Game 2 Recap: Twins 9, Royals 1

When Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were hired to run the Twins, much was made about their emphasis on "analytics".  These two men, we were told, were the men who were going to bring the Twins into the twenty-first century.  We would see new strategies that Twins teams had not previously employed.  I think, two games into the season, we are already starting to see that.

The main strategy the Twins have employed so far is to score several runs per game while limiting the other team to just one.  This strategy is foreign to Twins fans, and may take some getting used to.  So far, however, it seems to be effective.  Yes, it's a small sample size, but many experts believe that this strategy will continue to work if the Twins will just stick with it.

It's a strategy that has at least three components.  One of them is to score six runs in the seventh inning of every game.  A second one is to have you starting pitcher give up exactly one run:  no more, no less.  A third is to have your relief pitchers give up zero runs.  Again, these concepts may seem radical to Twins fans,  They are certainly different from what we've seen in recent years.  And, of course, two games are not enough to know whether these things will continue to bear fruit over the long-term.  Still, I think the Twins should continue using them as long as they're working.

Looking at the game a bit more seriously, Hector Santiago managed to pitch five innings and just give up one run despite throwing just seven first-pitch strikes in twenty attempts.  He apparently did better on second, third, and fourth pitches, as he threw 52 strikes out of 88 pitches.  That means that, other than the first pitch, he threw strikes about two-thirds of the time, which isn't bad at all.  Obviously, starting with ball one is not the recommended procedure, but if you can throw enough other strikes, and are helped out by facing a team that doesn't walk much, you can get away with it.  Watching on TV, I wondered if perhaps his back was bothering him--I saw him appear to try to be stretching it out a few times between pitches.  If so, that would account for him having trouble getting the ball down.  If it was bothering him, it is hoped that he was simply having trouble getting loose on a chilly day, rather than something that will be a chronic problem.

When Santiago came out after five innings, Tyler Duffey came in.  Duffey is supposedly the "long man", but he pitched only one inning.  Now, Molitor has expressed a preference--shared by many managers--of getting as many players into a game as early in the season as possible.  That may be all he was doing here, and if so I have no problem with it.  On the other hand, Molitor has seemed to believe that relief pitchers can work no more than one inning per game, which is one of the reasons the Twins always think they need eight relief pitchers.  I'm not upset about this, but it is something to keep an eye on as the season rolls along.

Byron Buxton got an infield single, which I assume sent Dick Bremer into all kinds of ecstasies.  Bremer was talking earlier in the game about how Buxton needs to hit more "line drives and ground balls".  I'm all for having Buxton hit line drives--it's a good idea for almost every batter to hit line drives.  But ground balls?  No.  It amazes me that someone will talk about how pitchers need to keep the ball down and force the opposing batters to hit ground balls, and then turn around and recommend that your own batters hit ground balls.  Yes, Buxton is a fast man, but he's not going to beat out very many two-hoppers to the shortstop.  If he hits ground balls consistently, the number of infield singles he gets will be dwarfed by the number of ground outs he makes.

Buxton is 1-for-10 on the young season, to which I say, so what?  There won't be five batters in the majors who don't go 1-for-10 at some point in the season.  If he does it in June, no one will even notice.  I don't think I'd have started the season with Buxton batting third, but having decided to do it, the Twins need to leave him there for a substantial period of time and give it a chance to work.  In other words, if they thought they had good reasons to bat him third at the start of the season, nothing that happens in the first couple of weeks should convince them that they were wrong.  Leave him alone and see what happens.

I find it interesting the Robbie Grossman has started the season 0-for-6, and yet I don't hear any of the complaints about his slow start that I hear about Buxton.  Yes, Grossman has drawn a few walks, and yes, there are different expectations.  Still, I think if Buxton had started 0-for-6 with three walks, the reaction would be quite different than it is for Grossman.

The Twins are 2-0 and in first place, and it feels good to be able to say that.  They go for the series sweep this afternoon, and it feels good to be able to say that, too.  It'll be Jason Hammel going for Kansas City and Kyle Gibson pitching for Our Heroes.  If the Twins use the same strategy they've used in the first two games, I predict another victory.  Go Twins!

Happy Birthday–April 6

Smokey Joe Williams (1885)
Mickey Cochrane (1903)
Ernie Lombardi (1908)
Phil Regan (1937)
Marty Pattin (1943)
Bert Blyleven (1951)
Kenny Williams (1964)
Bret Boone (1969)
Lou Merloni (1971)

A star in the Negro Leagues, some say that Smokey Joe Williams was a better pitcher than Satchel Paige.

I haven't checked, but my guess is that four Hall-of-Famers born on the same day is the record.

Continue reading Happy Birthday–April 6

Bruce Springsteen – You Can Never Tell

(been holding onto this post for a bit. started before the man himself passed away, but only made all the more awesome since. definitely a worthy tribute.)

Okay, so I came across this from one of those "You'll Never Believe What Happens Next!!!!!!!11111!!!11" posts, and though I wasn't rendered "speechless", I thought it was pretty cool. Bruce and the boys take an unfamiliar song request from the audience (a very large one, mind you), spend a couple minutes hammering out the specifics, then proceed to play it in front of a crowded stadium. Well played, Bruce.

7 Jul 2013

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Game 2: Kansas City at Minnesota

Starting the season with a win, as opposed to the recent standard "L" is so much fun, I was disappointed the Twins didn't play yesterday. Instead, I watched the Wild clinch home ice for the playoffs and the Timberwolves hang with the  Warriors for about 2 quarters before the Splash Brothers blew the thing up.

So, with limited optimism for this season, and with the understanding that Spring Training results mean next-to-nothing, basically all I have to point to today will be historic results.*

The last time the Twins opened the season with a win, 2008, they proceeded to lose the next three games in a row. After 10 games, they were 5-5 and ended the season at 89-74, good for 2nd in the Central (losing Game 163 to Chicago ... booo!)

The last time they won multiple games out of the gate was a decade ago - 2007 - when they won 3, had a couple days off, lost a game and then basically traded wins & losses on their way to a 6-4 start. They went 79-83 and finished 3rd in the Central.

In 2010, the Twins lost their opener, and then pulled off 5 wins in a row, and 7 wins out of the first 10 games. They finished the season with 8 losses in the last 10 games. They still won the Central, but were swept by the Yankees in the LDS and have not returned the playoffs since.

Whatever - I certainly like the idea of a 2-0 start to an 0-2 start. Though I'd argue the Twins are pitching-poor if Hector Santiago is your #2 starter, I certainly wouldn't mind if he can get back to the 2015 version of himself (32 games started, 180.2 IP, 8.1 SO/9, 3.59 ERA, 105 ERA+, 1.256 WHIP).

The Royals counter with Ian Kennedy on the mound.

*Historic results also mean nothing ... but what else am I going to talk about?

Happy Birthday–April 5

Bill Dinneen (1876)
Wid Conroy (1877)
Bill Lachemann (1934)
Ron Hansen (1938)
Rennie Stennett (1951)
Andy MacPhail (1953)
Cris Carpenter (1965)
Ross Gload (1976)
Jorge De La Rosa (1981)

The brother of Rene and Marcel Lachemann, Bill Lachemann is a long-time minor league manager, coach, and scout.

Andy MacPhail, of course, was the general manager of the Twins from 1985 through 1994, a period which included both of the Twins' World Series titles.  He later worked for the Chicago Cubs and the Baltimore Orioles.  He is currently the President of Baseball Operations for the Philadelphia Phillies.  He is the son of baseball executive Lee MacPhail and the grandson of baseball executive Larry MacPhail.

We would also like to wish a happy birthday to Mrs. brianS.

There are no players with connections to the Minnesota Twins who were born on this day.

Happy Birthday–April 4

Bill Hinchman (1883)
John Hummel (1883)
Tris Speaker (1888)
Joe Vosmik (1910)
Mickey Owen (1916)
Gil Hodges (1924)
Gary Geiger (1937)
Bart Giamatti (1938)
Eddie Watt (1941)
Jim Fregosi (1942)
Mike Epstein (1943)
Nick Bremigan (1945)
Ray Fosse (1947)
Herm Schneider (1952)
Tom Herr (1956)
Brad Komminsk (1961)
Scott Rolen (1975)
Casey Daigle (1981)
Cameron Maybin (1987)

Bart Giamatti was commissioner of baseball from April 1, 1989 until his death on September 1, 1989.

Nick Bremigan was an American League umpire from 1974-1988.

Herm Schneider has been a trainer in major league baseball for over thirty years.

We would also like to wish a happy birthday to CarterHayes’ brother.

Continue reading Happy Birthday–April 4