Saturday, March 01, 2008

Post-Game (Exhibition Game 3)

Red Snots 7, Twinks 6 (Box Score)

  • From the Boston Globe: "Sometimes it's hard not to be arrogant," Terry Francona joked after the game.

The starting left-handed pitching combo of Randy Keisler and Jon Lester was grossly ineffective. Keisler had little chance of making the squad without pitching flawlessly in spring training. His era - and hopes of seeing the Dome - was detonated today into the Glen Perkins stratosphere of 20.25. What seems to be the worst part for Keisler was not the three earned runs but rather, as John Gordon and Dan Gladden noted on KSTP-AM, the fact that the coaching staff reiterated prior to the game how important throwing strike was and allowing the defense to do the work. Instead of heeding the advice, Keisler walked three Red Sox in his 1.1 innings of work. (Of course it wasn't like that he intentionally walked three bats however when a coaching staff makes a conceited effort to point this out and you do the opposite, it is quite detrimental to your career.) Lester, meanwhile, was worse. He walked four and gave up five runs (4 earned). One came with a bases loaded walk to Casilla that brought in Mike Lamb from third (following his double). Needless to say for the remainder of his career I will be analyzing whether or not the Twins made the right decision to forgo trading Santana to Boston for Lester. Ditto for Ellsbury who went 0 for 3 with a run batted in.

  • Carlos Gomez helped his cause by starting the game with a single off of Lester then stole second. Delmon Young knocked him in. Later in the game, Gomez got his first rbi in a Twins uniform. The other Twins centerfield candidate, Jason Pridie, also got his first (and only) hit as a Twins in 2 at-bats. Knowing that defense is critical, if these moments of offense persist, Gomez could be finding that he will be on the bus north although Joe Christensen noted that his giant swings-and-misses seemed almost "cartoonish". Point being that we have 30 more days until we figure out who will be in center come home opener, who ever lands the position will most likely come complete with some flaws be they offensive or defensive and then will have to learn on the job. The race for center might have tightened up along with Craig Monroe's calf muscle who is expected to miss a few days because of the strain.

  • Meanwhile in Arizona, former Twin Torii Hunter went 2 for 2 with a home run (off of the rehabbing Kerry Wood), a double and four rbis. In the same game, Tim Lahey threw one inning of hitless and scoreless ball for the Cubs. Lahey's story is pretty interesting considering he was a converted catcher drafted by the Twins and then asked to take the mound. In recent years he has been closing games but does not have the lights-out stuff of your prototypical closer (16.1% k% in 2007 double-A), however he did induce groundballs on 65% of balls put in play. Scouts say that he throws a "heavy-ball" with an arm motion reminscent of Keith Foulke.

  • Monitoring the "I wish we did sign" players: Mike Sweeney went 3 for 4 for Oakland with two runs, three rbis, and also stole second off of Barry Zito. Emil Brown, another Oakland shrewed offseason acquisition, finished 2 for 3 with two runs scored, two rbis and a walk. (Speaking of $100 million dollar pitcher freefalls, Zito couldn't even get out of the first inning against the A's as he was tagged for 8 earned runs on seven hits and two walks.) Kevin Mench, who signed a minor league contract, hit a solo home run for Texas against the Royals.

Post-Game (Exhibition Game 2)

Red Snots 8, Twinks 3 (Box Score)

  • It is easy to dislike Boston sports teams these day. PiPress's Phil Miller characterized the sentiment appropriately when describing the arrival of the Red Sox team bus from across town (which may or may not have had a corporate sponsor).

  • Yup, Boof lost weight. (Gleeman type poundage.) You can actually see cheekbones. To paraphrase a line from the movie Just Friends, he looks like that "retard from Subway." If two innings and seven batters is any early indication, it paid off for him too. Tasked with facing the bulk of the World Championship line-up, Bonser surrendered one hit to Ortiz but otherwise was nearly flawless. Two groundouts, three flyouts and a strikeout. The reduction in weight is suppose to allow him to maintain stamina to pitch longer into games. In 2007, Bonser had obvious problems laboring through the 5th and 6th innings of his starts. He completed seven innings in just eight of his 30 starts and managed to work into the 8th only once. Batters in the 5th inning hit .333/.421/.558 in 142 plate appearances against Boof in '07. Boof struggled to throw strikes (walking 11.9% of batters faced) and when he did find the plate, he was hit hard - he gave up 15 doubles in his 5th inning of work, a figure almost twice as much as his next closest inning (8 in the 1st). In the 6th inning, Bonser regain a bit of control but was pounded. Batters hit .333/.377/.694 in 77 plate appearances. In those 77 plate appearances, Bonser surrendered 7 home runs (a whopping 9.0% hr-rate) and half of the hits given up went for extra bases. His problem according to the coaching staff was the extra weight (somewhere in the 260 lbs range) he was carrying was wearing him out early. Now in 2008, 30 pounds lighter, Twins fans are hoping that Boof pitching in the 7th inning is the norm and not the exception.

  • Last season in his major league debut against the Oakland A's on June 1st, I remembered an extremely lengthy at-bat. Looking back on the B-R gamelog, it may have been either the Dan Johnson 11-pitch at-bat in the bottom of the 1st where he walked the Minnesota native or epic 13-pitch at-bat with Eric Chavez in the bottom of the 3rd where he got Chavy to pop out to 3rd, but the point is, both were littered with foul balls. There was a moment of "uh-oh" while watching Slowey work. His statistics in the minors showed a pitcher who not only threw strikes but did so without being hit. In 2007 at triple-A, Slowey finished with 107k|18bb, a ridiculous amount of strikeouts to a ridiculously low number of walks. Not only that but in a 133.2 innings he only gave up 4 home runs, so he was doing something right. Now, obviously the A's are particularly adept at working counts as part of their overall philosophy or at least groomed to be in the minors, but it seemed to me that Slowey lacked that "out-pitch" - the one with bite that will get someone to chase (i.e. Radke's change, Liriano's slider, Santana's change). In a partial study* of Slowey's pitch f/x from last year the numbers showed that he indeed did have a tough time getting bats to miss. Stats, Inc developed a statistic called WHIFF which creates an average for inducing swings-and-misses. As a reference, Johan Santana's change-up had a WHIFF of .471 according to the partial database. To translate, when batters did swing at Santana's change up, they missed nearly 50% of the time. This is in the upper echelons of filthy. Of his three pitches, Santana maintains an average WHIFF rate of .327. Slowey's pitches fall well below Santana's threshold. Slowey's four-pitch average WHIFF was .142. His best "miss" pitch was his slider (.181) which he threw roughly 16% of the time. The pitch he leaned on most, his fastball, was in the strike-zone 71% of the time (one of the best in the study) but when contact was made with the fastball 6% of balls in play went for extra bases. Being consistently around the strike-zone and not having that "out-pitch" leads to 16 home runs in only 66.7 inning pitched (in fact, two of his home runs surrendered came on 0-2 counts). I am obviously not trying to compare Slowey with Santana. A more reasonable comparison, Carlos Silva, used his repertoire of pitches and maintained a WHIFF of .168. I do have confidence that Slowey will develop in to a top-tiered starter. Yesterday he showed some "movement" on his fastball which will hopefully led to more missed bats. His strikeouts of Ortiz and Manny inspired confidence only to turn the table once Lowell, Varitek and Youkilis and the bottom of the order came up. La Velle reports that Gardy said that Slowey was "over throwing the ball" which is probably accurate considering the two un-Slowey-like walks to Coco Crisp and Bobby Kielty. Once again, this is spring training so I am not putting too much stock into this but seeing as that 5th spot in the rotation is wide-open, Slowey might want to concentrate better in his next outing.

*I say "partial" because the pitch f/x database only accounts for 500+ pitches thrown while Slowey's season total pitches was 1,137 nevertheless it suffices for this illustration.

  • Speaking of centerfield, our candidates went 1 for 6 (D-Span, Pridie and Gomez) while Coco Crisp went 2 for 2 with an rbi, a walk and stole a base on Slowey/Redmond. Rumors still persist that Crisp could be on the market for the right price. Personally, I think that shipping Santana to Boston in a trade that would have included Crisp would have been significantly worse then the package we obtained from the Mets (unless Epstein was loading it with additional prospects) but I wouldn't might bringing Crisp in to the mix either for some different players. If the alternative are Loften or Patterson, Crisp would be a better player while Gomez and Pridie take another season in the minors (or leaving one up at the bench player).

  • Egad.

  • Both Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young knocked into double-plays in this game. I mention this because in addition to both being two of the top arms in right field last year, both we in the top five of grounding into double-plays for right fielders too. In 2007, Cuddyer managed to get doubled up 19 times (16th among all qualified batters) while Young was tied for the league-led at 23. If you look at the list of players leading the American League in gidp's it is a list that consists of some of the league's elite hitters: Maggilo Ordonez, Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada, Aaron Hill, etc. Which is I do not put too much weight on this statistic. HOWEVER, on a team like the Twins that last year struggled to put guys on base and then score runs, a double-play can be very costly. That one run will be the difference of a win or a loss. Brendan Harris also hit into 19 double-plays in 2007.

Julian Tavarez playfully stuck his tongue out as a photographer tried to shoot his picture.

  • Brian Buscher hit a solo home run of Julien Tavarez in the 6th inning and, according to La Velle, made a fine play on a smash by Kevin Youkilis. Buscher cut short his winter ball and is looking to put himself back on the major league roster after his taste last year. I have stated that in an ideal world, Matt Macri would emerge as that third base candidate because of his right-handed bat, however, if Buscher continues to pound the ball, obviously the best player should be on the major league roster come March 31st.