July 2009

Deadline Aftermath

Heading into the trade deadline, all eyes were on the big market teams: the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and others. All the talk was about Roy Halladay and what his destination would be. In the end, Halladay would stay put and the Yankees wereinactivein any big moves.

The big markets for the most part stayed put (with the exception of the Red Sox acquiring Victor Martinez), and the division that currently has three teams making a run at the playoffs, the American League Central, made the moves.
The first big move came when the Detroit Tigers unexpectedly jumped in and acquired Jarrod Washburn from the Seattle Mariners. Washburn will be gone at the end of the season, but for the final two months, the move has a chance of bolstering an already pretty good rotation.
Hours later the Twins countered with a move of their own; they sent a minor league shortstop, Tyler Ladendorf, to Oakland and brought in shortstop Orlando Cabrera with hope that the middle infield inMinneapoliswill see more production.
As the deadline passed, it seemed as though the Tigers and Twins were the onlycontendersin the Central to make major moves. Reports then began rolling out with word that for a second time, the White Sox had traded for pitcher Jake Peavy.
The deal was soon finalized and Peavy will indeed be in Chicago. Whether or not Peavy will help the team this season however is questionable. Peavy has been on the disabled list since the first week of June, won’t be back before the first week of September, and may not pitch again this season.
While the Cleveland Indians scrapped their team and looked to the future by trading Ben Francisco, Ryan Garko, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez, the Tigers, Twins and White Sox each took shots atbolsteringtheir rosters for the final two months of the season.
Only time tell who exactly made the biggest move, but for now at least it seems as though the Twins and Tigers, with Peavy’s current injury, made the biggest impact on the 2009 season.

Twins Acquire Orlando Cabrera

The Minnesota Twins have traded minor league shortstop Tyler Ladendorf to acquire the shortstop from the Oakland A’s, Orlando Cabrera. After weeks of speculation, the team made the move and gave up far less than the initial reported asking price of Danny Valencia.

Ladendorf was a second round pick in 2008 and has been playing for the Beloit Snappers after starting the season with the Elizabethton Twins. At the Rookie level, Ladendorf hit .410 in 17 games. His promotion to A-ball has brought struggles as he hit just .233 at Beloit.
Ladendorf was not ranked among the top ten prospects within the organization by Baseball America.
The addition of Cabrera gives the team potential for more production from the middle infield. Through 101 games, Cabrera hit .280 with 4 homeruns and 41 RBI as the shortstop in Oakland. His month of July has stood out as the deadline neared. In July, Cabrera has hit .373 with 2 homeruns and 16 RBI for one of the lowest scoring offenses in baseball.
Cabrera will wear number 18 for the Twins and hopes to be in uniform for tonight’s game. There is no information on how the team will make room on the 25-man roster.

A Collective Effort

On any given night, only ten players (including the pitcher) take the field to start the game. It leaves a handful of starting pitchers, relievers, and position players on the bench. Those select starters may help decide the outcome of one game, but over a full season it takes a collective effort from all 25 players.

Injuries call for players to step up, as do slumps. When an everyday player goes out, someone needs to be there to keep things moving smoothly. The same goes for starting pitchers and relievers after long streaks of work.
As the Twins got ready to take the field against the Chicago White Sox and go for the sweep of a three-game series, the realization of baseball being a team effort was clear. Starter Francisco Liriano was set to take the mound, but last minuteinflammationin his throwing arm knocked him out.
With hours to go until the first pitch, the Twins were faced with a decision. In the end they called upon rookie Brian Duensing to make his first major league start in a key divisional game. The lefty went five innings, allowing just two solo homeruns, and leaving with only 64 pitches and his team tied for the lead.
Duensing stepped up for his team, and went from being a long reliever to a spot starter in moments notice. The Twins also received strong efforts from Alexi Casilla and Carlos Gomez although they’ve at times struggled this season.
The middle part of the lineup (Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel) in the three-game set with Chicago went a combined 3-27 to give them a .111 batting average for the series. What might normally hurt the team did not as the Twinsreceivedstrong performances from players who stepped up, much like Duensing did in his major league starting debut.
It may be the everyday players and the All-Star that set the tone, but without backups and players who can step up in a moments notice, contending is only an afterthought.

Just One Game?

With a long six-month, 162 game schedule, it’s easy to shrug off a blown game or a tough loss. The next day the team can head back to the field and make it easier to forget. Nonetheless, the bad loss or blown game did happen and it does count in the standings when the season ends in the fall.

Last season the Minnesota Twins missed the playoffs by one game, and an extra game added onto the long schedule at that. The reason for missing out by one lone game can be attributed to many different moments, but overall it was the 14-game road trip at the end of August that has been blamed.
In that two week span, a trip that that put the Twins in Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle and Toronto before they returned to their home comfort zone, the Twins struggled to close out games. They went 5-9, and the losses were late-game, blown leads thatdevastatedthe club with a month remaining.
The Twins blew five saves (three by Nathan) to account for nine of the losses, and all nine losses came by two runs or less. The trip out west by no means ended the team’s season, but for a team that missed the postseason by one game, in the 163rd game of the season, it was an easy scapegoat.
After a tough loss like the one in Oakland on Monday,arguablythe most difficult loss to swallow thus far, it’s easy to say, “it’s just one game.” That taken literally is true, but if there is one team and one fan base that can attest to the fact that each game counts, it’s the Minnesota Twins.
The feeling last season when the Twins starred up at the scoreboard after a 1-0 loss in one extra game, that placed them one game back in the standings, is unforgettable. Players sitting in the dugout wondering where it went wrong, and fans watching at home looking for a reason why it got to that point wasgut-wrenching.
No player, no coach, no organization, and no fan wants to be in that situation. The Twins have faced it once, and know what one game can do. One game shouldn’t make anybody lose hope, but one game cannot be shaken off, and if there is anybody who should know it, it’s Minnesota.

Outdoor Baseball: Its Almost Here

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How many times this season have you went to a game at the Metrodome, or even been sitting at home and thought, “This would be a great day to be sitting outside for a baseball game.”?
The times for saying that are nearly done, and while the Twins attempt to make a few more playoff memories indoors, manyconstructionworkers are busy installing seats and working on the playing surface.
Just imagine this view after victories next season. It’s no longer a dream, a ballpark is indeed going up in Minneapolis and it will soon be a reality. Make sure to take the survey to let your voice be heard regarding ticket prices and more.

Playing with Heart

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For quite possibly the last time, Brad Radke stood in front of the crowd at the Metrodome. Nearly three years removed from retirement, the fans loudly welcomed Radke back to the field as he was honored for hisachievementsover his 12 year career in Minnesota.
Radke’sachievementson the field are undeniable. He ranks fourth in franchise history with 148 victories, third with 377 games started, fifth with a total of 2,451 innings pitched, and fifth with 1,457 strikeouts. Those are the numbers; but numbers don’t tell who Brad Radke was or what he meant to the franchise.
As he was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame, Radke mentioned something that might just define his career in a Twins uniform – heart. Never was it about the money, or the wins, or the fame. Radke started in Minnesota and stayed in Minnesota; even when things got bad and even when he could have headed to a large market.
To Radke, those 148 victories are just a number. It’s a number that could have been higher had he played on more winning teams, but Radke never was worried about the stats or the money.
Throughout his long tenure with the Twins, Radke became known as a reserved, quiet, but very caring guy. He spent a tremendous amount of time in the community, but did it quietly and often unnoticed.
Through 12 seasons with the Twins, Radke played with a total of 197 different players including two Hall of Famers. He played on some less-than-spectacular teams, but when the turnaround came, he was at the forefront.
Heart is exactly what Radke had, and if everybody played the way Brad did, they’d be better because of it. The prime example came in his final season. With a tornlabrum, Radke finished out the season and even pitched in the playoffs. Nothing would keep Radke from pitching, not even the weekly cortisone shots.
As Radke spoke to the crowd, heapologizedfor one thing: not bringing a championship to Minnesota. If anybody deserved a ring, it was Radke. Hiscommitmentto the city and organization was incredible, and he without a doubt had a lasting effect on the near 200 players he shared alocker roomwith.
To Radke, all fans can say is thank you. While the stats will over time disappear into the distance, the memories will not.

All-Star Representation

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With one minor league prospect in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game, and three major leaguers on the American League roster, the Minnesota Twins had a good group of players on hand in St. Louis to show off to the nation.
Each of the four players played a role in the many events and represented the organization in good fashion.
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As the lone representative in the All-Star Futures Game, Rene Tosoni couldn’t have represented the organization any better.
An outfielder for the team’s double-A affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats, Tosoni in the first half of the season put up great numbers. Tosoni hit.278 with 10 homeruns and 51 RBI to go along with a .480 slugging percentage.
Tosoni didn’t start, but he did enter the game in the seventh inning and delivered a go-ahead double. The World would remain ahead and go on to win the game by a final of 7-5.
Tosoni’s hit was the deciding factor, and along with a shaving cream pie to the face, the 22-year old prospect was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Past recipients of the award include Alfonso Soriano, Toby Hall, Jose Reyes, Grady Sizemore, Aaron Hill, and Billy Butler.
Joe Mauer has received a lot of attention since his May return. The two-time batting champion has hit near .400 for much of the season, and his 15 homeruns got him an invitation to the Homerun Derby to compete against stars such as Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, and Albert Pujols.
As Mauer attempted to become the second Twin in as many seasons to win the Derby, he found himself in a swing-off with Carlos Pena and Pujols after hitting five homeruns in the first round.
Mauer wouldn’t make the second round, but he had a good showing overall, and his yellow Livestrong cleats helped with a good cause.
The big day for Mauer came in the actual game. As the American League starter behind the plate, Mauer had the opportunity to catch the likes of Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke among others. Mauer’s RBI double in the fifth inning tied the game at three and played a big part in the American League’s 4-3 victory.
Justin Morneau opted not to take part in the Homerun Derby a year after winning it, so for the most part he remained out of the spotlight. Morneau was there to root on his teammate, and throughout the events he was seen talking with stars such as Derek Jeter and Josh Hamilton.
Morneau didn’t start in the main event, but entered the game at first base in the middle innings. While he went 0-2, Morneau made a few good catches at first base and gave the ball a ride in his second plate appearance only to be robbed by Jayson Werth.
The final All-Star for the Twins, closer Joe Nathan, quite possibly made the most memorable pitches of the night. Entering after the American League took a 4-3 lead in the top half of the inning, Nathan found himself working through the eighth as a setup man for Mariano Rivera.
The first two outs came easily for Nathan, but a two-out walk and single put runners on the corners with two outs. After Hudson moved up to second base, Nathan found himself facing St. Louis native Ryan Howard in a game-changing situation.
Nathan worked ahead of Howard, and got to a 2-2 count before the lefty fouled a few pitches away. A slider in the dirt ended the inning, and a relieved Nathan pumped his first as he walked toward the dugout.
From Tosoni to the three big names for the Twins, the 2009 All-Star festivities had All-Star representation for the organization.
All photo from the Associated Press; for more, visit Yahoo! Sports.

At the Break: 45-44

There is nothing wrong with sitting at .500 midway through the season. Of the league’s 30 teams, 12 are below the mark, two are even with it, and four of the other 16 teams are two or fewer games above.

Winning half of the season’s contests and losing the other half after six months of play won’t propel any team into the playoffs. But at the break, after just over 81 games, .500 ball is nothing to be upset about.
Last season, as the players scattered, some for their hometowns in the Dominican, some for their homes in Florida, and a select few for the final All-Star Game in New York, the Twins found themselves an impressive 53-42. This season, in six fewer games before the four-day retreat, the Twins sit at 45-44.
The mark places the Twins behind the Detroit Tigers by four games with 73 games remaining in the span of two and a half months. Playing .500 ball the rest of the season will surely end the team’s tenure in the Metrodome with their October regular season finale against the Kansas City Royals — it doesn’t need to end that way however.
Assuming the division winner ends with a similar record as the White Sox sported last season, the Twins will need to win 89 games. With 45 victories thus far and 73 games remaining, the Twins would need to go 44-29 to reach that possibly critical mark.
The fight to the finish won’t be easy, but at the break the Twins have positioned themselves to make a run. The first half of the season has seen inconsistency; in the rotation, bullpen and lineup.
With another bat, maybe in the addition of Alexi Casilla, and a collective effort from a rotation that unexpectedly started off slow, going 15 games above .500 isn’t out of the question, and it surely is a possibility.
At the Break…
…the Twins have a combined batting average of .268 compared to a .278 average from the lineup before the All-Star Break last season. The biggest weakness has been the second spot in the lineup as it has posted a .191 average when Mauer hasn’t occupied it.
…the rotation has a decent 4.60 ERA despite slow starts from Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano. Both posted numbers well above 6.00 early on, but in June especially, both started to find their groove.
…the bullpen has, as a surprise to some, been pretty good. The guys seated down the left field line have posted a 3.74 ERA in the first half including sub-3.00 averages from four relievers.
…the offense has hit 93 homeruns compared to 65 last season before the break. The average may be slightly lower this season because of the surge, but the Twins have recieved similar production.
…the defense has been one of the league’s best with 34 errors through the first half. The Twins have the second fewest in the American League (Toronto), and the third fewest in all of baseball (Philadelphia).
…the Twins have the bestinterdivisionalwinning percentage, and have the most remaining games within the division.
There are several keys to the second half, but the three biggest involve one thing at each key area:
  • The Twins must get production from the second spot in the lineup. Having Denard Span reach via walk or hit, only to have the next hitter end a rally in front of guys like Mauer and Morneau, won’t get the Twins to the playoffs. Alexi Casilla could be that help, but only time will tell.
  • The rotation must continue to grow. Nick Blackburn had a superb first half, as did Slowey before he was injured, and Perkins before and after his injury with the exception of a select few starts. Scott Baker was 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in June and Francisco Liriano was 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA. If the two can continue to grow and the rotation can improve and stay healthy, they could lead the Twins to the postseason.
  • The bullpen must maintain its first half production. There is still room for improvement, but June was a great month for the bullpen, and it has been very reliable as the season has progressed. The Twins must continue to finish off games and need Mijares, Guerrier, Nathan and others to do what they’ve done thus far. Blown games bit the team in ’08, and they need to avoid the same wound in ’09.
The Twins have room to grow, and the growth must take place for the Twins to win a division title in the final year indoors. Sitting at .500 isn’t a bad thing however, and the Twins are well positioned for a second half battle.

Inspecting Credes Defense

When the Minnesota Twins signed third baseman Joe Crede to an incentive-laden deal in spring training, everybody knew the team was brining in a potential All-Star bat when healthy. The previous year, Crede had hit nearly 20 homeruns and was named an American League All-Star before a back injury ended his season after only 97 games.

Thus far in ’09, after just over a half season of play, Crede has hit only .234. He has nonetheless been productive in driving in runners with 12 homeruns and 36 RBI. Crede finds himself on pace for 27 homeruns and 80 RBI by season’s end; numbers that third base in Minnesota hasn’t seen in quite some time.
The offense is great, but Crede’s value extends much further than his presence in the lineup. With only two errors, Crede has the best fielding percentage (.988) of all qualified third baseman in the American League.
The error total and fielding percentage alone tell a great deal about Crede’s value. They do not however tell the entire story. A newer stat, one now used by some voters to award the Gold Glove, very prominently shows Crede’s value to the left side of the infield and his team in general.
The Ultimate Zone Rating, a number that factors in things such as a player’s arm and range, ranks Crede at the top of the league among all third baseman.
Crede’s UZR/150, which is the average number of runs saved over the course of 150 defensive games, has Crede at a solid 27.0; a number that places him first in his position and over Beltre by nearly 10 runs.
With a career average around .250 and pretty decent power numbers, Joe Crede is right on par with what the Twins signed up for a few months ago; and his defense has been a welcomed addition to a franchise known for doing ‘the little things’.

Sitting on Top

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With his at-bats last night, Joe Mauer does officially qualify to be a league leader. Now we can focus on making a big run.