Friday, August 01, 2008

Return of the Power?

There was something unusual about the Twins victory last night. In the course of beating the Chicago White Sox 10-6 and taking the series 3-1, the Twins got six of their runs on two big two-out hits. Both Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel had huge, three-run homers, with Kubel's giving the Twins the lead for good in the seventh inning when he took Octavio Dotel deep.

Considering that they came into the game 29th in the majors (above the lowly Giants, who have only 61) with just 73 homers (though that number shot up to 28th after this game), getting two huge blasts like that not only feels like an aberration, but is awfully surprising. Of course, it is not surprising in that Morneau and Kubel hit them, considering they are the only two legitimate home-run threats in the lineup, only that the Twins won the way that they did. This should only give fans appreciation for the importance of not only Morneau's bat in the lineup, but Kubel's power, which can be key to offense's success when considering the void in the lineup of any other power source.

Of course, just discussing the power surge and the general offensive display last night would miss some other important storylines:

* Once again, despite some struggles, Scott Baker showed why he is likely the ace of the this staff last night and more than likely has the best stuff of any starting pitcher on the team. Baker went six innings, gave up five hits, four runs, and three walks, but he also struck out eight batters, showing good life on his fastball and an excellent slider that was getting many Chicago hitters to swing and miss. After last night's start, Baker has an excellent and very impressive 7.85 K/9 rate to go along with a outstanding 89/21 K/BB ratio.

* The Twins, not surprisingly, did not make any moves of the deadline. This may upset some fans, and rightfully so, as they did not pursue any of their targets, be it Brian Roberts or Adrian Beltre, with any lasting speed. However, the Twins appear on the verge of finally making one big and key internal move: La Velle E. Neal III reports that the Twins will likely eat the rest of Livan Hernandez's contract and designate him for assignment very soon so that they can make room in the rotation for Francisco Liriano.

Now to some, this might feel as good as a trade, but the fact remains that the Twins should have made this move earlier to say give them a chance for a sweep against their divisional foe this week and be in command of first place, instead of back a half game. Nonetheless, its a very important move to make and is just as exciting as a good trade. There is no way yet to know how effective Liriano is going to be once the move is actually made, but there is no doubt that he will not put up stats that would put him on pace to give up the most hits in a season in three decades.

* On a final note, the White Sox did make a big move of their own yesterday by competing in the headlines with the Manny Ramirez trade when they dealt two marginal players for Ken Griffey, Jr. Some fans may be worried that getting such a prestigious name as Griffey means that the White Sox will now run off with the division, but that is simply not the case. Griffey sports a .245/.355/.432 line this year with the advantage of playing in the Great American Ballpark. Yes, a .787 OPS is nothing terrible, but it's nothing to get excited about either. Griffey, with his diminishing skill-set, has gained patience recently, but with it, he's lost a lot in average and power. Keep in mind that Nick Swisher is batting .230/.348/.404 and he also has 15 home runs this year.

Yes, Griffey could get hot and do a lot for the White Sox, but he's also 38 years old and might be asked to play center field when he is already a sub-par fielder in right. If he was being brought over to DH, maybe it would be different, but the White Sox already have a good DH in Jim Thome. This deal might sound like a lot to think about, but the White Sox probably didn't improve that much and now they just have a lot of invitees to an ongoing game of musical chairs, especially if they think they are going sit a guy with a $60 million contract in Paul Konerko.

5 comments:

Dan said...

They were both three-run HRs weren't they?

It'll be exciting to see Liriano up in the Majors again. I've seen him pitch a couple times in Rochester and he's starting to get a little filthy again. Hopefully he can make major league hitters look just as silly.

Nick N. said...

Livan Hernandez and Craig Monroe DFA'd to make room for Francisco Liriano and Randy Ruiz.

Somewhere, TT sheds a tear.

toby said...

TT sheds no tears!! He's STILL arguing for Livan's value over at Taylor's Twins Talk. Humorous stuff: check it out. It's as though he never read a single one word anybody said here. I hope someday my mind is that supple and dynamic!

As I posted over there:
"It was pretty clear to me Liriano walked three because the ballclub now lacks a Veteran Presence (who also happens to Eat Innings [at a rate virtually indistinguishable from the Young Pitchers]) on the bench and therefore is missing the requisite amount of magic baseball faerie dust needed for a Young Pitcher like Liriano to truly succeed.

Seriously, I thought the ump was calling a pretty tight zone and Liriano seemed nervous. Even so, he was obviously two blown defensive plays from being able to go into the 7th at around 80 pitches. The sloppy fielding actually felt a little like watching him get "shelled" at Triple A back in the end of June (routine flyballs become triples). As much as I like Brendan Harris (and I do), he has no business at shortstop and seems to create at least a "hit" a game playing there. There are seeing eye singles and then there are "you have no range at shortstop" singles. Liriano was inducing groundballs and striking people out and that's a big chunk of what a pitcher can do to give his team a chance."

I'll add here: What Liriano did really well and what Slowey continues to fail to do is pitch a game free of major mistake pitches. Slowey was, what, two really bad, obviously missed pitches from a great game Saturday. He'll get there.

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