Monday, August 23, 2010

OtB Twins Notes

With Kevin Slowey hitting the disabled list, Nick Blackburn will make a start tonight for the Twins. There are some indications that Blackburn has rediscovered his scorched earth policy in Rochester that made him so effective in ’08 and ’09. In 23 innings at AAA, Blackburn has amassed a healthy 65.3% ground ball rate according to Unfortunately, in his most recent start, Blackburn allowed five run (four earned) in 5.1 innings of work.

With Ron Mahay now sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered on his non-throwing arm, the Twins are now down to one left-handed option in the bullpen: Glen Perkins. As Nick Nelson commented last week, Perkins is far from an ideal candidate to assume this role as his career numbers do not necessarily reflect a pitcher that is dominate against same-sided opponents. While I agree with the stance, there are some signs that Perkins might be able to navigate some of the situational appearances adequately. Yes, his peripherals are not strong – a weak 4.7 K/9 versus LHB in AAA this year combined with inept career numbers isn’t reassuring – yet this season Perkins has been able to keep left-handers on the ground more often than not (he’s got a 51% ground ball rate). His hefty .327 batting average against the southports may have some to do with a suspect infield defense and his results may be better with the Twins’ high-quality middle infield. If the Twins do decided to push forward without any additional help as Phil Mackey alludes to, things may get dicey against upper echelon left-handed hitters.

Upgrades are certainly available in this area.  La Velle E Neal noted that the Dodgers’ George Sherrill and the Blue Jays’ Brian Tallet have both cleared waivers and can be traded to anyone before the August 30th waiver deadline. Of the pair, Sherrill is by far the more attractive option when it comes to facing left-handed opponents. Although his control has been extremely unreliable this season (as evidence by a 5.52 BB/9 this season), the Dodgers lefty is very tough on same-sided opponents. According to’s figures, Sherrill has the second-lowest well-hit average (.093) as a left against his compatriots this year. So, while his numbers against righties is grotesque (.418 batting average, 10/5 BB/K), he has fared much better against lefties (.191 batting average, 8/11 BB/K). Given the current ownership situation and 11-game deficit in the standings, the Dodgers may be interested in unloading Sherrill. However, Sherrill could also be an expensive proposition considering his contract of $4.5 million even prorated would be a high expense for someone who would be used in limited capacity for the remainder of the season.

Speaking of late season maneuvers, Sid Hartman implores GM Bill Smith to work his stuff in evaluating talent similar to what he did last year. Unfortunately, he does so beneath a very suggestive and borderline inappropriate headline: “GM’s magic wand is needed again”.

During Saturday’s broadcast, Jose Mota and Dick Bremer were discussing Jason Kubel’s towering blast on a hanging breaking ball thrown by Danny Haren from the previous game. Mota, a Fox broadcaster who had worked with the Angels broadcast team for year, noted that the Angels game plan when facing Jason Kubel was to avoid throwing him breaking balls. This, of course, seemed odd to me. For anyone who follows the Twins on a regular basis knows, breaking balls have long been Kubel’s kryptonite in the past. However, research shows that in the past 30 days, Kubel’s been lighting up the soft stuff, slugging .765 on curves and sliders. This sort of production against the slide pieces and benders should lead to an increased amount of fastballs to hit, something that opponents had tried to restrict at the beginning of the season.

Denard Span made an appearance on Thursday’s broadcast of the Reusse and Mackey Show on 1500ESPN. Span, whose walk struggles I documented on the previous Friday at TwinsCentric, was asked by Phil Mackey why the walks have vaporized. Span’s conclusion essentially mirrored what I laid out on Friday: Pitchers were starting him off with more strikes and setting him behind in the count. On Saturday, Span echoed the same to La Velle E Neal, telling reporters that "The way they are pitching me, the word is out that I usually take the first pitch and I've been watching strike one right down the middle. After that, then I'm getting the whole kitchen sink thrown at me.” With this in mind, be ready to see Span swinging more frequently early in the count.

One of the biggest assets that the Twins acquired this offseason at a minimal price was outfielder Jason Repko. Not only has Repko provided the Twins with superb defense in a pinch, he’s also generated some pop, slugging .508 in 69 plate appearances, hitting six doubles and three home runs. From the Great Falls Tribune, the city in which Repko’s professional career begin, is a good piece on the role player.   

Remember 2006’s spot starter Mike Smith and his glorious mane of hair that flowed out the back of his cap about two decades too late? You know, the guy that looked like he came rocking up to the stadium in a TransAm blasting Sister Christian? No, well, he only made a brief three inning appearance in Kansas City finishing the afternoon with three walks, a hit batter, a home run allowed and a 12.00 ERA in a Twins uniform. Sure, he’s a minor footnote in the Twins lore, but apparently, he’s a legend in the Can-Am League (the place where Eric Gagne went to die), currently tied for lead-league in wins (11)