Sunday, June 01, 2008

Notebook Dump (6.01.08)

Game: Yankees 7, Twinks 6 (12 innings)

Box Score

Record: 28-27, 2nd place, 2.0 games behind

* Now on a six-game streak without recording a victory, one that last came on April 29th, Boof Bonser is now winless in the month of May. In his six outings in April Bonser threw 36 innings (6 innings per start) with 22 strikeouts and only 9 walks. Opponents were hitting just .250/.293/.379. In the current month, Bonser had made six starts and compiled 30 innings (5 innings per start) with 20 strikeouts and 11 walks. This month, opponents are hitting him at a .286/.340/.459 clip. One of his biggest problems is somehow vacating the first inning. On the season, Bonser batting line of opponents in the first inning is a hefty .309/.345/.582 but is typically much better once he moves past his first 25 pitches:

pitch count

opponent average

pitches 1-25


pitches 26-50


pitches 51-75


pitches 76-100


The Yankees were kind enough to go down in order in the first including a strikeout to Bobby Abreu, but nevertheless, the first inning has been Bonser's biggest detriment. Bonser did pitch better than the loss suggests. He could have gone deeper into the game had Nick Punto, fresh from the DL, completed the 3rd out on Derek Jeter's ground ball followed by a double by Bobby Abreu and a single by Alex Rodriguez. In the 7th, approaching 101 pitches on the night (a threshold that he has crossed just four times this season), Bonser walked Matsui and then surrendered a single to Giambi. With the game tied 3-3, Gardenhire turned to Jesse Crain with the runners on. Up to this point in the season, Crain has been asked to retire batters with 9 inherited runners on this season and has stranded all but 3 (a 66% strand rate). This time, Crain gave up a double, sacrifice fly and a single to Jose Molina, Miguel Cabrera and Johnny Damon respectively - resulting in three runs, two of which were credited to Bonser.

* Bonser's is speculated to be demoted into the bullpen when Scott Baker is recalled from his rehab assignment. La Velle suggests that it could come at the expense of Brian Bass or Juan Rincon. Both seem like logical candidates. Bass, the long/mop man, has had recent struggles - including a 6.61 era in his 16 innings of work in May. But Bass has also shown indications of being a decent pitcher too, he has entered the game with 26 base runners on (not in one game, that would just be silly) and he has stranded all but nine - a 73% strand rate. Juan Rincon, meanwhile, has been in a steady decline since 2006, and has obviously lost Gardenhire's trust: only three times has Rincon been asked to absorb existing base runners and all five base runners have scored on Rincon's watch.

* Alexi Casilla went 1-3 with two runs scored and walked three times. Through 61 plate appearances Casilla has replicated a batting line (.340/.410/.520) that he hasn't approached since his season with high-A Fort Myers (.331/.387/.406). One difference between the 2008 and 2007 stints in the majors is Casilla's approach at the plate including taking a greater percentage of pitches (63% vs 57%) and taking more for balls (61% vs 58%) which has resulted in more walks (13% vs 4%). This, and a high .366 average on balls in play, has led to his team leading .410 on-base percentage. Because his type of balls put in play is heavily split between ground balls (47%) and fly balls (42%) we can expect that his average should decline as Casilla amasses more plate appearances.

* Bobby Korecky was the recent roster move the Twins made to clear room for the recently acquired Craig Breslow, sent back down to Rochester to make way for the left-handed jettisoned part from Cleveland. This is less to do with Korecky's performance at the major league level than the sheer fact that he has options to burn. Breslow is a unique addition to the bullpen. First of all, he's a friggin' genius: he works at a Yale laboratory doing stem cell research. Second of all, it alleviates some of the pressure that had been placed on Dennys Reyes to get the left-handed out late in the game. Last season, Breslow spent time in triple-A Pawtucket in the relief-saturated Red Sox organization. In 68.2 innings Breslow accumulated 73 strike outs (24.3% k%) while walking just 25 (8.3% bb%). In 2008, however, Cleveland gave Breslow just 8.1 innings of work to earn himself a spot in the already dysfunctional bullpen.

Indians manager Eric Wedge misused the left-hander, once waiting 14-days between appearances and then matching him up more frequently against right-handed batters (72%) than left-handed batters (27%). In his first appearance as a Minnesota Twins, Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson greatly improved his odds of succeeding, having him face four left-handed batters out of the five total he faced in the sixth and for two-outs in the seventh. Breslow struck out Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez in the seventh and he dismissed Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano in the eighth before being replaced by Matt Guerrier.

* An interesting profile on Jeff Manship, another well-educated pitcher in the Twins system.

* The rising gas costs are effecting the way minor league clubs are run too.

* I was starting to have sympathy for Royals fans (and the greater Kansas City area in general) who finally beat Cleveland 4-2 after a dozen losses. After blowing two extra inning games in a row (losing Wednesday’s game in historic fashion), the Kansas City lineup was befuddled by control artist extraordinaire Kevin Slowey who assisted in continuing the Royals plunge into an 11-game losing streak. As Joe Posnanski points out, the franchise has had several prolonged losing streaks in recent memory. The 56-106 2005 Royals had a 19-game losing streak and the 62-100 2006 Royals completed 13-games without a win. The Twins fans, meanwhile, have not had to deal with grouped losing of this magnitude in quite some time. In recent years, the Twins have twice lost 10-games in a row: the 70-92 1998 Twins (Sept 9th-Sept 19th) and the 68-94 1997 Twins (Aug 9th-Aug 19th). Before that, you have to go back to the 77-85 1985 Twins who lost 10 straight May 21st to June 1st. In order to find a streak of at least 11 games in a row the Twins lost, you would have to visit the 60-102 1982 Twins. I was one, still nursing so I have no vivid recollections of this team, just worn Topps cards and stories that have been passed along from the elder generations but from what I have gathered May 1982 was unkind to the Bloomington prairie team relocated into the newly opened Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. When April ended, the Twins found themselves at 9-13, 6 games back in the AL West. The Twins actually opened the season fairly well – starting the first nine games at the Humphrey Dome. On April 9 th at 3-1, the Twins were actually 1 game up on everybody in the division, drawing upwards of 23,000 people to the new stadium. In May the Twins play completely unraveled their garnished fanfare. The Twins went 3-26 in May, culminating in a 14-game losing streak that carried into June. As little as 5,000 people trickled into the Dome to watch in hopes of one victory (the Royals have been able to draw at least 12,000 to the K). In that respect, Twins fans should consider themselves fortunate that we have not experienced any losing of that proportion in quite some time.