Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On the Edge

I feel like there has been a strong commonality between the two games the Twins have played in this series, and that is that they have not been able to put away the obviously weak Mariners. Specifically, there were two common themes: bad defense and starting pitchers living on the edge, only to be replaced by relief pitchers that have largely failed as of late.

While only one error was made, the Twins still made several mistakes in the field, including bad plays from Delmon Young and Brian Buscher. Just as some bad defense added to the issues in Monday night's loss, they certainly did not help last night either, but it isn't really news to Twins fans paying attention that the defense of this team is often porous.

As for the starting pitching, just like Glen Perkins on Monday (13 base-runners, 6 1/3 innings), Scott Baker put way too many Seattle hitters on base, allowing a total of 11 base-runners and paying for it, ultimately giving up four runs before leaving with a 4-3 deficit, only to watch Craig Breslow quickly give up a two-run single to Raul Ibanez (with both runs being charged to Baker). Later, when the Twins offense finally rallied for a 7-6 lead, beating around Seattle's bullpen, Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan blew the lead to give Seattle the win, with Nathan giving up the game-winning, two-run double to Jose Lopez and Guerrier getting charged with the runs, bringing his ERA to a not-so-stellar 4.25.

With that, Baker's ERA has now risen to 3.86 and has gone up each of the last three starts after reaching a season low of 3.26, as he's given up 13 runs in his last 16 1/3 innings, with an uncharacteristic eight walks. The best you can say is that he's struck out 17 over that time as well, still displaying good stuff, but his recent run is troublesome.

While it's been easy to blame the recent atrocious work of much of the bullpen, especially on the road, it's worth noting, through these observations, that the Twins starting pitching has certainly struggled so far in the Seattle series and that may not bode well for a team that is going to spend a significant amount of this month on the road. The positive remains that the Twins offense hasn't totally stalled at the same time, as they scored six runs on Monday night and saw some positives last night as well, most particularly with Jason Kubel smashing his 15th and 16th home runs. Let's just hope Nick Blackburn breaks the pattern of poor starting pitching this afternoon.

14 comments:

fro said...

I would have to say this just seems like a classic case of a big letdown after a big series win I would say we will learn to settle down come this weekend v. OF

Nick M. said...

It also may just be a matter of some luck evening out. And not even necessarily some luck hitting with runners in scoring position, but the fact that the Twins run differential has never been that outstanding, at least compared to the White Sox for starters.

More than that, though, there are some things that are cause for legitimate concern. I think Baker is top-of-the-rotation material, so I'm not too worried, but as a fan, I would worry about the bullpen situation. Guerrier has looked very hittable lately, Bass and Breslow have been hardly impressive, and Crain is looking like the one reliable arm outside of Nathan, even though he has issues with inherited runners. In other words, not good.

ca said...

Interesting quote from Gardenhire:

Before the game, Gardenhire was asked — again — about using Nathan in the eighth inning.

“I wouldn’t be afraid to,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t like to do it on the road, but I wouldn’t be afraid to.”


Unfortunately, even Nathan in the 8th wasn't enough last night. Oh well, get 'em next time. A good outing by Blackburn tonight would be a big help right now. I hope he can get Ibanez out.

RB said...

Our bullpen on the road has been pretty horrific this year, which is definitely a cause for concern. Hopefully this series isn't a preview of our next few series on the road.

Re: not being able to close the deal

I was a little concerned in Monday night's game even with a six run lead. It was a nice lead, but we had ample opportunities to increase it with all the runners we left on base and bury the M's. We didn't and were bit by it big time.

Nick M. said...

RB -

While that's a good observation, its still hard not to think that, given that the Twins offense is not built around power but situational hitting, six runs is still a good number to put up. Coming up empty in a few of those spots is somewhat expected, since while a .317 average in such situations is amazing, it still means failure 68.3% of the time.

With that in mind, its hard to not go back to the same issues that really plagued the Twins the last two games. Nathan is just a sad addition to a long line of failure in relief. But I do think someone will finally take care of Ibanez. He's not going to add to his already 11 RBI in this series, is he?

Nick N. said...

I was extremely glad to see Gardy go to Nathan in the eighth inning last night. Didn't work out, but it sure feels a lot better to lose with your best pitcher on the hill.

Twin #1 said...

I agree-- I was definitely happy to see Nathan in there. Unfortunately, him not getting the job done doesn't bode well for Gardenhire trying it again.

Anonymous said...

It seems Nathan (as I guess every pitcher) prefers to start with empty bases. With runners on he looks more hittable. What if Nathan would have started the eight? Or did anyone already mention that? Well, I just think it was not a straight 8th inning Nathan project of Gardenhire.

Nick N. said...

I agree-- I was definitely happy to see Nathan in there. Unfortunately, him not getting the job done doesn't bode well for Gardenhire trying it again.

Not necessarily.

toby said...

Everybody "prefers" to start with empty bases. That's one of the reasons the closer role is such a load of crap: they almost always get to do just that.

I really don't get only allowing Crain to pitch to one hitter, nor do I get bothering to run Guerrier out there again when he's been beyond overworked.

Let's hope this is a new era of Nathan usage.

Free Ricky Barrett. I'm off to the bar to watch the Twins salvage one.

Nick N. said...

Free Ricky Barrett. I'm off to the bar to watch the Twins salvage one.

I like Barrett, but I don't know that this is the right time for him. He probably isn't a significant upgrade over Reyes or Breslow, and his horrendous control would not be helpful in a bullpen where numerous guys are already struggling to come in and throw strikes.

Korecky is the guy who should be up right now.

toby said...

He walks 50% more guys than the average pitcher, but in the last two months he's struck out 35% of the hitters he's faced (with no climb in BB rate). I'll take the extra runner every couple outings if he's sitting down that many extra guys without the ball entering the field of play.

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