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 Twins offense

Derek Lower-than-Lowe shuts down Twins

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 15, 2012 - 4:48 PM

Derek Lowe, relying almost solely on sinkers down and away, shut out the Twins on Tuesday afternoon.

The Twins' approach was horrible. They were way too willing to give in to Lowe and hit the pitch he wanted them to hit, and in the way he wanted them to hit it.

But the bigger problem occured during the other half-innings, when Jason Marquis continued to look like anything other than a big-league pitcher. His ERA is now 6.68 and the way he's built it - with long pauses between pitches and terrible body language - has been alarming.

I'll have a list of suggestions for the Twins in the Wednesday paper. For now, a few facts and notes:

-Lowe hadn't pitched a complete game since 2008.

-Lowe became the first pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout and not strike out a batter since Scott Erickson did it for the Orioles in 2002.

-The Twins went 3-6 on the homestand and will play their next eight on the road.

-The Twins have been shut out four times this season.

-As a professional baseball player, Brian Dozier, who went 3-for-4 on Tuesday as he turned 25, is 9-for-13 on his birthdays.

-Anthony Swarzak has a 2.63 ERA as a reliever this season, with opponents hitting .167 off of him.

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This is way too simplistic, but I still like it: Francisco Liriano should be asked to pitch one inning and only one inning for the rest of his career.

Look what happened on Monday. He was dominant for an inning, sat around thinking, and came out and walked three batters in his second inning. Remove all thought and excuses from his outings. Tell him to pitch one inning and that you expect him back in the dugout within five minutes. He looked great in that first inning on Monday, when all he was doing was thinking about the batter at hand.

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I'll be on 1500espn at 6:40 tonight with Tom Pelissero, and all week at 2:05 in the afternoon with Reusse and Mackey. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Infield in flux?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 13, 2012 - 6:30 PM

During a day of many positives, Trevor Plouffe butchered another grounder at third base on Sunday.

Brian Dozier (the subject of my Monday column) played extremely well at shortstop and seems to have locked up the starting job for the next six years, but what if the Twins can't stand to watch Plouffe, who has already failed as a shortstop, kick the ball at third base?

There's an intriguing possibility being discussed by Twins' officials. Pedro Florimon is playing well at Triple-A Rochester. He's considered an even better fielder than Dozier, but not as accomplished a hitter. If Plouffe doesn't improve at third, the Twins could improve call up Florimon to play short and move Dozier to third.

I'm not saying that's going to happen, but it's an intriguing possibility. An infield of Joe Mauer, Jamey Carroll, Florimon and Dozier would be outstanding defensively, and Alexi Casilla could back up each position, with Plouffe, if he remains in the big leagues, playing the role of a super-utility player.

Dozier has been impressive. The Twins' staff raves about his intelligence and willingness to prepare himself, and he takes good at-bats.

I'll have more on Dozier in my column.

One strange thing about this team is that the Twins are 10-24, and yet they've had a lot of things go right.

The bullpen has generally performed well. Opponents were 0-for-34 against Jared Burton before Sunday. Glen Perkins was throwing 96 miles per hour on Sunday. Matt Capps is 7-for-7 in save opportunities. Jeff Gray has performed well, as has Brian Duensing.

Mauer has been durable, and he took good at-bats on Sunday. Josh Willingham has been the Twins' best hitter, Ryan Doumit is the versatile player the Twins thought he would be, Carroll has buttoned up the middle infield, and Dozier has been excellent since his callup.

The Twins have the worst record in baseball. Imagine where they'd be if all those things hadn't gone well.

-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 Monday with Reusse and Mackey. Please follow me on Twitter at @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.

Souhan blog: The Twins are in flux

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 15, 2012 - 6:30 PM

I don't need to tell you that winning two of nine games to start a season following a 99-loss campaign is not such a good thing, so let's skip to the newsy portion of this post:

1. I keep hearing that Brian Dozier will be in the big leagues sooner rather than later. I would guess he'll arrive in May. Calling up Dozier would improve them at shortstop, where Jamey Carroll has made most of the plays but isn't much of an offensive force, and at utility infielder, because Carroll would be ideal in that role. Although Alexi Casilla is struggling, the Twins want to let him work through his usual slow start and hope he'll emerge when the weather warms.

2. As I write about in my Monday column, the Twins have liked Clete Thomas for a long time, and hope his arrival will play well in their new ideal lineup. Justin Morneau will try playing first base on this road trip, and when he does, it will enable Joe Mauer to DH, Ryan Doumit to catch, and Thomas to play rightfield.

I noted to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire that Mauer and Morneau have each played in every game so far this season.

``I know I'm going to have to give Joe some days off,'' Gardenhire said. ``But I don't want to do it at home. I know people come from all over to watch him play. And to yell.''

That, of course, was a wry reference to the boos Mauer heard at times during this homestand.

3. The Twins were horrified by Trevor Plouffe's play in spot duty at shortstop on Saturday. He'll have to do a lot of extra work to earn his way back to that position in anything other than an emergency situation.

4. Nick Blackburn told me he spent most of Sunday trying a variety of stretches to get his right shoulder loose. Tests indicated there is nothing structurally wrong with his shoulder. He kept saying soreness is to be expected for someone who has undergone surgery, but I would not describe his tone of voice as optimistic. I think he's a little worried.

5. Here's the Twins' problem: They're short on starting pitching, and they have far more faith in Liam Hendricks and Anthony Swarzak than they do in Francisco Liriano, who continues to drive them batty with his inconsistent delivery and inability to think his way through a game.

I remember writing, when Liriano and Delmon Young were at their best as Twins, that the team should trade them for value when they could. They didn't. Now Liriano is a detriment, and the Twins dumped Young at his lowest possible value.

I've heard that the Twins could have traded Liriano for the likes of Ricky Romero or Ivan Nova in years past. They should have pulled the trigger.

6. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday and every day this week. We'll have a rare dual-presence studio show on Sunday, following the Ron Gardenhire show at 9:30.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

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