Also, I am repeating the following paragraph for the third (and final) day:
I need to ask for your assistance again. You may remember, the last two years, I have posted the pictures and updated statistics of at least six Twins minor leaguers. It is a fun way to see how these players are doing. As I did last year, I would like your help in determining the six players that you most would like to see displayed at the left. Which Twins prospects should I include? Please e-mail me the names of up to six Twins minor leaguers that you would most like to keep updated on. I will also pick my six players. Each person's vote will be tallied. The results and the updates will start showing next week, as the team's seasons begin. Thanks for your help! (Note - I did receive several e-mails with minor league suggestions. I should have pointed out that I was talking about prospects. Glenn Williams and Jason Tyner are not prospects. Also, Bartlett is no longer of rookie status, but like many of you have said, he should not be in the minor leagues. There is a good chance that I will have a section for Jason Bartlett alone.)
Thursday, April 6, 2006
American Idol Thoughts
After the Twins lost to Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays on Tuesday night, with the offense showing very little, can you even imagine how many times I had to use the phrase, "It was just one game!" yesterday? I'm going to put the over/under at about 12! I always love how fans go an entire offseason anticipating the start of the new season. We all get so excited about the first game. And then it comes and not everything that we anticipate happening happens. Joe Mauer went hitless. Maybe he is overrated! Justin Morneau struck out twice. He must really be a bust. Johan Santana was not on his game. The world is coming to an end. It is almost comical how people over-react to the results of one game out of 162. In that first game, you're looking at hitters going against the other team's top pitcher. In this case, it was the top pitcher in the league not named Johan. It isn't fair to judge a full season based on one game against a great like that. Let's see how the Twins offense does when it gets to face some #2's and #'s, not to mention some of the #4's and #5's that they will face in time.
And that is what happened last night. The Twins offense took much better at bats against a 2nd or 3rd tier pitcher in Josh Towers. The Twins really teed off on Towers after running through the order once. Then they got into the Jays bullpen and hit even more. Johan Santana will be one of the best pitchers in baseball. Don't' worry about it! So again, if I think that the playoffs are too small of a sample size to judge the best teams in baseball, how do you think I feel about judging a team's season hopes based on one game!?
Anyway, there will be more on the game below. But today, I will with the continuation of my series of Twins Opening Days. Tuesday, I highlighted the first fifteen Twins Opening Days. Yesterday, I discussed the opening days from 1976-1990. Today, I will touch on the past fifteen opening days, from 1991-2005. It was really interesting to read the box scores and see many of the names. There were certainly a lot of great players to play for and against the Twins. The Twins had some very strong teams, and they also had some really bad teams. So, it was interesting to see the names of the players from either side of that coin. (Box Scores available at retrosheet.org) Of course, I will also have very few American Idol Thoughts as another contestant was eliminated... So let's get this started:
MINNESOTA TWINS OPENING DAYS
The Past Fifteen Years
4/9/91 - Twins 2, Oakland A's 7. Another trip out west for the Twins with a very strong pitching matchup. Jack Morris started for the Twins against Dave Stewart. Morris gave up seven runs (3 earned) on eight hits and five walks in just 4.2 innings. Terry Leach and Larry Casian combined for 3.1 shutout innings of relief. Stewart gave up just one run in his seven innings. The Twins had just five hits for the game. Greg Gagne was 2-2 with a walk, a double, and a homer. Chili Davis was 1-3 with a homer in his first Twins game. Kirby Puckett started the season as the Twins RF, with Shane Mack in CF, but as we remember from the '91 World Series, Puckett ended up back in CF. This was the big league debut of Chuck Knoblauch. He batted second and went 0-3 with a walk.
4/6/92 - Twins 4, Milwaukee Brewers 2. The Twins played their neighbors at County Stadium. The Twins got an excellent start, followed by very strong relief help to hold down the Brewers. Scott Erickson started and gave up two runs in six innings. Mark Guthrie and Carl Willis combined for two shutout innings. Willis got the Win, and Rick Aguilera pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Save. The offense was led by Chuck Knoblauch. He had four singles in five at bats. Kirby Puckett had a double and a home run in his five at bats, knocking in two.
4/6/93 - Twins 5, Chicago White Sox 10. The Twins hosted the White Sox to open the '93 season, and it wasn't a good game. Kevin Tapani started and gave up nine runs (8 earned) on eight hits and a walk in just 3.1 innings. Mike Hartley came in and gave up just an unearned run in his 3.1 innings. (Amazingly, I don't remember Hartley at all. I am embarrassed by that since he pitched in 53 games for the Twins that year.) Larry Casian and Rick Aguilera pitched 2.1 scoreless innings after the game was already decided. Black Jack McDowell started and gave up four runs to the Twins in six innings. Terry Leach pitched the final three innings for the Save. The Twins had nine hits with Brian Harper and Mike Pagliurulo getting two a piece. Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield each hit a home run. It shouldn't be a surprise that Harper had two passed balls too. Ellis Burks had three hits. George Bell had two doubles. Tim Raines had two hits, including a home run. Even Joey Cora and Ozzie Guillen had two hits each in the win.
4/5/94 - Twins 2, California Angels 8. This Opening Day, the Twins played at home, but the result was still a big loss. The Twins were hit by the 2-3-4 hitters of the Angels. Damion Easley was 3-6 with a double. Tim Salmon was 2-3 with two walks and two doubles. Chili Davis torched his former teammates for for 3 RBI on a 2-5 day. Of course, on this day, Eduardo Perez, Gary Disarcina and ESPN's Harold Reynolds also had two hits for the Angels. Mark Langston did the mound damage for the Angels. He gave up the two runs in 7.2 innings. If I recall, Langston was one of those guys that the Twins just could never beat. Kevin Tapani made his second straight opening day start, and he was awful again. On this day, he lasted 3.2 innings, and allowed seven runs on 10 hits and four walks. Larry Casian was becoming an Opening Day regular as he went the next 4.1 innings and gave up just one more run. Keith Garagozzo pitched a scoreless ninth in his big league debut, one of his seven appearances in his career. Eight of the nine Twins starters had at least one hit. Of course, leadoff hitter Rich Becker was the only one with two. Pedro Munoz and Dave Winfield each homered in the game.
4/26/95 - Twins 0, Red Sox 9. Maybe the Twins were intimidated by Fenway Park, but again, they were completely dominated in this game. Or, we were just in the middle of some very bad Twins years. Kent Hrbek and Dave Winfield were no longer around. Scott Erickson started for the Twins and gave up two runs (just 1 earned) in 4.2 innings. Mark Guthrie got the next two batters out. Carl Willis, the Big Train, came in and got just one out. However, he walked three and gave up two hits, and they all scored, so he was credited with allowing five runs. Some guy named Vince Horsman gave up two hits and got no one out. He only pitched in six games for the Twins that year. Mo Sanford then came in and pitched 2.1 scoreless innings. Scott Leius and Kevin Maas each had a single. Those were the only two Twins hits. Mike Greenwell led the Red Sox with a 4-5 day.
4/1/96 - Twins 8, Detroit Tigers 6. The Twins started the post-Puckett era with a lineup that included Chuck Knoblauch and Paul Molitor, and a bunch of other guys. But, on the mound, it was 22 year old Brad Radke starting for the Twins. He got the win by going six innings and giving up just one run (yes, it came in the first inning). Pat Mahomes and Greg Hansell each gave up two runs in an inning, and Dave Stevens picked up the save despite giving up one more run. Scott Stahoviak went 2-3 with a walk and a home run. Dave Hollins was 2-3 with a walk and a double. Chuck Knoblauch and Matt Lawton were each 2-4.
4/1/97 - Twins 7, Detroit Tigers 5. The Twins fell behind 5-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth. But the team scored three in that frame. The score remained the same until the bottom of the 8th when Pat Meares hit a two run homer with two outs in a four run inning to take the lead. Meares also had a triple in four at bats. Paul Molitor, Matt Lawton and Terry Steinbach each had two hits for the Twins in the game. Brad Radke gave up the five runs in five innings. The Twins got three shutout innings from Mike Trombley, Eddie Guardado and Dan Naulty, who got the win. Rick Aguilera gave up a couple of hits, but struck out two in a scoreless ninth for the Save.
4/1/98 - Twins 2, Toronto Blue Jays 3. The Twins were in Canada to start the '98 season. Couple that with the fact that they had to face Roger Clemens, and the odds were not good for the Twins. Bob Tewksbury started for the Twins and gave up three runs in his six innings. Greg Swindell and Mike Trombley each pitched a scoreless inning. But Clemens was Clemens. In seven innings, he gave up just a run on two hits. He walked three and struck out just three. Kelvim Escobar came in and gave up a Brent Gates solo homer in his inning. But Randy Myers came in and pitched a scoreless ninth for the Save. Paul Molitor did have a double.
4/6/99 - Twins 6, Toronto Blue Jays 1. After the World Series win in 1991, and the better record the following season, the '90s were a rough period for the Twins. But starting in 1999, a core group of players came up and played together for several years. They struggled, but they improved and eventually got to the playoffs a few years later. However, in this game, it was primarily the veterans that helped to the Win. Brad Radke started, of course. He got the win by going seven innings of one-run ball. Matt Lawton was 3-4 with a double and two RBI. Terry Steinbach, Marty Cordova and Ron Coomer were each 2-4. But some of the youth helped. Doug Mientkiewicz was 2-4 with two doubles. Chad Allen made his debut and went 2-4, batting 2nd. Cristian Guzman batted ninth and went 0-2 in his debut. Late in the game, Brent Gates pinch hit for him and had a 2 run triple.
4/3/00 - Twins 0, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7. Most think of the Devil Rays as a losing team, and they always have been. But do you remember the years that they went out and spent too much money on veterans such as Fred McGriff, Jose Canseco, Dwight Gooden, Vinny Castilla and the infamous Greg Vaughn (contract). On this day, the investment was worth it. Brad Radke gave up six runs in the first five innings. Bob Wells gave up a run in his inning. Hector Carrasco pitched two shutout innings. And then, Johan Santana made his big league debut in the 9th inning. Dave Martinez flew out to center. Then Jose Canseco struck out. Fred McGriff singled before Quinton McCracken lined out to right. The Twins managed just eight hits on the game. Cristian Guzman and Jacque Jones each had two. Matthew LeCroy caught and was 1-3 in his first big league game.
4/3/01 - Twins 3, Detroit Tigers 2. Brad Radke pitched a great eight innings for the Win. He gave up a run on six hits. LaTroy Hawkins was the closer that year. He came in and got one out, but he gave up a hit and two walks before Bob Wells came in to get the final two outs for the Save. Jeff Weaver went all nine innings for the Tigers for the Loss. The Twins managed just six hits. You can probably imagine that as the dynamic duo of Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas batted 1-2 in the order! David Ortiz led the way going 2-4 with a two run home run.
4/1/02 - Twins 8, Kansas City Royals 6. The Twins used some power to win this game. Jacque Jones led off the season with a home run to dead center. Later in the first inning, David Ortiz homered. Brian Buchanan hit one in the 2nd inning. Torii Hunter hit one in the 6th inning. And then, down by two runs going into the seventh inning, Jacque Jones added another home run, this one a 3-run shot, to give the Twins a lead that they would hold. Jones went 3-5 on the day with 4 RBI. Ortiz was 3-4, a triple short of the cycle. Buchanan and Luis Rivas were both 2-4. In this game, Radke lasted just 4.1 innings. He gave up six runs (5 earned) on seven hits, including four home runs. Jack Cressand finished out the fifth inning. JC Romero came in and pitched two perfect innings to be credited with the Win. Michael Jackson pitched a perfect inning before Eddie Guardado got the Save with a scary, but successful ninth.
3/31/03 - Twins 3, Detroit Tigers 1. For the first time, the Twins started a regular season in March. The Twins were able to give the Tigers one of their 119 losses of the season on Opening Day. Brad Radke started and gave up just a run on three hits in 6.2 innings. JC Romero then came in and gave up just a single in 1.1 innings. Eddie Guardado pitched a perfect ninth for the save. Mike Maroth took the first of his 21 losses on the year. Dustan Mohr got things started in the 2nd inning with a 2-run homer. On the day, he went 2-3 with the two RBI. AJ Pierzynski hit an eighth inning homer to give the extra cushion.
4/5/04 - Twins 7, Cleveland Indians 4. This game may always go down as the big league debut of Joe Mauer. Sure, he was injured the next night, but he had a great debut. He went 2-3 with two walks in the 8th spot. You may also remember that in the 11th inning, Shannon Stewart knocked a 3-run homer to win the game. Stewart was 2-5 on the game. Doug Mientkiewicz was 2-5 with a double. Brad Radke went the first six innings and gave up two runs. Aaron Fultz, Joe Roa, JC Romero and Joe Nathan each pitched a scoreless relief inning. So did Juan Rincon, in the 11th, so he picked up one of his many wins. CC Sabathia struck out nine in his seven shutout innings for the Tribe. Ben Broussard had four hits. Travis Hafner had three hits, including two homers. Jody Gerut, Ron Belliard and Matt Lawton each had two hits.
4/4/05 - Twins 1, Seattle 5. Richie Sexson made quite the impression on his new team right away in his first game. The lanky right-handed 1B hit two home runs in his first two at bats to lead the M's to a Win. He hit a three run homer in the first, and followed it with a two run shot in the 2nd. Both, of course, came off of Twins starter Brad Radke. But Radke did well. That is all he allowed over seven innings. Soft-tosser Jamie Moyer frustrated Twins hitters for 5.2 innings. He gave up just an unearned run. Five Twins had a single hit. Jason Bartlett drove in Michael Cuddyer for the only run.
There you have it, the fifteen Twins Opening Day games prior to Tuesday's Twins opener. I really enjoyed doing the research and going through the box scores of these games. I was at a couple of the more recent ones. But again, to see not only the greats that played for or against the Twins, but to also see those lesser known players that we have other stories about. It was just a lot of fun, and I really hope you enjoyed it too. If you have any thoughts, questions, or memories of any of this, please e-mail me or leave Comments below.
What makes a good at bat? Is it the result of the at bat, or is it the sequence, timing, pitch selection and game situations? I happen to think it is the latter. To judge this, just look at a couple of examples from last night's game.
In the second inning, Rondell White took a fastball down the middle of the plate for a strike. The next pitch, he took a slider outside for a ball. On the third pitch, he got jammed on a fastball really bad, right on his hands, but it went down the 3B line just perfectly and he got a hit. So, the result of his at bat was a single, a good thing. However, was it really a good at bat or not? I would grade it as Not a Good At Bat.
In the first inning, Luis Castillo came up and took five pitches. The result of the at bat was a ground out to the first baseman, but an on-base guy early in the lineup took a lot of pitches, made the pitcher throw a lot of pitches and he put the ball in play. I consider that a good at bat despite it resulting in an out.
In the fourth inning, Torii Hunter came on with runners on 1st and third and one out. He swung at the first pitch, a fastball away. He lined a single to right field to score the runner from third. However, first, why would it be good for any hitter to go outside the strike zone on the first pitch of any at bat without a hit-and-run being on? Second, had the second baseman not moved himself completely out of position, it would have been another one of Hunter's patented 4-6-3 inning-ending double plays. So, the result of the at bat was an RBI single, but I can not call this a Good At Bat.
One at bat that I really struggled with was the Torii Hunter grand slam. However, with a 2-0 count, he swung at a ball in his eyes. That is not a good plate appearance despite the incredibly good results of the play.
In the ninth inning, Luis Rodriguez hit a home run to lead off the inning. Of course this is a good at bat, right? In this case, it certainly is, but my reasoning may not agree with what you're thinking. Let's look at the pitches of the at bat. The first pitch, he took a fastball low and out of the zone for a ball. On the second pitch, he got a fastball down the middle and swung aggressively. On the third pitch, he took a curveball for a ball. He had worked the count nicely to 2-1. On that pitch, he got a fastball on the outer half of the plate, and he went with it for the opposite field home run. To me, that is a great example of a great at bat!
So, what I did is made notes for each of the Twins at bats throughout the entire game. For each at bat, I gave a grade of either Good or Bad. Yes, I do fully understand that there could be some middle ground in here, maybe categories like "not a terrible at bat" or "I've seen worse." "Good" is also very subjective. What I, as a fan, feel is a good or quality plate appearance, you may not, or maybe more importantly, the Twins manager or general manager may not. I tried to be very unbiased, and based on the results, I think you can see that I was fair, even to the guys that I don't like! So, here are the results:
Shannon Stewart 3-5 (Three Good PA's in 5 total)
Luis Castillo 4-5
Joe Mauer 5-5 (You have to like when your 3 hitter has a quality at bat every time)
Rondell White 2-5
Torii Hunter 2-5 (4 pitches seen in first 4 plate appearances)
Justin Morneau 3-5
Tony Batista 2-4 (note to AL pitchers, those sliders just off the plate work well)
Jason Kubel 1-4 (trying to pull too many outside pitches, resulting in weak grounders)
Juan Castro 4-5
Luis Rodriguez 1-1
Lew Ford 0-1
Michael Cuddyer 1-1
I will continue to back Brad Radke and his pitching to anyone. However, I wonder what his career would be like if he would subscribe to the Leo Mazzone school of pitching. Work that outside corner. Stay out there. Don't give in. On the Troy Glaus two-run home in the first, he has an open base and a 1-0 count. And 89 mph fastball out over the plate went a long ways. That one didn't bother me so much. However, the next batter was Lyle Overbay who also homered. That at bat bothered me. He started the at bat with two fastballs. He made Overbay look silly on a 76 mph fastball. So, he has him 1-2 and set up for anything. What does he throw him? A 91 mph fastball right down the middle. Of course a guy of Overbay's talent will deposit a pitch like that!
In the first inning, Bert Blyleven said, "I don't think anyone in baseball has better control than Brad Radke." Now, that is a pretty acceptable statement. However, Carlos Silva is coming off of a season in which he broke the modern day record for fewest walks per nine innings in a season. That was just one season, so that could be a reason for forgetting to put Silva in with Radke in terms of control. It made me think also that Radke throws three pitches with control. Last year, Carlos Silva was primarily a one-pitch pitcher. Maybe that is what made him able to throw strikes. Of course, Silva relies on so much movement on his pitches. Movement is difficult to control, but obviously Silva found a way to do it. I guess I'm not really disputing Blyleven's quote. But, I do think it presents and interesting question.
Did you notice the footwork on Luis Castillo's amazing play up the middle in the 2nd inning? It looked a little awkward live, but on the reply, you could see the mini-steps that he took. That allowed him to take a shorter leap and make a stronger throw. Many times on those plays up the middle, you see the 2B leap into the air. When they do that, they actually lose velocity on the throw as well as accuracy. That play was maybe even a little understated and I thought it deserved to be pointed out.
Tony Batista has no range. However, on those plays right to him, where he doesn't have to move laterally, he picks the ball cleanly and gets rid of the ball very quickly. Not only does he have a quick transfer from his glove to his hand, but he also releases the ball to 1B very quickly. That makes the fact that his throws are always chest high and on time more impressive.
Speaking of Batista, what is up with the way that he catches a pop up? Some people catch popups with two hands. I know that young kids are taught to do that and Al Newman was great at it. Once a kid can catch, I think that they can catch just as well with one hand as getting the second hand in the way. Now, back to Batista. He caught two popups in the first couple of innings. On both, he put his glove up, but he also raised his right hand. It almost looked as though he was trying to find the wall, but he was nowhere near the fence. It just looked really strange.
Troy Glaus had an RBI single up the middle in the 3rd inning. Juan Castro had to dive for it and it may have nicked his glove. Was I the only one who thought that Jason Bartlett would have made that play without diving and probably made a strong throw to 1B for the out, saving the Twins a run!
Francisco Liriano is incredible. Two innings. No runs. Three strikeouts. The first batter he faced was Bengie Molina. The first pitch was an 88 mph slider for a strike. He then got Molina out on a 97 mph fastball. Next up was Alexis Rios. The pitches to him were fastball at 96, slider at 87, changeup at 84, slider at 89 and the strikeout on a 91 mph slider. To Aaron Hill, it went 96 fastball, 86 changeup, 91 slider, 86 changeup for the strikeout. In his second inning, he struck out John MacDonald on a fastball and got Reed Johnson to ground out on a couple of sliders. Now, Vernon Wells singled on a 91 mph fastball and Troy Glaus was late on a fastball and hit a double off the right field wall. However, he pitched well and smart against Jason Phillips. The sequence was slider at 88, fastball at 94, changeup at 81, slider at 86, slider at 88 and changeup at 81. So, as you can see, he will be very dominant. You can also see that he needs to throw all three of his pitches for strikes.
I guess if you just wanted the score and highlights... the Twins beat the Blue Jays 13-4 last night. Brad Radke got the Win! Torii Hunter went 4-5 with a double, a grand slam and six RBI. Joe Mauer was 3-4 with a stolen base. Luis Castillo and Shannon Stewart each had two hits. The combined OBP of the top three hitters was .600 (9-15).
Tonight at 6:07, it will be Carlos Silva against Gustavo Chacin in the third and final game of the series.
I'd love to hear you thoughts on the Twins. Do you have an opinion on the Good AB/Bad AB information that I shared? If so, e-mail me, or leave some Comments below. Thanks!
Don't forget the top four Twins minor league affiliates begin their seasons tonight!
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Who do I think will be eliminated tonight?
Taylor Hicks -This is a difficult week to pick an eliminated contestant. I think that Taylor was by far the worst last night. However, he does have a strong following. Mandisa did not do well either, but to this point, she has not been in the bottom. I think she will be tonight. I think there is also a chance the Bucky could finally go.
As per usual, I continue to show that I am pretty much clueless. But not totally. Although I thought that maybe Taylor would be eliminated, I didn't really expect it. I thought it was a tough week for Mandisa and, of course, she was eliminated. Although she is a powerhouse singer, she just never garnered much of a following.
Again, for further American Idol thoughts, be sure to check out The Baseball Savant and the fine folks of curlio.com because I know we don't always see or hear things the same way. Any thoughts on my American Idol Thoughts? This is where it gets fun, so if you would like, be sure to debate the merits of your favorite contestants below. Or, if you're shy, send me an e-mail.
Welp, that is it for today. If you have any thoughts, opinions, comments, critiques, or ideas on anything, please e-mail me, or let's get a discussion going in the Comments.|
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