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

No longer sure Twins in playoff race

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: August 28, 2012 - 10:40 PM

Colleague Patrick Reusse figured it out before I got back up from the Twins' clubhouse:

Since July 18, 2011, the Twins are 71-127, for a winning percentage of .357.

That's pathetic.

For the Wednesday paper, I conducted a lengthy interview with Twins GM Terry Ryan. He was not happy. The column is about future plans, but he's stumped as to why what should be a pretty good lineup has fallen apart.

The Twins have failed to homer in 10 of their last 11 games. They went through a 14-inning scoreless streak before finally scoring in the third inning on Tuesday, and then they went to sleep until a token rally in the ninth.

They've been outscored 47-19 in their last eight games.

A lack of pitching is the reason they're not in contention. There's no sound explanation for why they've stopped hitting.

-The Mariners have beaten the Twins in seven straight games.

-The Twins are 10-26 against the AL West.

Enough about this team. Again, my interview with Terry Ryan will be in the Wednesday paper and at Startribune.com.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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