Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about Professional baseball

The all ex-Twins team

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: August 28, 2012 - 12:13 PM
So I'm watching the Twins live last night, and the Orioles and White Sox online, and I couldn't help but notice how many good former Twins were playing in the latter game.
A.J. Pierzynski. Lew Ford. Francisco Liriano. J.J. Hardy. Jesse Crain.
Then I flipped to the Rangers game and watched Joe Nathan look as dominant as his old, All-Star self, while blowing away the Rays in the ninth. 
So here's a first draft of an all-former Twins team. If I forgot someone significant, and I'm sure I did, please email me at jsouhan@startribune.com to remind me, and I"ll update later when I'm at tonight's Twins game.
C A.J.
Dh: David Ortiz
1b: Michael Cuddyer (who probably will play there next year for the Rockies.)
2b: Nick Punto, the key to that big Red Sox-Dodgers deal.
Ss: Hardy
3b: Danny Valencia (Sorry, it's not a perfect team. At least Danny adds some ``Swag.'' Whatever that is.)
OF: Jason Kubel, Torii Hunter, Delmon Young. Torii has to play CF again.
Starting rotation: R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Kyle Lohse, Francisco LIriano, Jason Marquis. Santana's hurt and Marquis is not very good, but how many teams have fully healthy and dominant rotations?
Bullpen: Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, LaTroy Hawkins, Jon Rauch, Craig Breslow
Bench: Wilson Ramos, Carlos Gomez, Lew Ford, Jason Bartlett, Orlando Hudson.
OK...now who did I forget?

Hendriks vs. Hernandez

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: August 27, 2012 - 10:11 PM
Liam Hendriks allowed just one run in his first complete game, but lost, 1-0, to Felix Hernandez on Monday night at Target Field.
Tidbits and thoughts after another Twins loss:
-Hernandez has won four games 1-0 this year. He's allowed one earned run in his last 27 2/3 innings this year. He is the third pitcher since 1969 to have four wins with 1-0 scores in one season. The other two were Fergie Jenkins in 1974 and Bert Blyleven in 1976.
-The Mariners have beaten the Twins in six straight games.
-Asked why Justin Morneau wasn't running from third on Trevor Plouffe's grounder to second in the seventh inning, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire indicated that he doesn't believe in putting Morneau, with his injury and concussion history, at risk on such plays.
-The Twins have one homer in their last 10 games.
-I asked Twins outfielder Ben Revere if Hernandez was intimidating or sneaky. ``Sneaky,'' Revere said. ``Some of his pitches are so good, you think they're going to be a ball and they come back for a strike, there's so much late movement.''
-Given that Gardenhire often cites a pitcher's pace as an indicator of success, I asked Hendriks if he thought pitching with a quicker pace was a result of, or a cause of, his success on Monday.

``It's a bit of both,'' he said. ``It starts off as the result of pitching well early in the game, and then as soon as you get into a groove, it definitely helps you. It keeps you going.''

One way to get into a groove is to be on the same page as the catcher. How many times did he shake off a Joe Mauer sign on Monday? ``I didn't shake him off once,''' Hendriks said. ``We were on the same page all night. He called an absolute fantastic game.''

-Hendriks on how long he's been waiting to pitch this way in the big leagues: ``Well, this is my 14th start, so about 14 starts.''

Hendriks has yet to win a major league game.

-Joe Mauer caught his 832nd career game, passing Earl Battey for first place on the Twins' all-time list. He made one throwing error. He also made a fine, sliding catch against the backstop.

-The game lasted 2:10, tied for the shortest of the Twins' season, with a May 1 game at the Angels.

-The Twins have turned 133 ground-ball double plays this season, most in the majors. Pedro Florimon started one masterfully, getting screened by the second-base ump before handling a bad hop and pitching it to Jamey Carroll.

-Before the game, Twins' general manager Terry Ryan said it's time for Trevor Plouffe to prove he's the third baseman of the future. Plouffe had one shot to the centerfield fence caught, robbing him of a double, and hit a single. He also worked on fielding grounders early in the afternoon.

-The Twins are 52-76. If their lineup continues to slump, their 63-99 finish of a year ago is within reach.

-Asked about Scott Baker and Carl Pavano being in the Twins' future plans, even though they're injured and will become free agents at the end of the season, Ryan did not rule out the Twins being interested in one or both.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Twins nearing danger zone with Perkins

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 29, 2012 - 11:19 PM

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire admitted he didn't want to use Glen Perkins on Tuesday. Perkins had pitched in three of the four previous games, and owns one of the most valuable arms in the organization. He's signed to a three-year contract and will probably be the team's closer by the end of July and perhaps for the two years following this one.

The Twins are likely to try to trade closer Matt Capps in July, and Perkins would take that role.

Maybe being a closer would allow him to get some rest. He's pitched in 22 of the Twins 49 games and four of the last five.

Gardenhire is desperate to win every possible game, so he threw Perkins into a game his team was trailing 2-0. That's a scary trend. Perkins should be saved for games when the Twins are tied or ahead. This franchise can't afford to have a pitcher of Perkins' caliber burned out.

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Baseball is one of the stranger games. The Twins bore everyone to death with a 3 1/2-hour game in which they manage no runs until...with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Josh Willingham hits a game-winning three-run homer.

Willingham's average has leveled out, nearing his career norm. He's still a great signing. He's hit nine home runs, tied for the team lead, and has shown no qualms about hitting in Target Field.

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Wrote a column ripping the 10 things I hate about baseball (a game I otherwise love). I left out a lot of good candidates, like using one closer, throwing waste pitches when up 0-and-2 in the count, and failing to use instant replay to overturn obvious umpiring mistakes.

But, in one night, the Twins demonstrated a handful of my pet peeves, including: Bunting (it was a particularly bad night for bunting, in idea and execution); jumping on home plate, risking a broken leg, after hitting a walk-off homer; the dreaded Marriage Cam; attacking a teammate who is doing a postgame interview on TV; and smacking a teammate in the head after he hits a walk-off.

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My Wednesday column is about how we should view Joe Mauer.  Call it sportswriter's luck: On a day I try to ease fans' feelings about Mauer, he goes 0-for-5. That doesn't change the larger point: He's playing every day this season, and he's really not a power hitter, so accept him for what he is.

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I don't know how anybody can call San Antonio boring. The Spurs are the most entertaining team in the league, and I can't wait for their finals matchup with the Heat.

Think about Popovich devising defenses to frustrate the best player in the game (LeBron James) and the best sidekick (Dwyane Wade), who are playing beautifully together.

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I'll be hosting Tom Pelissero's show from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday on 1500espn. The last  segment of the shiow will feature Ask Jim Anything. Tweet questions to the hashtag #AskJimAnything and I'll answer on air.

My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

The road trip really was that bad

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 7, 2012 - 3:12 PM

The Twins' hitters were just as bad as you thought they were on their just-concluded road trip.

Per the Twins' press box notes, here are some of their performances in Anaheim and Seattle:

-Joe Mauer: 1-for-17, 1 RBI.

-Josh Willingham: 1-for-18

-Danny Valencia: 2-for-17, 1 RBI

-Denard Span (MVP?): 5-for-24

-Trevor Plouffe: 0-for-8

-Chris Parmalee: 1-for-19

-Alexi Casilla: 4-for-21,1 RBI

-Jamey Carroll: 3-for-21

Remember when Joe Mauer not playing was the Twins' biggest problem?

Well now he plays every day and he's not making an impact. He's hitting .278 with one homer in 97 at-bats. He gets on base, but that's not of much use in a lineup where nobody can drive him in.

With Justin Morneau on the disabled list, there are only two active Twins with more than one home run: Willingham with 5 and Ryan Doumit with 3, and he had one before hitting two yesterday.

Today the Twins will turn to Brian Dozier for a boost. I just hope Ron Gardenhire lets Dozier get comfortable near the bottom of the order. Dozier should eventually be a good big-leaguer, but putting him in the second spot in the batting order would be a bit much for a rookie right now.

Anyway, Mauer is a prototypical No. 2 hitter, and batting him third doesn't do him or the lineup any favors. He doesn't hit for power or drive in runs.

On to the Twins' starting pitchers:

They're 4-16, and their four wins is the fewest by a starting staff in the big leagues. The starting staff has allowed the most runs (111), most home runs (29), and second-most hits (185) in the big leagues. They have the fewest strikeouts (74) and highest ERA (6.73). Opponents are hitting .322 against Twins starters. Again, that's the worst in baseball. (Source: Twins pregame notes)

Tonight, the Twins face Jered Weaver, who pitched a no-hitter against the Twins in his last start.

One sidelight: The Twins committed zero errors on their 1-5 road trip.

 

Not a bad team, just bad pitching

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 29, 2012 - 6:20 PM

What's most amazing about the Twins' 6-15 record is how many things have gone right for them this year.

Less than a month into the season, it looks like Josh Willingham was an excellent signing, that Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit are as advertised - Carroll an excellent fielder and Doumit a versatile guy with some pop. And all three are professionals.

Denard Span, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have been iron men, with Mauer playing every inning of every game and Morneau even volunteering to play first base when the Twins were happy to leave him at DH.

But in baseball, when your starting pitching fails, your team fails, no matter how your position players are faring.

Enter Sunday's game, the Twins' starters' ERA was 7.01, easily the highest in the American League. Jason Marquis hung in for six innings on Sunday, and the Twins won, 7-4.

The Twins' current problem is also their everlasting problem: Amassing starting pitching quality and depth.

Remember, they traded for Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, Eric Milton, Joe Mays and Carl Pavano. There are two home-grown pitchers in their current rotation - Liam Hendricks, who is trying to prove himself, and Nick Blackburn, who is trying to reestablish himself.

When the Twins stunk in the '90s, it was because they lacked starting pitching. When they competed in the 2000s, it was because their starting pitching improved dramatically.

The 2012 Twins are much improved over the 2011 Twins in many ways. But unless their starting pitchers improve, they'll be doomed to the same fate.

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I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 each weekday with Reusse & Mackey. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

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