Monday, June 9, 2008

Happy Fathers Day

Frank: I know you don't like to talk about statistics, but I have one that I don't think you will mind discussing. For a long time this season, there were very few free passes in games played by the Twins. While we struggled to draw walks on offense, Twins' pitchers were pretty stingy with allowing them. But over the last month our offense has improved dramatically, and part of that improvement has been a significant increase in bases on balls. As we continue to move up the charts in walks taken, the pitching staff keeps throwing more strikes than anyone else in the major leagues. The pitchers have allowed the fewest walks in the majors, so what exactly does that mean to the defense? To the opposing hitters?

Bert: It's nice to have good control as a pitcher, but we have seen over the past two weeks where good control has hurt the Twins starting staff. Good control means different things to me! If the Twins starters have such good control, why can't they start knocking hitters off the plate so they don't continue to reach out over the plate and take advantage of this good control? The most important thing for a pitcher is to get strike one. The next most important thing is to keep the hitters off-balance so they can't continue to time your pitches. This means that you, as a pitcher, need to let the hitter know that you will be pitching to both sides of the plate. Pitching hard inside is a lost art, and I think over the past 10 games we have seen this from the Twins starters. I am not talking about hitting the batter; I am talking about pitching inside aggressively. It's too bad the Twins starters are allowing the opposing hitting to continue to hit hard line drives all over and out of the ballpark, night after night.
Sure it's good for the defense to know that you have good control, but it's also important to let your defense know that you won't allow the opposing team to consistently drive the ball past your defense or over their heads.

Frank: Well, how about the vastness of it?

The Twins have 13 pitchers on the roster right now, which means that there are only 12 spots for position players. That leaves Manager Ron Gardenhire with a limited number of possible substitutions for late-inning situations. He was already forced -- in the first game with this very short bench -- to use a pitcher as a pinch runner. The 13 pitchers should allow for a heavily worked bullpen, especially since we don't have an off day until next Monday. But the beginning of two more weeks of interleague play this weekend means that we will be needing to use our bench more, so we can pinch-hit for the pitchers. So what kind of moves could we make this week? What do you think we should do? What will we do?

Bert: 13 pitchers are too many. The front office needs to help manager Ron Gardenhire and his staff out now. Either designate one of the pitchers for assignment and take your chances that they will not be picked off the waiver wire or trade one of them. Every day the Twins carry 13 pitchers is another day that Gardy can't make the necessary moves to help this team win a ball game.

Frank: This Sunday, June 15, is Father's Day. I know that your father, Joe, is a big part of why we do this blog every week. He, like many fathers do for their sons (like mine), taught you the sport of baseball, and helped you fall in love with the game. That led you to a career (actually two careers) in the major leagues. My dad was born in Brooklyn in 1946, so my burning passion for the game came indirectly from Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers, who branded my father. For more about fathers and sons in baseball, our blog faithful can read the story on the right side of this page (I would highly recommend it!) Apart from the baseball aspect of your dad's life, he is the main reason why this blog exists. Do you want to talk about that, and about your father in general? Do you have some funny stories about him, which you could share in honor of Father's Day? Did your dad ever take you out for a beer in Milwaukee? Would he?

Bert: My dad was a big reason why I fell in love with baseball. He was a huge Dodgers fan and I used to listen to the games with him. My dad worked hard throughout his life to earn money for his family. With two brothers and four sisters, I know it was not easy for him to support the family. His release from his hard work was baseball. Many nights he wouldn't go the sleep until he knew the Dodgers score. He was my hero! To me every day is Father's Day because he is always on my mind and I miss him. He lost his life to Parkinson's, and watching him battle with this deadly disease has actually made me a stronger person. Every day on this earth is a gift and we should all feel this way. Enjoy each day as if it might be your last. Be the best person you can be and at the end, you will be rewarded. I miss my dad but he is in my heart every single day.

Frank: Your dad taught you well, but enough with all the serious stuff. We don’t have these blog entries every week to make people cry, so let’s move on to the lighter side of baseball:

Joe Mauer finally went deep last week -- to the delight of the Metrodome crowd -- not once, but twice. He hit both home runs off left-handed pitchers, belying the old theory that left-handed hitters struggle against southpaws. Also homering for the first time was Delmon Young, who hit his home run Saturday night in Chicago. These two, now that they are off the snide, might be able to hit round trippers more frequently (let’s hope so). And “Casilla Later” struck again, as new slugger Alexi Casilla hit his third homer of the year (and third of his career) Friday night in the Windy City, a night when the nickname was apt. The wind may have helped Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gomez join the long ball parade. Throw in one from big bopper Jason Kubel yesterday afternoon, and the Twins had a productive week, hitting seven home runs. The home run production has spread out now to include everyone expected to contribute. Now we need to watch for slugger Justin Morneau to hit a couple this week in road games against the Central Division of each league -- this afternoon we finish a disappointing four-game set with the Chicago White Sox, who lead the second-place Twins by five and a half games in the American League Central, then it’s off to Cleveland for three games (our first trip there this season) -- this weekend we open the second round of interleague play against our “geographical rivals,“ the Milwaukee Brewers. But power production is just one thing to look forward to. Here are some others:

1) The stability of the lineup, especially if Casilla can play this afternoon, should help over the final week of the grueling 40-game, 41-day marathon, despite further depletion of our infield by injury.
2) We will see if Glen Perkins can return to form starting this afternoon and continuing Saturday. Being on the road might help, after a couple of rough outings in front of the home folks at the Metrodome.
3) As Scott Baker regains strength, he should be able to last longer than the five innings he pitched Thursday. He will try to shut down the rival Indians on Tuesday, and then return to the mound Sunday in Milwaukee, the scene of his triumphant 2007 debut.
I know I speak for Bert when I say, “Go Twins!”

Check out the Twins on FSN North this week:
Tuesday: vs. Cleveland at 5:30 PM
Wednesday: vs. Cleveland at 5:30 PM
Thursday: vs. Cleveland at 5:30 PM
Friday: vs. Milwaukee at 6:30 PM
Saturday: vs. Milwaukee at 5:30 PM

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