My daddy painted that horse
A midnight blue
Shooting stars and silver horseshoes
And it was something magic out of something frightening
Holy crap, I just wrote like 4 pages of baseball stuff. Grab a Snickers and a Mountain Dewski.
We’re close to one of the best days of the year. The day where work seems pointless and emphasis is based on game one (of 162). The day is pretty much a national holiday and is head above sholders above any introductory day the other major sports have. Forget about opening night (that stupid Sunday night game) but opening day is coming on Monday.
Baseball has now survived the strike years of the mid nineties and fan support has never been better. For some reason I have anticipated this year more so than any other year (including last year). Of course it seems I am the only one because these so called baseball experts are clinically stupid. I’ll get into that later but first let me talk about the Twins.
I really like the Twins this year. Despite what any major outlet will tell you, I believe the Twins did help themselves this year. Not so much for who they added but more for who they don’t have. First let me talk about the pitching.
Last year the Twins had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. This year it’s even stronger when you factor in the fact that Terry Mulholland and Joe Mays aren’t on the club anymore. How could the pitching staff be so good with those guys? Also factor in the addition of Francisco Liriano in the bullpen (of all places) and the Twins have as solid of a complete pitching staff as any ball club in the majors. If the pitching was good last year, it’s excellent this year. Even if a pitcher gets injured there is so much depth to more than cope with such an injury.
Johan Santana: Basically he’s regarded as the best starting pitcher in baseball and why not? Just looking at his career 2nd half stats puts him in the best of the best (and I’m talking historically) with a 1.90ERA and a record of 30-3 and that’s with the Twins crappy offense! Last year he started out pretty rough but found the gummy berry juice to destroy the competition despite losing the Cy Young award even though he was more deserving than Bartolo Colon. This year how could anyone see him doing anything other than being as dominant. It’ll depend on the hitting but I think that will be remedied to an extent this year
Projected: ERA-2.90, W-L 18-6
Carlos Silva: I firmly believe Silva got screwed as much as anyone last year from the Twins offense. The guy doesn’t overpower people and he doesn’t grab the strikeouts but he can get the outs. He only gave up 9 walks last year and was one of the league leaders in ground ball outs. He has a remarkable ability to get the hitters to make contact but not by giving up runs. In his first full year of starting pitching and an offense that completely sucked ass he had an ERA of 3.44 (which isn’t bad for the American league). He should’ve had a solid 15 win season with that ERA alone but his run support was awful. This year I do expect him to reach the teens for victories and be a solid #2 guy in the rotation.
Projected: 3.45, 13-7
If only he could pitch in the first inning…which he can’t. Radke again got screwed by the run support last year (not to the extent that Silva and Santana though) and he’s a solid number 3 starter. He can eat the innings and pitch the quality starts. He’s another guy that never walks anyone.
Projected: 4.40 8-6
Basically the Twins are just dangling Lohse in the faces of GM managers everywhere. He could be yours for the price of a decent hitting prospect. Last year he was up and down but still managed a decent ERA of 4.18. He’ll probably be traded at some point this year but he’s a quality 4th starter.
Projected: 4.70, 7-10
Ahhh now we’re getting into the fun part, the rookies. Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano have been listed together in trades, call ups, and the competition for the 5th starter. Think of this, Liriano would easily be a starting pitcher for 80% of the other clubs. He was even offered in a trade straight up for Soriano and the Twins said no. Despite all that, the Twins clearly like Scott Baker as the 5th starter instead of Liriano.
That should say a lot. Baker did pitch pretty well last year in a part-time starting role. It’s hard to predict what a rookie will do in the majors but I don’t think he’ll tank.
The bullpen is unbelievably good
Closer: Joe Nathan
Set up: Juan Rincon
7th inning guy: Jesse Crain
Long relief: Matt Guerrier
Long relief: Willie Eyre
Lefty: Francisco Liriano
Nathan is one of the top closers in the league. Rincon is one of the best set up men in the league and Crain would be one of the best set up roles in the league if Rincon wasn’t on the team.
What really sticks out is Liriano in the Lefty slot. It’s like having Vladimir Guerrero as a right handed pinch hitter. Basically if you’re a left handed hitter and you’re facing Liriano, you better hope you get beaned because that’s the only way you’ll make it on base. He was the most surprising player on the Dominican Republic WBC team even with all the all star players. Last year when he pitched he had a shaky ERA of 5.70 (but that was in only 23 innings). The big stat last year is that he struck out 33 hitters in 23 innings. Not bad for starting out.
Lirianio will probably end up being a starter after the All star break and when that happens, watch out. Scouts have already rated his pitches as “as good as” or “even better” than Santana’s. He’s going to be good folks!
No turd could be big enough to represent the Twins hitting from last year. It’s 90% of why the Twins lost the games they did. Look at the Runs given up the last four years.
Now look at the runs scored
2005 688 (almost a 100 run backward step)
Basically the hitting on this team was as bad as the pitching staff was good. If you pitching staff only gives up 662 runs then it doesn’t take much for a team to win some games. Except if your team has no hitting, which the Twins did not last year.
Hopefully it wont be as bad because we don’t have Rivas and the overrated Jacque Jones on the team. While I don’t think this team will be hitting force to be reckoned with, I do think the Twins made some decent improvements
Catcher: Joe Mauer
Joe Mauer is only 22 years old. Joe Mauer is also one of the top two catchers in baseball already. And you wont hear much disagreements nationally with that either. He’s about as good as Pudge by only allowing 21 stolen bases last year. He’s got a caught stealing percentage of .416 which is third best in baseball. He’s an excellent hitter as well (and the only bright spot in 2005). He hit .296 last year in his first full year as a starter. If you were to ask me which player I would’ve taken between Mauer and Prior now, I think it’s Mauer in a landslide.
Projections: .310, 88(RBI’s), 19(HR)
1B Justin Morneau
Last year Morneau had about as bad of a year as a player could have just short of going back to the minor leagues. One thing to remember is that the guy was only 23 and batting cleanup. Also for his crappy year he did manage to hit 22 homeruns which would nearly put him up to Babe Ruth status in Minnesota. I think we’ll see some noticeable improvement from Morneau this year. He hasn’t been hit by every sickness known to man (like last year) and he’s got some help in the lineup. I even think he’ll hit 30 homers this year.
.275, 95, 33
2B Luis Castillo
To go from Luis Rivas to Castillo is like going from Sarah Jessica Parker to that awesomely hot Taco Bell woman. This is the most underappreciated signing for the Twins because Castillo is bonefide. He can hit (career average of .293), he can field (3 gold gloves including last year), and he can get on base (.370 lifetime average). Castillo seems like he was built to play for the Twins.
.304, 45, 3
SS Jason Bartlett
Basically the only reason he’s starting is because he can field and he has potential to hit. He didn’t play very well last year but it was also his first year. His fielding wasn’t too bad either.
.245, 45, 9
3B Tony Batista
For as refined and profession a hitter Castillo is Batista is pretty much the opposite. The only reason why the Twins got this guy is because he was cheap and he can hit home runs. That’s about it. If he can be an average 3B and hit .250 with a relatively high home run total, I’ll be happy. Hell, I didn’t think he would make it through spring training.
.230, 56, 27
LF Shannon Stewart
If I were standing out in Left and someone hit a popup to me I would have to take a ten yard running start, catch the ball, throw my shoulder over my body, and pray. Even then the ball may slowly roll to home plate. Stewart is not much different then my arm in that respect, but the guy can field and hit. He’s got a career .300 average and is a proven hitter.
.298, 60, 12
CF Torii Hunter
In my eyes, Hunter is the most overrated player on the Twins. He’s a great CF but…that’s about it. It’s vomit worthy watching him chase after balls two feet out of the strike zone. He does have speed and can hit the occasional homer but he’s not that awesome. Regardless, he’s still a good 6th hitter for the team.
.274, 90, 25
RF Jason Kubel
I remember a couple years ago the stuff I was hear about Kubel. It mirrored the potential that Liriano had last year and he even made a spot on the postseason roster. Then he suffered his Daunte-like injury and had to sit out all of last year. This year signs from spring training has shown that he is on his way to coming back to his ‘04 self. That alone should be better than Jacque Jones who sucked at the plate
.260, 45, 15
DH Rondell White
I’ve always been a bit of a White fan since he was on the Expos (remember them?). This year he’s the exclusive DH so he doesn’t have to worry about buying a glove or anything. I think White will be a damn good addition to the lineup compared to Matthew LeCroy. Compared to Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, and Nomah, I’d rather have Rondell White.
.290, 60 20
And the lineup looks like
We got 4 guys that are realistic .300 hitters and three more who could hit 30 homers or more. I love the top 5!
I don’t know how all those stats add up so don’t come back to me and say something like “the Twins are going to score 2000 runs this year? Buhuh yeah right.”
So if the Twins can drive in 770 runs, the division is theirs in my opinion.
AL Central predictions
Ok here’s what I don’t get, every damn media outlet predicts the Indians are the clear cut number two team in the division. Yeah, maybe if we were playing in game 163 from 2005 but they lost Millwood, Crisp, and they lost some key bullpen guys, and not to mention that Bob Wickman is their closer (who sucks).
The team everyone should look at is the Tigers (and I’m not saying that because of Ron). The tigers have a solid lineup with Pudge, Young, Ordonez, and Guillen. Then their pitching staff is due to mature as well.
I do think that the White Sox have the clear cut lead in the division though and it has nothing to do with Jim Thome (I think he’s a bust). I just think the White Sox have the perfect mix of a team with their role players and excellent pitching staff. Their bullpen may be a different story but I think the White sox have it.
With that said, I honestly believe the AL central will be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. I think Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Minnesota are all bonafide teams and I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these teams takes the division (seriously). Here are my predictions though
Haha just kidding