Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not So Fast

The Twins won in dramatic fashion last night, with Delmon Young singling in Michael Cuddyer as the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off 7-6 victory. The win was fifth in a row for the Twins, setting a season-high, and with the White Sox losing the hometown nine pulled into a tie for a second place just 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Tigers with nearly six weeks remaining in the season.

But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

While last night's win was impressive, it came against a last-place team with a rookie pitcher on the hill. And while the Twins have excelled recently, it almost seemed like they were bound to go on a decent run at some point after the horrific stretch of baseball they had endured through the earlier part of August. These things always seem to even out.

It's good to see the Twins getting back on the winning track, but realistically the odds are still stacked heavily against their continuing on such a run with the group of pitchers they currently possess. Just take a look at the hurlers the Twins threw out last night prior to Jose Mijares' eighth inning: Armando Gabino (13.50 ERA), Philip Humber (9.00 ERA), Bobby Keppel (5.31 ERA) and Jesse Crain (6.55 ERA). Toss in Jeff Manship and Brian Duensing, and you've got a pitching staff that consists almost overwhelmingly of minor-league quality pitchers. While this group has been able to grind out some victories as of late -- with support from a truly outstanding offensive unit -- I fail to see how they'll be able to scratch out enough victories down the stretch to overcome the Tigers. Unless Francisco Liriano can find his arm strength and Boof Bonser can make some sort of miraculous late-season impact, this pitching staff just isn't good enough to win the AL Central. Period.

That might seem like a downer after an exhilarating walk-off victory, and I don't mean to downplay the Twins' recent success. But that 4 1/2 game gap in the standings is a lot bigger than it looks, and will be as long as the Twins continue to carry a pitching staff that isn't even half big-league caliber.

17 comments:

J. Lichty said...

agreed and the tigers show no signs of slowing down - playing relatively well in anaheim is no easy task. battle is for second place right now.

Topper said...

As long as we pass the White Sox I could go into the offseason somewhat content.

I don't see any realistic shot of the Twins making it to the postseason, but if by some crazy way they do -- anything could happen once they're there. With probably Baker/Pavano as the 1-2 and then maybe Blackburn, Liriano, Bonser, or whoever makes a case for the third spot.

But you're right, I'd be shocked if I see the Twins playing more than 162 games this year.

Dwade said...

Due to the head to head matches left, I'd argue that the 4.5 game gap is actually smaller than it seems. The Twins don't need to rattle off 13 wins in a row or anything like that, they simply need to keep pace with the Tigers and then win the head-to-head games.

While that isn't exactly an easy task, it's easier than if the gap was smaller, but the Twins couldn't directly alter the Tigers record. As it stands, the Twins control their own destiny.

Anonymous said...

they play six games against the tigers. win 5 of 6 and that lead evaporates. without our strength of schedule we'd have no shot but with who we play the rest of the way, we'll be facing a lot more AAA scrubs and rookie pitchers. This feels a lot like 2006 to me - we have no one in the pitching staff but somehow we eke out victories.

armadillo44 said...

agreed it's still a long shot to win the division for the reasons you mention but the games are decided on the field, not on paper and that's what makes their recent winning exciting. In essence it gives me the same hope I've had all year: If we can get our starting pitching on a bit of a roll the division is there for the taking especially with this offense. Just have to keep winning more then loosing (especially when we play th e Tigers).

Anonymous said...

Miraculous comeback by Bonser? Why the hell does everyone keep pining for Bonser to come back?

He is f'ing terrible!!!!!! He's another 5th starter at best, but mostly he is a good AAA starter, which the Twins have plenty.

I would say pick up someone off waivers, except we have nobody to trade.

Nick N. said...

Dwade/Anonymous -- I'm aware that the Twins have a fluff schedule remaining and play Detroit enough time to control their own deficit, but each win is going to be a minor miracle with the pitching staff they've assembled. I'm not really blaming the Twins for this, since a lot of it is due to injury and unforeseen ineffectiveness, but it's the situation they find themselves in and there's not a whole lot to be done about it at this point in the season.

This feels a lot like 2006 to me - we have no one in the pitching staff but somehow we eke out victories.

I'm not sure that's an apt comparison. The Twins eked out many of their victories that season while Francisco Liriano was tearing up the league, and even after he went down they still had Santana, Radke, Bonser and a terrific bullpen.

In essence it gives me the same hope I've had all year: If we can get our starting pitching on a bit of a roll the division is there for the taking especially with this offense.

I've had the same hope and I know that the initial reaction is to hope that this is the case. But I'm positing that the recent string of success has less to do with the team and pitching staff "clicking," and more to do with the law of averages. The Twins had a stretch of really awful baseball in which they played far below their level of competence, so it figures that they'd have to put together a decent stretch at some point to even things out. I'm a big believer that what goes up must come down (or, in this case, what goes down must come up).

Hopefully I'm wrong and the Twins can keep it going and win some games against the Tigers, because I'd love to see the Twins take the division and make the playoffs (even though they'd probably get obliterated once they got there). I just don't have any faith in this pitching staff's adequacy.

wyattriot said...

Unfortunately, I have to agree. No way is this pitching staff able to do the job, facing AAA scrubs or not. How often can the team expect to put up 5,6, 7 runs a game to offset the numbers their opposition will continue to run up? It's only in comparison to what they have now that Boof might offer some improvement; what does that say about the current situation?

Nick N. said...

I think you guys are underestimating Bonser. He's got the stuff to give this staff a real boost if he's actually able to come back at full strength.

David said...

The Twins are fully capable of winning every game for the rest of the season by a 7-6 score. The pitching sucks, but, ah, the hitting. Young is a second-half hitter. Casilla is getting hot. No lead is safe when you are playing the Twins.

Bryz said...

Topper, you're assuming that Pavano is re-signed though.

Anonymous @ 10:30 am: But would Bonser pitch any worse than half of the pitching staff? Especially when his stuff projects to be pretty good as a reliever?

Thanks for the reality check, Nick. Nevertheless, it still is nice to see the Twins catch up to the White Sox. Unless the pitching staff puts it together, I'd say best case scenario has the Twins making the playoffs but losing in the first round.

TwinsFanc1981 said...

I think you are OVER-estimating Bonser and any impact he may have. First, to recover and come back at full-tilt is tough. Crain hit plenty of bumps along the way. Second, he's be LIT UP by LHB (.891) in his career.

That said, I'd take him over the runoff slags we keep trotting out there in the 6th-7th innings.

Nick N. said...

I think you are OVER-estimating Bonser and any impact he may have. First, to recover and come back at full-tilt is tough. Crain hit plenty of bumps along the way.

There's a reason I said it would be "miraculous."

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