Wednesday, May 17, 2006
American Idol Thoughts
Twins Minor League Notes
Two Days in 60 Minutes
Good Monday morning everyone!
Well, I missed just one full day (so far), but I am back again today. However, I am limiting myself. It has been a couple of rather long days, and sleep is a very good thing. So today, I am just going to type for an hour, and we'll see how much gets done. I was able to watch the Twins Monday afternoon loss to the White Sox and some of the Tuesday evening loss against the Tigers. I watched the two hour finale of Grey's Anatomy, which was almost as good as the previous night's episode. (Note - I'm sure some are interested and I know some care, so if you would like to know what's going on, please feel free to e-mail me. It's anything but bad. I just really would prefer not to write about it here, not yet, maybe later in the week, or soon. Thanks for understanding!)
So, let's get to the entry:
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
I may not be quite as formatted in my Idol Thoughts as usual, which is unfortunate since we are now down to the final three. One more will be eliminated tonight with the other two advancing to the finals next week!
There are certain consistencies or generalities about American Idol, and the judges, that you can count on. Early in the competition, they will pick their favorites and they will usually stick with them. It isn't as noticeable until you get to this point. You can really tell by their comments which contestants they would really like to advance. That is doubly the case this particular week when the judges pick one of the contestant's songs.
Case(s) in Point - According to the judges, Taylor can do no wrong. Katharine can be talked down a little bit. But they were a little harsh on Elliot last night, I thought. From the judges, Taylor gets a Joe Cocker, well known song (You Are So Beautiful) that he should be good at. I personally did not think he did all that well at it. But the judges just ooed and ahhed all over it. Katherine got to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow (and she did VERY well), a fairly simple song that is known and suited her voice. What did Elliot get selected for him? What You Won't do for Love by Bobby Caldwell. I'm glad they told me who sang it because I wouldn't have had a clue.
Another general theme. The judges talk so much about making a song their own. Sometimes that is good. Other times, it just isn't.
Case(s) in Point - Last week, I thought that Katharine was at a huge disadvantage singing Elvis songs against three guys. Therefore, for her, it was about song selection and keeping it simple. I thought that she tried to make the song songs her own, and went over the edge on both of them. Last night, her Clive Davis selection, I Believe I Can Fly, she sang it very different from the original, and in parts, it was great, and other times, just keeping it like the original would have been very smart. With Somewhere Over the Rainbow, she kept it simple, stayed true to the song, and was absolutely amazing!
Song Selection - I thought it was funny when Randy questioned the song selection of Katharine's first song last night, and she said, "I didn't pick it." Randy forgot which cliche he couldn't use. Clive Davis, the producer for the American Idol winners first album, made that choice. The final song of the night, each was allowed to select their own song. It always amazes me the songs that the contestants chose. It is as if they are trying to outsmart people many times and pick songs that few people actually know. I think it is done just to pick a favorite song or artist growing up, or simply an attempt to show that they have heard of some of these obscure songs. Katharine... I like Ella Fitzgerald's music from the '40s and '50s as much as anyone, but do most voters even know who she is? Elliot, we already knew of your love for Danny Hathaway, but I Believe to My Soul. You're a great singer, but who will vote for that? Taylor's song choice, however, was Try a Little Tenderness. He stayed true to himself and his music, and to just having fun and knowing why the fans vote for him.
General Thoughts on the Contestants:
Elliot Yamin - Open Arms is a great song, chosen by Mr. Davis, for Elliot. However, I thought he sounded a little hoarse as he was singing it. It got better throughout, but I didn't think it was his best. The judges picked What You Won't Do for Love, and again, I thought it was a bad song choice. Elliot can sing anything well, but to me, this song sounded just a little too Sinatra-esque. That is far from a bad thing, but let's not forget how well the crooners that make the final 12 do. They're out within the first couple of weeks. For me, it was just a boring song. And his song choice was I Believe to My Soul. Again, I thought it was a bad song choice in terms of popularity, and the man is certainly not a fashion afficianado. However, the man is absolutely incredible vocally, no matter what. I liked how he incorporated his own name into the song's lyrics! Overall, it was not a great song night for Elliot. He was not at his best vocally (although still as good as anyone), and his song selection was just really poor.
Katharine McPhee - I Believe I Can Fly is an amazing song on so many levels. She was solid vocally. I thought some of her arrangements were a bit much, or maybe that there were just too many differences. However, I do think that it worked. By the end, I was impressed with what she did. Simon picked Somewhere Out There. I love the song choice. I was very happy that she basically just left the song alone and allowed her voice to show. She had a couple of runs, but they were not too much. I just don't understand why she chose to sing that song on her knees. Her song choice was a bluesy Try a Little Tenderness. Her outfit and look of the performance was pretty obvious. I thought it was a really poor song choice. She is a very strong singer in blues music, and it allowed her to have some fun. But I just think that she could have chosen a song to better show off her incredible talent.
Taylor Hicks - Well, in general, my thought is that Taylor, vocally, does not come near the other two finalists. That said, he just seems to get the competition a little bit better. For his first song, Clive Davis made a personal phone call to Bruce Springsteen to ask if Taylor could sing Dancing in the Dark. It is probably my favorite song from The Boss, and I thought it was a great choice. This was a case where Taylor went, probably smart, with a version of the song very nearly identical to the original. Safe, but very good, and great for his voice. The judges chose Joe Cocker's You Are So Beautiful for Taylor. I thought it was an excellent song choice for him. However, unlike the gawking judges, I thought he was sub-par. I thought he struggled with the early lyrics, and really didn't think he finished his words. He was hard to understand. I just really did not like it at all. Now, he picked the song Try a Little Tenderness as his song. I thought it was poor song choice, and it was very slow developing for me. However, in the second half of the show, Taylor turned it on. For him, it is all about energy. The more he moves around, and the more he does, the better for him. He had a great time. He got louder. He danced around. He just had a lot of fun, and that shows in voting, I'm sure, especially when it was the show's final song, the impression that they are left with.
What Will Happen Tonight? Who Will be Eliminated?
As Simon said to Elliot after his final song, he has been excellent, he is amazing vocally, and his mom should be proud of him for how he did in this competition. However, I think that it is his turn to go home. I think that is unfortunate because vocally he is the best. But he has been in the bottom vote-getters the last couple of weeks, and his song selection was quite poor last night. I think Taylor is about as much of a lock as their is to get to next week, and I think that Katharine's Somewhere Over The Rainbow probably put her there too.
Any thoughts? Please be sure to e-mail me.
So, in the pregame show of Monday's Twins game, we learned the Carlos Silva was being moved to the bullpen, replaced by Francisco Liriano. Obviously, I am excited about Liriano being in the rotation, and although I am sure he too will struggle from time to time, his potential is so high. The surprise was that it was Silva who was sent to the bullpen. Sure, I wrote that I thought it should be Silva (and Lohse) who was demoted because his sinker wasn't sinking and he was giving up too many home runs. Silva came up as a reliever and spent two years in the Phillies bullpen before coming to the Twins and going into the rotation. It just looks like he has a lot of work to do to get right. Hopefully he can again, but it is a huge concern.
The question is then, what is next? Kyle Lohse got shelled again by the Tigers yesterday. He gave up five runs in just 2.2 innings. Do they just keep him in the rotation? I mean, before his quality start in Texas last week, he was basically pitching for his spot in the rotation. Meanwhile, Boof Bonser is sitting in Rochester with a 3-2 record and a 2.01 ERA. He has struck out 47 in 49 innings. His 20 walks are too high, but we have a track record on Lohse. He's not good. Bonser, although we don't know, still is at a point in his career where he could be good. He is ready for a chance now, and I have to wonder if a move might be very quick to happen. I know that the team is still 'in the race' and they should continue to try their best to win the division or get in the playoffs until they can't. I know that Gardy and Terry Ryan don't like putting rookies into high leverage, high stress situations but have no problem just letting veterans that they know won't do well pitch. Last year, it was Joe Mays that continued to get starts while Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano dominated AAA.
On May 1, Jesse Crain gave up three runs and got just one out. In his five outings since then, Crain has gone seven innings and giving up no runs on four hits and two walks. I know that is five games, but he appears to have turned a corner, and that is very important for the Twins.
Likewise, in the last six Matt Guerrier appearances, he has only allowed an unearned run on 11 hits in 14.2 innings. His ERA is down to 2.82.
How about this one? Since he was called up to the team on April 30, Dennys Reyes has not allowed a run in 8.2 innings. He has given up just three hits and two walks, and he has struck out eight.
By the way, today's matchup between Johan Santana and the Tigers' Justin Verlander should be a very good one!
Have I mentioned that Stick & Ball Guy is absolutely a daily must-read. I'll just link to his page because each of his stories is well worth reading!
Hey, Aaron Gleeman posted his choice for the #25 Twins Player of All-Time.
So, do you have any thoughts on the Twins/Tigers series, or the Twins in general? If so, please feel free to leave Comments below, or send me an e-mail.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE NOTES
I only briefly looked at the box scores from Monday and Tuesday to see if anything really noteworthy happened. There were several things, and I prefer to just talk about them rather than write up a full report as I normally do. I mean, I'm running low on my 60 minute time limit!
Jason Bartlett went 2-5 last night with his 17th double. He is now hitting .328 for Rochester... again! There is absolutely NO real reason for Bartlett not to be the Twins every day shortstop, but that is old news.
The other day, I mentioned that Matt Garza had been promoted to New Britain. The move was absolutely necessary. What I didn't know is what other roster move it would necessitate. Well, I found out yesterday that Justin Jones had been sent back down to Ft. Myers. Probably a fair trade... Garza is amazing, but Justin Jones is no slouch either. At AA New Britain, he was 2-2 with an ERA of just 3.25. In 27.2 innings, he struck out 29 hitters. Very solid numbers. However, he did have a WHIP of 1.63, so clearly there is room for improvement. Hopefully he will go down to Ft. Myers with the right attitude and dominate that level again and be back up shortly.
With Garza's promotion, we can now start the timeline on
when Kevin Slowey will get moved up to New Britain. He started
again last night for Ft. Myers and had a very typical start, for him.
The righty went seven innings and gave up no runs on three hits. He
walked none and struck out ten! Typical to a Slowey start, the Miracle
bats just shut off. They managed no runs on just two hits, and Slowey
got a no decision for his efforts. Again, please take a minute to check
out his updated statistics at the left of this screen. The two walks and
63 strikeouts are absolutely amazing! I invited you to do that
last time I wrote, and one reader, JamesM, came back with this
response in the Comments section:
OK, I accept the challenge. Please note: these figures do NOT include Garza's start on Sat. Any advantage Slowey shows here would be increased if that game was factored in. OTOH, I think it's only fair to cut Garza some slack for a relatively poor performance in his final appearance as a Miracle.
OBA: .163 vs. .158. KS by 3%.
OOBP: .211 vs. .184. KS by 13%.
0SLG: .262 vs. .199. KS by 24%.
OGPA: .160 vs. .133. KS by 17%.
WHIP: .763 vs. .605. KS by 21%.
BB/9: 1.60 vs. 0.44. KS by 78%.
K/9: 11.2 vs. 11.5. KS by 3%.
HR/9: .458 vs. .218. KS by 52%.
LD%: .075 vs. .077. MG by 3%.
IF%: .172 vs. .099. MG by 42%.
It took some doing, but I finally found a category where Garza has a significant edge: inducing popups. Otherwise everything favors Slowey, with the 3% advantages being statistically insignificant.
Looking at their OGPA splits we see Kevin triumphs in just about every single one.
vs. LHB: .142 vs. .124. KS by 13%.
vs. RHB: .176 vs. .141. KS by 20%.
None on: .165 vs. .097. KS by 41%.
Men on: .163 vs. .162. TIE.
RISP: .138 vs. .180. MG by 23%.
Aha! Garza is much better with RISP. Of course Slowey is much better at preventing them from getting into SP in the first place.
In conclusion, I think you're absolutely right. The only area where Garza stands out from his fellow Miracle is in the money the Twins have tied up in him. Let's hope they are reunited in New Britain very soon.
See, the Comments can provide a whole other spectrum to this blog thing! Great response James! And again, we need to point out that we are not saying anything negative about Matt Garza. He is terrific and deserved the promotion. Our main point is just that Kevin Slowey does too.
It is obvious that Jim Rantz did not feel that any of the New Britain five starters were ready to advance to AAA Rochester. There are spots in the rotation open there, and instead of simply sending a guy up from New Britain to make room for Garza, they sent Jones back down. With that said, Errol Simonitsch has really been coming on of late. Last night, he went eight shutout innings and gave up just five hits. He walked none and struck out seven. After a couple of bad starts, Simonitsch has just gotten better and better. He now has 16 consecutive shutout innings.
When a New Britain pitcher is ready for Rochester, Justin Jones (or Slowey) should be back up at New Britain. Kyle Waldrop made a strong case for his promotion up to Ft. Myers on Monday night. One of the Twins first round picks in 2004 threw a complete game shutout. He gave up just four walks and walked one while striking out five. He is now 3-2 with a 3.99 ERA on the season. Fighting inconsistencies from game to game and even inning-to-inning appears to be his biggest obstacle right now.
I'm struggling with the role of Felix Molina in the organization. I have always been of the belief that he is another utility infielder type who has started in the minors at the different infield positions. He is solid, but unspectacular. But lately, he has been playing well. Well enough that is might be worth asking the question. Last night, he was 3-5 with two doubles and his fifth home run. He also has four stolen bases. The power/speed combo just got me thinking. But then again, compare where his numbers are to what Luis Maza was doing in New Britain two years ago and they don't stack up, so that helps me temper my enthusiasm.
I see that on Monday, Josh Land moved up to Beloit to play some left field. Good for him, and I know the draft-and-follow from two years ago did well in short-season last year. I have no problem with his promotion. However, it does make me wonder what is going on with Danny Santiesteban. Why wouldn't he be the guy called up to Beloit at this point?
How is Erik Lis not moving up to Ft. Myers. I realize that the 1B for the Miracle are Johnny Woodard and Brock Peterson, but Woodard is doing very little with the Miracle, and Lis just continues his amazing start in Beloit. The lefty-swinging 1B/LF went 3-6 last night with two RBI. He is now hitting .339 with five homers and 23 RBI. He's ready to advance.
Lots of great stuff over at Pat Neshek's site lately, so check it out!
And Jim Mandelaro's Extra Bases has had some great stories, e-mail responses and more!
Any other goings on or transactions in the Twins system that should be discussed, or maybe I missed. Send me an e-mail or leave some Comments below.
Welp, that is it for today. Again, not exactly sure what will happen the rest of the week, but check back and see. 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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