Is it 2005 all over again?

August 17, 2007

I have heard it said a few times that the 2007 Twins team is very similar to the 2005 team (in fact, I have thought that myself). The 2005 team had a good pitching staff that got very little run support, and that certainly seems to be the case in 2007. I wondered if the numbers reflected that comparison, and found that the do in some respect, but there are a couple of other seasons in Twins history that 2007 also closely resembles.

So far this year, the Twins have scored 545 runs, or 4.54 runs per game, while allowing 529 (4.41 per game). If they continue at the same pace over the final 42 games, the Twins will finish 2007 with 736 runs scored and 714 runs against. For a frame of reference, the 2007 American League averages 4.87 runs per game, or roughly 789 over a full season. The Twins are currently 12th out of 14 AL teams in runs scored per game, and 5th out of 14 in runs allowed per game.

In 2005, the Twins finished with 688 runs scored (4.25 per game), with 662 runs allowed (4.09 per game). They were dead last in AL runs per game, and 5th out of 14 in runs allowed per game. The league scored 4.76 runs per game in 2005, an average team would score about 771 runs in 2005.

So the short answer is yes, 2007 and 2005 are quite similar. Relative to the league in which they played, the 2005 team had a slightly worse offense, but also allowed fewer runs relative to the league.

There are a couple of other seasons in Twins history that look similar to 2007, both happening more than 30 years ago. The 1976 Twins finished 85-77, third in the AL West. They scored 743 runs and allowed 704. Though the raw numbers look almost identical to the 2007 projections, it should be noted that in 1976, 4.59 runs per game was enough to lead the American League, while the 4.35 runs per game that the Twins allowed ranked them 10th out of 12 AL teams. Same story for the 1973 team that finished 81-81. They scored 738 and allowed 692, were 5th out of 12 in runs scored per game, 6th out of 12 in runs allowed per game.

2007   4.54 R/G (12th AL)   4.41 RA/G (5th AL)         AL R/G = 4.87
2005    4.25 R/G (14th AL)    4.09 RA/G (5th AL)     AL R/G = 4.76
1976    4.59 R/G (1st AL)        4.35 RA/G (10th AL)      AL R/G = 4.01
1973   4.56 R/G (5th AL)      4.27 RA/G (6th AL)         AL R/G = 4.28

I only include the 1970’s seasons to show that if the current version of the Twins (or the 2005 version) played in the 1970’s they would have one of the league’s better offenses.

As it stands, the 2007 season is shaping up to look a lot like the 2005 season, not only in run splits, but also in final record and place in the division. I suppose that the encouraging thing is that 2006 followed 2007, so I suppose we have 2008 to look forward to.

Born August 17, 1965
Alex Cole
Was an outfielder for the Twins in 1994 and 1995. He had a solid 1994 season but there wasn’t much room for him when Marty Cordova came along in 1995. If the Twins could have known that 1995 was Kirby Puckett’s last season, it might have made since to keep Cole around for 1996. Cole was more famous to me as the guy with the fashionable eye wear, shown off over the years on his baseball cards.

Born August 17, 1930
Buck Varner
His entire career happened in September of 1952: 2 games, 5 plate appearances, 1 walk, 0 hits, and my guess is that this is his only mention on a blog.


On Bonds

August 10, 2007

It finally happened. Earlier in the week Barry Bonds hit number 756, and somehow life goes on. Since I waited a few days to react, there is probably nothing I can write that hasn’t been written. I don’t have any particular love for Barry Bonds. I find his public persona to be surly, arrogant, and not particularly likable. That said, there are a number of people who have spent time with him and said that he isn’t as bad a guy as he comes across. Either way it should be irrelevant. Despite his shortcomings, I have found him to be somewhat of a sympathetic character over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, I was once again saddened to be reminded of who is in charge of the game I love. Bud Selig, the man who looked the other way for more than a decade while it became more and more apparent that there was a problem in the game, was presumably too busy counting the money he has made to be at the game in which the record home run was hit.  Suddenly Mr. Selig is the moral authority on all things performance enhancing, and has declared through his actions and delicately chosen words that Bonds’ record is tainted. Selig, who is as much to blame as any player for the problem, has chosen to leave Barry Bonds hanging out to dry, and has taken several opportunities to point out how much he has done over the past few years to clean up the game. There has been no word from Bud about what he was doing during the mid-to-late 90’s.

The big question, of course, is if the record is tainted. While it is pretty safe to say that Bonds did use some form of performance enhancing drugs in his career, the extent of his use is unknown (as is the extent of the use of the pitchers he hit his home runs against). 756 is a lot of home runs, and if it was a simple as taking a PED to get there, Bonds would not be the only one.

When history remembers Barry Bonds and his home run record (which is likely to be broken in a few years by Alex Rodriguez, who, by the way, is not a true Yankee), it will be understood in the context of his era. Similar to some of the great pitchers of the dead ball era, Bonds put up the biggest number in a time of big numbers. Like it or not, Barry Bonds is baseball’s new home run king.

Meanwhile, the AAA team that stole the Twins’ uniforms and began to play in their place continues to struggle in the run-scoring department. There seem to be two distinct camps that Twins fans fall in these days:

1. The fault lies with Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau, and Hunter. Call this the Barriero camp. These are the guys who are expected to perform, but have struggled with the team. Joe Mauer seems to be a particular target in this regard, though I did overhear a guy at the Metrodome claiming that Justin Morneau is the problem. Not that Morneau is struggling, mind you, but that he is the reason the Twins are losing.

2. The fault lies with team management, who have stocked the rest of the team with piranhas who seem to lack bite. It is Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire’s job to stock the team with hitting talent. Beyond the top four, the team is pretty thin in that department, and has done nothing to improve as it has become more and more apparent that there are some major holes in this lineup.

I tend to lean more towards the second camp. When a team loses to the Royals 1-0, however, there is plenty of blame to go around.

Born August 10, 1927
Bob Chakales
The Golden Greek pitched for Washington from 1955-1957. As a relief pitcher, he walked more than he struck out, but could handle a bat, hitting .271/.278/.333 lifetime.

Born August 10, 1923
Bob Porterfield
Porterfield won 22 games for the Senators in 1953, but his best statistical season was 1952. Though he finished with a 13-14 record, his ERA was 2.72 and his ERA+ was 131, compared with 3.35 and 117 in his 22-win year.

Born August 10, 1916
Buddy Lewis
John Kelly Lewis took over at second base for an injured Buddy Myer in 1935. Though Myer returned, Lewis was shifted to third base and continued to play with Myer, who took the 18-year-old under his wing. Myer eventually passed on his nickname to Lewis, who played mostly at third base for Washington until the war. After returning from the service, he finished his career in the outfield. Lewis was a very good player who lost some of his prime years to WWII.

What’s Your Favorite Luis Castillo Story?

July 30, 2007

With the news that Castillo is on his way to New York, I remembered one of my favorite quotes from the Twins this year. It was originally reported by Lavelle E. Neal when the Twins were playing in early April and there was a chance of snow.

“Considering I’m not even sure Luis knows how to even get to the ballpark, it will be tough for him, let alone to drive in the snow,” (Mike) Redmond said. “I would want to alert the Minneapolis-area commuters that Luis Castillo would be driving in the snow, because that would be scary. Truly scary.”

Castillo, who has never driven in the snow, was unaware of the forecast.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “I better go slow.”

By the time the Twins took the field for early stretching, Redmond had promised to bring Castillo to the park today.

It’s sad to see Castillo go, and it feels like a white flag of sorts, but it is probably the right move considering that Luis is not a part of this team’s future plans.

On the plus side, the Twins acquired Drew Butera, son of former Twin Sal, in the deal.


July 23, 2007

In between Twins wins this weekend, I got a chance to take my family to a vintage baseball tournament in Stillwater. It is an annual event that takes place as part of Lumberjack Days. Aside from the novelty of watching 1860’s era baseball, it was also nice to see the game played outdoors.

My rooting interest was with the Quicksteps, a team that is made up of members of the local SABR chapter (though the Souvenir Programme made it clear that “cranks” are expected to yell “huzzah!” for good plays be either club). The other teams were the St. Croix Base Ball Club and the Afton Red Socks.

The early game between Afton and St. Croix wasn’t particularly close, but there were a few notes of interest. The umpire, who basically paces behind home plate during the game waiting for a disputed call, was getting a little cranky and started distributing $.25 fines to pass the time (in fairness, I would be cranky too if I had to wear an 1860’s suit in late July). One player was fined for spitting, while another was fined for “endangering the cranks” – he hit a foul ball into a group of people gathered on the third base line.

While the game looks similar, there are a few major differences. The biggest change to my eye was the “one bound” rule. A batter was ruled out if the fielder caught the ball in the air or on one hop. Pitches have to be delivered underhand and “to the batsman’s liking”, but the game is still very defensive due to the 90′ distance between bases and the softer ball that is used.

The Quicksteps and Red Socks played a more competitive second game that ended in a Red Socks win. My son made it clear that he didn’t want to stay for the third game.

I intended to post pictures, but the digital camera had not yet been invented, so I didn’t want to scare the players (or maybe I forgot to pack it…). Instead, I offer a video that I posted a year or so ago of Conan O’Brien enjoying some vintage baseball:

All in all it was a fun afternoon.

Friday night I was at the Metrodome for the first game of the Twins-Angels series. I think that, after the first four innings of that game, we can finally lay to rest the notion that the Twins are a team that “does the little things” well. This has been a season of base running errors, misplayed balls, and just some stupid plays. Forget that my position is that the sacrifice bunt is poor strategy 98% of the time, the Twins can’t even seem to execute a bunt properly so I can complain about the strategy.

The game itself was entertaining, almost in a little league sort of way. Still, a win is a win, and it was nice to see the Twins pull out a game by doing the “big things” like hitting home runs and triples. A little bit of power covers up an awful lot of those little mistakes.

Coffeyville Whirlwind will be on auto-pilot most of this week. I’ll be heading down to St. Louis for SABR 37. As of now, I am most looking forward to meeting Mike Marshall, who will be giving a presentation on the mechanics of pitching. In addition, there are some interesting player panels with some old Cardinals and Browns that should be interesting, and Joe Garagiola is the keynote speaker. If I have time, I will check in with some reports, and will still be checking comments and email since I still have posts scheduled through Wednesday.

Born on July 23:
Ray Scarborough b. 1917
Scarborough, a right-handed pitcher, played for Washington from 1942-1950, though he missed two seasons for military service. It was after the break that he became a reliable starter for the Nats, and had his best season in 1948. Scarborough was traded to the White Sox in the middle of the 1950 season, and bounced around with various teams until 1953. He was selected to the 1950 All Star team and pitched one inning in the 1952 World Series when he was with the Yankees.

A Couple of Monday Notes

July 16, 2007

1. Remember 2003?

AL Central Standings, All Star Break 2003

ALC     W   L    GB      WP      RS      RA
KCR    51  41     -     .554    484     478
CHW    45  49   7.0     .479    393     407
MIN    44  49   7.5     .473    431     466
CLE    41  53  11.0     .436    403     455
DET    25  67  26.0     .272    297     461

The first series after the break was a four-gamer with Oakland at the Dome. The Twins swept the A’s in that series, and went on to post a 46-23 record the rest of the way to overtake the White Sox and Royals for the division championship.

AL Central Standings, 2003 Final

ALC     W   L    GB      WP      RS      RA
MIN    90  72     -     .556    801     758
CHW    86  76   4.0     .531    791     715
KCR    83  79   7.0     .512    836     867
CLE    68  94  22.0     .420    699     778
DET    43 119  47.0     .265    591     928

This year, the Twins had a better record at the break, but still found themselves in third with quite a margin to make up.

AL Central Standings, All Star Break 2007

ALC     W   L    GB      WP      RS      RA
DET    52  34     -     .605    512     407
CLE    52  36   1.0     .591    471     414
MIN    45  43   8.0     .511    436     399
CHW    39  47  13.0     .453    354     420
KCR    38  50  15.0     .432    402     437

The first series after the break was a four-gamer with Oakland at the Dome. The Twins swept the A’s in that series…

2. The Curse is Over

My son saw his first Twins’ winner on Sunday at the Metrodome. Since it was an afternoon game, he actually was awake for the end (he napped during the middle innings), and slept happily in the car on his way home, no doubt dreaming about Joe Mauer walk-off hits and Twins wins.

Swinging Bunts: Recent history at Yankee Stadium

July 6, 2007

Haven’t written much about this year’s team in a while, so here goes:

There will be no tears shed by the Twins when Yankee Stadium sees its last game at the end of next season. That means the Twins will only play one, maybe two more series in the old stadium.

Since Ron Gardenhire took over as manager after the 2001 season, the Twins are 3-16 at Yankee Stadium, including yesterday’s loss. In fact, one of the trivia questions on the Twins broadcast this week was who are the only two Twins pitchers to have wins at Yankee Stadium since 2002 (the answers, of course Johan Santana, who has now won two, and Scott Baker).

In the Gardy era, the Twins are only 10-28 overall against the Yankees. Ron Gardenhire didn’t even see a win against the Yankees until his third season as manager, before which his teams were 0-13 against the Bronx Bombers.

A lot has been written around the Twins blogosphere regarding a lack of offensive production outside of the big four (Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau, and Hunter). It has been a long time since the Twins have had four bats of that caliber in the same lineup (maybe Puckett, Hrbek, Davis, and Mack in 1991?), and it is frustrating that the team still struggles to score runs.

What is particularly frustrating, from a fan’s perspective, is that it would seem to be pretty easy to improve at positions like 3B or DH. It can’t really be much worse, and there are some options that would be relatively cost-effective alternatives to Punto and Tyner.

On the other hand, it may well be my son’s fault that the Twins are struggling. Some data:

Micah has been to the Metrodome for parts of nine games in his almost six-month-old life. The Twins are 0-9 in those games. Overall, the Twins are 22-20 at the Dome this year, meaning that they are 22-11 in games that my son has not attended.

In fairness, the Twins are 0-10 in games that my wife has been to, and 2-10 in games that I have been to.

Still, he will continue to go to games. Can you blame us?


I used to love the home run derby. Before it became a four-hour event I made sure to catch it every year. I still remember watching Juan Gonzalez putting on a show in Baltimore back in 1993. The past several years, however, have been hard to watch, mainly because of the time involved. Bud, you don’t need four rounds to decide who hits the most home runs. Just give each hitter 10 outs and let them hit.

I’ll probably flip to it this year, if for nothing else to see Justin Morneau hit, and to answer the cliff hanger question of the week: who will he ask to throw the pitches to him?

I’m Confused

June 14, 2007

Let me get this straight. One pitcher can pitch nine innings in the same game? I thought there was a rule against that kind of thing.

You can understand my confusion. The last time a Twins pitcher finished nine innings was almost two years ago, on August 12, 2005.

Carlos Silva, in his last outing on June 8 against Washington, allowed seven runs on nine hits and was out of the game with only three innings pitched. Since that time, his son was born. The day after my son was born I would have had trouble walking a straight line; Silva went ahead and pitched a nine-inning shutout.

And so it goes. Carlos Silva is officially the most infuriating member of the Twins. The last six days have been pretty representative of his Twins career. When he’s bad, he is about as bad as it gets. When he’s good, however, he can shutout a major league team and get you home in time for the 10 o’clock news.

Here’s to hoping that it won’t be two years before we see another.