Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Notebook Dump (07.08.08)

Game: Twinks 0, Red Sux 1

Box Score

Record: 50-39, 2nd place, 1.5 games back

Streak: 1 loss

Boston Red Sox fans celebrate as the Minnesota Twins players watch from the dugout rail in the ninth inning of their MLB baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Monday July 7, 2008.   The Red Sox beat the Twins 1-0.

The Quote:Boy, he located well. We had him on the ropes that one inning and we didn't get anything." – Terry Francona, Red Sox Manager

The Rant: Seven seemed to be the magic number for last night’s game in Boston, appropriately enough, on the seventh day of the seventh month. Scott Baker tossed seven scoreless innings while racking up seven strikeouts along the way. The Red Sox, meanwhile, had seven hits against the Twins pitching staff (five off of Baker, two off of Brian Bass). In the first inning, both Joe Mauer (number 7) and Jason Kubel (not number 7) coaxed seven-pitch walks from Dice-K. But the most monumental statistic provided by the prime number in last night’s game: seven left on base by Delmon Young.

Yes, the correlation between the game and the number seven is statistical gibberish. Nevertheless, the seven runners left on base was a huge blow to the Twins chances of winning and Young’s continued youthful impatience was a big part of the reason why seven Twins vacated their respected bases for the dugout following his at-bat. As Joe Christensen pointed out, Matsuzaka had thrown 24-pitches to the previous five batters in the first inning (including the aforementioned walks to Mauer and Kubel). Yet Young did not retain any of this when his turn came. Instead, Young clubbed at the first offering by Matsuzaka, tapping it back to the mound with the bases loaded. Armed with the knowledge that a) Matsuzaka has labored to throw strikes historically this season and b) he is currently laboring to throw strikes in this very inning, Delmon Young should have been more selective.

"I was sitting dead-red fastball," Young said after the game. "That was a little bit up, and it got a little bit in. If it caught a little more of the bat, it would have been back up the middle. You've just got to tip your cap because he got out of the inning. It doesn't matter how you do it." Revisiting the TiVo recording and GameDay’s pitch f/x account, claiming that the pitch was “a little bit up” and “a little bit in” is like saying Tony Montana took "a few bullets" in the final scene of Scarface. It was up. It was in. "We've got a few guys who don't work the counts -- we swing," Ron Gardenhire said summarizing what should be the accepted sentiments exactly, "You take the good with the bad. ... We've been winning a lot of baseball games that way. [Young's] been getting a lot of hits that way."

Make no mistake about it Delmon Young has been one of the integral parts of the Twins resurgence, hitting .341/.372/.524 since June 6th. In his Around the Majors blog, Christensen highlights that Young has been hitting .301 first pitch balls put in play so it is no secret that Young likes to take a swat at the first offering. So it isn't like it was a huge shock to see Young taking aim at the first pitch.

Typically this one of those games which I would vent about Gardenhire's mismanagement of the bullpen (similar to this). A move was necessary. Baker was at 94 pitches when the 7th inning ended and there was several well hit balls including Coco Crisp's flyball to right that Denard Span tracked down. Statistically, he gets hit hard from pitch 76 to pitch 100 (facing 298 batters, opponents had hit .329/.362/.529 off of him). The Red Sox, with Pedroia, Drew and Ramirez coming up were no punch-and-judy line-up. The eighth inning was just the spot to remove Baker. Guerrier was unavailable for the game since he pitched last night. Crain had given up four hits (two doubles) in his previous two outings, Gardenhire's confidence had obviously waned on Crain since his June 30th appearance against Detroit in which he failed to record an out. Throw in one of the two lefties? In Fenway? Yikes. That Green Monster is damn close with two righties scheduled to hit. Bass isn't exactly lights out but he had been doing well in recent times (.205/.222/.227 against past 45 batters with 2 runs allowed) but nothing screams out that Bass is ill-prepared to handle the heart of the Red Sox order. The Twins had also recently insinuated that Bass had earned the opportunity to pitch in higher-leverage situations. Good place to start.

Let's agree to call this one "one of those games" and get by it. Offense left a boat-load of runners on base. Bullpen faltered, sure. Sign of the apocalypse? No. It is unfortunate that the offense could not scrap together a run to support Baker’s outing (72 Game Score) especially when the opportunities presented themselves. This outing reaffirms that the Twins are positioned very well in the starting rotation and the lack of offensive output with runners in scoring position in last night's game is a prime example of what Aaron Gleeman was preaching.

The Links:

(*) Tonight's B-R.com game preview: Blackburn versus Jon Lester.

(*) Joey-Jo Jo Junior Shabado is the toughest out in the Majors according to Saberscoutings interesting PTO% statistic ("Pitchest Toward Outs"). USS Mariner's Dave Cameron has Joe listed as having the 15th highest current trade value. Here is the rest of Top 50 according to USS Mariner.

(*) The Star Tribune is reporting that the Twins are not looking to trade this deadline. "You're always looking to make your team better, and we'll continue to do that," Twins General Manager Bill Smith said before Monday's game against the Red Sox. "At the same time, you don't want to tinker too much with something that's not broken." Meanwhile on the left coast, the Padres General Manager Paul Depodesta is asking the fans to concoct a plan of attack for the Friars as the trade deadline approaches.

(*) Being born in 1981 (hence, circa 1981 in my moniker) I have little micro-introspection of the early 1980's Twins history - just the macro-stuff. The story of the Tiger's Dave Rozema failed attempt to execute a flying karate kick the Twins' John Castillo in a May 14th, 1982 bench-clearing brawl only to result in a season-ending tore ligament in his knee after he whiffed on Castillo was one that I was not familiar with. The West Michigan Whitecaps, in honor of Rozema, are hosting a bobblehead night with him in the standard Karate Kid position.

(*) Judd Spicer interviews Baseball-Reference founder Sean Foreman.