down bullpen. Bonser did give the Twins seven innings, and he made it a Quality Start by allowing just three earned runs, but he gave up two big home runs. The struggles of Carmen Cali and Pat Neshek in the eighth inning pushed the Indians' lead from one to three, which turned out to be pretty huge when the Twins scored a couple runs in the ninth inning.

It wouldn't have taken a ninth-inning comeback effort if the Twins' offense had been able to capitalize in the earlier innings. Against Cleveland starter Jake Westbrook, the Twins racked up 10 hits and two walks, but managed to convert all those baserunners into just three runs. The Twins stranded eight baserunners and lost by one. That hurts.

In the grand scheme of things, though, the Twins did not deserve to win the game. And they don't deserve to make the playoffs -- they just aren't good enough. We keep holding out hope for another miraculous comeback, but at some point we have to come to terms with the fact that this Twins team is not good enough to put together a big winning streak. It's great that they can beat the crap out of the hapless Orioles, but when they come up against a good team in a must-win situation, they fold under the pressure. That has pretty much been their M.O. all season.

10 comments:

Dan said...

Amen.

I'm excited to see the pitching staff we'll have next year if everyone is healthy.

Go Twins!

Jake said...

Next year...
How about moving Mauer to 3rd base? Maybe he can stay healthy there and shore up a weak bat at third.
Let Tyner and Kubel platoon in left. we can win with that combo in left.
If that all works, we only need to spend money on a DH that can provide more RBI and protect the rest of the line up.
Oh yeah, Torii is going to be gone...bummer.

Jake

Twayn said...

Jake, if you move Mauer to third base you then have to find another catcher (and Chris Heinz doesn't count) and pay him. With Torii gone, and make no mistake, he will be gone, you'll need to replace your center fielder (and Denard Span doesn't count) and pay him. Corner outfield spots are supposed to have some power, so Kubel works in left, but Tyner has zero power so you give up one power hitter in the lineup every time you face a right handed pitcher. I could live with that if we had a decent DH, but Ryan has been unwilling to spend money to acquire one.

So what to do? Leave Mauer where he is. Sign Mike Lamb as a free agent 3B in the offseason. He could probably be had for $3.5-4 million. If you can't trade a couple of AA arms for a young center fielder with upside, go out and get Aaron Rowand (he's FA after the season) or someone similar. That will probably cost $4-5 million. Then get a real DH who can also backup 1B when Morneau needs a day off. You could probably pick one up for about $1 million, or spend a couple of million for an upgrade over that. Start Kubel in left every day and let him find his swing again. Tyner becomes your backup outfielder, Punto goes back to his utility infield role, trade or release Ford and L-Rod, give up on Rondell White already, and you've gone a long way toward solidifying this team offensively for next year without giving up that much defensively. You've now replaced Hunter and his $12 million salary with a 3B, CF, and DH, all for about $10 million. Of course, everyone will have different ideas of how to improve the team, but that's what I'd do in TR's shoes.

Jake said...

twayn and fans - Very logical assessment. I'd like to hear comments on the Mauer situation. Right now it looks like Joe will only play in about 110 games (95 as of today) this year. I love him at catcher - but more importantly I love him when he's in the line up. He wears down. Gets dinged up. He's tired and sore from the beating he takes behind the plate.
He's got 5 home runs. Warning track power. With strong, rested legs and the same swing - 15+ home runs.
Terry Ryan needs to face the fact that he's somewhat injury prone. A move from behind the plate could help that.

Nick N. said...

Jake--

None of Mauer's injuries have been related to catching. I think it's way too early in his career to be discussing a position change. Much of his value comes from the fact that he plays catcher; his numbers would be pretty mediocre at third base. Plus, he is one of the best defensive catchers in the league, and being that catcher is the most important defensive position on the field, that counts for a lot.

Twayn, I'd take Lamb in the price was right, but we don't even know if he can play regularly. He hasn't had more than 350 AB in a season since his rookie year in 2000. I actually like Buscher quite a bit and I'll be interested to see what he can do over the last month of the season. He's a good contact hitter and he sprays line drives all over the place

Corey E said...

Twayn... Rowands price as a .300 hitter with 20 homerun power will be in the 14 million range. Not 4-5.

A much more realistic option would be Mike Cameron in the 8 million range.

bd said...

I understand the point about Rowand, but I still tire of hearing the Twins can't afford anyone worth a ****.

Hunter leaving is going to create a hole in a lineup that already resembles Swiss cheese. Replacing him with a lesser player means we're worse off in 2008 if the current approach to Free Agents / Trades continues.

Consider the scenario of signing Cameron to play CF for $8 million. If that's all we do, we have less offense in 2008 than we have now - talk about wasting a pitching staff.

I don't think we can get better signing Cameron & a couple of "affordable" FAs for 3B, LF and/or DH - the hit taking by letting Hunter go is simply too big to overcome with so little invested.

And (at least "recently") the Twins have shown no inclination to trade a front line pitcher / prospect for a "significant contributor" ML position player.

If the current approach continues, I fear 2008 will look more like 2005 than this year.

Jake said...

Doesn't it bother you that Mauer will only play about 110 games this year?

Granted some of his injuries are totally unrelated to catching - but catching is grueling. It takes a toll on the body, especially the legs. I would think that some of those leg injuries are related.

No doubt as a catcher he adds more value defensively. But where's that value when he's riding the bench with another nagging injury 50+ games a year.

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