Saturday, April 23, 2011
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
The opening days of baseball's season bring such joy to those around the country. For fans it's the culmination of a Spring Training spent wondering how those new acquisitions and returning players will mesh.
The great part about opening day is everyone has hope. YES, everyone.
Royals fans can wonder is this the year a miserable team with a great farm system can begin to get over the hump, Red Sox fans can dream of another world title after acquiring Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez in the off season and of course Twins fans can wonder if this is the year we can finally make it out the of the first round.
I've said since day one of the off season that it's not fair to panic about the last two playoff flops to the Yankees because our only hitter that scares the living bejesus out of opponents, Justin Morneau, has been hurt. I'm still willing to say that with the brawny Canadian in the lineup they could have a chance to win a five game series with anyone.
But the question is....will they get the chance?
Chicago has improved it's lineup with its adding of slugger Adam Dunn and has some good starting pitching. Overall they've become a trendy pick this spring to take the American Leauge's central division.
We can't sleep on the Tigers who boast the A.L.'s best all-around hitter in Miguel Cabrera, newly acquired Victor Martinez and a great one-two combo in the starting rotation with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
Both teams have their flaws but like the editors of the National Enquirer I check the facts, check twice and then check again. And you know what? I see the Whitey's taking the division.
Consider the facts:
Fact: In the last two year's Carl Pavano pitched 420 1/3 innings for the Twins and Indians.
Fact: In the three seasons before, Pavano pitched 145 2/3 for the Yankees.
Fact: Michael Cuddyer turned 32 this week
Fact: Last season Cuddyer hit 18 fewer home runs than in 2009, while his batting and on-base percentage virtually went unchanged. Does that completely have to do with Target Field?
Fact: Denard Span completely blew scout's, fans and teammate's minds with how well he played in his first year and a half as a Twin.
Fact: Last year Span's batting average dropped 47 points, on-base percentage fell 61 and advanced fielding metrics show he cost the Twins 17 runs defensively in center field. Here's a minor league scouting report for 2008, the final paragraph tells us that last season was more of what we should expect from Span than the previous season and a half.
Fact: Nick Blackburn sported 5.42 era, walked one fewer batter than he had in the previous season (except he pitched 44 2/3 fewer innings,) and was sent to down to the minors mid season.
Fact: Kevin Slowey's era was almost a run lower than Blackey's, he lowered the amount of walks and hits allowed and his strikeout rate stayed virtually the same.
Fact: Blackburn's in the starting rotation, Slowey isn't.
Fact: Joe Nathan is a year removed from having his elbow reconstructed.
Fact: Joe Nathan is 36 years old.
All of these facts don't include other question marks like Joe Mauer's health, Alexi Casilla somehow having a starting job, a completely reconstructed bullpen, a Japanese import who's never played in America, Frank Liriano's fragile arm/mind and a payroll that's maxed out and not flexible.
Can the Twins win the central division? Absolutely. I don't want to come down too hard on a team that won 90+ games last year.
Hey maybe Pavano and Liriano hold up, top prospect Kyle Gibson can come up in June and subsequently stay ahead of the scouts and opposing lineups to give us a lift well into October, Mauer/Morneau can return to MVP form, "Dangerous" Delmon Young stays the course, Matt Capps and Joe Mijaris hold down the fort late in games and Danny Valencia doesn't hit too much of a sophomore slump.
There's always hope.
But this team really has something to prove. Many of these players aren't getting younger and the next wave of Twins hitting prospects (Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, Renee Tosoni) are all outfielders. There isn't one infielder set to contribute day in and day out for the major league club aside from maybe, maybe Luke Hughes.
Because of this I think the season abnormally rests on the infields performance. If Tsuyoshi Nishioka can play, Alexi Casilla can focus, Justin Morneau can be healthy and Danny Valencia can get it done five days a week a lot of my fears about the team's chances will subside.
The facts say it won't, though. Minnesota Twins 86-76 second place.