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Friday, March 30, 2007

Twins 2007 Preview

Bus is rolling along, outside it's looking kind of strange
There earth is shaking, the clouds are breaking
Everything is blue, where it was gray


2007 Twins Preview


Oh thank Christ the baseball season is back! I just barely survived the endless NBA and Spring Training bullshit that always happens after the NCAA 1st and 2nd rounds and before opening day. Like I said last year, baseball is that sweet, beautiful, good woman that brings you banana bread in the morning.

With that being said it’s hard to say that the Twins outlook looks promising with the unbelievable run they had last year (what can top that?). But this year the lineup remains unchanged, the bullpen is unchanged, but the starting rotation seems to be suspect. With that being said, I believe the Twins are a stronger team than the paper that represents them says. I also think that they have as good of a lineup as one could ask for in MLB.

The one area of concern is how awesome the AL Central is supposed to be. I believe the Central has 4 of the top ten teams in baseball and any team could win in the NL. Too bad they’re all in the AL I guess

Pitching
Pitching is without a doubt the biggest question coming into 2007. Twins added some very questionable pitchers in Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, and signing Carlos Silva to an extension. The automatic reaction is to drop the jaw and say “WTF?” but pitching coach Rick Anderson has a knack for resurrecting pitchers and is considered a “pitching guru” by the baseball community. Perhaps, just perhaps, a change in scenery and a winning attitude would be enough to convince these guys to pitch some quality starts.
Twins lost a couple pitchers from last season in Radke and Liriano but people forget that he only pitched one game after July 28th and the Twins still managed a record of 37-24 after his July 28th start.
Radke is a bit of a loss but…at least we don’t have to deal with the obligatory first inning run anymore. Plus the Twins have some decent options to take his place.

Johan Santana
Best pitcher in baseball and the national media even says so.
21-6 2.65 ERA

Carlos Silva
Probably the most controversial pitcher in the rotation. Fans were amazed that the Twins gave Silva a $4M extension after his ‘06 year in which he had as bad of an ERA as any starting pitcher in the AL. The guy has been mostly a mess and can certainly give up a lot of home runs BUT…when his sinker is working he can be as efficient as a pitcher can be. I think his ‘05 year has been very much overlooked when he gained a 3.44 ERA and a couple complete games. I understand his work in spring training has been terrible but I don’t really consider anything I see in spring training anything worth talking about.
I believe Silva will be in the rotation longer than most people will believe and if not, there are some quick options in Garza and Slowey in the minors waiting for a chance

6-8 4.90ERA

Boof Bonser
I know I’m a bit biased but Boof is a lot better than people are giving him credit for. The guy was as responsible as any team for the 2nd half streak by going 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA in September. One notable game was against the Tigers when he pitched 7 innings and gave up one run in a 2-1 win. This year I think he’ll surprise a ton of people in the national media. He can strike guys out and can find his way out of jams.
15-7 3.70 ERA

Ramon Ortiz
Ugh… I don’t really know why the Twins got this guy but they had to have seen something by offering him $3M. Last year the guy had the spacious RFK stadium to pitch with and he still gave up 31 home runs. I just don’t know. I have a feeling that with the outrageous prices that most pitchers went for last offseason that $3M for a starter was decent insurance for a starting rotation in dire need of a veteran presence. I don’t fuckin know.
I’m hoping a new catcher and pitching coach will help solve some problems
8-14 5.20ERA

Sidney Ponson
Eh…again, I just don’t know. Twins obviously have liked him enough to keep him on the rotation and thus signing him to $1M. I guess he’s a sinker ball pitcher and perhaps him and Silva can pool their resources and come up with a great sinker or something. It’s really hard to say.
2-5 5.80 ERA

So…with those starters you’d think that the Twins are destined for failure. Well, maybe and maybe not but there is some relief in the minors with Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, and Glen Perkins

Matt Garza
Has been considered one of the top *top* prospects in baseball. Whatever they said about Liriano is almost what they’re saying about Garza. He is considered to be a future Ace

Kevin Slowey
Is one of the best control pitchers in the minors and has actually been compared to Greg Maddox on more than one occasion. He’s also a highly regarded prospect and would be any other teams coveted prospect.

Glen Perkins
Was very impressive in the 5 innings that he pitched in relief last year. Perkins struck out 6 batters In the 5.66 innings he pitched. Not too bad.

If any starter falls off, I would like to believe that Garza would be the absolute first pitcher to be called up and should be a considerable improvement. Next maybe Perkins and Slowey. I think the only reason why these guys are in the minors is because Terry Ryan wants to keep their MLB playing time down to a minimum just to maximize their value. The longer they stay down in the minors the longer the Twins can keep them for cheap.

Bullpen

Last year the Twins had as good of a bullpen as any team in the majors. They have the best closer in the game, one of the best setup men in Rincon and Crain, and two of the best righty/lefty specialists in Reyes and Neshek.
Reyes and Neshek were especially surprising last year with how they could easily fill their role. Neshek against right handed hitters is almost laughable just as Reyes is with lefties.

There’s nothing much else to say about this except that Perkins may end up back in the bullpen at some point to get some experience.

Hitting

Last year the Twins hitters were as efficient as any team in baseball. They weren’t the most powerful team but they certainly have their piranhas who will seem to score with every double hit. What is most interesting about this lineup is the 7,8,9 hitters who could be the best 7,8,9 hitters in baseball.

Luis Castillo
Efficient, fast for his age, and plays his role. His switch hitting role is highly underrated and his defense is still pretty decent. His age and durability is somewhat questionable but minor leaguer Alexi Casilla is considered to be Castillo’s clone (right on down to the switch hitting) and he can come up and fill this position whenever he’s needed.

.290 4 HR 55RBI’s

Nick Punto
Everyone considers whatever Punto did last year to be his absolute career year. I say, how the hell does one know what a career year is until one hits 74 homers and drives in 150RBI’s? Punto is definitely a piranha and showed me some guts and a very athletic third basemen. For a corner infielder he doesn’t have the prototypical type of power that some people believe is absolutely essential for every corner infielder but so what. I think with his lack of power he makes up in speed and athleticism.
.305 2HR 50

Joe Mauer
I love looking at this guy’s on base percentage from last year of .429 and his slugging percentage of .507 shows that he’s more than just a “singles hitter”. Watching the guy work a count is fascinating and knowing that he’s also great defensively make him one of the top players in baseball
.330 20 100

Michael Cuddyer
I think this spot in the order could be the instantaneous slump buster because how could one not hit well between Mauer and Morneau who isn’t left handed? I think Cuddyer could have a killer year now that he’s the set right fielder (remember last year he wasn’t a lock until May). His arm in right field also is something to witness live. Not many players will be running in his cannon.

.310 34 120

Justin Morneau
I’m worried about Morneau. Last time he had this much expectation he hit .240 and was almost sent down to the minor leagues. This year he has the expectations of any previous MVP can gather. Can he repeat or even exceed his numbers of last year? I don’t know and I tend not to think so because I still question his character. To me Morneau is the barometer to the lineup. I think if he struggles then the team will struggle, if he hits well then the rest of the lineup will excel. One thing that is promising his OBP of .375 which isn’t that huge but considering that he was only intentionally walked 9 times shows that he can work his way on base.

.290 37 110

Torii Hunter
I dunno, he’s getting older and I’ve been pretty harsh on him in the past. He should be batting in the 6th position which should help him find pitches. I can see his age allowing him to regress but I also see that mistake in the playoffs encouraging him to try to live it off.

.265, 22, 78

Rondell White
Everyone looks to his awful first half of last year and say the guy is worthless. What they fail to tell you is how good he hit after the all star game with his numbers of .321/.354/.538. The guy had the one huge slump of his career and luckily the Twins were able to cope with such a slump. I think he’s another .300 hitter this year and him batting 7th makes the lineup really impressive

.310, 15, 70

Jason Kubel/Mark Redmond
Kubel had all year to rest up his bum legs--last year my grandma could’ve thrown him out--but the Twins still like the guy and he’s the left handed hitter platoon guy they’re looking at. Redmond found tons of success feasting against left handed pitchers with his .467OBP against lefties.
.290 7 30

Jason Bartlett
My favorite player on the team. I love how I can look at a box score and see the Twins having only 5 hits, 3 of which come from the nine hitter in Bartlett. I love how Jason can find his way on base and I think he’s a pretty good shortstop. He doesn’t get any national attention but I can’t help but think he’s got to be the best hitting ninth hitter in baseball. This being his third season (and first full season) I’m curious to know how this year goes for him.
.300 5 40

AL Central

I believe the AL Central is the strongest in baseball. I also think the central has the best team in baseball with the Tigers and their immense depth. To me the Tigers have every facet of baseball covered with their unbelievable starting five and that lineup. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers won 110 games this year.

The White Sox come into this year with Darin Erstad in center and without Freddy Garcia which I think is a definite loss to their rotation. That lineup they have still has Konerko/Thome/Dye as the 3,4,5 hitters so that is always scary but I just don’t trust that rotation and their bullpen.

The Indians is the new favorite in the baseball world but I just don’t understand how that is. Last year they had great years out of Hafner, Sizemore, Martinez, and Sabathia but they still managed a losing record. I understand that was due to errors but how exactly did they find 20 wins in the offseason? Also whenever someone mentions how great the Indians will be they talk about Sabathia but then glaze over the rest of the rotation and dismiss it as very good. No doubt they have some decent arms but it’s a lot like Jekyll and Hyde. I just don’t’ see this team matching up with the Tigers or even Twins when you compare position to position.

The Royals have nowhere to go but up. Unfortunately they’re in the wrong division to try and manage anything (imagine being in the same division as Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, and Cleveland! Good lord!)

The way I see it, the AL Central is as follows
Tigers
Twins
Indians
White Sox
Royals

And happy opening day for everyone!

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