This just in… Sammy Sosa was suspended by Major League Baseball for 8 games. The Team is appealing.
That’s what I just read ESPN.com is saying that Sosa is appealing it. I think the 8 games is very fair. It’s 2 games less than the last corked bat incident, but Sosa was very upfront about everything, and his “story” was validated with the results of the X-rays on his 76 other bats and 5 of his bats that are in the Hall of Fame. The appeal simply means that Sosa won’t miss the Yankees series in Wrigley this weekend. He’ll probably meet with Bob Watson and others involved in Major League baseball on Monday, and the suspension will probably be dropped to 7 games. My guess is he’ll start serving the suspension by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
Friday, June 6th, 2003
I supposedly know so much about baseball. Seemingly meaningless tidbits about minute details of the game of baseball. But yesterday, I was asked a question about baseball that even I couldn’t definitively answer with any certainty. Why were the dugouts originally literally dug out, as in below ground level? There were a few quick answers that we discussed. They were built lower so that the fans can also be lower and have better sightlines. Another reason was to protect the players from the elements, the heat of warm summer days and the rainfall as well. Both make sense to me. I have a 2002 Just Rookies Denard Span minor league card for the first person to send me an e-mail with the answer, or a good link to a website where I can find the answer. Or, just send me your thoughts (truthful or comical) on reasons the dugouts were covered and below ground level. I will take information I receive and let you know the answer hopefully next week!
The Hawk Takes Flight!
It could be argued that right now, LaTroy Hawkins is the Twins best pitcher. He is being brought in to tough situations. Runners on base, needing an out to keep the score where it was at. The first two games of this San Francisco series illustrate that perfectly. Needing a strikeout on Tuesday night with the bases loading, Gardy brought in Hawkins, and he didn’t get the strikeout. He got a ground-ball double-play, leaving Barry Bonds standing in the on-deck circle. Wednesday night, he was brought in after Romero was unable to get his batter out, and kept the Giants at bay and the score 3-3. Having watched the Twins in the late ‘90s and in his time as a closer in 2000 and 2001, who would have guessed that Hawkins would turn into the relief pitcher he has become? Here’s a brief look at his career, broken down by job description:
Minor League Phenom:
LaTroy Hawkins pitched incredibly and worked his way quickly up the system. He was as big a pitching prospect as the Twins have had in the last 15 - 20 years, maybe longer. He was long, lanky, and threw hard.
1995 - 1999:
Hawkins had brief stints with the Twins in 1995 and 1996. In 1997, he got 20 starts with the big club before getting 33 starts for the Twins in 1998 and 1999. His stats in that time period:
n 99 starts
n 26-44 record
n 6.15 E.R.A.
n BB/9 IP = 3.26
n K/9 IP = 5.15
n K/BB = 1.58
Hawkins was moved to the bullpen, and despite some struggle with control, by August of 2000, Hawkins was the primary closer for the Twins and had 14 saves. He went in to 2001 as the team’s closer. At the time, it just made sense. Before the All-Star break, Hawkins was right among the AL leaders in saves. But, that statistic wasn’t telling the whole story. Hawkins’ control was a problem. He was walking too many, and after the All-Star break, he just completely lost it. I honestly think it became mental. By the end of the year, Eddie Guardado was the primary closer, a roll he has had ever since. His stats for those 2 years:
n 128 games in relief
n 3-10 record
n 4.34 E.R.A. (2000 - 3.39, 2001 - 5.96)
n BB/9IP = 4.60 (2000 - 3.29, 2001 - 6.84)
n K/9 IP = 6.06
n K/BB = 1.34
The Turnaround. Having lost the closers job to Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins was a major question mark heading into the season. What would the team do with him? Well, Hawkins transformed his career and had an absolute breakout year! Hawkins gives credit to the Twins new pitching coach, Rick Anderson, who was replacing Dick Such. Anderson was Hawkins’ coach in the minor leagues. I remember watching the spring training box scores before the 2002 season, looking to see if Hawkins had pitched. I looked at just 1 column, the BB. Hawkins had shown that he had the “stuff” to be successful, he just needed the throw strikes. In that spring, he walked very few. That carried into the season. Check out his stats last year:
n 65 games
n 6-0 record
n 2.14 E.R.A. (league average was 4.42)
n BB/9 IP = 1.68 (15 walks in 80+ IP)
n K/9 IP = 7.06
n K/BB = 4.20
I think the answers are right there in the stats. Less walks, more strikeouts! Getting ahead in the count, and then throwing the fastball 94-98 on the black. He’s become a very dominant relief pitcher!!! Anderson deserves a lot of credit! Hawkins deserves so much credit! It’s really amazing the quick turnaround!
So, how is he doing this year? Here are the numbers so far:
n 26 games
n 4-0 record
n 1.32 E.R.A
n BB/9 IP = 1.65 (5 walks in 27+ IP)
n K/9 IP = 9.88
n K/BB = 6.00
So, it looks like he’s even getting better, getting stronger, and simply getting more comfortable with this role. It’s perfect for him! He throws a great fastball that he can spot now. He has gained control of his 2nd pitch, the curveball, something he didn’t have 2 years ago. And, now he’s added a change up too! His walks are going down, his strikeouts are going up, and he’s become dominant!
The Twins took on the Giants in the third and final game of the series last night. Above, I write that it is arguable that LaTroy Hawkins is the Twins best pitcher. I say “arguable”, because I truly believe that Kyle Lohse, right now, is the Twins best pitcher. And last night, Kyle Lohse was the big story. He didn’t allow a baserunner the first time through the Giants order. And, despite another fundamental baseball mistake by Guzman when he didn’t score from third base on a ground out by Corey Koskie, Doug Mientkiewicz got the Twins on the board with a 2-out single. The Twins scored single runs in the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th innings, before Lohse gave up a 2-run homer to JT Snow in the bottom of the 5th, cutting the lead in half, to 4-2. An AJ Pierzynski sacrifice fly to center field scored Torii Hunter, who finally stole his first base, in his 8th attempt!
One thing that struck me in Kyle Lohse’s performance was his pitch efficiency. Through 6 innings, Lohse had thrown 69 pitches… 50 for strikes! Then on the first pitch of the 7th, Benito Santiago swung at the first pitch and grounded out. After falling behind 3-0 to JT Snow, he threw 2 strikes, the second Snow grounded to Mientkiewicz for out number 2. The next hitter, Edgardo Alfonso, flew out to Hunter in center to end the inning. So, through 7 complete innings, Lohse has thrown 76 pitches, 54 for strikes. That’s just over 71%! And, with just 4 strike outs, he’s keeping his fielders on their toes, which is always good.
I remember when I was growing up, I had always heard that if I could throw less than 15 pitches each inning, it would be good! 7 innings times 15 pitches equals 85 for the game. I’m guessing I was never really close to that! In the majors, pitch counts, especially for younger pitchers is generally right around 100 pitches. So, if that pitcher wants to be able to throw a complete game, he would need to average just over 11 pitches per inning. (100 divided by 9) Lohse’s average pitches per inning through 7 innings is just under 11 pitches.
Kyle Lohse went 8 innings, throwing ust 89 pitches, 62 for strikes. Eddie Guardado was brought in for the bottom of the ninth. Barry Bonds led off. As unbelievable as Eddie’s numbers are this year, I, for one, never feel comfortable when he comes in for a save. And, last night was no different. After a long battle with Bonds, he walked him. On the next pitch, Benito Santiago singled to left. The ageless Andres Gallaraga hit a smash up the middle that Chris Gomez knocked down and had the presence of mind to flip the ball to Guzman at 2B, forcing Santiago there. Edgardo Alfonso ripped a shot that Corey Koskie nabbed for the 2nd out. With 2 outs, Jose Cruz had a long AB, before Eddie struck him out to end the game.
Hey, taking 2 out of 3 from the San Francisco Giants is quite an accomplishment! After the 4 game sweep at the hands of the Mariners, a lot of Twins fans were down. But, after this series, they have just as much reason to be excited again! And, the ‘toughest part of the Twins schedule’ is now over, and the Twins went 8-7 in those 15 games! With the Dodgers beating the Royals 5-2, the Twins have now increased their lead in the AL Central to 4 ½ games!
Now, the Twins have a weekend series in San Diego against the Padres. It’s a homecoming for Jacque Jones, so look for a big weekend series for him! The Twins can’t just look past the Pads though! They have young pitchers too that have good stuff, but remain inconsistent. RF Xavier Nady was the NL Rookie of the Month for May. Mark Kotsay is underrated in CF. And, Ryan Klesko is still in LF!
Welp, have a great Friday and a great weekend! I’ll be back with something good on Monday! Hopefully I’ll be able to discuss a Twins sweep! As always, please feel free to e-mail me.
One final baseball note: 2B Damion Easley was released yesterday by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was release at the end of spring training by the Detroit Tigers. Word is that the Brewers, Padres and the FM Redhawks are looking at him! I'm kidding, but that just can't be good for the man's ego! Of course, his pain might be eased a little by the $14.3 million the Tigers will still pay him over the next two years.
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