February 2008


*Please note the date I wrote this (February 24th), making the first two paragraphs basically obsolete. They now have 17 wins and are 7-8 in the conference.

First the basics: 16 wins, 6-7 in the Big Ten, good for 6th in the conference.
Today (Sunday) they play Penn State at 11AM. A month ago they beat the Nittany Lions by 3 points @ Penn State. Usually the Barn is considered an advantageous court for the Gophers, giving them a slight edge. The Lions are 12-13 and 4-9 in the Big Ten and are coming off an 81-49 thrashing by Mich. State.
I see the Gophers winning this one. (real outcome – Gophs win 75-68)

This Wednesday the Gophers travel to Purdue which is currently 21-6 (12-2 in Big Ten) and first in the conference. There are two reasons why the Gophers *could* beat the Boilermakers, although they are reaching for quite a bit. Number 1 is, Purdue lost to Michigan State by 3 points earlier in the season and the Gophers lost to Michigan state by just 5 points. 2 is in the same fashion; Purdue lost to Indiana by 9 while the Gophers lost to the Hoosiers by 5 earlier in the season. Minnesota will probably lose this one. (real outcome – lose 65-53)

March 1st has them playing Ohio State at home, the most important game out of all of these. The Buckeyes are 8-5 in the Big Ten but has lost to Michigan, Indiana, and Iowa this season. The Gophers have beat Michigan twice, and Iowa by 13 in their only meeting and like I said earlier, lost to Indiana by just 5. Most people have been talking about how the Gophers have had no “signature” win this season, well I think this could be it. A win here and also against Penn State would give them 18 on the year with 2 to play. (real outcome – win 71-57)

Second-to-last game is against Indiana. For the third time, they only beat the Gophers by 5 in the last meeting. But, Indiana is 11-2 in the Big Ten, definitely a powerhouse. A win here would definitely trump a win against Ohio State for the “signature” one.

The last game is against Illinois, a team that already beat the Gophers pretty handily but definitely should not have. The Illini are 11-16 and 3-11 in the conference. I see this game being a total reversal of the first one with the Gophers coming out on top. Illinois has lost to Penn State twice this year while the Gophers have beat them once and probably twice. (indeed, it’s now twice after their second matchup)

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Well, kind of. There hasn’t been an official article about it, but he picked up his visa and was expected to arrive at camp shortly thereafter. It’s good news, even though he has already thrown in the Dominican at the Twins’ academy. Now he can participate with the team on other drills not related to pitching.

 

Check out stick and ball guy.com for a compelling argument on why a platoon of Brendan Harris and Nick Punto at second base just might work.

 

Also, check out this link for the televised Spring Training schedule for the Twins.

 

I will be busy the next couple of days so on Friday expect a post that explains how the Minnesota Gophers Men’s basketball team has a shot at winning 20 games this year.

Early in Spring Training, there are already some things that Twins fans can be sure of: Delmon Young will start in LF, Justin Morneau will bat cleanup, and 3B Brian Buscher has a good chance to make the team, as a backup to Mike Lamb at third and Morneau at first.

 

Alexi Casilla made it in time for the first full-squad workout, as did Dennys Reyes, but Francisco Liriano still hasn’t gotten his new visa. Expect him back either Tuesday or Wednesday.

 

Apparently, the team and closer Joe Nathan have now distanced a bit regarding each side’s stance on a contract extension. This contradicts reports earlier last week that the two sides were fairly close on getting a deal done. If a deal is struck, it really isn’t worth it. There’s a good chance that Nathan would fetch more than Johan Santana did, if Nathan is traded at the proper time (the All-Star Break). But the team has told him they want to keep him, so the chances of that happening are probably slim.

 

Check out this article about our new “ace”, Livan Hernandez. He seems like an old-fashioned kind of guy, one that has no problems throwing 120+ pitches in a game, and then doing it again 5 days later. I’m interested in how Ron Gardenhire will handle him. It’s highly unlikely he’ll let Livan throw more than 110 in a game, ever, but Hernandez has a history of high pitch counts – he once threw more than 150. On the other hand, Hernandez doesn’t throw above 84 or 85, so it’s possible he physically can do 110 or 120 with no extra stress/pressure on his arm.

 

Boof Bonser is excited to get back to the Metrodome. Why? He thinks his 30 pound weight loss has added some velocity to his pitches. “That would be huge. Believe me, 2 or 3 mph, I would love that,” said Bonser. There are no radar guns anywhere on the Twins’ training facility, probably a good idea. Pitchers can get so caught up in how fast they throw that they forget to work on mechanics (if necessary), or just improving other pitches.

 

Pitcher Bartolo Colon was signed to a minor league deal, which would be worth about $1 million if he makes the team, by the Red Sox today. I wouldn’t have minded if the Twins tried to sign him. After all, he did win the 2005 Cy Young award. But last year was injury-ridden and he’s definitely on the last leg of his career. Still, that’s about 1/6 the price of Livan’s contract, and probably around 80% of Livan’s production. Shannon Stewart got a contract from the Blue Jays that could be worth around $1.5 million if he makes the team. Jason Tyner was signed by the Indians last Thursday, for…can you guess? A minor league contract. He will be battling another Tribe member in Spring Training for the 5th outfielder spot so, in theory, he could still be available if the Twins suddenly feel that a combination of any of Carlos Gomez, Jason Pridie, and Denard Span won’t get the job done in CF.

Well I was watching the Golden Gophers basketball team beat Michigan 69-60 last night so I don’t have a ton of stuff for you guys today. So I’ll leave you with a few links to different articles you can read about how Spring Training is going.

 

  • Only 3 players have yet to arrive and they are the three with passport problems: Dennys Reyes, Francisco Liriano, and Alexi Casilla. Reyes actually made it to Florida yesterday and the other two hope to be in camp by the end of the weekend.
  • Jason Kubel doesn’t care where he plays, he just wants to play. Judging by his monster months of August and September last year, I have to agree.
  • I can never get the link to work on my computer, but Phil Miller is doing a blog about Spring Training for the Pioneer Press. He updates it a few times a day with various information and news about any player that’s there. Check it out.
  • Again, Delmon Young claims his bad boy days are in the past. At this point, there’s no reason to not believe the kid.
  • Denard Span said a few ridiculous things in this article about “issuing a challenge” to Carlos Gomez and Jason Pridie. One thing that isn’t ridiculous is that he thinks the ML job is his and will work hard and fight for it. Not that I agree, I think it’s probably Pridie’s at this point, but if Span is willing to fight for it, then it’s a good sign.
  • Star Tribune writer La Valle E. Neal wrote a lengthy piece on Joe Mauer and how he thinks he’s finally 100% healthy, claiming that last year he came to ST and was already gassed.
  • I believe tomorrow is the first official full-squad workout for the team, so I’m sure there will be lots of random, mostly unimportant news that comes out over the weekend. Have a good one everybody.

Some more news for all of you:

 

  • Add Dennys Reyes and Alexi Casilla to the “I’ll-be-late-for-camp” list (already graced with Francisco Liriano‘s name). Reyes’ passport will expire in May but apparently had 4 months to get his paperwork done. GM Bill Smith called him “careless”. Casilla, on the other hand, had a family emergency that caused him to miss his scheduled visa appointment.
  • The Twins and closer Joe Nathan are still discussing a contract extension. Manager Ron Gardenhire sure is confident about something getting done. I’m still indifferent on this one. It’s like, wouldn’t you rather spend a boatload of money on a guy who will either a). play for you every day or b). face upwards of 20 batters every 5 days, instead of on a guy who will pitch 80 innings if he’s lucky? Not to mention it seems like the organization’s policy has generally been to play youngsters making close to league minimum in favor of over-payed stars (Casilla over Luis Castillo, anybody over Eric Milton, etc.). Thus, it would seem logical to trade Nathan at the deadline for prospects (it’d be plausible to get more for him than they did for Johan Santana) or even an impact player or two and try and convert one of their 462 starting pitchers currently in the system to a closer (I made that number up but you get my point).
  • 3B Tommy Watkins is learning how to catch, trying to improve his chances of staying with the ML club. With Chris Heintz no longer around, you know Gardy would love a third catcher, in case the “using a catcher at their position as well as DH and one of them gets hurt” debacle ever occurs.
  • I can gather two things from this article: new pitcher Livan Hernandez is overweight and should start hanging out with Boof Bonser immediately, and Gardenhire thinks he’s a comedian by telling Livan (in reference to his earrings) “We don’t wear bling-blings out on the field.” Gardy admits that he and other coaches will have to “mold” Livan into “our kind of guy”.
  • Maybe you’ve heard that the Twins are planning on honoring former Twin Torii Hunter on Opening Day in the Dome. My only question is, why? He played with us for 10 years, found a great offer and left. Opening Day starts the official season of record, I’m not sure if the Twins’ brass is aware of that. I don’t believe you should “honor” a former player who is now on the opposing team, i.e. the enemy. Maybe when he retires, retire his number or do a nice little ceremony, sure. But not at the start of the season
  • Something humorous from the same article the previous bullet came from: “One person who has a vested interest in this year’s U.S. presidential election is ex-Twins pitcher Johan Santana, who could be taxed an additional $6 million if the Democrats win and repeal the Tax Reduction Act.” With his new $150 million contract, I have a feeling that $6 mil. is chump change.

I’ve been reading a bunch of different news articles over the past couple days, compiling news and tidbits about the Twins. Here are some of those:

 

Now you know I probably wouldn’t use a word like “stalwarts”, so as you may have guessed, the answers to those questions and 6 more from the same mold can be found in La Velle E. Neal’s most recent column.

In a transaction reminiscent of January 2007, and with the team being $22 million under their cap, the team signed veteran free agent pitcher Livan Hernandez. The move didn’t particularly upset me, as I feel the team is more than one key piece away from being a contender (not that Hernandez would qualify as that piece), but it certainly did come as a surprise. Here is a comparison of Hernandez and 4 other pitchers who were signed for less money than Hernandez. In figuring out these numbers, I rounded just about everything to make it easier on you guys, and the average IP/start numbers are a little off for both Wells and Lieber as they’ve logged about 80 relief appearances between them and I did not factor those relief innings out of total IP.

Player Age 2008 Salary (in millions) Avg. IP/start Avg. starts/yr. Career ERA
Livan Hernandez 33 5 6.7 29 4.25
Matt Clement 33 1.5 5.9 30 4.47
Kip Wells 30 3.1 5.8 25 4.63
Jon Lieber 37 3.5 6.6 25 4.28
Jason Jennings 29 4 5.9 29 4.91
Randy Wolf 31 4.75 6.1 23 4.26

 

As you can see, there weren’t very many viable options. Not to mention that Livan is an absolute workhorse, logging more than 200 IP in a season 9 times in his career to go along with 43 complete games. The Twins didn’t sign him to be our ace; they signed him to be insurance for the bullpen, which was sure to get overworked with a rotation of Scott Baker, Boof Bonser, Kevin Slowey, a Francisco Liriano nobody has seen before, and (insert any one of the numerous starting pitchers in our organization here). Considering last year was Baker’s first “full” year, which wasn’t even that full: 23 starts, 143 and 2/3 innings pitched, and a month and a half spent at AAA at the beginning of the year. Bonser actually managed 30 starts last year but never pitched more than 7 innings, although his offseason pound-droppage should help with that. And Slowey, if he even wins a starting spot, will try and just stay consistent in his first full year at the ML level. With Liriano, anything really is possible. It’s assumed he’ll start the year in the rotation, but he definitely will not produce like he did in ’06.

But those were just the guys who signed for less than Livan. As far as 1-year deals go, only 3 starting pitchers signed for more than Livan: Andy Pettitte, Kenny Rogers, and Tom Glavine signed for $16M, $8M, and $8M respectively. Speaking of Glavine, only 3 pitchers have made at least 30 starts in each of the past 10 seasons: Glavine, Hernandez, and future Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux. That’s pretty good company. And Livan also leads the majors in innings pitched since 2003.1 

After some further review, the signing doesn’t seem to be all that bad. However, Livan gave up 34 HR last year (2nd most in the majors) and all of his career has been spent in the National League, where a pitcher bats every 9th time instead of a DH, making it considerably easier to put up much better pitching stats versus the AL.

Signing Hernandez pretty much eliminates the Twins from acquiring (or attempting to acquire) pitcher Josh Fogg, who is from the same mold as Hernandez: above 4.00 ERA, lots of innings pitched.

 

 

In some cheap young player news, “Hall of famer and former Twin Rod Carew, who was a master bunter, will make [Carlos] Gomez an early project in spring training, working to capitalize on his exceptional speed.”2

 

 

I had heard rumors of this next story but I didn’t want to mention anything unless a major news source reported it. Well, si.com ran the article so I’ll link to it here, but provide a brief summary: it’s rumored that with 5 minutes left in the window (the extended window too, not the original one) that was given to the Mets and pitcher Johan Santana to negotiate a contract, the two sides were about $5 million apart. Santana claimed he was fully prepared to walk out without agreeing on anything and to pitch 2008 with the Minnesota Twins. Apparently the sides met halfway, but if that’s true, it sheds a different light on Johan. It’s fairly obvious that he wanted out of Minnesota to pitch for a big market team, but if he was willing to let $5,000,000 get in the way of that? That’s just crazy.

 

In stadium news, the team has decided to add $22 million worth of amenities to the outdoor stadium set to open in 2010. These include more women’s bathrooms, some outdoor “heating shacks”, and a better stone used for the outside of the structure. More on this can be read here.

 

 

 

1http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/7789152/Twins-pick-up-free-agent-hurler-Hernandez

2http://www.twincities.com/walters/ci_8219112

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