Fire Gardy

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Archive for June, 2009

KC 4 Twins 2

What the hell was that?

Hovechar pretty much couldn’t throw a strike to save his life in the first few innings, yet we still couldn’t get a hit, let alone a run.  Blackburn pitched reasonably well, but if we don’t give him any semblance of support we can’t expect him to win.  We had a pretty fair number of baserunners since we drew a few walks, but we couldn’t move them over at all.  Just pathetic. 

I don’t blame Gardy for getting kicked out.  Although he was right, that ball hit Kubel’s foot. 

Does anyone know what the Twins can do to make a playoff push here right around the halfway point, or are we just a .500 team?  I’m beginning to think its the latter.

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Weekend Recap

Going into this series I was nervous that the St. Louis Pujols’, I mean Cardinals, would beat us soundly.  Not sure why, they aren’t all that good.  Especially offensively.  Their starting pitching has been exceptional lately, and the Twins seem to be easily flustered if an opposing starting pitcher shows early signs of dominance.  Well, Perkins was the one who was dominant on friday night.  He cruised through 7 innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 earned run.  Granted, the Cards lineup isn’t all that great, but he did get Pujols out a few times.  Nathan gave up a double to start the ninth, but retired Pujols, Ludwick, and Ankiel to end the game.  The Nathan-Pujols matchup was a great one to watch. 

The saturday game was much more forgettable.  Both starting pitchers were gone after the third inning.  Not sure if that had more to do with the heat or what, because Slowey didn’t look that bad.  He didn’t look good either.  The bullpen kept us in the game which is all you can ask for, we just weren’t able to score any runs.  All three game on a Brendan Harris 3 run single.  How often do you see that?  The more exciting news of the day was this:  I was at a bar saturday night and some random girl came up to me and said “Hey you in the Twins hat.  You look just like Glen Perkins! Has anyone ever told you that?”  Good thing he pitched well.  I don’t want to be told I look like a guy who gave up 7 runs in 3 innings or something.  Anyway…..

Sunday was much better.  Joe Mauer was playing, Morneau hit a homer, Liriano pitched great.  It seemed that everything fell into place.  I’m happy that we have started playing better on the road lately.  If we can inch closer to being a 500 road team, and continue to play out of our minds at the dome, we should position ourselves nicely for a playoff push. 

We have two divisional series in a row.  At KC this week, and at home against Detroit over the holiday weekend.  A sweep over the Tigers would be great, but I’ll take 2 of 3.

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The Liriano Problem Keeps Getting Worse

Remember yesterday when I pointed out that until things change, there’s no reason to be optimistic about Liriano? Well, things haven’t changed. He looked pretty awful last night, and miraculously allowed just three runs while putting 12 men on base in 5 innings.

He didn’t have any command of any of his pitches, and he looked like he was abbreviating his follow-through on most of his deliveries. That probably still has to do with what Blyleven pointed out a couple of starts ago — that Liriano is landing on his heel instead of the ball of his foot, which creates recoil and makes it harder to deliver pitches with velocity or control. Basically, Liriano is fighting against himself.

I don’t have access to his release point data … but I’m going to go ahead and guess that his release point was all over the map last night. There’s no way it couldn’t have been, given his erratic mechanics.

The solution to The Liriano Problem is unclear. Do we keep sending him out there every five days and hope that the offense can carry us that day … like we did for Carlos Silva, Livan Hernandez, Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, and other 5th-or-worse starters? Do we try moving him to the bullpen to pitch in high leverage situations, where he would almost certainly suffer frequent meltdowns? Can we put him on the DL for something? What about AAA?

None of these options sound particularly good. But the only thing that’s obvious is that Liriano has a problem, and it’s not showing any indication of getting better.

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Luis Ayala is a money grubbing douche bag, and I’m glad he’s out on his ass

So here’s a bit of interesting news. Apparently Luis Ayala had requested a trade three weeks ago, because he was unhappy with his role.* While I think it’s telling that nobody offered anything for him, and continues to be telling that nobody has taken him off waivers yet, I’m even more glad he’s gone now that I’ve heard this news.

* There’s that “roles” crap again. Get over yourself.

Here’s Gardy’s take on the Ayala situation:

“He wanted an eighth-inning role; that’s why he signed over here. He wasn’t pitching well enough to be an eighth-inning guy. So there you have it.

“His thoughts were if we gave him the ball in that eighth inning, he’d be able to do the job. My thoughts are if you’re not getting them out, you’re not going to pitch in the eighth inning. We’re trying to win. So there’s your difference.

“When you walk into my office and tell me you don’t like your role, and he talked about his contract for next year — you lose me right there. I don’t deal with that. We’re talking about winning now. That’s why he’s out the door and another guy’s in there to pitch. And it’s not because he’s a bad guy. His theories are a little different.”

Gardy’s right on the money here. The manager absolutely should not care about a player’s contract, especially his contract for next year, when he won’t even be with the team any more. And when a player starts talking like that, he’s clearly putting himself before the team.

If Gardy thought Ayala could get people out, he’d have been the 8th inning guy. That’s why he was brought here in the first place, and he had numerous opportunities to take over the position. Apparently he didn’t think it was a problem that he failed every time.

I’m glad Gardy reacted the way he did, and my only problem with the way this was handled is that Ayala stayed with the team for three weeks after saying this. He should have been out immediately. (Especially given how shitty he’s been on the mound.)

So now that the contentious and infuriating Ayala Era is over, we can put it behind us and try to win some ballgames.

Go Twins.

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Neyer is optimistic about Liriano, for some reason

Rob Neyer, famous AL Central hater, has an interestingly optimistic take on Liriano’s struggles:

Francisco Liriano’s ERA this season (5.91) is exactly two runs higher than it was last season. He’s been instructed to junk one of his two sliders. But fundamentally the only difference between this season and last season is a few more home runs. He’s still got a fine strikeout rate and he’s still walking more batters than he’d like. If he gives up seven homers — as he did last season — rather than 12, his ERA would look quite a bit better. So, this is no time to panic.
Frankly, I’m a little surprised that Neyer’s not saying Liriano’s career is over.* But part of it might just be that he’s looking at this in a surprisingly simplistic way. (Just looking at the number of home runs, really?)

* My guess is that it’s because the Red Sox have a lot of pitching depth at the moment. If they needed a pitcher, he’d be calling for the Twins to release Liriano. You know, like he did about Jason Kubel right before the season started and Kubel started raking.

I guess Neyer hasn’t seen Liriano’s numbers with men on base:

2008 Nobody on base: .250/.318/.406 Men on base: .260/.338/.374

2009 Nobody on base: .243/.314/.399 Men on base: .325/.413/.595

That’s pretty bad.

I guess he also hasn’t taken a look at Liriano’s struggles the second time through the order, which I’ve talked about in the past:

The first time through the lineup, opponents hit just .163/.253/.263 against him, with a 26/8 K/BB ratio and just 5 runs in 91 batters. The second time: .325/.400/.575 with a 12/9 K/BB and 13 runs in 90 batters. The third time? .396/.460/.717 with a 9/8 K/BB and 21 R in 64 batters.
I guess he also hasn’t looked at thrylos98’s analysis of Liriano’s release point:
As you can see, not only the successful Liriano release points are tighter, they are closer to his body. When he throws further away from his body, bad things happen.
These are a bunch of bad things. Liriano and Anderson have both claimed that they’ve found the problem, and it’s the crappier slider Liriano’s been throwing. If that pitch is the reason his delivery is out of whack, and is the reason he’s throwing fewer changeups, then yeah, maybe that’s the problem. And given that his sharp, biting slider is obviously a better pitch, he should probably just focus on that one.

Still, his mechanics are a major issue, and one that I haven’t seen any indication that he’s resolved. Also, perhaps a bigger issue is his inability to adjust to what hitters are doing to him — this (along with arm fatigue, from conditioning and/or mechanics) is probably the reason he gets lit up the third time through the order.

Obviously, I don’t share Neyer’s optimism. I wish I did. We’ll see how he throws tonight.

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What’s really the deal with Delaney and Slama?

Before the season, the Twins cut ties with Bobby Korecky, allowing him to be taken on waivers by the Diamondbacks. Early in the season they cut Craig Breslow in favor of Sean Henn. This week they cut Luis Ayala and replaced him with Bobby Keppel. Now, Korecky, Breslow, and Ayala were no great shakes or anything out there on the mound, but the Twins have seemed to go out of their way to replace them with inferior versions of themselves.

Breslow’s a crappy left-hander used in a LOOGY role? Well, we have Henn, an even crappier left-hander suited solely for a LOOGY role!

Ayala’s a crappy right-hander completely unsuited for late inning relief? Well, Keppel’s an even crappier right-hander who can barely get anyone out at AAA!*

* Seriously, in 6 seasons at AAA his ERA is 5.13, and he’s struck out just 5.2 per 9 innings. This is his first season as a reliever, and his ERA is down despite the fact that his peripheral numbers are worse; expect him to explode, Ayala-style, in the most embarrassing fashion possible.

Now, you might want to accuse the Twins of being cheapskates. After all, they didn’t go after any of the hot-shot relievers in free agency this year, and they won’t trade away any prospects to pry a good setup man from a flailing non-contender. This is the problem, right?

Wrong.

The problem is that they’re promoting crappy relievers to the majors while excellent relief prospects continue to toil away in the system, dominating at every level, getting older but not better. Robert Delaney and Anthony Slama have nothing left to prove at their current levels — AAA and AA, respectively — but yet they rot.

One obvious possibility is that the Twins believe in Reliever Roles, and they follow that system dogmatically. You must have a LOOGY reliever, which means “a crappy lefty you can bring in to face a single left handed batter, and usually walk him, before going to someone else in a more difficult situation with runners on base, and you have to do this even if he can get right handed batters out just as well.” You must also have a 7th/8th inning right hander who gives up runs every time out but there’s still always the chance he sneaks through an inning somehow. That was Ayala, and now it’s Keppel. Of course, when the Twins’ bullpen was working well (years ago), the Reliever Roles “worked” because all the relievers were good. If you have six relievers who can all go 1-2 innings and not allow a baserunner, much less a run, then it doesn’t matter whether you use them in their proper roles or not — you’ll have a good bullpen.

So is the Twins’ belief in the necessity and value of roles the reason for Henn and Keppel being on the team instead of Delaney and Slama?

It’s possible, I guess. But I’d like to think that the reason is considerably stupider than that. I’ll posit such a reason to you now.

Throughout their minor league careers, Delaney and Slama have always racked up a lot of strike outs. Normally that’s a good thing, but not if you’re being measured by your effort. Let’s just go ahead and say the following happened at some point this season:*

Minor league pitching coordinator Eric Rasmussen sits at his desk; Bobby Keppel, Anthony Slama, and Robert Delaney enter. Rasmussen: Hi guys, thanks for coming in. I called you in here to tell you that one of you is going up to the majors! Delaney gives a little fist pump. Rasmussen: What was that for, Del-y? You think you’re the one getting the call? Delaney: I’m not? I mean, I’ve struck out 9.5 batters per nine over my entire career, and I’m at AAA now … what do I gotta do? Rasmussen: We haven’t seen what we want out of you. You’re not clutch. Delaney: Clutch? I had 18 saves last year! And 35 the year before that! Rasmussen: That’s not what I mean. We haven’t seen you get out of any jams. You’re not putting in enough effort out there. You need to show that when runners are on base, you can get out of that tough situation. Slama: Wait, isn’t it better to just strike everyone out? Rasmussen: Absolutely not! We pride ourselves on our defense around here – Keppel: Yup, I heard that, which is why I signed with the great great great Minnesota Twins organization. Rasmussen: … thank you Bobby. As I was saying, we pride ourselves on our defense, and we don’t want our great defensive players just standing around watching you walk people. Delaney: I don’t walk people. 1.5 BB/9 is pretty low. Rasmussen: Bah! You should be more like Kepp-y here. He’s getting out of jams all the time! Look how many times there are men on first and third and he gets the ground ball! Keppel: That’s true, there are men on first and third a lot. Slama: That’s a BAD THING! Rasmussen: Can it Slam-y. Getting out of tough spots is valuable. You two bums haven’t ever done it. Slama: I’ve struck out 13.7 batters per nine innings! For my whole career! Rasmussen: Exactly. Your 53 strike outs in just 36.2 innings so far this year tell me you’re not ready for Twins baseball. Keppel: Rasmuss-y? Rasmussen: Yes Kepp-y? Keppel: I’m tired from all the work I’ve been doing. Did you know I gave up 26 homers last year? And that my WHIP was 1.663? That’s hard, grueling work. I need to take naps. Rasmussen: I know you do Kepp-y. And look at all those baserunners! And that’s what I’m talking about, you bums. You should be more like good old Kepp-y here. Delaney: You mean you want us to stop striking people out? Slama: And start giving up more runs? Rasmussen: In so many words, yes. Yes I do. That’s why Kepp-y’s getting the call. Congratulations my friend! Keppel: zzzzzzzzz Rasmussen: Aw, isn’t that cute? He loaded the bases last night but only allowed two runs to score. He needs his rest. Delaney and Slama dejectedly walk out of the office, each considering taking up some drugs of abuse so they can get suspended for 50 games and not have to deal with this fucking bullshit any more.
God damn it.

* By the way, this did not happen. I hope.

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Weekend notes

Well, that was a disappointing weekend.  We really needed to win all three of those games against the Astros.  They are simply not a good baseball team. 

  • Kubel left Sunday’s game early because he caught the flu from Mauer.  Or because he terribly misplayed a ball in right field.  You be the judge.
  • Apparently we decided not to hit yesterday.  I was at the game and it was pretty painful to watch.  After watching the first I thought Perkins was going to have a line something like this: 4IP, 8 hits, 6ER.  He managed to settle down and gave up 4 runs over 7 innings. Not great, but considering how he started the game, much better than expected.
  • Saturday’s game really should be the final nail in the coffin for certain bullpen members.  I’m looking at you Sean Henn.  I say we pool our money and buy a plane ticket for Anthony Slama TODAY.  The front office/coaching staff can’t truly believe the bullpen in its current state gives us a chance to win.  They do not.
  • I was hoping this interleague stretch would be a time for us to string together a bunch of wins and surge above 500.  Instead we have decided to stick close to the 500 mark.  Bold move, Gardy.
  • We have nine games on the road starting tomorrow night in Milwaukee, the to Saint Louis and KC.  St. Louis scares me a little, but we should be able to win the series against the Brewers and Royals.  That being said when we play on the road anything goes.
  • Will any moves get made on this off day?  I would bet Ayala’s days are numbered but I saw a stat that he pitches really well on the road, so we will probably keep him around through this trip. 
  • What are your thoughts on what probably has to be the most disappointing series of the year so far?

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Dealing with Crain

According to Joe C, the Twins have decided what to do with Jesse Crain.
 
http://blogs2.startribune.com/blogs/christensen/2009/06/16/tuesday-lineups-crain-crede-cuddyer-span-updates/
 
Apparently the expectation that he may have been pitching through an injury were incorrect, as rather than put him on the DL, the Twins have optioned him to AAA. I’m posting from my non-multitasking iPhone, so I can’t check if he still had options or if he had to pass through waivers, but I expect that we’d have heard about it if we’d put him on waivers.
 
While this comes as a welcome move given his awful performance lately — coming to a head, of course, on Sunday in Chicago when there were 20000 Twins fans in the stadium who knew we’d lost a few minutes before it actually happened — the fact that he was replaced by Perkins is interesting.
 
It leaves Gardy one bullpen arm short of where he normally likes to be, and may open the door for one of the starters to move into a bullpen role.
 
Swarzak can’t come back up until 10 days after he was sent down, unless someone else goes onto the DL. Them’s the rules.
 
So my guess is that one of the following two things will happen:
 
1) Liriano’s next start will be his last chance to stay in the rotation. If he doesn’t pitch well, he goes to the pen and Span goes on the DL to make room for Swarzak.
 
2) If Liriano pitches well, Swarzak stays in the minors and we bring up a right handed reliever when we send down Morales (note that he hasn’t played yet). Hopefully this is Slama rather than Humber or Morillo. Also, Duensing is a possibilty if they don’t care about having an extra lefty (they shouldn’t).
 
The most likely scenario, naturally, is that I’m totally wrong here and the plan is something completely different. The second most likely scenario is that the plan is meaningless because everything will change between now and when it matters.
 
But this is just my reaction to this excellent news.
 
Now we get to be relieved of wailing when Crain comes into games, and Cuellar and the Cliburns get to try to work their magic on his busted mechanics.
 
What are your thoughts?

Posted via email from sirsean.posterous

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Mauer Hovers

I must admit, I’m a huge fan of Posnanski’s latest ongoing feature, So How About This. Know what else I’m a fan of? That he’s basically got a Mauer Watch going, as he brings up Mauer as one of the absurd stats every week when he writes the post.

This week?

So how about this: Joe Mauer, his last six games, is 11 for 26. He’s had a hit every game, two hits in three of those games, and three hits in one game. In those six games, he has raised his average from .413 to .414.

THAT is how hard it is to hit .400 for a season.

Firstly, I’m going to be honest. It’s felt like Mauer’s been slumping lately.

Secondly, I think there’s no better way to explain exactly how difficult it is to hit .400 for a season. Sure, Mauer struggled a little bit this week, and he was sick. But he also went 11 for 26 with a home run. For most players, that puts them in the running for player of the week.

For Mauer, though, it’s just hovering.

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Reusse Attacks Delmon Young’s Attitude

I was at the Twins game at Wrigley Field on Sunday, to witness the Twins’ first loss of the season against a National League opponent. I don’t want to talk about it, except to say that I like Wrigley. I may have more on that in the future. What I want to talk about today is FunBobby’s t-shirt. You see, he was at the game too, and was wearing a Delmon Young t-shirt jersey; I amused myself by making fun of his choice. I believe I called it “an unwise investment.”* But really, I like Delmon Young. And, like FunBobby, I’m still rooting for him to turn it around.

* Of course, since he knows more about such things than I do, he accurately pointed out that t-shirt jerseys aren’t really investments. And here I thought my beat up old #27 Morneau was sure to skyrocket in value one of these days. Maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad about spilling toothpaste on it the other day, then.

Patrick Reusse, on the other hand, is done rooting for that. He feels like an idiot for being tricked into thinking Delmon Young had potential two years ago, and now he’s on the rampage. And do you know what happens when Reusse takes a look at history? He conveniently rewrites pieces of it.

The [scouts'] observations included: “… Delmon, still only 19, has proven himself one of the bright talents in the D-Rays farm system. He has often been compared to Albert Belle,* albeit minus the attitude, for the way he attacks the ball.”

Four years later, the actuality has been that Young compares far more favorably with Belle in attitude than in productivity.

I’d heard Frank Robinson, but oh well. Reusse’s probably just paraphrasing that quote anyway. There’s no link to verify a source.

At this point of the article, I can’t tell if Reusse’s trying to say more about Delmon’s production or his attitude here. But, in reality, while his production couldn’t be much further from Belle’s, his attitude also couldn’t be much further. Delmon has been close to a model citizen in his time with the Twins, aside from a Kubel-esque lack-of-inner-fire-boiling-over-through-the-face,* and this is the first criticism of his attitude I’ve heard all along.

* I believe this method of measuring the quality of baseball players explains why Nick Punto is so beloved. He’s got competitive fire boiling up out of his face all the time.

But maybe I should give Reusse the benefit of the doubt here. I mean, I tried to do that for Geoff Baker, and for Jim Souhan … and you know how that goes. If you find yourself having written an article that heats up my hackles,* it means you don’t get the benefit of the doubt.

* I think I’m going to try to start using that phrase. Who’s with me?

So, Reusse, can you justify yourself? Do you earn the benefit of the doubt by either dropping the bad-attitude thing or, preferably, by explaining exactly how he has a bad attitude?

The Twins had found themselves with a messed-up hitter who had no interest in listening to batting coach Joe Vavra or anyone else.
Okay, so the fact that Delmon’s not hitting can only be due to the fact that he’s not listening to Joe Vavra? I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but Vavra hasn’t exactly done a great job with anyone else, either. In fact, I’d say that there are three real possibilities here:
  1. Everyone is listening to Vavra, and that’s why they all suck
  2. Nobody is listening to Vavra, and that’s why they all suck
  3. Vavra never should have become the hitting coach at all; his one “success,” Morneau, is a great talent who probably would have started hitting like this anyway
Wait, is #3 all that different from #1? And … does it matter? Either way, I think it’s disingenuous to say Delmon has no interest in listening to input or in getting better at the plate.

Reusse goes on to talk about Gardy’s debacle in December, when he told a bunch of farmers that Delmon would be his fourth outfielder. Here Reusse was compelled to put words into Gardy’s mouth, and to project some motivation:

Gardenhire backtracked after that statement reached the Twin Cities, but the message was clear: One season of Young — with Albert Belle attitude and Chad Allen production — was about all the manager could stomach.
Firstly, do you think Reusse is aware that Chad Allen was mentioned in the Mitchell Report? If so … isn’t this exactly the sort of stuff that got Jerod Morris in all sorts of trouble? I mean, I guess this is just another example of a sportswriter making such a claim when — wait a minute! It’s much more likely that Reusse simply had no idea that Allen’s meager production may-or-may-not-have-been fueled by steroids. So this is really just two things: an amusing example of Reusse’s obliviousness, and a cruel insult to Allen, whose promising career was cut short by a busted seam on the Astroturf.* I’m calling “asshole” on Reusse for this one.

* By the way, Chad Allen finished the play on which he blew out his knee. You could see on his face that he knew his career was over, and he still hopped on one leg to chase down the ball as it bounced away from him, and threw it back into the infield to save a run before collapsing in a heap. It was an extremely heart-warming story, until Senator George “World Series Ring” Mitchell turned it into a dark tale of drugs and unspeakable evil.

Oh, it’s one more thing. It’s another comparison to Albert Bell’s attitude. Still no evidence, of course, or “quotes” from actual sources. Just Reusse’s insistence that Delmon’s got a bad attitude. I hope someone shows this article to Delmon, and then starts painting pictures of Reusse onto the balls they’re throwing for batting practice. Joe Vavra, are you listening?

At the end of the day, this is all about Delmon’s production. And people react differently to that.

I, for example, write angry blog posts at work, and unsuccessfully attempt to shout things from the stands when I’m at the game. I’m pretty sure none of the things I yelled actually made sense. FunBobby can surely attest.

FunBobby shows support for him by buying the t-shirt jersey and sporting it to games.

Reusse pens a fogeyish possibly-racist attack on Delmon’s attitude and how he’s not living up to his vast potential as an athlete, and that he just doesn’t understand how someone could throw their god-given talent away like that.

Don’t believe me?

How could that be a young man’s mission, and six years later he’s watching tape of a swing that’s all arms and doesn’t do anything about it? How can a hitter with the assets of strength and bat speed find himself apparently content with bouncing and fisted singles?

I don’t get it. I don’t understand.

That’s what Reusse said. This is the internet. You can’t just make up quotes.

And finally, Aaron Gleeman sits back, pleased with himself that he totally called it all along, and Delmon Young just isn’t good. That’s one way to do it, I suppose. Just doesn’t seem as fun to me.

Maybe Delmon’s finished. Maybe he never actually had all the potential it looked like he did. Maybe he’s just a small tweak from finding himself again. Maybe he needs a new hitting coach. Maybe he needs a change of scenery. Maybe he should be in RF instead of LF. Maybe … a million different things.

But none of them are his attitude.

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