Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Twins Week in Review: April 19th-April 26th

Three Reasons to be Optimistic
1. Taking two of three from the mighty Rays
So what if they gave up 16 runs to do it? Right now I'm encouraged by the offense, because if the pitching gets hot for five days, the Twins will for sure win all five of those games. (Of course, similarly if the hitting goes cold they will lose every game, but I'm choosing not to concentrate on that.)
2. Chris Colabello
Is currently on a tear. He had a huge hit a few nights against the Rays in extra innings. I'm not sure why I keep putting him in this section because he's been just consistently good this first month. If he can keep this up the rest of the season he'll be an all-star. Right?
3. The bullpen
Here's an idea. Let's get rid of all of the starters and just pitch the bullpen the entire game. Deduno can go the first three, then Duensing for two, some combination of Tonkin-Thielbar-Fien in the sixth and seventh before Perkins in the eighth and ninth. That way we can get the unit that threw seven shutout innings in the extra inning game against the Rays and has an ERA of 3.60 this season and, more importantly get the starters out of there.
Three Reasons to be Frustrated
1. The rotation
What the hell? Let's take a look at the rotation. Nolasco: Has surrendered more hits than anyone else in the MLB, huge disappointment so far, making 48 million over the next four years. Hughes: has an ERA of 6.43, making 24 million over the next three years. My exact words on Easter when he had cruised through the sixth were, "I'd take him out right now before he can have a meltdown," Pelfrey: Continues to pitch. Correia: Got shelled yesterday has an ERA over 7, has been a disappointment ever since last May after teasing us in April by starting out 4-1. Gibson: Got hit hard yesterday, but has done well otherwise. Hold on, I'm not done complaining about this.
2. The pitching
Oh yeah, and I almost forgot, this is all happening in one of the best parks to play in for pitchers. What happens if you put Pelfrey in Colorado? I said it at the beginning of the year and I'll say it again. We'll be seeing a lot of 10-9 games.
3. Chris Colabello not on the All Star Ballot
C'mon MLB, leading the AL in RBIs isn't good enough for you? I've already filled out my annual way too early ballot with him as a write in. No, I don't vote irrationally for Twins.
Telling Stat of the Week
Mauer's batting average with two strikes. A huge difference from last year's mark of .291. I still think Mauer will end the year with an average well over .300, after all, he's gotten relatively unlucky this year, having a line drive rate that's higher than last year. But as that stat shows, you no longer expect him to get a hit with two strikes. In the last few years, it almost felt like he had the advantage behind in the count. It's not like that at the moment.
The Dan Gladden Stupidity Moment of the Week
In which we look at something moronic Dan Gladden said while announcing the Twins
I'm cheating here, he actually said this two weeks ago, but it's too good to not mention. While the Twins were playing the Royals, Suzuki hit a fly ball to right and Danny said, "Aoki coming over... and he drops it," I'm thinking, "Yes! now we have a runner on second," before Gladden says "....So Suzuki will get another chance," Oh, thanks for telling us whether the ball was fair or foul, Dan. Does anybody know when his contract is up?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Complainathon Vol. II

     A Giancarlo Stanton homer is always awesome. It's awesome right now and will continue to be when he's playing along with Jose Fernandez in New York or Los Angeles because Jeffery Loria traded them for no particular reason for a prospect with some potential who may or may not work out and a crappy starting pitcher. Anyway, if a Stanton homer is nice, then a walk off grand slam should be even better, right? Wrong. Watch this video and pay close attention to the to idiots sitting in the first row. That's right, they're trying to get noticed on TV. First of all, anyone who does that in any situation deserves a five year minimum sentence in Leavenworth. Secondly, let's count what's going on in the game.
1) The game is tied
2) It is in the ninth inning
3) The bases are loaded
4) The Marlins best hitter is up
     How stupid do you have to be to think, "This is the perfect time to try to get on TV." They don't deserve those seats.
     There's something ESPN fails to understand about the rest of the world. Jim Caple had a great piece about it a couple weeks ago, and that I agree with: Nobody outside of the east coast cares about the Red Sox and Yankees. There are far more interesting things happening at the moment. The Pineda fiasco is a good topic to debate, but frankly, I don't care who wins a Wednesday night game in April. My ideal playoffs would be, in the AL Royals, A's and Rays with the Indians and Rangers as my wildcards. And then in the NL Reds, Nationals and Giants with the Pirates and Braves as the wildcards. If that happened you'd be able to hear everyone at Fox cursing from ten miles away.
     I am sick of hearing everybody complain about the no-call on Draymond Green against the Clippers a few days ago. Look at this video inappropriately titled "Referees miss Draymond Green Foul on Chris Paul" and tell me where the foul is. First, he drives past Steve Blake and towards Green, then, without anyone touching him, he loses control of the ball. After the ball is well out of his possession, he runs into Green rather dramatically to try to get the call from the official. Kudos to him for not falling for his con job. In a related note, I'm not the biggest fan of the current Clippers because their playing style attracts bandwagon hoppers, Paul does things like that, and the idiots who say that Griffin is better than Love. Wins aren't a goo barometer of how good an individual player. If Love got to play with Chris Paul, that team would win 60 games. I can say this without at doubt. Go Warriors.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Twins Week in Review: April 12th-April 19th

Three Reasons to be Happy
1. Kyle Gibson? Kyle Gibson!
Gibson makes it his second week in a row on the top of the reasons to be happy. And he is one. He's tied for the league lead in wins, (Hey, even thought it's still April it's still probably the first time since about 2006 a Twin has been the lead.) and boasts a 0.93 ERA. A pleasant surprise after his atrocious rookie season.
2. Our record is kind of decent
Right now we're 8-8, which is like a lot of things this young season for the Twins, decent, but fantastic when you consider that this is the Twins we're talking about.
3. Finally taking a series from Toronto
First time in the last 16 tries. By the way, here's a trivia question. Who has the most homers at Target Field? The answer is Jose Bautista with nine. He plays there three times a year. Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau, Jim Thome have all regularly played there and yet none of them hit more. There is a real Twins killer.
Three Reasons to be Frustrated
1. The pitching
This seems to be a reoccurring theme in this section. I thought it would change when Nolasco went eight innings on Saturday, but nothing else happened out of the usual this week. The pitching has been by far the most disappointing part of the year. I always anticipated that Pelfrey would be awful, and criticized the Twins when they resigned him, but Hughes was supposed to be better when leaving Yankee Stadium and Nolasco pitched in the playoffs last year. There's always time to turn it around, but for now I'm not impressed.
2. They got pretty lucky in game two Thursday
They pretty much won through the Jays eighth inning meltdown, or as my uncle Pete called it while we were watching the game "Sergio Santos and the Wild Pitches!" (cue cheesy Latin music) "Bringing you the sounds of pitches whistling to the backstop" 
3. Nobody is showing up to the games
Seriously, they've been averaging a little over 20,000 per game and it's especially noticeable if you look at the highlight of Bautista you can see it's almost empty in the seats in the second deck of left field. Hey, at least we're not Marlins fans. More on this in a couple days
Random Thought
I'm not worried about Mauer. He'll get his average above .300 easily. He's been climbing since the second week, so don't think of this as a panic watch. Just an observation that this year's all star game will be about 50% less fun if Mauer isn't there. Think back a couple years ago, when Cuddyer was the Twins lone reprehensive, now imagine someone like that in the Twin Cities at Target Field. Does it seem like fun to you? Me neither.
The Dan Gladden Stupidity Moment of the Week
This isn't really a stupid moment, but think of it more as a "Dan Gladden Giant Ego Moment of the week." Danny was talking about a Twins doctor's son sitting in the stands when he said, "He's wearing a number 32 Twins jersey." Provus, answered, "Hicks?"
Gladden responded "No, think of another 32" The next 30 seconds were Provus naming as many 32s as possible not named Gladden while a playing along yet slightly annoyed Danny tried steering him towards himself. Never change Cory Provus.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Taking the Ball the Other Way, Advancing the Runner: How the Twins Philosophy is Harming the Franchise

     Carlos Gomez has the Brewers out to a terrific start this year. Last year he was one of the biggest surprises in the league when he hit .284 with 24 homers. When he was with the Twins he hit .248 with ten homers total in two seasons.
     Meanwhile in Boston, David Ortiz is beginning another long season, six months removed from winning the World Series MVP and his tenth season of having at least 100 RBIs, all with the Red Sox. In parts of six years with the Twins he hit .266 with 238 RBIs.
     In 2003, as the story goes, Ortiz was in his first year with the Sox, and there was a runner on second with less than two outs. Doing as he was taught to do in the Twins organization, he concentrated on making contact and advancing the runner to third base. After getting back to the dugout, Grady Little said to him, something along the lines of, "Next time try to drive him home instead of advancing him." Ortiz has been a feared power hitter ever since.
     Turning back to Gomez, as a Twin, he never quite seemed comfortable at the plate. He was too tense, he swung at too many bad pitches. But every couple weeks, he would put together a game that made him look like the player he is now. One of the most frustrating parts of the Gomez experience was knowing that he had the tools to do that consistently but couldn't put it all together. Finally, the Twins flipped him for J.J. Hardy, a solid move at the time that would have been even better if Bill Smith hadn't idiotically later traded Hardy for two relief pitchers, but that's a story for later.
     The first two years for Milwaukee, Gomez was a backup and generally the same player he was for the Twins. But then in 2012, things began to change. He was a regular for the first time in Milwaukee, and he had hit 19 homers. The next year he really broke out. Some say he just got more mature and is finally figuring it out and there's a chance of that, but switching teams might have been the real deal breaker.
     The Twins philosophy is, and almost always has been, small ball. They've always preached taking it the other way, advancing the runners, and good placement. Many think this over-complicates hitting by having so many things in their head. Carlos Gomez seems to be one of them.
     What I'm saying about the Twins is that they're too old school. Too dependent on small ball and it's hurting the team. Gomez is infinitely more comfortable hitting for the Brewers than he ever was here. He isn't concentrating on anything but making solid contact and hitting line drives.
      I would bring up his gold glove as well if not for two reasons, 1) This is about hitting, and 2) Gomez was always that good of a fielder, but he wasn't a good enough hitter to win a gold glove in Minnesota. Why do you need to be a good hitter to win gold gloves you ask? Because the gold glove awards are incredibly stupid. Sorry about that rant, now back to the regularly scheduled column.
     Imagine a center fielder for the Twins, who has loads of potential, is very fast, covers a lot of ground in the field and has a rocket for an arm. Despite all of this, he's struggled in the big leagues and isn't living up to his potential. You're thinking of Carlos Gomez right? He could be the answer, it could also be Aaron Hicks. To me, he seems like Carlos Gomez 2.0. He shares all those attributes with him as well as the occasional flashes of brilliance that they've showed. In the Sports Illustrated MLB Preview issue it said on Hicks, "Too many players think they're supposed to be power guys instead of learning to handle the bat." I can see that as a problem for the Hicks as well, but mental issues are easier to fix. The most important thing is good mechanics and letting the ball go wherever it goes. Don't overthink it, if you hit liners, good things will happen. Let's hope the Twins realize this before it's too late.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Twins Week in Review: April 5th-April 12th

Three Reasons to be Happy
1. Kyle Gibson
I was at the game last night and Gibson just looked more confident. He wasn't the scared rookie he was last year. Even when the Royals scored a garbage run in the first inning on a bloop and an error by P-Flo he was never rattled and only allowed three hits the rest of the game. I'm not going to say anything to risk jinxing him.
2. Brian Dozier is continuing his power surge
Dozier currently has three homers with two of them coming leading off the game. At the beginning of the season I campaigned for him to be hitting cleanup, after all, he did lead the team in homers last season.
UPDATE: Dozier's done it again against the Royals, this is getting ridiculous
3. The bats are on fire
After the second game of the season my first thought was, "They'll be playing a lot of games like that this season," meaning, double digit run totals in more crazy games. I've been right. They're averaging 5.7 runs per game and getting unexpected contributions from Plouffe, Kubel and Colabello. Unfortunately.....
Three Reasons to be Frustrated
1. The pitching has been more awful than the hitting has been good
Aside from Gibson, the rotation has been in tatters. Hughes have done nothing to stabilize the staff, Correia hasn't started off well and Mike Pelfrey continues to exist. Really, why did we hand this guy an extension immediately after he goes 5-13 with a 5.19 ERA? I don't care if he was coming off of Tommy John, it doesn't take a full year to recover. Note: I originally included Nolasco in that but after his eight inning, one run performance I took him out. Of course, I won't be able to do that with anyone else so they're free to make me look stupid.
2. Florimon's going to play himself out of a job
I'm a huge Florimon guy, he was great last season at short and competent with the bat. This year he's continuing to be good in the field, but his hitting is somewhere between abysmal and nonexistent. Keep in mind, this is a guy who hit .221 last year, so the bar wasn't set particularly high in the first place. I really hope he can turn around, but at this point he's like that one kid on a little league team who you can mark down as an out before he even makes it to the plate.
3. Carlos Gomez in continuing to be incredible
This week's problems have pretty much started and ended with the pitching, so I'll move my attention to former Twins who it would have been great after leaving. After his MVP caliber 2013 season is off to another hot start in 2014. The Twins need to change their philosophy. More on this in a few days.
Random Thought for This Week
Going on the DL was the best thing that could have happened to Jason Bartlett. Think about it. He went 4-45 in Spring Training, probably shouldn't have beaten out Alex Presley for the fourth outfielder job and everybody knew he wasn't going to do anything, it was inevitable that he would get released. By getting injured, he's increased the number of big league paychecks he gets before leaving. Some people have all the luck.
The Dan Gladden Stupidity Award of the Week
In which we take a look at one moronic thing Dan Gladden said while announcing Twins games
This week's isn't as good as last week, you can't count on Danny to say something that stupid every week, but it's still pretty good. This is just from today. While referring to Aaron Hicks, Gladden said a few innings ago, "He would have ran" if something had happened. Yes, he really said that. I think he's a metaphor for the Twins the last few years.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Scattered Thoughts on The First Week

     Say what you want about Ryan Braun, but the guy sure knows how to shut people up. Although playing in the cordial environment of Philadelphia might have helped him a little bit. That game confirms my suspicions a lot. He's the same player with and without drugs. That's BS that he was only good because of the steroids. If he had been using the entire time, we would have known. That's how the labor agreement helps. You get caught when you take PEDs. If Braun hadn't caught lightning in a bottle by the test being wrong after his appeal he would have been a suspended a lot sooner. While we're at it, here are you top five MLB slimebag rankings of all time as of now.
1. Ty Cobb
I have few policies in life but here's one of them: Whenever you beat up a person in the stands you're a jerk, no matter how much he was heckling you. Another one is: When said heckler doesn't have any hands, you're an even bigger jerk.
2. A-Rod
My favorite part of the ESPN baseball preview: Over half of the players anonymously voting that they would kick A-Rod out of the players union if they could. Sorry, that's not how things work, everybody. You can't just kick somebody out of a union just for being a dick. If that were the case there would have been a lot more unrepresented players.
3. Ryan Braun
Braun narrowly gets the edge over Bonds because of their attitude. Bonds was more "Everybody knows I'm cheating I just haven't gotten caught yet," Whereas Braun was "I'm going to try as hard as possible to clear my name even if it means lying to all of my teammates and humiliating the person who did the drug test."
4. Lance Armstrong
Armstrong is such a jerk that he manages to get on lists that don't even involve his sport.
5. Barry Bonds
Jerk to his teammates, press, fans, coaches, am I missing anybody?
Narrowly missing the list: Pete Rose, John Rocker, Chick Gandil
     It's been ten days and I'm already sick of all of the Derek Jeter farewell ceremonies. I prefer the Todd Helton route: quietly announce it at the end of the season, don't make a big deal, have a ceremony at your home ballpark and don't receive any rocking chairs. That's such an Yankee thing to do, receiving your accolades all throughout the season. This gets downright depressing when you see the Astros Pro Shop. Scroll down on that link if you can't see what I'm talking about.
     Billy Hamilton is awesome. There's nothing you can tell me to convince me otherwise. He's already my favorite player to watch in the league. How many plays do you see like this per game? He's the most exciting player in the game and will only be more spectacular if his hitting gets up to par. Here's an idea from a couple weeks ago: Sports Illustrated said that the Reds should never bunt with Slidin' Billy on first base. How about the bunt and run? It hasn't been used in forever, but if it can work for anyone, it'll work for Hamilton. Here's how it would go: Hamilton runs on the pitch as the batter squares around to bunt. He lays it down the third base line to bring the third baseman charging in. Meanwhile, Hamilton uses his Usain Bolt like speed to round second and breeze into an unmanned third base. It would be difficult to pull off, but the Reds need to realize that Hamilton's speed isn't just averagely, say Mike Trout fast, there isn't anyone comparable and they can utilize it in ways that other teams don't.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Twins Week in Review: March 31st-April 5th

Three Reasons to be Happy
1. Trevor Plouffe has started out well
We've learned from years past to not overreact to hot starts. I did last year with Correia and looked like an idiot. But Plouffe is taking the ball the opposite way and not just trying to hit homers. He still looks dazed and confused about what he needs to do at third base, but hey, you can't have everything.
2. Chris Colabello has been excellent
Colabello is a similar case. Just like Plouffe, he's taking the ball the opposite way, and also like Plouffe, he doesn't play defense. His six RBI game was impressive, and going the opposite way on that homer yesterday was even more so.
3. Paul Konerko didn't completely destroy the Twins 
Okay, I'm really grasping at straws here, but Pauly has been relegated to pinch hitter for the White Sox. You're probably confused about this if you aren't a big Twins fan, but Konerko is on a coveted list of players who completely kill the Twins, along with Curtis Granderson, Jim Thome, Jose Bautista, SNS, (that's an acronym for "Stupid Nick Swisher") Marcus Thames, Craig Monroe and literally everybody on the Yankees.
Three Reasons to be Frustrated
1. Good god.....The bullpen
Were these guys really among the top of the league last season? At the moment, their ERA is 11.37, including a complete meltdown on Friday night and a blown save by Perkins. At least we won't be needing them as much because of all the new starting pitching help we got this offseason with Nolasco and Hughes right?
2. The new starters haven't been particularly impressive
Right now Nolasco and Hughes both have ERAs north of seven. They were supposed to come here to solidify the rotation. That hasn't worked out so well. Heck, I'm expanding this to the entire rotation. There is exactly one person with an ERA below five in it. Maybe we should call up Diamond. (Checking...) Never mind.
3. Joe Mauer
Notice the wording at the top. "Reasons to be Frustrated" I'm frustrated with Mauer's hitting, but I'm not freaking out about it. I'm not particularly concerned with how he's done so far or throwing out weird theories like "Moving to first base has thrown him off" It's early in the season, it's not as if he's never gone through a slump like this. If he goes 4-4 today, which everyone knows he is completely capable of doing, he'll be back over .300. He just needs to hurry up.
Telling Stat of the Week
Number of pitchers with an opponent batting average above .315. I know I said above that it's never good to overreact to things at the beginning of the season, but at the moment this staff is about 100 times worse than last year's. I'm not overreacting, I'm pointing this out.
The Dan Gladden Stupidity Award of The Week
In which we examine one moronic thing Dan Gladden said while announcing Twins games
For this week, we'll go all the way back to opening day, when Gladden was talking about the Pirates and how decorated they were with awards. I don't remember exactly what he said but it went something like this: "I had forgotten that Francisco Liriano won comeback player of the year last year, so he's gonna get that, and Clint Hurdle is gonna receive the Manager of the Year award from Jim Leyland, and Andrew McCutchen is gonna receive his MVP from Barry Bonds," In typical Dan Gladden fashion he used the word "gonna" as often as he could, but that's fine, here's the real problem with that sentence. The Pirates aren't "gonna" do anything! The game had already happened! But what do you expect from Dan Gladden, do you really think he'll bother to do his research? At least they don't have John "I am incapable of speaking and watching the game at the same time so I'll just say things like 'Oh my!' and explain to you what happened after the play is over" Gordon anymore. One out of two is pretty decent. Too bad we can't say the same about the Twins so far.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Excitement of NIT Basketball

     Don't laugh, I'm dead serious about this. March Madness is pretty good, but if you're looking for a perfect combination between excitement and humor, look no farther than the NIT. Where else can you find a forward "un-retiring" a few weeks after his career seemed to be over? Here's a rundown of the highlights of the Gopher game.
     It was poorly played. Only one field goal was made in the entire overtime period, which only happened after Malik Smith missed two free throws that would have sealed the game in overtime, and then no Gopher was able to foul Devin Bookert before he could shoot a three to tie the game. Later in overtime, DeAndre Mathieu got confused and fouled Bookert with the Gophers up by four. Finally, the game ended with Dre Hollins hitting one of two free throws, Florida State going down the court, and missing a three pointer when the Gophers, once again, didn't foul. You can't make this up.  The Star Tribune said the next day the Gophers "Disposed of" Florida State. I would just say they avoided losing the game.
     For me, that was by far the biggest shock of the NIT. I had just spent the last three weeks watching the best played college basketball in the world. I had forgotten what a careless turnover looked like. It was obvious either team would have lost by about thirty to any of the elite eight teams.
     It was poorly officiated. There's a reason those refs weren't in the NCAA tournament. They were more dramatic than Broadway actor. After every offensive foul they would come charging onto the scene and wave it off before dramatically pointing the opposite way. It's hard to describe in text but just know it looked something like this.  After a free throw by Hollins in the last ten seconds of the game right after he had been fouled before the inbounds pass had come in, both teams tried to make subs and they wouldn't let them because no time had come off of the clock. Nothing to complain about there, but then they took no less than five minutes trying to figure out who to send back to the bench and who to keep on the court. This isn't rocket science, guys.
     It was poorly announced. I think Bobby Knight said about ten words the entire night. Then, in today's paper he told Sid Hartman that he was very impressed with the way the Gophers played and that he thought the Gophers, "Played very well in critical situations," This definitively proves that he paid no attention whatsoever to the game. His partners, John Saunders and Fran Fraschilla, weren't much better. They spent more time analyzing a ball bouncing off of a referee's leg than they did any other play. That isn't a joke.
     Looking at everything as a whole, it was one of the most entertaining games of the year. Take everything I've talked about, then add a whole bunch other comedic material, like Rick Pitino sitting right next to the Gophers during the game so you could see Joey King in the frame when ever there was a shot of him. The NIT is like a older and significantly less successful brother of the NCAA tournament. If you want a great experience, watch March Madness. But if you want a laugh, there's no question which one you should see.