Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Notepad

After dropping yesterday's series finale against the Indians 7-4, the Twins have now lost five consecutive series while falling six games behind the Tigers for first place in the AL Central. A few notes on yesterday's game and some other topics:

* Nick Blackburn cruised through two innings yesterday before collapsing in the third, when the Indians opened the inning by going homer, homer, hit by pitch, homer, single, double, groundout, single -- scoring six times before Blackburn was removed. He has now surrendered 33 earned runs on 59 hits over 32 2/3 innings in seven starts since his complete-game victory over the Tigers on July 5. The Twins have gone 1-7 in those games. While Anthony Swarzak isn't exactly making a strong case to remain in the rotation, I don't see any way the Twins can keep running Blackburn out there right now.

* I've been pretty hesitant to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. I created an account a couple months ago so I could follow certain people, but up until this past weekend I had never made a single "tweet." I've had a hard time convincing myself to become a fully integrated user, largely because the premise seemed in many ways redundant with Facebook and because the prospect of familiarizing myself with the intricacies of the service struck as overly time-consuming and daunting.

Yet, at the strong urging of a number of people, I made my first tweet over the weekend and plan to become a more active Twitter participant going forward. For all you existing users out there, feel free to become a follower @nnelson9 and I'm sure I'll follow you back. My updates are sure to include plenty of Twins fodder, as well as random musings and perhaps even updates on my burgeoning rap career.

* Today represents the deadline for signing draft picks, and the Twins' top pick, Kyle Gibson, remains unsigned as I write this article. While there have been reports that the two sides are struggling to close the rather wide gap in their demands, I remain confident that Gibson will sign before the day is over. If he doesn't, though, it's going to be a disaster. Not only because this organization desperately needa to augment its thin starting pitching depth, but also because a failure to sign its first-round pick will make the team's refusal to chase Type A free agents this past offseason look awfully silly.

* I was thinking about writing a post on how ridiculous it is to posit that anyone other than Joe Mauer should be the front-runner for the AL MVP award at this point, but my favorite scribe Joe Posnanski has already covered the topic splendidly.

* One of the moves stemming from Glen Perkins' placement on the DL last week and Jeff Manship's promotion to the major-league roster to replace him was that Anthony Slama was at long last moved up to Rochester after dominating Double-A batters over four months. It might have been surprising to some that I didn't write up a lengthy missive detailing my thoughts on this move, given that I've ranted about this organization's handling of Slama on several occasions in the past (most recently here), but in truth -- aside from my initial relief at this long-deserved promotion -- I didn't have much to say about it.

Yes, I'm glad that Slama has finally been moved to a more appropriate level of competition. But this should have happened months ago (particularly accounting for the fact that there's no way Slama should have spent the entire 2008 season in Single-A). I don't really want to get into this whole debate again, but as much as some people want to claim that the team's conservative handling of Slama was justified based on the reliever's control issues and the organization's ambiguous viewpoint that he "isn't ready," I can't be convinced that any pitcher is capable of making meaningful improvements when he's not being challenged by opposing hitters. Accuse me all you want of leaning too hard on the statistics, but Slama's numbers in Double-A lead to the almost undeniable conclusion that he was completely and totally overmatching hitters at that level of competition. Regardless of one's feelings about Slama's true value as a prospect and his chances of developing into an impact major-league arm, I just don't see how it could possibly be argued that he rightfully belonged at that level anymore.

I'm glad Slama is finally getting a chance to prove himself against the highest level of minor-league hitters, and we'll see how his stuff and command plays in Rochester. In two appearances since being promoted, he has thus far allowed no runs on one hit and one walk while striking out three over two innings.

* Yesterday's Red Wings game, in fact, featured three pitchers who could merit a look in the Twins' bullpen. Along with Slama, who handled the ninth, the 8-1 victory also featured a scoreless inning of relief from Rob Delaney, who now holds a 2.92 ERA and 31-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 40 innings since being moved up from New Britain, and also a brilliant start from Armando Gabino, a former reliever who has been moved into a starting role due to the depletion of Rochester's starting corps. Gabino hurled seven innings of one-run ball, allowing only three hits and a walk while striking out nine, and now holds a 2.93 ERA and 54-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 83 innings this year, during which he has allowed only 64 hits. Given that the Twins continue to lean on Bobby Keppel, who has allowed runs in eight of his past 11 relief appearances, it certainly seems as though they could give any of of these three pitchers a chance in at a righty relief role in the majors.

11 comments:

Kevin said...

Unlike on a certain, kind of overweight Twins blogger's comment section I can mention BYTO here. Which means I know you got your love of Slama from there Nick. Or have you created a stage name yet?

David84 said...

Another argument for moving Slama up is by comparing him to other guys who've gotten a shot. If guys like Brian Bass last year and Bobby Keppel and Jesse Crain are getting shots in the majors, for a bullpen that can't get it done, what sense does it make that a guy with more minor league success was languishing in AA?

The management of this organization is becoming almost a parody of itself. If they don't sign Gibson, I can't imagine some heads won't roll.

Nick N. said...

Which means I know you got your love of Slama from there Nick

I wouldn't say I gained my affinity for Slama from that board, but I certainly haven't been shy about it there.

Or have you created a stage name yet?

N Squared.

David said...

As much as I love Mauer, he has no chance at the MVP. Your team has to win for you to be considered valuable.

ubelmann said...

If the Twins don't sign Gibson, they'll get the first-round pick after the 22nd-worst team next year. So they will still have gained something by not signing a Type A free agent last off-season.

Nick N. said...

Your team has to win for you to be considered valuable.

Alex Rodriguez v. 2003 would beg to differ.

If the Twins don't sign Gibson, they'll get the first-round pick after the 22nd-worst team next year. So they will still have gained something by not signing a Type A free agent last off-season.

That is indeed true, but for all the value this team puts into first-round draft picks, letting a great one like Gibson slip away over a million bucks strikes foul. From a fan's perspective, it's also a bit frustrating to see that potential help move further away onto the horizon.

USAFChief said...

If the Twins fail to sign Gibson this year--over money--what makes anyone think they'll sign TWO first round picks next year?

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