Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
There is no intention here to make you feel any worse about the time you commit to following the Twins. It's understandable now if you've switched to get-out-the-golf-clubs or World-of-Warcraft mode, based on the team's 6-17 start and the possibility of what lies ahead. Just don't make fun of those among us who stay in the come-hell-or-high-water camp.
Tuesday night, from what I could gather, the Twins played a game they had no chance of winning. At least that's what I gathered from all of the excitement surrounding whatever baby steps people saw in Francisco Liriano's "improvement" -- giving up four runs on seven hits (including two home runs and a triple) and three walks (but one was intentional) during his 5 1/3 innings. Liriano was able to "lower" his ERA to 9.97, his WHIP to 2.22, his hits per nine innings to 13.3 and his strikeout:walk ratio to 1.06:1.
All of those are fine numbers -- for slow-pitch softball.
The problem with talking about "improvement" in Liriano's case is that he has a track record of not building upon his successes from one start to the next, even when there is real success. He could go out for his next start and throw a no-hitter -- and he did one year ago Thursday when he lowered his ERA from 9.13 to 6.61 -- or he could revert to run-per-inning form. If you doubt that, go back and look at his game-by-game logs from last season.
We're going to do a bit of statistical shape-shifting here (some would call it cherry picking), mainly for fun-with-numbers purposes. If that bothers you, please turn away. In 2010, the season that's held up by those who have hoped for a return to good form by Liriano, he had eight starts that looked a lot like Tuesday's -- games in which he yielded 42 earned runs in 37 2/3 innings, a 10.04 ERA. In his other 23 starts that year, the superb Liriano had a 2.05 ERA.
That's why some people keep hope alive, wishing for a Liriano that could be excellent almost 75 percent of the time.
Of course, no amount of hope will be enough if the Twins offense resembles a lineup full of Corky Millers. Some of you may remember Corky from his stint with the 2005 Twins -- when they carried FOUR catchers for a while -- during which he went 0-for-12 before being released. I'm not making up this next stat: That hitlessness came in the middle of a 1-for-59 stretch by Miller that lasted from the final weeks of the 2003 season through the end of 2006. (In other words, if you think you've seen bad, there's always worse.)
The Twins performed Tuesday like a team that felt defeated pretty much before it took the field. They turned a journeyman pitcher who had thrown neither a complete game nor a shutout in nine years into Felix Hernandez for a night.
The Twins face the @RealKingFelix on Saturday night in Seattle. Should be, um, interesting.
I'll be taking a break from the blog for a short while to attend Young219's college graduation this weekend, so I'm not expecting to post much. If you want to offer up a guest post, you can email it here. Keep it fairly short (300-500 words) and civil ... and I'll consider putting it up. Thanks for reading.
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