Tag:Justin Morneau
Posted on: August 2, 2009 9:40 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2009 10:57 pm
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.500, is that it for the AL Central?

No Big Moves For The Home Team.

By: Christopher R Torola

The Minnesota Twins are at 52 - 52, 2 1/2 games out of first place. Behind both the Tigers and the White Sox. It looks like a 3 horse race until the end, but most likely one of the teams will drop out of the race before the end. So the question is, Who will join the Royals and the Indians as spectators during the pennant race and play-offs?

The Twins have the easiest remaining schedule, but they did the least of the 3 prior to the trading deadline. They eeked out a trade for Orlando Cabrera, seemingly to appease Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Joe Nathan more than trying to win come play-off time. They need more than anything another starting pitcher. Having lost Kevin Slowey for the season and an uncertainty with Fransisco Liriano's forearm, the Twins will be in even greater need of rotation help as the year goes on. They were also in need of a a 7th-8th inning guy to go with Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares, but failed to do so before the trading deadline passed.

The Tigers and the White Sox both faired better in the battle of the trades. The White Sox got both Mark Kotsay and ACE Jake Peavy to bolster their rosters. The Tigers acquired Jarrod Washburn to round out their rotation. They also have a lot more home games left than the Twins.

I still have faith that the Twins will rally to win the division, but with questionable pitching they will most likely be out quickly come the post season when they have to face off with a team like the Red Sox, who picked up 5 players including Casey Kotchman and Victor Martinez.

Posted on: July 13, 2009 7:21 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2009 11:55 pm
 

Mid-Season Report Cards

Minnesota Twins Mid-Season Report Cards

By: Christopher Torola

The GREAT:

Catcher: Joe Mauer - Games - 64, BA. - .373, R - 49, HR - 15, RBI - 49, SB - 1 

Not only has Joe Mauer been the the teams MVP, he should be on the short list for MLB's MVP award this year. After missing the first month of the season, he has put up amazing numbers. Most notably, his increased power. Given he has one of the best swings in baseball the jump in power does not seem to be taking away from his MLB leading batting average, which if he maintains, will be his 3rd batting title in just 4 years. Add his amazing hitting numbers with his Gold Glove caliber defense behind the plate and we have an overall grade of: A+.

1st Base: Justin Morneau - Games - 88, BA. - .311, R - 59, HR - 21, RBI - 70, SB - 0

Justin is the Twins' other candidate for both the team's and the American League MVP. He has managed to increase his power numbers while also increasing his batting average. Hitting behind Joe Mauer and Denard Span has really helped Justin's RBI numbers as well, as he is on pace for 130 RBIs, a number that should increase being that both Mauer and Span missed significant time in the first half. Maybe the most under-rated part of Justin's game is his steadily increasing defense. He has only one error at 1st this year and plays in almost every game. Although he was not voted to start at 1st in the All-Star game by the "fans", I tend to agree with the players that voted him number 1 at first base, and strongly beleivethat Justin is the AL's best first base men, not an easy task with the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, and Kevin Youkilis in the field. Overall grade of : A+.

Closer: Joe Nathan - Innings Pitched - 34 1/3, Wins - 1, Loss - 1, ERA - 1.31, Saves - 23, Ks - 43

Joe Nathan has been one of the, if not the most reliable, closers in all of baseball since taking over the job for the Twins. This year is no exception. Before last year most followers of the Twins, myself included, thought that we would lose Nathan along with Johan Santana and Torii Hunter. When the Twins resigned Nathan to a multi-year deal, they may have made the biggest impact signing of the three. He continues to do an amazing job slamming the door shut in the final inning for the Twins. Overall grade: A+.

The GOOD:

Starting Pitcher: Kevin Slowey - Innings Pitched - 90 2/3, Wins - 10, Loss - 3, ERA - 4.86, Walks - 15, Ks -75

Despite average numbers, Slowey has been able to accumulate an amazing win/loss record. He is 10 - 3 which is tied for 3rd best in the American League with Roy Halladay and Jered Weaver. In the mold of Twins pitchers Slowey has excellent control, averaging one walk every six innings. Although currently on the disabled list, he should be back shortly. His overall grade: A-.

Starting Pitcher: Nick Blackburn - Innings Pitched - 123 1/3, Wins - 8, Loss - 4, ERA - 3.06, Walks - 29, Ks -54

Although Blackburn's record is slightly behind Kevin Slowey, he have been the better pitcher up to this point. He has the teams best ERA, 6th best for starters in the American League. He has been able to go late into games, saving on the bullpen. 15 -17 wins is not out of the question is he continues to command his dominating sinker ball. Overall Grade: B+.

Outfielder: Denard Span - Games - 73, BA. - .292, R - 50, HR - 5, RBI - 31, SB - 16

Span has been the lead off hitter that the Twins have been missing for so many years. He has excellent plate discipline taking many pitches per at bat. In doing so he reaches base at a good clip, as seen by his .387 on base percentage. He also, has speed on the base paths and is leading the team in stolen bases. Pair is excellent stick work with his ability to play all outfield positions with great range and a strong arm, and Denard's overall grade: B+.

Left Fielder/DH: Jason Kubel - Games - 77, BA. - .311, R - 38, HR - 14, RBI - 45, SB - 0

 Kubel has finally stepped up with his bat, proving that he can be the Twins everyday designated hitter. He will likely never be better then adequate in the field since early career knee surgery, his bat has kept him in the line up in most games. He will spell players at left field from time to time but is best served as a masher. He definitely has his splits vs. right and left-handed pitchers, hitting under .200 against leftys with no home runs. Against rightys, on the other hand, he is hitting .351 with 14 long balls,  16 doubles, and 1 triple. Overall grade: B

Right Fielder: Michael Cuddyer - Games - 82, BA. - .273, R - 50, HR - 14, RBI - 47, SB - 4

The biggest step forward for Cuddyer this year may be that he is actually playing. Last year seemed to be a series of fluke injuries for the Twins right fielder. After a slow start, he has been on fire at the plate. He also expertly play's the Metrodome's baggy in right field. With his strong and accurate  arm most opponents have learned not to even try take the extra base on him. Overall grade: B.

The current Twins bull pen: Wins - 5, Loss - 2

The bullpen currently consists of Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, Bobby Keppel, Brian Duensing, and R.A. Dickey. Guerrier had been great as a set up man this year. Dickey was able to completely save the teams bullpen pitching in both long relief as well as high pressure close game situations. Mijares has been the Twins left handed specialist. Keppel has been great since coming to the Twins, while Duensing is still to fresh to call. The bullpen as a whole has seen its ups and downs, but the crew currently holding down the fort gets an overall grade of: B-.

3rd Base: Joe Crede - Games - 68, BA. - .234, R - 32, HR - 14, RBI - 40, SB - 0

Crede does not hit for average. He also misses a lot of games due to his back problems. I guess it is good that we knew that when he was signed. He does hit for power, and is top of the line at defending the hot corner. If i were grading him compared to what the Twins have had recently at 3rd, his grade would be much higher. As is, overall grade: C+.

The BAD:

The rest of the Rotation. Scott Baker - 7-7 5.24 era, Fransisco Liriano 4 - 9 5.47 era, and Glen Perkins 4 - 5 4.71 era.

None have wining records. Baker and Liriano were expected to be the 1-2 punch in the rotation. Both have started to pick their games up but will need to improve for the Twins to see the post season. Perkins has been about as good as should be expected for a #5 pitcher. Overall Grade: C.

The UGLY:

Shortstop : Brendan Harris - Games - 76, BA - .275, R - 30, HR - 5, RBI - 26, SB - 0

Harris has had the ability to ride out a couple hot streaks this season, but has also had extended slumps. He is forced to hit in the 2 hole in the line up, but would be better suited as an 8 or 9 hitter. He has a strong arm at short, but is lacking in range. Overall grade : D+.

2nd Base: Nick Punto - Games - 63, BA - .201, R - 26, HR - 0, RBI - 16, SB - 8

While never know for his bat, Punto is barely holding a .200 batting average, which is pathetic for a major league baseball player. He has great defense, and can make many highlight reel stops, but I would argue that his batting short comings outweigh his defensive prowess. Overall grade: D.

Center Fielder: Carlos Gomez - Games - 77, BA - .235, R - 28, HR - 2, RBI - 18, SB - 7

The Twins would love to be able to go 1-2 with Denard Span and Carlos Gomez, but until Gomez learns some plate disipline, he will continue to be relegated to splitting time in the OF with Kubel and Young. A large number of Gomez's games have been as a defensive replacment, so although he has 77 games, he has only 187 at bats. Carlos Gomez has the raw talent, but until he learns how to be a major league hitter, he will continue to be below average. His defense on the other hand is amazing. His year to date grade is low, but should improve as he gets more at bats. Overall Grade: D.

Left Fielder: Delmon Young - Games - 56, BA - .266,  R - 20, HR - 3, RBI - 25, SB - 2

Delmon has seemed lost at the plate since joining the Twins. His power has virtually disappeared. He has been swinging at the first pitch seemingly more often then not. He is still very young and has plenty of talent, but lacks the defensive skill of Carlos Gomez, which will continue to cause him to split at bats with Gomez against left handed pitching. He has not lived up to expectations since being traded for Matt Garza. With more time Young should improve, but I would be very surprised were it to happen this year. Overall Grade: D-.

Posted on: July 6, 2009 8:27 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2009 8:36 pm
 

It took the Tigers 16 innings...

It took the Tigers 16 innings to keep the Twins from tying them for 1st in the division. 

By: Christopher Torola

The three game series the Twins played against the Tigers is what baseball is all about. Each game was relatively close, with the possible exception of Sundays game. It seemed that any mistake a player made at any point was likely to cause your team the game.

The Tigers took the series opener in what was truly a marathon of a game. Kevin Slowey pitched only three innings and gave up six runs, putting the Twins behind right out of the gate. Slowey has since been put on the disabled list, and will have his strained wrist looked at. After giving up a couple runs Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, replaced starting pitcher Luke French with Zack Miner so as not to let the game get away from his team. Miner was able to close out the fifth inning, but only recorded one out while giving up five runs to tie the game. Then in the fourteenth inning, Twins super reliever of June, R.A. Dickey gave up a RBI hit to Placido Polanco one pitch after Poloanco fouled a pitch into his own family jewels. In the top half of the inning Michael Cuddyer hit a RBI single scoring Joe Mauer; however, Justin Morneau got thrown out at third base trying to advance on the throw. Dickey then gave up three more earned runs to Polanco in the sixteenth. The Twins were only able to score one unearned in the top half of the inning, losing a heart-breaker to the Tigers.

Fortunately for the Twins they were able to take the next two games, reducing the Tigers lead in the division to just two games.

Justin Morneau is on a complete tear. He was named player of the week for last week, hitting just shy of .500 and blasting four home runs (including a fountain shot in Kansas City). He was also named to his third straight All-Star game. Although the "fans" selected Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, the players made Justin their top choice.  Joe Nathan, like all pitchers, was selected as one of the coaches picks, and Joe Mauer was picked by the fans to start the game. The only player to receive more votes than Mauer was Derek Jeter, take away what you will from that. Some local fans are upset with the "life-time achievement" pick of Tim Wakefield over over Nick Blackburn, who has lowered his era below the 3.00 mark.

The Twins still have two tough series to get through before the All-Star break though, hosting the Yankees and the White Sox. They will need to play well to hold serve with Detroit, as the Tigers will be hosting the Royals and the Indians.

Posted on: June 22, 2009 9:02 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2009 10:52 pm
 

A home split vs. the NL...

Not good enough.

By: Christopher Torola


The Twins took two out of three from the Pirates and one out of three from the Astros last week. This was a great opportunity wasted. The Twins played two bad National League teams at the Metrodome, and should have faired better. Meanwhile the Tigers went four and two, increasing their lead in the American League Central to four games over the Twins.

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that the Twins have found their power stroke this year; but they seemed to have lost their identity in doing so. They already have five players (Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, and Joe Crede) with more then 10 home runs. The Twins had only three players reach that mark all of last year. The only problem with this is, they seem to have forgotten how to play baseball. They are not advancing runners, stealing bases, or properly laying down sacrifices. Far too many base hits have been wasted by double plays and runners swinging for the fences and striking out. Worse yet, they seem to be making an abundance of base running errors recently. I noticed a lot of Twins base runners caught in run downs over this last home stand.

 

Some of this can be chalked up to injuries. Both Nick Punto and Denard Span who combined for a third of the Twins stolen bases last year, are currently nursing injuries. Span is on the DL because of an inner ear infection and Nick Punto, who was recently activated, may be heading right back as a result of a head first slide into first base. Joe Mauer missed some time with Flu-like symptoms. Even Twins Iron-Man Justin Morneau missed a game with general soreness.

It is not much longer until the All-Star break. If the Twins can stay strong through the remaining inter-league games, they may be able to take some momentum into a three game series at Kansas City, followed by a tough home stand that will have the Twins playing the Tigers, Yankees, and the White Sox prior to a much needed resting period over All-Star weekend. 

 

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 3, 2009 12:12 am
Edited on: June 3, 2009 12:13 am
 

Twins vs Cleveland: Mauer Power

Joe Mauer, soon to be named player of the month for May, started June the same way he played last month. He went 3 for 3 with an intentional walk. Who would have thought that a team would purposely put an extra guy on base for Justin Mourneau, who is hitting .345 with 47 RBIs (3rd most in the AL)? I guess when you have already had 2 singles, one for an RBI, and 1 2-run homer; teams will start to do drastic things to limit your damage. It paid off this time, as Morneau hit into a inning ending double play.

Fortunately for the Twins, Mauers' 3 RBIs, along with Denard Span's 1, were enough for Kevin Slowey and crew to beat the Indians, 3-4. Slowey now has 8 wins on the year, 2nd most in all of baseball. The game got close in the 7th inning when Mourneau and Alexi Cassila hit gloves going for a flyball in shallow right field, allowing Cleveland's first 2 runs. Then in the 8th Jose Mijares gave up a solo home run to Victor Martinez to bring the score within 1. Joe Nathan came in for a 4 out save, his 10th save of the season.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, as the Twins picked up a game on everyone in the A.L. Central today. They are now tied for 2nd with the White Sox, just 3 1/2 games behind the Tigers.

Posted on: May 9, 2009 10:55 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2009 6:07 am
 

When it rains it Pours. Twins v. M's


FRIDAY
:
The Twins tee off on the M's beating them 11 - 0. Scott Baker goes 7 strong, striking out 5 and walking none. Jesse Crain and Joe Nathan each pitch one scoreless to complete the shutout. Not only did the the pitching come through in a big way, but the bats took off. Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris hit the Twins first 3 run homers of the year. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau also hit back to back home runs in the 5th inning.

SATURDAY: The Twins hot hitting comes through again as the M & M boys go back to back for the second game in a row to beat the Mariners 9 - 6. Michael Cuddyer hit the Twins' 3rd 3 run home run of the season the day after they hit their first 2. In a game that could have been billed as a great pitching match-up, we saw Felix Hernandez give up 5 runs in just 4 innings while Francisco Liriano pitched 3 innings of no hit ball before struggling to get through the 4th and 5th. Hopefully the Twins batters will continue to stay hot while the starting pitchers are struggling with big innings. Thankfully they have the talent to do so. 

Joe Mauer was hitting .500 at one point in this game.


SUNDAY: The Twins failed to put the M's away during the early innings and it came back to cost them the game. Erik Bedard seemed to be pitching out of a jam his whole time on the mound. He walked 5 and gave up 5 hits in 4 2/3 innings, but the Twins only managed to score 2 runs off him. The bullpen pitched well for the M's until Brandon Morrow made it interesting in the 9th. Nick Blackburn pitched 7 strong shut out innings for the Twins, holding onto a 2 run lead. In the 8th Jose Mijares got one out, walked Jose Lopez on 4 pitches (only Lopez's 4th walk of the season) and gave up the game tieing homerun to Ken Griffey Jr. Mijares was then pulled for Jesse Crain who gave up 2 more runs without recording an out. Craig Breslow gave up another ER in the top half of the 9th. Fresh off the DL, Brandon Morrow entered the 9th with a 3 run lead. Nick Punto hit a single and stole 2nd base. Morrow got the next 2 batters before giving up an RBI single to Joe Mauer. He then walked Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer on 8 consecutive pitches out of the zone before getting Brendan Harris to ground out with a full count to end the game 5 -3 Mariners. 

 


The 3 game sweep of the slumping Mariners was well within the Twins' reach today; but Twins hitters continued to struggle to get big hits with men in scoring position, and were unable to avoid a big inning defensively. Although Blackburn pitched great, bouncing back from a bad outing in Detroit, the bullpen gave up its 4th loss of the season. The Twins have one of baseball's higher bullpen ERAs (which has been one of the team's strong points over the last few years). They will need to turn this trend around to make the post season.

 
 
 
 
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